Occupy Wall Street Bandwagoners Distracting from the Message

Unsavory characters promoting their own cause distract from the message

It’s been a month since the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests began. By now, the movement has spread all over the United States, from New York and Boston to Austin, Oakland, and yes, Santa Cruz. The protests come as no surprise; any time there are high unemployment rates among the youth there is bound to be dissent.

A leaderless movement, the OWS protests don’t have a single, unified demand but rather are concerned with a variety of problems people see with this country’s economy, including government corruption, the overwhelming influence and power of big corporations, and unfair tax breaks and loops holes for those in the top 1%. The participants are also of a wide variety; there are educated college students, grandparents, blue-collar workers, middle class parents, unemployed workers, political activists, famous television, film and music personalities, Jews, Christians, atheists, and so on.

Unfortunately, a mass protest with no designated leaders, cohesive message, or any definable organization means that anyone can jump in and claim that their personal beliefs are part of Occupy Wall Street. Racists, anti-Semites, anarchists (not the pacifist ones), lazy people, complainers, and other fringe groups can hop in, flash their signs, and be seen as in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

To be clear, I do not accuse these protests of being anti-Semitic, nor do I think that the movement in general has anti-Jewish bias or sentiment. Actually, hundreds of Jewish protestors who are part of the OWS movement gathered on Yom Kippur – the holiest day in all of Judaism – to show solidarity between traditional Jewish values and the messages of OWS. However, some conservatives have accused the protests of being anti-Semitic in an attempt to discredit the protests and undermine what I believe is the very genuine motivation behind Occupy Wall Street.* 

While I disagree with those who are exploiting the incidents of anti-Semitism present at these protests to destroy the movement, it is important to point out that those people ARE there, and they are trying to jump on the bandwagon of OWS. A short video compiles images of some of the riff raff who have infiltrated the generally positive and sincere concerns of those protesting the corruption of Wall Street. The video was clearly made by someone who wants to paint the movement as anti-Jewish, which I do not agree with, but it does show an example of some of the people who have infiltrated the protests and are detracting from the real message of the protestors, so I suggest checking it out.

How can we prevent, or what can we do, to stop these bandwagoners from detracting from the message of OWS? I am sympathetic and mostly supportive of the movement, as I see corporate greed and unfair tax policies as a threat to middle class Americans. But I am disturbed and disgusted by unsavory people who are tainting (either purposefully or not) the image of the protests. Like this guy (image at right). It hasn’t been confirmed whether or not this man actually defecated on the cop car, nor has it been confirmed that he was even part of OWS, but his image has been spread all over the internet and has made people question what this movement is actually all about. 

Another example of bandwagoners could be found in Santa Cruz last week. Granted, I haven’t been to the actual site of Occupy Santa Cruz protestors, but downtown there were several young people (looking ragged, or more like the homeless-by-choice contingent) carrying cardboard signs that said “Occupy Santa Cruz. Slap a hippie, $1.” These people were obviously not part of the real movement, but they had taken the name and used it to protest…I don’t even know what. No, these people aren’t what the majority of OWS protestors are like, but they are giving a bad name and a bad image to the movement by pretending to be a part of it.

This leads me to ask: what do we even consider the real OWS movement? If anyone can write “Occupy (fill in the blank)” on a sign and carry it around, does that make them part of the movement? Are we to take them seriously? Are they advocating a message for real change? If a neo-Nazi in full regalia shows up at OWS with a hateful and violent message and claims to be part of the 99%, are we to concede that the entire movement is a crock? 

As time goes on and the Occupy Wall Street movement progresses and changes, the answers to these questions remain to be seen. It does, however, raise questions about the effectiveness of a leaderless movement without a defined mission, message, or motive. I want to have faith in these protests, but there needs to be a way to distinguish between those who want practical change and those who just want to hang out.



