The Occupy Wall Street movement passed the 50 day mark this weekend, just days after OWS protestors in Oakland, Calif. rioted.
Protestors in Oakland expanded their occupation camps in the downtown area. Some decided to occupy an empty building, barricading it with garbage and refuse.
Oakland police felt the situation was a public safety issue and decided to disperse them, but a group of protestors broke off to burn and loot. This caused the police to react with tear gas, bean-bag rounds, flash bang grenades and batons.
The only accomplishment of this violence for the Occupy Oakland movement was media attention.
For those who haven’t kept track, the protests in New York officially began on Sept. 17. The other spinoff occupy movements started weeks later. The Oakland riot was the first instance of real violence in the nationwide protests.
Protestors from OWS to Occupy Houston have been arrested for violations like blocking sidewalk traffic and trespassing, but none crossed the threshold of intentional violence.
When done right, riots give results. And while the Oakland riot may be a stand-alone black spot on the OWS map, the riot could also be an alternative route.
To their credit, the majority of OWS protestors don’t want to be violent. The problem is that they also don’t want to use the traditional route of participating in politics. This means not taking large scale financial contributions from businesses, not locating candidates for elections and not consolidating voters.
If they want to move beyond making their voices heard, they need to choose one or the other: vote or revolt.
The protestors in Zuccoti Park think that if they occupy long enough, chant long enough and hold up signs long enough that Wall Street will lose and OWS will win. But without political participation or violent uprising, when does protesting cause victory?
OWS protestors want simple but ambiguous goals: they want more jobs with better quality, they want an equal distribution of income, they want the banks to be reformed and they want corporations out of politics.
The issue is that the protestors cannot put those demands into bill form. How do you lobby Congress to end corporate influence of politics? How do you out-lobby the lobbyist?
As an aside, jobs are just as important to OWS as holding Wall Street accountable for the recession, but yet again the protestors want a job but they don’t want to work.
The cold truth is that protestors and non-protestors alike will have to sift through unemployment and face grunt work they do not wish to do: unskilled construction, waiting tables, secretary positions and more.
Yes, people deserve better job opportunities. These positions are the obedient worker drone jobs filled with regret. This is the very thing that the protestors are against — working for the 1 percent, breaking your back for a person in a suit.
Welcome to the full circle. Without changing the rules one way or another, these low-wage jobs are the only possibility in a recession. The thin line between indentured servitude and success won’t be fixed simply by complaining in front of banks and corporations.
But the protesters have some legitimate successes: they wanted to increase the awareness that the government messed up; they wanted people to see that the markets went unregulated and got out of hand; they wanted the public to realize that no one was held accountable for the recession.
OWS accomplished these things, but step two requires more than just raising awareness. Since violent uprising is still frowned upon, protesters can either vote legitimately or fade away under the winter snow.David Haydon is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected].