Seasoned activists critique Wall Street protests

By Cristian Salazar

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 9 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

The demands of the protesters were crystallizing around calls to tax the wealthy to address inequality, he said.

"'We are the 99 percent' is a clear message," he said. "It is unfair and in fact disgusting that the American political economy is run for the benefit of a plutocracy. I don't see how that can be misunderstood."

But he said the movement was still evolving and it remains to be seen whether it can evolve as an effective organization. "This is the new order of movements. They're informal and ragged, and yet if they're well-timed, they touch a nerve and get translated by actually existing political forces," he said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House, is convinced the movement will bring about political change.

"I consider this movement really to be the most heartwarming thing I've seen since President Obama's election," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. "I hope nobody gets discouraged. I think the impact could be very significant on the psyche of the country as well as on the disposition of members of Congress."

He disagrees that it lacks a coherent message and said many of the people he marched with during the civil rights era likely wouldn't have been able to put into words their reasons or frustrations, either.

"They all knew something was wrong," he said. "They knew that it just wasn't right to have to get up out of your seat and give some white person your seat on a bus. They may not be able to explain to you exactly why I'm out here marching; they may not even be able to relate that lunch counter to that city bus or to a ride on the train or to walking down the sidewalk having to step off the sidewalk when approached by a white person, which was the order of the day."

Ambassador Young said that to be effective, the protests need a serious discussion component and that leadership needs to emerge.

"I can understand people being frustrated with Wall Street, but this just needs to be more than people voicing their frustrations and a few leaders having their 15 minutes of fame," he said. "It is important for those who have thought through their values and objections to somehow be heard."

Naomi Klein, whose writings helped shape the anti-neoliberal globalization movement that emerged in the late 1990s, made an appearance Thursday at Zuccotti Park, where she delivered a speech to the protesters. In a version of the talk posted on her website, she offered praise and a warning.

"It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off," she said. "It's because they don't have roots. And they don't have long-term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away."

Associated Press writers Errin Haines in Atlanta and Seanna Adcox in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

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