Are Protestors Standing Up For Something or Standing Still?

by Vault Careers | November 01, 2011

“To the left, you’ll see people camping in the park as part of Occupy Wall Street,” a woman stated over a loudspeaker.  She was wrong.  It was actually Occupy Maine, but the fact that they were now just one of the attractions on my trolley tour of Portland, Maine spoke volumes to me. 

Earlier last week, I was walking around Zuccotti Park and I was also taken aback by what was going on around me.  One girl proudly displayed her amazing hula hoop demonstration to the beat of drummers; it brought me back to a time when I visited Woodstock and saw a drum circle/protest taking place in the square—someone told me, “pay them no mind; they come here every week to protest something.” Another “protestor” held up a sarcastic sign saying, “Adopt a protestor.”  Still others were selling various wares (profits go back to the protest, although one person is selling t-shirts and keeping the cash).  The remaining occupiers were either holed up in tents or out sharing their views through clever signs as onlookers took pictures with delight at their new tourist attraction. 

What has happened to Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Maine or any of the other branches of a movement that was supposed to make a difference?  What happened to drawing more attention to the 99% who feel controlled by the 1% with all the money?  Now, reports are coming in that Occupy Wall Street is a haven for petty criminals hiding from the police and looking for a free lunch.  Other reports discuss the crystal meth being sold at the park while additional details are coming out about sexual attacks at the site.  To combat these crimes within their enclave, Occupy Wallstreet’s executive council is forming a security team to kick out those who are not following the rules of the movement.  They have also enacted rules around food disbursement to cut back on the number of “protestors” who aren’t really there to support the cause. 

But this is not the type of news that should be surroundingOccupy Wall Street; a group that made waves marching across bridges, traveling to rich people’s homes and really pushing the 99% message in creative ways that truly highlighted the issues being faced by the average American.  The group has become stagnant.  They are in danger of being “just that group that protests something every day.”  They do not have a uniform voice.  They do not have pointed messages; just broad statements that will never be resolved.  It is time Occupy Wall Street received a shot in the arm – something to returnthe focus to the problem it is combating and not just media fodder surrounding interactions with police, issues of cleanliness and the problems that are starting to fracture the group. 

Here are some newsworthy ideas:

Get a leader.  Occupy Wall Street likes to think that it is a unique movement, because there is no true leader, but in order for a movement to succeed, leaders are needed.  Leaders provide guidance.  They provide a vision.  They stay on point.  And they provide a face when it comes to meeting with influential people about how change can be achieved.  The Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement – they all had leaders.  This movement is about class struggle and needs a leader in order for people to start taking it more seriously. 

Focus on one message at a time.  If you ask people on the streets what Occupy Wall Street wants, you get so many responses that it’s hard to even know for sure.  When you have no real topic other than 99% vs. 1%, you have a number of interpretations to that topic and no real focus.  Think about work.  When you are overwhelmed with your tasks, what’s the number one advice career experts provide – perform one task at a time to avoid mistakes and stress.  The same thing applies here.  Focus on one mission so you can achieve it and move on to the next goal.  A group that looks like it knows what it wants and seems unified in that one goal will get more attention than a splintered group with too many focuses. 

Continued action is necessary.  You have one goal, so now how are you going to achieve it?  Research how other successful “peaceful” movements achieved their goals.  There is a reason why they were successful.  They didn’t just stand and march.  They took action and did so in a peaceful manner.  Take your goal and see what type of peaceful action can be enacted to achieve similar results.  And keep up with your efforts.  Continued action brings about results.  

Marches on Washington, D.C. make a statement.  Look at the Million Man March and the large demonstrations that have taken place before and after.  Going to the nation’s capital and peacefully (can we stress peacefully enough here?) demonstrating as one giant force draws real attention to the issues.  Set a date, get the proper permits and have Occupy Maine, Occupy Oakland, and all the other groups around the nation get on planes, trains and automobiles and head out to unite to have their voices heard. 

Be part of the solution.  Russell Simmons comes out to meet with the Occupy Wall Street crowd.  There are a lot of rich people who sympathize with the 99%.  Why not try and work with them?  There are many skilled, but unemployed professionals who have given up the job search and joined the movement because they feel they have no other hope.  They need help.  Consider inviting career experts to offer assistance on resume and interview skills.  Seek out donations from business owners to help jobseekers buy suits (or launch a suit-donation drive).  Once all that is completed, create a database of resumes and work with businesses to make sure those resumes are seen.  Use your voice to affect change for those jobseekers who feel helpless.

--Jon Minners, Vault.com

Filed Under: Job Search | Workplace Issues


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