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The Occupy Movement: A Report from Occupy Seattle, Part 2

War veterans – both served in Iraq / Afghanistan

What does Occupy Wall Street want?  Last week GOP Presidential candidate, Herman Cain stated, “nobody knows what their cause is. How are you going to assist them with a cause when you don’t know what the cause is?”

Well, I’m not sure about the representativeness of the signs carried at camp-outs and marches during Occupy Seattle.  And to what extent can placards speak for a movement?  In any case, here is my report on well over 100 signs that I transcribed for the record.  Hopefully the reader will at least get an idea of what is on Occupiers’ minds.

At Occupy Seattle this last weekend, a number of signs reflected indignation and outrage at the violence by police against Occupy Oakland, including serious injuries inflicted on a decorated veteran of the Iraq War, Scott Olson.

A host of snide remarks about OWS suggest that the participants are ignoramuses.  But many of the signs I saw did reflect intellectual qualities – including six with quotes from respectively, Albert Einstein, Kurt Vonnegut, Horace Mann, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Gladstone, and Virginia Wolfe.  An elderly man handed out a statement by Nobel economist, Joseph Stiglitz, including the observation, “You have a right to be indignant.”

Many people are incensed by a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 (Citizens United), to the effect that for political purposes corporations have the same rights as citizens.  This produced quite a number of placards, including these:

  • Corporate Personhood
  • Repeal Citizens United
  • Dump Obama: Restore Glass Steagall
  • The Constitution was written for People, not corporations
  • If corporations are people, why aren’t they in jail?
  • People are people too.
  • I will believe corporations are people when they give a sh-t.
  • Corporations are not people; and money is not speech.
  • A person has a conscience; a corporation has a bottom line.
  • Separation of Corporation & State

I have grouped the remainder of the signs I observed into three categories political, economic and cultural.  Judge for yourself what they say about OWS protestors:

Political

  • None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free — Goethe
  • You started this expect us till its finished.
  • It can be done — Kurt Vonnigut.
  • You are the 99% — Wake up.
  • United the Many, 99%, — defeat the few, 1%
  • Organizations are not we the people.
  • We R the 99%
  • We are the 99%.  We can do it all without them
  • Bail out the People
  • Feedom or Freedom?
  • A thousand points of light have burned out

 

  • The Military-Industrial complex = Public Enemy #1.
  • Cost of War $30 million/hour
  • Support the soldiers & Veterans, cut the wars, not benefits
  • 5 US soldiers’ suicides at one base in one month
  • I did not spend 8 years in the army to defend the 1%
  • Republicans, the Party’s Over
  • Obama is Bought.
  • Submit or Starve
  • Smash the control machine
  • Close Prisons not Post Offices
  • End the Fed

 

  • The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything — Albert Einstein
  • The Revolution is Here [carried by lady in Rev. War era costume]
  • Global Revolution — hello 2012
  • Iya Basta (Enough already)
  • If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.
  • Have you noticed the global uprising?
  • Direct Action Gets the Goods

 

  • Where is Thomas Paine when you need him?
  • Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
  • This is what democracy looks like. [Frequent chants and signs using this slogan]
  • Democracy Back by Popular Demand
  • Give me democracy, or give me death
  • Democracy is in Danger.

 

  • I’m recovering from battered voter syndrome [shows man between head-butting donkey & elephant]
  • Take back democracy
  • Democracy Needs You [from Occupy Albany, NY]
  • One term limit or campaign finance
  • The real terrorists are at the top
  • Take $ out of politics
  • We are not pawns.
  • Replace Plutocracy with Democracy
  • Get big money out of law-making.
  • Rise above the system
  • Restore the balance of power; give the people a voice
  • Plutocracy Sucks
  • I don’t need a handout, just freedom
  • In a true democracy, money is voiceless
  • My one demand, true democracy
  • I’m here because I can’t afford a politician.
  • I brought tea bags, now will you take us seriously?

 

  • Occupy Seattle not Afghanistan [printed signs on sale for $10]
  • The Constitution is our permit
  • Stop the War on Dissent
  • Shame, there’s no honor in macing a child
  • Activism is not a crime
  • Occupy Seattle: No sleep Until Justice

Economic

  • What Would John Maynard Keynes Do?
  • Mr. Obama, tear down that Wall Street
  • Wall Street, we will defeat
  • Rape Street
  • Tax Wall Street; heal America.
  • For Sale America.

 

  • A shrinking middle class a shrinking America
  • Its not a free market its a fixed market.
  • Bank of Screw America [posted on Bank.of America building]
  • Bank of Whose America?
  • People substituted for Bank, in Bank of America door sign.
  • Hungry?  Eat a Banker
  • State Banks now.

