SATURDAY 15 October marked a day of worldwide protest where people from 951 cities across 82 countries took to their city streets and squares to stand up for global change. The Occupy Together movement does not necessarily align itself with any political party, ideology, or any religion, rather it’s a call to action for people of the world to claim their rights and unite in non-violent protest.
Check out photos from the Occupy London protest camp at St Paul’s Cathedral
In London, around 3000 demonstrators gathered at St Paul’s, where they planned to move and occupy Patermoster Square, home of the London Stock Exchange. However, the square was closed off by police and the protest remained at St Paul’s where the crowd was addressed by numerous speakers, with Australian activist Julian Assange amongst them.
Back in Australia, protests unfolded in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and in a snapshot of the multitude of events across the world: 5000 people gathered in Frankfurt in front of the European Central bank, crowds of 40,000 were reported in Portugal and an estimated 15,000 occupied New York’s Times Square as well as smaller protests occurring in Tokyo, Hong Kong and the Philippines, just to name a few.
The issues raised by demonstrators are diverse and complex, but the general crux of it can be broadly identified as a right to a true democracy – to have governments in power that represent the interests of its people rather than being influenced by corporate greed that benefits the financial elite. Hence the catch-cry “we are the 99%”.
These Occupy Together/United For Change protests were prompted by the Occupy Wall Street demonstration that began in New York’s financial district last month, a protest which has continued to grow and gain momentum and is currently in its fifth week. However, Occupy Wall Street does not mark the beginning of the entire movement, as precursors include the ongoing massive demonstrations in both Greece and Spain.
In the past year, the world has also seen how people power and mass occupancy can make a positive difference. The Tunisian revolution saw the ousting of the country’s dictator and led to further uprisings in the Arab world, such as in Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Yemen, which have now been collectively termed as the Arab Spring.
While it’s true that Australia fared better than the USA in the 2008 financial crisis, the Australian demonstrations weren’t purely held in solidarity for our American counterparts. Escalating student loans, sky-high property costs, a failing medical system and the high cost of living in Australia are but some of the issues facing Australians, while banks continue to hit record profits.
At the Occupy Melbourne event on Saturday, with over 1000 people in attendance, some fringe groups used the Occupy Together movement as a platform for their own specific agendas. For example chants of “Occupy Melbourne, Not Palestine” began at the city square before a group branched off and took their own protests to the streets. Other left-wing factions also set up stalls to promote awareness of their respective issues. It could be argued that some of the causes stem from the effect of governments not representing the best interests of the people, however surely a unified voice would have more impact and be more effective than many voices screaming about different issues?
The Occupy Together movement does not have a specific list of demands, nor a leader, and anyone can speak at the rallies, which is why some critics condemn the movement for being disorganised and rudderless. One would expect that in due course, a clear path of action will emerge.
For a fledgling movement with some ambitious ideas, it is impossible and premature to determine whether the global protests can be deemed a success or failure. At this stage, the objective should be more about getting people thinking, talking and sharing ideas in a friendly and non-violent atmosphere. Change can’t and won’t happen overnight but the first step is an awareness of what is happening in our world.
Let’s hope that 15 October was only the beginning of positive and revolutionary change for the future.