The Occupy Wall Street movement, as well as its local offshoots, is a driving political force gaining ground, said T. V. Reed, a WSU professor of American studies and author of “The Art of Protest.”
The occupiers are making a difference, he said. While it is too early to tell if the movement will lead to significant legislative upheaval, protesters have already changed the economic conversation.
“I think they’re already feeling the pressure and looking for more bold, comprehensive solutions,” he said.
The movement will push the politicians to pursue stronger solutions, including things like jobs bills, he said. While it won’t happen automatically, the movement will change the mood over time, which shapes legislation.
The political right is trying to dismiss the movement, and the left is trying to claim it, he said. However, Occupy Wall Street remains an independent force that may leave a lasting impression.
“It’s very early, but the movement is growing at an incredibly fast rate, and I think it has the potential to change the discussion of economics in the country for a long time to come,” he said.
Reed said he is amazed at the clarity of the occupiers’ message, considering the racial and occupational diversity of the demonstrators.
“‘We can no longer afford a nation where 1 percent of the population controls 40 percent of the wealth,’” he said. “That’s a pretty strong, clear message. It’s not the job of movements to legislate; it’s the job of movements to agitate and for those with the power to move things, to change.”
The Wall Street movement has attracted local “Occupy” groups across the country – even in conservative areas like Spokane and Pullman – because many Americans are fed up and confused about the economic situation and want change, he said.
Reed said the fact that many conservatives are not opposing the movement illustrates the gravity of the economic situation. Though many of the proposals are progressive, the protests transcend the right-versus-left debate in a sense, he said.
It is even attracting people who might have previously been in the Tea Party because they have realized the economic system is deeply unfair.
While the Occupy the Palouse branch of the protest is in its early stages, it will grow like the rest of the movement, he said.
Senior women’s studies major Sina Sam helped found the local organization, and she said she is happy with the progress of the group.
The local movement began with five people connecting through Facebook, and last week, the group took to the mall and the streets of downtown Pullman.
Sam said she was pleased with the response the protesters received, and now the local movement has about 15 regular participants. Group members try to protest on the Glenn Terrell Mall every week day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Because of the angst and the misfortune and because of the economy – the social condition we’re in as a country – it seems somewhat inevitable that people would come together to address the suffering as a community,” she said.
The local movement can give people of every political ideology a chance to voice their concerns about social and economic problems on both a local and national level, she said. Everyone has some type of grievance, and Occupy the Palouse enables protesters to assert a collective voice on issues such as poverty rates and tuition hikes, Sam said.
Senior political science major James Cockburn, who is also an ASWSU senator, has protested with Occupy the Palouse twice, both on campus and downtown. He said it is important that students get involved in the local movement.
“If people don’t speak up, the status quo will remain,” he said. “The Occupy movement is important because it signals an opportunity for the majority to rise up and take a stand against the economic inequality and the perversion of the democratic process by the elites.”
For more information on Occupy the Palouse, visit the group’s Facebook page.
Get out and go
What: Occupy the Palouse weekly meetings
When: 2 p.m. on Saturdays
Where: CUB Lair