Occupy Wall Street is now in day 26 and the last three and a half weeks have brought a flood of media attention to its “headquarters” in Zuccotti Park.
Now equipped with tents to shelter themselves from the elements and facing eviction from the park for maintenance and cleaning, the protestors are striking back at what they consider an unfair portrayal by the mainstream media.
“The media coverage is focused on the different infractions, rather than legitimate questions and answers,” said Joseph Bearsoldier, a Cree Indian. “They’ll interview 100 people and pick the most foolish as a ‘representation’ of the movement.”
The media has also depicted the protest as being unorganized and having no real focus, Bearsoldier said. “They say the demands are unrealistic, but because of the amount of thievery and lies that have taken place over the years, they are not.”
Bearsoldier, who stood behind a table with a sign that read, “Sure you can trust the government, just ask an American Indian!” added that Occupy Wall Street is really just a grassroots movement by people who simply want to have more of a say in the democratic process.
“They just want a voice,” he said.
Increasingly, however, media coverage has been focused on comparing Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party.
While the two do share a common thread—both drew part of their motivation from the bank bailouts of 2008 and 2009—the protestors felt that portraying Occupy Wall Street as the “Tea Party of the left” was unfair.
“I think [the comparison to the Tea Party is] an attempt to discredit the Occupy Wall Street movement,” said Queens resident Will Pine. “When the Tea Party started out, it was very different than what it is now. Now it’s been hijacked by the powers that be. The protest has not yet been, fortunately, infiltrated.”
Pine also said he felt the occupiers have been portrayed as “dumb hippies” who don’t know what they’re protesting or why.
“A lot of us here are very educated. Some of has been screwed over and we’re here to try and do something about it,” he said. “So I don’t think we’re like the Tea Party in that manner.”
Brooklyn native Joseph Saints agreed with Pine’s opinion that the comparison is unfair, but also said that it was possible it might reach the Tea Party’s level.
“I wouldn’t necessarily compare Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party,” said Saints. “But it’s getting to the point where more people are rallying, and it might actually get there. And if they actually stay out here, they might end up making a difference.”
One of the occupiers’ main grievances—the huge disparity between the 1% of Americans who earned more than $500,000 in 2010 and the other 99% who have been “left behind” economically—is reminiscent of one of the rallying cries of the American Revolution, namely “no taxation without representation.”
Manhattan resident Alan Deng said he felt that it was fair to compare Occupy Wall Street to the political upheaval of the latter half of the 18th century.
“We’re out here trying to fight for our rights just like they were,” Deng said. “A lot of people are out of jobs, and the richest [1%] are living like there’s no problem. I think that’s really messed up.”
Deng went on to say that the occupiers’ odds of affecting change were split. ‘They’ve been out here for a very long time, and nothing has happened yet,” he said. “So there’s a 50/50 chance of change happening.”
Saints, however, felt that the protestors could see change if they continued their occupation.
“Right now, they’re hitting the city in their pockets where it hurts, and eventually the city is going to get tired and want to hear somebody out,” he said.
In order for the occupiers to actually have their demands heard, however, Saint said he felt that there needed to be a single delegate to speak on behalf of the people.
“There needs to be a representative,” he said. “And there needs to be a lot more watchful eyes on these people [on Wall Street], because they’ve been taking advantage of us for too long.”