Last night, I was walking around downtown Lancaster with my friend Mike and we decided to stop by the local “Occupy Wall Street” gathering, Occupy Lancaster. When we arrived, we were handed a couple of pamphlets urging the “99%” to rise up and protest the oppression of the “1%.” We then sat in on a meeting where the shivering, sickly protesters discussed recent crackdowns in Harrisburg and New York against other #OWS movements.
The occupiers seemed genuinely concerned about their rights and freedom. One man explained that in Harrisburg, the police ripped up a tent “with a knife! This big!” gesturing his hands about five inches apart, “And there were still people inside!” (Though there was no statement that any of those people were actually harmed in this action). Those gathered around the circle expressed their shock and horror, lifting their hands and wiggling fingers—the #OWS form of silently agreeing with a speaker.
But meanwhile, I had to stop myself from laughing. I’ve spent the last three months reading about female genital cutting, looking at pictures of decaying bodies, and watching videos of people getting run over by armored vehicles. The occupiers’ claims of injustice do not reach anywhere near what others worldwide have suffered.
While #OWS protesters have some serious arguments about the nature of our capitalist society, I’m dubious about how much injustice they really are suffering. Protest movements can only gain traction when there is a real sense of suffering or the government is tricked into overreacting—which explains why Egypt’s government has been overthrown, but America’s has not.
What do you think? Does economic and political inequity constitute a human rights violation, or is this just part of modern society? Are these protests in the same vein as the Arab Spring, or is this just the whining of educated white kids? Can the protesters really complain about police brutality, or are they overreacting?