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1st Amendment Interrupted??? Occupy Wall StreetThe 1st Amendment is the cornerstone of...

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:14 AM via web

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1st Amendment Interrupted??? Occupy Wall Street

The 1st Amendment is the cornerstone of American civil liberties. As an American, political science researcher, and historian I am well versed in the complexities of this amendment.  In addition, over the years I too have exercised my right to 'petition the government'. However, after reading everything available regarding Occupy Wall Street I see no real sense of direction or purpose from the majority of the protestors. There seems to be layers of greivances and many people are unable to clearly articulate a solid message.

I get the economic frustration many of the protestors feel but because it is shrouded within a quagmire of 'let's just hang out and bandwagon circus atmoshere' is it possible that Occupy Wall Street has lost the potential impact power of the 1st amendment's right to petition the government ...to be taken seriously and effect change???

I don't know....any thoughts

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:35 AM (Answer #2)

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Unfortunately, there is nothing in the Constitution about "being taken seriously and effecting change." All the Constitution guarantees is the right to petition the government.

I understand and agree with what you're saying about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I think the expression of frustration is sincere and justified, but I am also very concerned about the lack of focus that seems to prevail within the movement. So many people have jumped on the bandwagon with whatever they are upset about that the original concern has been diluted.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I think it's great that more people are finding a way to become involved in expressing themselves as citizens, but I'm not sure the movement as a whole is going to be able to sustain itself and accomplish any constructive outcome if it continues addressing so many concerns at the same time.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:40 AM (Answer #3)

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I think people are fed up, and although the Occupy Wall Street movement is seen as a joke by many, there is a grain of truth there.  I think that it can't be a wake-up call to Wall Street because nothing is going to wake Wall Street up. As long as people are making money, they will continue. We are ruled by greed.

 

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM (Answer #4)

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Name the last protest movement that was seriously organized and effective.  I think we have to go back to the days of the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War protests, though I'm open to being proven wrong on that.  Modern day protests, including Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and the anti-Iraq War events all seem quite amateurish.  There were no concrete goals, leadership, training or real civil disobedience at any of those.  While I sympathize with the frustration and inequity the protestors are angry about, a movement needs more than merely protest fellowship and anger to get anything done.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:20 PM (Answer #5)

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Not long ago, on NPR, I was listening to an interview with some political pundit, whom, I cannot recall.  But what he said was that one problem with being a liberal Democrat is that we cannot get out our message or effectuate change because we are too civil, too willing to see another perspective, too accepting of diversity, and not mean-spirited enough.  A liberal, almost by definition, cannot follow a "party line" or march in lock step.  I think that might be relevant to this discussion.

My own giddy hope, since the members of this movement have specifically stated that they do not want to align themselves with a party, is that they will form their own party.  I know that third party candidates have never won and that in this case, a third party candidate is likely to draw votes from Democrats, which is not good, from my perspective, but wonders never cease.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:51 PM (Answer #6)

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To me, the OWS people are sort of counterculture wannabes.  They have no agenda anymore than the hippies had an agenda.  That is where they are so different from the protest movments BrettD is mentioning (though I think he leaves out anti-abortion and pro-gay rights movements, which have been somewhat effective) as effective.  Those had actual specific goals and real leadership.

I think there is no way that OWS is going to be taken seriously.  Without effective leadership, it ends up as a parody of everything about liberalism that middle America finds risible and reprehensible.  It features the stuff like "Kill the Pigs" at the same time as it has an aimless desire to seek consensus and "democratic" decision making.  It's not going to be able to be taken seriously or to attract much sympathy unless serious changes are made.

BTW, have you read this?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:36 PM (Answer #7)

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I agree with other editors. What this movement needs is to clearly define itself and what it is opposed to by selecting a careful number of issues that it can reasonably expect to change through protest. If this does not happen, I have severe doubts that this movement will actually have any long-term impact. Wisdom is needed in terms of how we exercise our rights in order to achieve change.

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maadhav19 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted October 27, 2011 at 12:01 AM (Answer #8)

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Even in the absence of a well-defined and clear message, OWS can have an impact. Many subscribe to a similar range of views which seem to center around beliefs that

(a) there are deep economic inequities in America and that

(b) the bailouts of financial firms in 2008 didn't help most Americans and that

(c) the laws in this country help to preserve power in the hands of those who are well off and that

(d) having wealth has translated into disproportionate political power.

I disagree that the protests are ineffective without leadership, organization, and a clear message. The fact that so many are willing to protest shows at the very least a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo. Politicians who are sympathetic to these concerns are likely to find support if they can tap into that collective dissatisfaction.

The title mentioned the First Amendment; I haven't seen this addressed in this thread. Is this referring to the tear-gassing of protesters in Oakland the other night? Many city governments and law enforcement around the country have trid to work with the protests and recognize that hostile or aggressive protesters are isolated. The Oakland case needs more scrutiny, and the live feeds I'm aware of don't record any events that may have precipitated the police action.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:04 AM (Answer #9)

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I don't see how the presence or absence of complex development of organization can lessen the impact of the grass roots Wall Street movement. It is akin to the spontaneous sit-ins of the Hippies and Vietnam era. Those lacked much in the way of complex organizational structure, though the goal statement was a more simple one: get out of Vietnam. Grass roots movements have a way of coalescing and becoming defined entities, think of the origins of the Civil Rights Movement, which began with a few people being fed up and grew to a large and powerful, focused movement with Martin Luther King Jr. at the forefront.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 27, 2011 at 3:32 AM (Answer #10)

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I don't see any positives in the Occupy movement. They have no coherent point, no goals, and are hotbeds of violence. Every step forward is five steps back. Since the political right vilifies them and the political left is appreciative but dismissive, they have no roots and therefore no base. Half the people there have no idea why they are there, and the other half are hateful. To me, the Occupy movement is just another symptom of the anger endemic in the American political landscape. It will ultimately burn itself out without having any real effect.