*Exploiting Anti-Semitism To Destroy Occupy Wall Street, The Jewish Journal

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brian October 22, 2011 at 04:33 PM
i can understand having a central place next to the courthouse to bring attention to the homeless, unemployed, drug addiction, alcoholism that plagues are country and prevents successful economics and survival of are families and properity for all. This occupy wall st is nonsense, it reminds me of the cultural revololution in china and all the intellectuals and educated being rounded up and executed and or force relocated. 'We are the 99%' is a racist slogan. In high school there were the smart kids that studied hard and went to university and the kid called them names like nerd and hippy.
Rachel Ariel Scott October 22, 2011 at 09:34 PM
Thanks for commenting, but I have no idea what you mean by the 99% being a racist slogan....?
ken keegan October 22, 2011 at 09:58 PM
Wow! This writer, "student of sociology", must be walking around with blindfolds on. Santa Cruz supports this movement . The statement, "Granted, I haven't been to the actual site...", displays her ignorance and total disregard for the truth. This "opinion" is the way FOX reports on similar events. How can someone write an article without even an interview or reporting from the site?! This is surely absurd. Why not an article about how ordinary workers have joined with the protesters to have their voice heard?You are not even close to being taken seriously. You and your "article" are a farce. Don't confuse yourself with facts. They may get in the way of truth. Practical change is started with your voice being heard. When you get your degree and can't find work... well, maybe you might rethink these thoughts. I guess you would need to be honest, though. That might not work for you. Go visit the people protesting. I'll bet you meet folks who can educate you about the movement. But that might alter your agenda/open your closed eyes. So, be prepared. There's a lot of love and strength of character there. There are people there who actually have the courage and compassion to stand up for what they believe in. They don't just make up stories, they tell their own. I guess you need to grow up and experience life instead of just being an observer.
ken keegan October 22, 2011 at 11:01 PM
now, now, pussycat... calm down. If you don't understand that pointing out "the riff-raff" is distracting from the real idea then you need to understand that miniscule side events aren't important. Your "blog" is still representing Patch and I can let you know that your words were detrimental to OWS. Hippies is not a bad thing but you write it like that is akin to being homeless, drugged out and sketchy. Making the movement look bad is you. You think you are speaking in support of them? Thanks, but stop helping. You're not really doing that. I guess working for non profits means you can write whatever you want? I don't understand your logic. I've been busy my whole life working with non profits So, I guess I'm part of those bad hippie folks. So, maybe you should go walk over to the OWS site and talk/opine/observe and/or argue in person. Take a really deep breath now.... ah... now let it out. Doesn't that feel good? Rachel, when you stop blaming other media for your remarks ('several articles...) you might realize you are just repeating petty observations that don't enhance the discussion. If you read my reply, you might see that I asked you to talk with the OWS protesters. You still don't see that... YOU really should before making any "observations" with your prejudicial remarks and become a REAL blogger/writer. Ouchy. You have very thin skin for a writer.... can't take the heat... please... for hippies sake... leave the kitchen. Change the world by starting with yourself.
tami ellis October 22, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Great blog, Rachel. Don't be discouraged by angry people who enjoy acting out via public forums. There's a big difference between useful criticism and the need to be "right" in a condescending way. I love your writing and I'm so happy to see you on Patch. Keep it up!
ken keegan October 23, 2011 at 06:07 AM
ha ha. Troll? Really? You are a very sad person. No response so just spew your hate. Shows REAL character.
Brian October 23, 2011 at 06:19 AM
must say, i thought your article said it all, keep up the good work. Racist question? white black. gay straight. smart stupid. rich poor. educated skipped school. wage slave, engineer. Some kids studied hard and were called geeks, some partied and got laid and end up laborers and plumbers. therse division everywhere. Attacking the 1 percent is akin to attacking the people who educated themselves and became experts in what they do, attacking them might as well get rid of the computer were using to have this conversation.
Rachel Ariel Scott October 23, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Brian, I'm still lost as to your point. The 1% does not in any way reflect who studied hard and educated themselves and succeeded. The point of OWS is to bring awareness to the corruption of Wall Street, big banks who purposely mismanaged funds and got bailed out, giant corporations and billionaires whose tax breaks and loops holes allow them to pay disproportionally lower income taxes than working class/middle class people, etc. The 99% are not lazy people who partied in college or high school. My mother got her nursing degree at Berkeley and works her butt off everyday to help sick children (with tax-paying parents) get the care they need. She did not bum around in school. People like her, as well as PhD earners, teachers, blue collar workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, engineers, highly educated journalists, mothers, retired grandparents, cooks, business owners are part of the 99%. Are you trying to say those people were lazy in school? To say that the 1% holds a disproportionate amount of wealth in this country because they are the ones who studied and worked hard in college is very very very wrong and very very very false. Did some of the 1% earn their money honestly through intelligence and hard work? Of course! But that doesn't mean that the 99% didn't. And again, totally confused as to how OWS is "racist" for calling out the 1%...?
Rachel Ariel Scott October 23, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Face it, the "riff raff" are being covered by the media. The info is already out there. What I'm saying is nothing new so I don't understand why I'm being attacked for stating what everyone already knows. I am using this platform to discuss what we should do about them. How do acknowledge that those people are there while supporting the genuine force behind OWS. My little blog post on Patch is not going to SOLVE the problems that I see with Wall Street. And that's not my intention so.....why can't I write an opinion piece on what I see as a problem associated with the movement? You think I'm getting paid to write this post? Nope. Who cares that Patch is owned by AOL? ALL OF US patronize large corporations in some way every day of our lives. I don't have a problem with giant corporations. I have a problem with them being considered U.S. citizens, outsourcing their work to third world countries where laborers are exploited, receiving insane tax breaks, and having incredible influence in politics. Y'all need to calm down and realize that this isn't a "news article" but a personal opinion piece, as a VOLUNTEER blogger. I'm not interested in writing about the 99% who are participating at OWS, I'm interested in calling out the idiots who are taking away from the movement. If you want an article about the "good" people of OWS then write your own blogpost and get it published. My next post will be about incidents of sexual assault at OWS. I'm sure you'll love that. :)
ivyleaves October 23, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Oh, no! If you talk about anything negative about OWS like sexual assault, harrassment of women, discouraging them from talking about it, and reporting it you would commit the sin of "your words were detrimental to OWS." I find the piling on of Ron Paul commenters trying to co-opt OWS, and supporters of stuff like "Hot Chicks of OWS" far more detrimental as far as furthering support of the 51% of the 99%. What does that come out to? Probably 52% of the whole 99%, given the few women likely to be in the 1%.
Rachel Ariel Scott October 24, 2011 at 03:59 PM


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