Tensions are ratcheting up around Occupy Wall Street. Here’s what it will mean for all the major players.
While the populist protest movement is forcing politicians in Washington into awkward positions, it’s up to City Hall to figure out how exactly to handle the encampments. New York’s Michael Bloomberg led a middle-of-the-night raid on the city’s activists. “The public is scared,” Hizzoner said last week. Even progressive Portland, Ore.’s Sam Adams took similar measures. Perversely, the drastic sweeps may have given the protesters a perfect chance to declare victory.
Want to see a Democrat turn into a pretzel? Ask her about Occupy Wall Street. When Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren claimed credit for “the intellectual foundation” of the movement, opponents pounced, trying to hang Occupy’s scattered violence around her neck. President Obama will need to channel the anger and at the same time avoid appearing angry.
After riding the Tea Party wave, Republicans are on the defensive as the movement draws attention to income inequality—an issue that the GOP has done little to address. If Occupy continues to stoke public anger against the wealthy, Republicans could see a favorable election forecast quickly turn against them.
The movement isn’t just for debt-ridden graduates anymore. College students are keeping it alive with protests on campuses across the country. Nearly 1,000 people marched around Yale as part of Occupy New Haven. Protesters also swarmed Harvard Yard, but a snag earlier this month kept them at bay: several hundred were stranded outside the ivory tower after a rally near Harvard Law School because they didn’t have school identification cards.
The police crackdown of Occupy Wall Street last week included the arrests of more than two dozen journalists, including ones from Vanity Fair and the Associated Press. Keith Gessen, editor of the brainy journal N+1, was photographed cuffed and seated on the ground, spurring online outrage. A human-rights group criticized the arrests, saying, “Journalists must be allowed to cover news events without fear of arrest and harassment.”
“The Occupy movement is under attack,” music mogul Russell Simmons told protesters. Who better to save it than some famous faces? Actor Alec Baldwin, a supporter, had some advice for the movement: “OWS talks a lot, too much in fact, about One Percent versus Ninety Nine Percent.” And celebs are doing more than speaking out. Jay-Z tried to hawk Occupy-inspired T-shirts through his clothing line. Rebuked by protesters, Hova pulled the togs.