Edit: In specific response to #8's question about the 1st Amendment, I think the OP was lamenting the failure of OWS to properly use their right to freedom of speech and petition in working toward actual goals. Since they have no clear message and no clear leader, they are exercising the 1st Amendment to no real purpose.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 28, 2011 at 1:26 PM (Answer #11)

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I'm not certain why we think the folks taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protests should have a coherent message, though that's been the gist of most of the criticism I've heard that wasn't of the "lazy, spoiled kids" persuasion. Our current dilemmas are multifaceted and complex, and it seems natural to me that different protestors would have different, even conflicting agendas. It's refreshing to me that so far these protests have not yet succumbed to the homogenizing pressures of our mass media driven culture.

What's more, I've yet to see a critique of them, including several on this thread, that was based on sweeping generalizations. I don't know if these protests will have any staying power or influence our current political discourse, but I do think it's healthy that they're out there even if some of the actual participants are little more than dilletantes. To me, these protests are just what democracy looks like in practice- messy, complicated, obnoxious, idealistic, angry, and sometimes even hypocritical.

I don't think we should OWS as irrelevant or nihilistic simply because its participants lack a focus (or have yet to articulate a focus) that can be summed up in a soundbite.

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:44 AM (Answer #12)

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There is a difference between a lack of focus and a lack of basic knowledge. When OWS first started gaining recognition, some of my students said that they were all for it. I praised them for following current events and then asked them if they would be willing to exercise their freedom of speech in the same way. Some of them said, "Yes, we'd love to camp out and meet a bunch of people!" I then asked them what they would be protesting, and while some said, "corporate greed," others didn't know or made general comments such as "the economy." From what I've seen and read of the OWS participants being interviewed, it seems like most of them don't have logical, factual support for whatever it is they want to argue. When a CEO recently went down to OWS, he asked the crowd around him how much he should pay in taxes, and one man said, "the same as I do." The CEO told him that he would be happy to pay the same as the man paid because he was paying much more than that now. No one could answer the CEO when he asked how much he should pay because no one seemed to have a clue how much he paid currently. Another OWS participant told the CEO that everyone at the protest had contributed to the CEO's fat a** bank account, but when the CEO asked him how, the man could not answer and got mad when the CEO told him that he employed over 100 employees who were able to contribute to their own bank accounts because of their employment. I don't think that these are generalizations. What I wish for our country's sake and for my students' education is that more of us would use our first amendment rights wisely and effectively to support our protests. After all, this is what made Dr. King such a good leader. He was able to present his argument calmly and logically which made it quite difficult for people to paint him or his followers with sweeping generalizations.

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shielalou | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 5, 2011 at 8:53 AM (Answer #14)

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The protesters targeted Wall Street because of the part it played in the economic crisis of 2008 which started the Great Recession. They say that Wall Street's risky lending practices of mortgage-backed securities which ultimately proved to be worthless caused the crisis, and thatthe government bailout breached a sense of propriety. Anyway, have your heating and air-conditioning units installed or repaired? Visit us now HVAC Alexandria VA.

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joshuayen | Student | (Level 1) Honors

Posted December 25, 2011 at 1:24 PM (Answer #15)

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Although I dearly wish to say that the OWS movement will make a major difference, I cannot. They may well make some of a difference, but in the end, Wall Street will go on being corrupt. Many of the people who work there are not corrupt themselves, but many of the CEOs are. Shame on those CEOs. Sadly, in this country, money is extremely powerful, and many in the OWS do not have much compared to the CEOs.

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ricklaurence | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 25, 2011 at 9:13 PM (Answer #16)

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Unfortunately, there is nothing in the Constitution about "being taken seriously and effecting change." All the Constitution guarantees is the right to petition the government.

I understand and agree with what you're saying about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I think the expression of frustration is sincere and justified, but I am also very concerned about the lack of focus that seems to prevail within the movement. So many people have jumped on the bandwagon with whatever they are upset about that the original concern has been diluted.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I think it's great that more people are finding a way to become involved in expressing themselves as citizens, but I'm not sure the movement as a whole is going to be able to sustain itself and accomplish any constructive outcome if it continues addressing so many concerns at the same time.

Donors have showered the Occupy Wall Street protesters with more cash than many expected, and that has prompted a flurry of requests for spending. Anyway, need heating sevices? Visit us HVAC Virginia Beach VA.

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ricardowhite0000 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:03 PM (Answer #17)

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I don't know why Wall Street always have a problem with occupancy. 
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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 11, 2012 at 4:49 AM (Answer #18)

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As #8 states, the fact that people are willing to Occupy sends a message to the powers that be.  It would be nice to have a single point of protest, like the Vietnam War, but there are an abundance of unresolved issues that occupiers want resolved, or at least corrective steps.  The fact that it is not cohesive nor single-topic, yet has an increased following implies the seriousness of the many wrongs currently within our culture. Hopefully, protest will be the beginning of the solutions; historically, I fear it may devolve into rioting through lack of responsiveness by those in power. People are frustrated, and tired of being frustrated.

What's interesting is that nobody's suggesting we Occupy State capitals or sit in at Washington....

 

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