Political Protest the Current "Occupy: Insert Location Research Paper

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Political Protest

The current "Occupy: (insert location name here)" movement is something that has been on the minds of many over the last few weeks and months, not because the awareness of the issues are new but mostly because the movement is demonstrative of a sweeping political protest like the U.S. has not seen in many years. The political science of protest is one that demonstrates the allowance of change in democratic society and the allowance of revolution in undemocratic societies, protest can and is considered by most political scientists as form of political activism and to some even a form of necessary political participation in the same manner as voting, though not used or needed as often (Boyle & Schmierbach). Much like the use of raising ones voice or corporal punishment, in parenting, if you utilize it too often it loses its power to persuade. Yet, it clearly serves an important purpose as;

…in some cases, working within the system is ineffective at enacting change. Further, waiting for the opportunity to vote every 2 or 4 years or for a response from a political office may be undesirable. As such, citizens may seek alternate ways to influence the political process by working outside of the traditional system. (Boyle & Schmierbach 2)

Protest can of course take many forms, but the most markedly notable is often street level protest, either peaceful or violent, when it occurs in mass. This work will address that issue form a political science perspective by looking at historical mass protests in the U.S. And elsewhere and then discussing ways in which policy has actually been changed as a result.

There is a clear sense that mass peaceful protests have marked effects on the sentiment of the political body as well as on the leveled need of politicians and other political players to sit up and take notice of an issue or group of issues that protesters find disturbing or unjust. Some examples of such protest include the civil rights protests of the 1950s, 60s and 70s or the anti-war protests of WWI, Vietnam and Iraq Wars. The tradition of mass street level protest is one that goes back in America to the late 19th century when the so called Coxey's army marched from Ohio to Washington DC to protest joblessness and demand that the government put them to work on public projects (O'Carroll). According to O'Carroll this was the first of what he considers to be the most memorable of such protests followed closely by the 1932 The Bonus Expeditionary Force, where veterans form WWI in 1924 were promised bonuses that would not be paid until 1945, and the unemployment rate caused them to stage a protest, camping out across the street from the white house in demand of their needed bonus. This being followed by the 1963 march on Washington for jobs and freedom, which ended with the MLKjr I Have a Dream speech then next there was the 1995 Million Man March prompted by Lewis Farrakhan in protest of the negative image of black men in America, and last The March For Women's Lives in 2004 protesting for women's reproductive rights (O'Carroll). It still remains to be seen if the current, "Occupy" movement will eclipse any of these, though its seems in sheer numbers, locations and time this may be the resounding history. (Smith 25) ("Camp Cleared…" 9)

In the debate that rages about the "Occupy" movement and especially as it grows there are several main messages, number one being the growing income disparity between the wealthy and the rest of society, where 1% of the population controls the majority of the wealth in the world and the other 99% shares the rest with less hope of social mobility than in any other period of American history. There are then a whole list of other protest reasons and causes, including the thousands, maybe even millions of college graduates that owe large debts for their education but are unable to gain employment that will get them out of the debt or even help them earn a good living, unemployment in general, the need for politicians and others to sit up and stop allowing big business and corporate greed to dominate society and one of the more recent debates added to the mix has been the need to buy local and keep our money in
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the U.S., rather than continuing to send it overseas to support corrupt and also underpaid populations whose upper classes also dominate their economies. (Bass) Though all their points are not unified, platformed and organized (Zubok) many people have taken notice of the fact that the protests seems to simply grow, even amidst the strife associated with the core protests in New York and DC, to date there are "Occupy" protests in nearly every major metropolitan area and several smaller communities. The protests have even spread to the suburbs, where the climate is said to be different and people are less likely to be damaging property or camping in public parks they are nonetheless taking part in the message that these protests are attempting to send, which really at its core is "something has to give." (Fagan A1)

There is also a clear sense that these new protests are not isolated to a social/political movement in the U.S. As such protests, some more or less violent have erupted all over the world, stressing issues of social justice, economic equality, economic opportunity and even the traditional democratic/civil rights issues, self representation and freedom from tyranny. These protests have sprung up beginning really in 2001 and continuing today, some with such great effect that whole 30-year-old regimes of government have toppled and new systems are attempting to take shape. Social protests all over the world, associated with political process, representation, economics and many other issues that individuals and groups find alarming in the manner in which they play out. Some more recent examples include social protests in Guadalupe, Argentina, Syria, Greece, Libya, Egypt and the list goes on. Not to mention that the "Occupy" movement has also spread to an international level with London and Melbourne as well as other major cities all over the world joining in the message that at the very least income disparity needs to be addressed on a global level. ("Occupy London…") Experts in political science, economics, sociology and other fields do not agree that the movement is either going to be effective for political or economic change or not, many individuals have urged those in high places as well as those not involved in the protests to take notice of the protesters messages and to allow a dialogue for change. (Bass) (McCloskey)

To look now at the manner in which political change has been addressed as a reaction to mass protests one might look at any number of examples, not possibly at the Million Man March example where the most memorable part of its legacy was the controversy regarding the number of people present. The U.S. Parks Service estimated the number to be about 400,000 people, which incited Farrakhan and others to threaten a lawsuit. This controversy resulted in one lasting policy change associated with the protest, the U.S. Parks Service is no longer allowed to estimate crowd size at any event. (O'Carroll) This is likely a paltry legacy to say the least, though the March is still remembered as one of the most significant in U.S. history. Instead we will look at a microcosm of the national and international stage, a well researched series of social protests that took place on Guadalupe the French Caribbean Island. What the research indicates is that even if the whole political fiber of the nation was not overturned, as has been seen in some other examples, noted above with Guadalupe retaining a colonial relationship with France the nature of self-governing and the political imagination has changed. Bonilla notes that the occurrence of labor strikes in the region are actually quite common but this particular strike was different in that it took the form of a mass societal strike, not just one industry or one union but 48 organizations including those affecting government and other vital services:

For a period of forty four days the entire society was paralyzed by a general strike: schools and universities were closed, all major commerce was suspended, banks shut down, government services were discontinued, restaurants were shuttered, hotel rooms emptied, public transportation came to a halt, barricades blocked major roadways, and petrol distribution was suspended throughout the entire island, forcing drivers to park their cars and become pedestrians for over a month and a half. (Bonilla 126)

Though Bonilla stresses that the political climate of the island has changed the very idea of the fact that many people in society could effectively come together and shut down the entire island is likely the most empowering of all the messages of the protests. The protesters according to Bonilla were protesting issues that are not unlike those…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Bass, Debra D. "Occupy protestors reinvigorate buy-local. buy-American debate." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) 20 Nov. 2011: Newspaper Source. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

Bonilla, Yarimar. "Guadeloupe Is Ours." Interventions: The International Journal Of Postcolonial Studies 12.1 (2010): 125-137. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

Boyle, Michael P., and Mike Schmierbach. "Media Use And Protest: The Role Of Mainstream And Alternative Media Use In Predicting Traditional And Protest Participation." Communication Quarterly 57.1 (2009): 1-17. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

"Camp Cleared 3 America New [...]." Sunday Times, The (2011): 8,9. Newspaper Source. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

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