Something has Changed

By Beacon Staff

It was the conviction for social justice that drew former Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis to Wall Street to join activists at the Occupy movement. Lewis was arrested by New York police as protests entered their third month.

“The fact that they were not doing this for themselves; they were doing this for all people who are suffering injustice. That conviction they had for social justice just inspired me. And I couldn’t do anything else but come down,” Lewis said.

The movements’ “jobs and justice” message resonates with Middle America. The status quo is suddenly taking the young activists seriously.

According to MSNBC, a well-known Washington lobbyists group pitched an idea to the American Bankers Association. The lobbyist group contends that a strong “message war” may be needed to combat the grassroots nature of the Occupy protest.

The cornerstone of its nearly $1 million plan on the Occupy movement would identify the perceived leaders and provide “… survey research, opposition research, targeted social media monitoring, coalition planning, and advertising.”

In their proposal, rejected by the bankers, the lobbyists indicated that, “Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protesters and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism. Both the radical left and the radical right are channeling broader frustrations about the state of the economy and share mutual anger of TARP and other perceived bailouts. The combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”

Cultural differences aside, Occupy Memphis recently met with the Mid-South Tea Party. “You have a lot of the same goals we have, which is to take our country back,” said a conservative Tea Party activist. The two movements found common ground on government bailouts and crony capitalism. But a wide rift remains on social justice issues.

At a town hall meeting, a polite Ron Paul told Occupy activists, “I’m very much involved with the 99 percent. I’ve been condemning that 1 percent because they’ve been ripping us off.”

To protect themselves, lobbyists and corporate America may undermine the credibility of the Occupy movement. Given the income disparity, they have a tough message to push. The top 1 percent of America now has a larger net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Polling by the status quo is obviously underway as they seek to hold the reins of this social, but quickly maturing political movement.

The iconic photographs buzzing over the Internet, showing young women being pepper sprayed and young men beaten by batons, appear to energize the non-violent youth movement into action. Embarrassingly, political leadership remains silent on the brutality, appearing more concerned about re-election.

The Nation journalist John Nichols last week said, “I don’t think that a year ago anybody would have predicted that on a cold, rainy day in November 2011 you would have thousands and thousands of young people out on the streets in New York City and in cities across the country. Something has changed.”

Multiple unions now embrace the “jobs and justice” message pushed by the movement. A December Occupy Congress action is planned in Washington.

Florida Congressman Ted Deutch introduced the OCCUPIED amendment (Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy). Deutch seeks to overturn “Citizens United,” restoring a right for Congress and states to regulate election monies. Cynics give the proposal a 1 percent chance of passing.

It is a value for work that keeps American families united and assures liberty and justice for all. Congress appears to openly ignore the public by not passing a “jobs bill” to help get Americans back to work.

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