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Is the Arab Spring Coming to America?
If thousands of protestors start camping out in the financial heart of America on Saturday, New Yorkers can blame Canada.
That’s because the move to #OccupyWallStreet — as it’s known on Twitter — began with the Vancouver-based counter-culture magazine Adbusters in July.
“A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future,” it announced on its website. “On Sept. 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.”
“We did it because we had this feeling that America was ready for a kind of Tahrir moment,” says Adbusters co-publisher Kalle Lasn. “There is a lot of people who lost their jobs, who lost their houses. The whole country has been hurting and yet, somehow, the people who brought this on, they are getting clean away with it, without any justice being served to them.”
The movement accelerated two weeks ago when the hacktivist group Anonymous got involved.
But the New York City “General Assembly,” a loosely organized group of about 150, has been meeting on weekends to work out the logistics. They’ve been practising non-violent tactics, gathering legal resources, organizing lines of communication and setting up food committees.
They even did a test run Sept 1. Nine members camped out on Wall St. All were arrested; all were released within 24 hours without charge.
“People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Thursday. “As long as they do it where other people’s rights are respected, this is the place where people can speak their minds, and that’s what makes New York New York.”
The activists are simultaneously so anarchic and democratic that they will not decide their goal until they are all assembled at Wall St. and Broad.
“There will be one simple demand of President Barack Obama that will resonate with the American people, something absolutely doable that the American people get behind,” explains Lasn.
Sleeping on New York City sidewalks is legal, as long as it is part of a political protest. In June, unionized city workers camped out for two weeks to protest budget cuts, in an effort dubbed “Bloombergville.”