On Wednesday, nearly a thousand people gathered in New York City’s Union Square for a rally in tribute to Trayvon Martin. At the rally, we were all Trayvon Martin. Parents, professionals, students, politicians, civilians, blacks, and whites gathered to demand justice for the 17-year-old. Issues of police corruption and racial profiling were splashed over the headlines, and millions of Americans were outraged.
Combine the activist acumen of Occupy Wall Street and the focus and fervor behind the Trayvon Martin rallies and we’ve hit the sweet spot. But OWS has lost its way. As I write this on Wednesday night, 300 NYPD officers, including second in command to Commissioner Ray Kelly are preparing to arrest protesters. And the good energy surrounding the Trayvon Martin rally has all but evaporated.
The fact that 300 NYPD officers are necessary to empty a park is another topic for another day. Yet the focus of the protest has been lost. Why are they in the park? They’re angry. There are many problems to be solved. But everyone knows that you can’t accumulate every problem and try to solve all of them in one lump.
In the shuffle between the police and the protesters, the fact that Wall Street executives used America as collateral for their summer homes is entirely forgotten. What is the problem? We need to be reminded. Identify the issue, amass support, and protest until change happens. It only works in this order.
Occupy Wall Street needs to serve as a feeder for movements like the one we saw for Trayvon Martin today. The Million Hoodie March took the structure and orchestration of OWS and combined it with a demand for specific justice. The “human mic” system was used to include all protesters in group plans to march. Most importantly, perhaps, was the use of social media to rouse the community. I found out about the Million Hoodies March from my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as did most participants.
At its best, Occupy Wall Street honed these new digital tools. Social media gives the community and the individual citizen a voice again, an ability to tell thousands of people to meet here, for this cause, at this time, with the click of a button. Everyone is plugged in.
In the case of Trayvon Martin, Americans agreed. We agree that the background check should be run on the shooter, not the victim. We prickle at the injustice, knowing that if George Zimmerman had hit the teenager with his car, he would have been arrested for involuntary manslaughter. Zimmerman shot Martin and he walked free. Protesters demand justice in the form of a trial. Specific problems were identified, and solutions were demanded.
Occupy Wall Street, as it exists today, is a protest without a problem and without a solution. Protest for protest’s sake is anarchy, and America deserves better.
Photo Credit: Charles Altcheck