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Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street" Protests: Religion & Social Media

One theme of our book is that religious activists have long played an important role in American political and social movements. NY1 reports:
The "Occupy Wall Street protestors" are remaining in Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, and members of the clergy are expected to join the effort later today.

Demonstrators organizing the day's events at a so-called "general assembly" today, and a large demonstration is scheduled for tomorrow.

Demonstrators told NY1 this morning that they remain part of the protest to keep sharing their message.

"For the most part, the only thing we all have in common is we want equality. We all come from very different backgrounds, very different economic strides, everything. It's not fair," said one protester. "There's so many people that don't have anything to eat and they're buying $200 lunches, and we're paying for it."

Twitter and other social media have provided organizing tools. Chenda Ngak writes at CBS:
Social media has been an important tool for protesters overseas. Now that the Occupy Wall Street protests have reached a tipping point, the abundance of online organizing is staggering.

On July 13, 2011, the magazine Adbusters posted a call to occupy Wall Street on their blog.

"On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices," the post said.

When CNN reported that "hundreds" of people showed up, it seemed like a success for the cause. Everyone could return to business as usual, right?

Not so fast. The camps in downtown Manhattan have only gotten larger and the protests have spread to other cities across the U.S.

Once we took a closer look at the movement and how it was being organized, we were impressed. The protesters used all forms of social media keep the movement alive.

Facebook pages have popped up for major cities across the country. Twitter hashtags have been established for communication at general assemblies. Countless videos have been posted to YouTube, Vimeo and Livestream. We found some moving personal accounts of job loss and helplessness shared on the blog, "We are the 99 percent."

It's remarkable to see Middle East protest tactics being used in a free speech society. For a movement that claims no leader, it is highly organized, making off-shoots easy to start.

Occupy Wall Street even got an Internet meme.

The Occupy Sesame Street meme puts the central characters of the children's show in the shoes of regular Americans, with one Twitter user tweeting, "Truly outrageous that 99% of the cookies are consumed by 1% of the monsters on PBS. #occupysesamestreet."