Photo: _PaulS_

The protests that started on September 17 in New York City look to be gaining momentum, spreading around the US, into Canada, and overseas. But where’s the mainstream media coverage?

OVER THE WEEKEND more protests sprung up in American cities: Los Angeles, Boston, Albuquerque. In NYC, over 700 protestors were arrested (including Natasha Lennard, a freelance journalist reporting for the New York Times) on the Brooklyn Bridge when they shut down a traffic lane for hours. The below video shows protestors in front of big banks in San Francisco on September 29.

According to the Vancouver Sun, more protests are being organized for Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Calgary. I didn’t realize this, but the call to action started in Canada, by Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters. Co-founder Kalle Lasn, said:

We’re the people who catalyzed this thing, but we’re not the people who are running it. The people on the streets who have the guts to sleep out there night after night, those are the people who are really driving it.

In Toronto, protestors are organizing to meet on October 15 at Bay and King Street, the heart of the financial district. Their plan is to begin marching two days later when the Toronto Stock Exchange opens on Monday. Similarly, in Vancouver residents are being called to action to camp indefinitely at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is no stranger to protests, also on October 15. Protestors are encouraged to bring “tarps, thermal blankets, sleeping bags, first aid kits and electrical generators.”

On October 5, labour unions and liberal activist groups will join the protestors on Wall Street. The relatively low numbers could be boosted in a big way when these organized groups show their support. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 is one who has committed; they alone have a member base of 38,000.

Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The movement is taking its cue from the Arab Spring, in which revolution that began in Tunisia in December, 2010 spread to other countries like Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Libya. There has been much said in the alternative press about the mainstream media’s (MSM) lack of coverage of the protests. And when they are being covered, the focus has been on arrests and violence, as opposed to what the actual point of the protests are (“that the vast majority of us are getting screwed because of policies that protect the rich minority”).

Possibly a more compelling parallel comes from the 15-M protests in Spain last May. Youth took over the plazas in 166 cities around Spain, rallying against a system that isn’t working for them. Spain has the highest rate of unemployment in Europe at 21%, and half of all working-age people under 25 don’t have work. Like those protesting on Wall Street and now across America and around the world, they did not have clear-cut demands. But like what’s happening now, they do know that something is rotten and they demand change.

This story from RT discusses the black hole in news coverage with NYC rapper/activist Marcel Cartier and journalism professor, Chris Chambers. Chambers, in response to the host’s question about why media is only reporting on the ugly aspects of the protests, said:

You have to look at the core bias of the networks. I mean they do benefit from this from corporate ownership of the media since the 1980s…but that’s pretty structural and pretty much something that we all expected. What’s underneath this is a basic bias in this country against this kind of grass roots movement when it’s not from, say, the right wing…

Look at the treatment you have right now…even Stephen Colbert…you’d think they’d be very sympathetic to this. They’ve treated this almost like a 3-ring circus and they’ve focused on the people wearing the funny hats, the “hippie” aspect of it…you know, the smelly, hippie people sleeping in a park and then protesting. That kind of bias builds up and that plays well to the average American who’s still wondering what’s going on.

Cartier, who is part of a coalition called ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), says this phenomenon is not specific to the current protests but symptomatic of a larger issue:

It’s not just about Wall Street. It’s also about Troy Davis, it’s also about the police brutality that happens everyday in black and brown communities. Just a few weeks ago John Collado was murdered in Washington Heights by an undercover police officer, and there was a huge march through Washington Heights. Where was the coverage of that? Where’s the coverage every single time that someone is beaten by the cops?

The MSM won’t have much choice but to bring the protests more front and center if momentum keeps building. It does look like more outlets are publishing that the movement is spreading. According to OccupyTogether, protests are being planned for several international cities using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Some of these locations include Tokyo, Melbourne and Sydney, Tijuana, Denmark, Finland, Prague, and the London stock exchange (currently with almost 4000 Facebook Likes).

To stay up to date with the progress of the protests and to join in or organize your own, here are some resources:

  • Occupy Wall Street – the official and original website of the movement.
  • Occupy Together – an offshoot of OWS, serving as a hub for protests that are springing up around the US and internationally.
  • We Are the 99% – a Tumblr blog where people can send in photos of themselves holding signs that declare how they are affected by the current financial situation.
  • #occupywallstreet – the Twitter feed with real-time updates.
  • Occupy Wall St. – the Facebook page.
  • occupytv – the movement’s YouTube channel where you can find coverage you won’t see in the MSM.

Have you been involved in any of the protests? What are your thoughts on what’s going down? Is this the beginning of a big movement that might actually lead to change?

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