 

  • Cutting Education is Class Warfare
  • Bail out Schools not the Banks
  • Skills over Debt and Bills
  • Student loans = indentured servitude

 

  • Don’t Chase us out of our homes
  • Bail out homeowners
  • Abolish Austerity: Make the Bosses Pay for their Crisis
  • Stop attacking the middle class
  • Unions make us strong
  • United We Bargain Divided we Beg.

 

  • People Before Profit: End corporate Greed
    When the Poor are Less Poor, Everyone Gets Richer.
  • Privatization is Profitization
  • Promote the General Welfare (on side of tent); End corporate tyranny (other side of tent)
  • Cut corporate Welfare.
  • Corporate greed is wrecking the American Dream
  • Our money our planet our future

 

  • We want jobs — tired of eating cake.
  • No jobs hurts more than no agenda.  Speak up.
  • To the woman who yelled to us out her car window, get a job. I’ve had two jobs for five years and no benefits
  • Living Wage jobs; moratorium on foreclosures; stop the endless wars; tax the rich corporations; indict the thieves on Wall St. and Financial Industry
  • America wants to work good jobs now
  • WA teachers stand with OWS
  • We got sold out
  • Kick some ass for the working class
  • Cops are a tool of the Rich Man’s rule
  • One tent for every foreclosed home
  • The Cops Took my Tent [on tarp]
  • Legalize homelessness

Cultural

  • We are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. [Many signs using this slogan]
  • When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace — .Gladstone
  • Down with Apathy
  • A different world cannot be built by indifferent people — Horace Mann
  • I am my brother’s keeper
  • Life isnt a zero-sum gain.
  • Dont Sacrifice your Morals for Corporate Convenience
  • Destroy the American Caste system
  • Unf–k the world.  [carried by attractive middle aged woman]
  • Greedy f–kers, you should be ashamed.  (Carried by a pretty girl, college age)
  • Korporate Kapitalist Kulture — Dont buy it.
  • Corporations are not people
  • Make a living, not a killing.
  • One Nation Under Greed
  • Put greed to bed
  • Make Love not Loot

(© 2011 Bob Struble and Catholic Lane, may not be reproduced without permission.)

Go to Part 1


Bob Struble is a retired history teacher, and a writer of books, articles and poems. He is Lecturer for the Knights of Columbus in Bremerton WA, and is an associate editor at Catholic Lane.
  • GuitarGramma

    Thank you, Robert, for documenting this for us.

    Having read all these slogans, I still don’t know what outcome Occupy Seattle is hoping for. Do they want to dismantle all corporations? Then where will their jobs come from? Will they start their own businesses? Why don’t they do that right now?

    Of course, that last question is rhetorical. The reason that they don’t start their own businesses is because government regulations have made it almost impossible to do so.

    Having read your article, I am left feeling as I have from the start of the Occupy … Movement. The anger is misplaced. Wall Street is not the problem. As Reagan said, it is the government that is the problem.

  • Theodore Kobernick

    Really superb fieldwork, Robert!
    I think you’ve done a superb job of showing that the discontent has not just a single focus, but many.
    What with the wars, unemployment, foreclosures, inflation, pressure against all manifestations of religion, I suspect it’s a 21st century version of the Deacon’s Masterpiece — but instead of the Wonderful One-Horse Shay wearing out, our version is breaking down, falling apart all at once.
    I have two questions in my mind. First, what focus will end up dominating the Occupy movement; second, can we Christians get proactive, and participate in directing it away from godlessness?

  • Jenniferknickerbocker

    Hi Bob,
    Thank you for the insight and the thorough reporting. I found the link from Uncle Charley’s facebook page and I just can’t help but comment… especially to those who still may not understand why Wall Street is a target for the 99%.

