Last Thursday the Occupy Wall Street movement made it to New Orleans.
With signs ranging from End the War to Government is Organized Crime, the message of the protesters was at times hard to fathom. To be frank, I all but dismissed them as an oddity that was interesting to photograph, but not something that I took seriously. As I thought and read more about the movement, I came across a great Op Ed in the NY Times yesterday that helped me put into words what I was seeing. “As the Occupy Wall Street protests spread from Lower Manhattan to Washington and other cities, the chattering classes keep complaining that the marchers lack a clear message and specific policy prescriptions. The message — and the solutions — should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention since the economy went into a recession that continues to sock the middle class while the rich have recovered and prospered. The problem is that no one in Washington has been listening.” The full opinion is here; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/opinion/sunday/protesters-against-wall-street.html?scp=5&sq=Occupy%20Wall%20Street&st=cse
I was really glad that I found that link prior to posting these images….I have had some conversations recently with friends and acquaintances about the fact that this might be the hardest time to finish a college degree and enter the workforce than any other time in US history. Imagine being twenty-two years old, with a fresh bachelors degree in hand, with numerous college loans that you needed to finance that degree, hanging over your head that you need to repay. It is not a pretty sight just now here in the US for those individuals. Young college graduates still lag far behind older college-educated workers: 9.3% of them are unemployed, more than double the 4.7% unemployment rate for college graduates age 25 and older and the class of 2011 will likely face the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates since the Great Recession began. What a terrifying time to arrive in the US job market.
Add to the mix, the average American who has lost their trust in a government that bails out banks and Wall Street while ignoring the pain that the Wall Street fallout has caused to middle class America. We are constantly being assailed by the profits that JP Morgan (successor to Bear Stearns) , AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, the auto industry continue to make even after receiving extraordinary bailouts from the US. It seems unbelievable that the US government was forced to bailout such companies, at the expense of the American public who has had to endure job losses, home equity losses, a credit bubble that cost them their homes and jobs, while Wall Street has hummed merrily along, thanks to the bailout, and the politicians who were elected pledging to reform Wall Street continue to maintain the status quo, all while raking in money from the corporate sponsors they had pledged to reform. Is it any wonder that the ordinary American is angry? When you factor these in, you begin to understand the need for such protests. Indeed it has even been suggested that the Occupy Wall Street protests that are beginning to spread across the US, might even become similar to the 1960’s protest. Time will tell on that forecast. For now, I think that the politicians, the pundits and the elite who are denouncing these protests should think twice about them; if you continue to bailout and coddle the rich while ignoring the middle class, the protests of the sixties could pale in comparison to these protests currently in their infancy.
The rest of my photos are here; http://laurabergerol.photoshelter.com/gallery/Occupy-NOLA/G0000vZy4n3gOvi4/