Occupy Wall Street began as a relatively marginalized group protesting in a Manhattan park.
That has changed.
Since camping out in Zuccotti Park on September 17, the progressive group has garnered attention for its persistence and string of clashes with police. More than 700 protesters were arrested on Saturday as they marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and a video of police using pepper-spray on four women involved in protests last month brought the movement into the national spotlight.
The group gained an increasing amount of media attention since its first demonstration, with similar protests sprouting up across the country in cities such as Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago and Wichita. Along the way, the protesters have won endorsements from prominent figures including famed billionaire George Soros, Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
Progressive organization leaders have also lent their support; the "Take Back The American Dream" conference -- a gathering of progressive leaders this week in Washington -- changed its agenda to include a plenary session that featured updates on the protests.
Still, convincing skeptics hasn’t come easy. The protesters have been widely criticized for not having a concrete list of demands, though they adopted the “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” last week. Their list of grievances is long, with issues including the foreclosure crisis, work-place discrimination and student loan debt. The protests in New York and other cities focus on income inequality, a theme common in the group’s internet presence including on a Tumblr that showcases Americans dealing with joblessness and other issues.
Even if the protesters were able to narrow their concerns to one, easily defined goal, some organizers say that would miss the point. David Graeber, one of the original organizers of the protests, told The Washington Post that making demands of institutions implies that you want them to stay in power.
“You’re creating a vision of the sort of society you want to have in miniature,” he said. “And it’s a way of juxtaposing yourself against these powerful, undemocratic forces you’re protesting.”
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