Just when you were sure Americans would never figure out how to use social media to facilitate mass demonstrations, in came the Occupy phenomenon, a constellation of connected but leaderless demonstrations against corporate influence in politics popping up across the United States, all organized largely through Facebook and Twitter. Occupy Baltimore, the movement’s latest incarnation, kicked off at noon today in front of McKeldin Fountain, at the corner of Light and Pratt.
When I arrived at quarter to one, a couple hundred people stood at the protest site. Some were on the corner with signs while others were still finishing theirs. Four TV news cameras were already roaming the location, but according to those involved with the planning of the event, things were expected to really get started after the workday ended at 5 PM.
I spoke with an older man at the demonstration who said he was “very happy” with the turn out thus far. And he scoffed at the mainstream media characterization of the national movement as essentially “a bunch of young people.” “What’s young?” he asked. “Sixteen? Twenty-eight? Forty-five?”
I couldn’t speak to media characterizations of the Occupy movement’s nationwide demographics (though for what it’s worth Occupy Baltimore at 1 PM enjoyed some amount of ethnic and age diversity). The error I see repeated again and again in the protest coverage (and again in The Sun just an hour ago) is the claim that the demonstrations “lack specific goals or agendas” when in fact the striking thing about the movement, which began with Occupy Wall Street on September 17, is its concrete and articulated purpose, easily viewable on the website of Adbusters (the group that originally proposed the Occupy Wall Street): “to demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
Sure it’s lofty, but “amorphous?” Not really. And this central demand is what makes Occupy a budding mass movement. It doesn’t restrict itself to a particular lifestyle brand or political subgroup. Whatever the persuasions of those participating, the core demand isn’t inherently “punk,” or “hippy,” or “socialist,” or “anarchist.” Occupy is simply non-denominational Anti-Corporate.