    It is my belief that disparity between the super-rich and the middle class may have been growing at a rapid rate for the last 30 years or so, but most American’s have not seemed to mind until recently. In 1965, the average salary for a CEO of a major U.S. company was 24.2 times the salary of the average worker. In 2009, the average CEO’s pay was 185.3 times the average worker’s salary (Mercer Hay Group). At that time in 2009, the American consensus had been that CEO’s and other wealthy Americans had earned their reward and shouldn’t be punished with the burdens of extra taxes or income caps (for those in publicly held executive offices), especially because the rich are willing to support innovation for America, create jobs, and participate in philanthropy. However, jobs have been scarce and many non-profits are closing their doors due to lack of funding, and yet CEO’s pay keeps rising. As a matter of fact, the median CEO’s pay has gone up by 27% since 2009 to over 235 times the pay of the average worker (Krantz, Matt, and Barbara Hansen). For example, Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom was paid $84.5 million, which was a 149% increase from 2009 (Krantz, Matt, and Barbara Hansen of USA Today).
    Americans in the middle to bottom income brackets have noticed pay inequality and have put pressure on CEO’s and the U.S. government by rising in protest against this disparity, citing that the top 1% of income earners are not creating jobs but instead padding their own pockets. This new movement calls themselves the 99% and is tired of corporate influence on politics that have created trade barriers which ship jobs out of the U.S., a lack of quality health care, less money for college education, and no hope of the retirement or pension plans the previous generations rely on. Furthermore, there are a large number of protesters who are angry about the U.S. government bail-outs of the auto industry and the banks, and argue a better use of government spending would be bail-outs for mortgage holders and student loans. What is the response from the top? To paraphrase, those at the bottom should not complain but pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a life for themselves. Recently the former CEO of Alltel, Scott Ford, was quoted as stating about the movement, “When [protesters] start this kind of class warfare, it ends not with people doing better, but worse.” In the same week, the CEO of Bank of America, Brian Moynihan was getting “a little incensed” when he thought about all the good his company has done. He advised the 99%, “You ought to think a little about that before you start yelling at us.” In general, CEO’s are not amused and have come off rather defensively about pay disparity implying that the poor are playing victim.
    The poor themselves have not wanted to see themselves as helpless or deserving of sympathy, but self-determination may be the very definition of the American way. According to the official Occupy Wall Street movement, the 99% “is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations” It is my humble opinion that this movement by the 99% is respectable for the reasons stated above and deserves consideration, or at least conversation, from leaders within both the public and private sectors, not mockery.

  • “To paraphrase, those at the bottom should not complain but pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a life for themselves.” Well said, Jennifer.

    The minions of the 1% get a lot uglier than that, but your paraphrase is the gist of it. Also they make quite a hullabaloo about the untidiness of the camps, when the mess they’ve made of the economy is exponentially worse than untidy.

  • fishman

    There are a lot of things that have been pushed for by corporate interests that do not serve the interest of society and are actually hurting people ‘on the street’.

    That being said I think the ‘occupy’ movement would be well served to identify some of them and get some laws passed. What they are doing now is the equal to complaining something is wrong while making no attempt to suggest how to fix the problem.

    Things that would help:
    Properly extend free trade.
    1) If corporations want to pay people less to build things in other countries , let the playing field be equal. Any company importing products into the united states , must meet or exceed all U.S. Labor laws, with equal minimum wage, overtime and safety and environmental regulations, as well as pay services charges so that random inspections can be done by U.S agencies to ensure they are following all relevant U.S. Standards.

    Best way to fight corruption END CAREER POLITICS: Single term limits for all political offices, lifetime limit of no more then 3 terms in DC offices.

    Also, all state representatives should be paid and receive benefits from the state that sends them, because they are NOT federal employees, but are employed by the STATE and would forget that a lot less if that is where there paychecks came from.

  • GuitarGramma

    @fishman —

    Here in California, we have fairly strict term limits on state offices. Sadly, term limits has not fixed our budget problems — California has one of the worst budget problems in the country.

    An overabundance of government regulations has caused businesses to leave California, thus lowering tax revenues and destroying jobs. For example, the “fruit bowl” of this nation, the Central Valley of California, has turned into a dust bowl. It is depressing to drive down the middle of our state. Orchards have died, and crop land lies barren.

    Why is this? Because the federal government has turned off the water supply in order to protect an endangered smelt. The Central Valley unemployment rate is over 20%. Wall Street didn’t do this — DC did.

    As for the California state government, it is little better. Term limits have merely increased the rate at which legislators pass laws. They seem to feel pressure to foist their agenda on us more quickly because they have less time to do so. Further, due to term limits, they don’t have to stand for re-election, so they vote as they please with less concern about their constituents. Term limits in California have proven to be a failed experiment.

  • noelfitz

    Great article and great discussion. Thanks to all.
    Some time ago in my son’s house I saw ‘The Flaw’ (http://theflawmovie.com/). I thought it was excellent.

    Is it well known in the US? Please let me know what you think of it.

  • Well, I thought I’d give it a try, anyway. My outreach to the left in 2011. However, as of 1/24/2012 I severed all connections with Occupy Seattle. No longer will I associate myself with a movement so unfriendly to sacramental and traditional marriage.

    So called same sex marriage became law here in WA state on Feb. 13, 2012, and the political black hole of Seattle was a major contributor, financially and culturally. It was one thing to rub elbows with those people when SSM was a political abstraction. But now it’s about to become a hellish reality, unless we can overturn this abominable law via the referendum or initiative process.

    I’ll be working to do precisely that, and the last thing I need is to be back-stabbed in the process by my “comrades” in OS.