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Diversity, upcoming U.S. elections key parts of Occupy protesters' strength

(Xinhua)

09:02, October 27, 2011

TAMPA, the United States, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Occupy movement, which originated from the Occupy Wall Street demonstration, has spread and sustained in the United States due to many strengths, with the chief one of them being the wide diversity of its members.

"The diversity is the reason why the movement has lasted and will last," said Professor Jack A. Goldstone of George Mason University, "but that just reflects how many different kinds of people have been hit hard by this recession, and feel that it was not their fault, and the system is tilted against them."

Starting from New York's Zuccotti Park, the Occupy protests have rapidly spread to most major cities in the U.S., as well as to other major foreign cities, including Vancouver of Canada, Auckland of New Zealand, and Santiago of Chile.

Examples of diversification of Occupy protesters can be seen everyday in the protests in Tampa, Florida, which is based in the downtown's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park where the protests have been going on continuously for almost one month.

White Styrofoam coolers filled with ice and various types of food dot the park's bright green grass landscape. Containers of bottled water and plates of food, some of the latter being donated by local restaurant owners, are on a folding table. The 40 to 60 Occupy demonstrators are ready to stay in the park indefinitely.

The Tampa protesters stood on the sidewalk in front of the park holding signs reading "United States of BOA (Bank of America)," " Stop Abusive Government," and "Corporate America: Death to Democracy." Occasionally, drivers of passing cars and trucks who support the movement blew their vehicles horns, as an audio sign of support. In return, many of the protesters clapped their hands and cheered.

"It's just a miracle that this has happened, but there are so many things wrong in the U.S. that need to be fixed," said Austin Sea, 20, who has been unemployed since high school graduation. "I think that we are living in a corporate matrix and I don't want any part of it."

"The U.S. government isn't working for us, it's working against us," said Daniel Sutherland, 35, who was recently laid off from his job as a commercial fisherman. "That's why we have all types of protesters here, from military veterans to the homeless."

Although this worldwide movement has no leaders, and like an uncharted meandering river, no political analyst, economist, or political commentator knows where it will eventually end, it can no longer be dismissed as a mere gatherings of dissatisfied people.

The movement has begun gaining support from the public despite some complaints about its disturbance of public order, which led to occasional police interventions that resulted in massive arrests. In the U.S., more and more polls are beginning to show that most Americans are having positive opinions about the Occupy movement.

An early October poll by Time magazine found 45 percent of those polled stated they favored the movement. A National Journal mid-October poll recorded almost 60 percent of those polled endorsing the Occupy protests.

Regarding religion, much of the protests worldwide are of a nonviolent nature. There exists a type of connection at Occupy Wall Street protest sites to the non-cooperation and nonviolence theories and practices of the famous late Indian political and social leader Mohandas K. Gandhi.

With the U.S. presidential elections to be held in 2012, political analysts are trying to figure out what affect, if at all, the Occupy movement will have on the elections. One such organization, the Center for Responsive Politics/OpenSecrets.org ( CRP), has been tracking political fiscal contributions to candidates running for state and federal government jobs.

"Politicians on both sides of the aisle often try to channel and co-opt the energy of grassroots political movements," explained CRP spokesman Michael Beckel. "By embracing a grassroots movement, be it the Tea Party or the Occupy Wall Street movement, the politician hopes that energy will be a wind at their back heading into the next election."

Beckel also noted that "both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements demonstrate that there is a lot of frustration with politics as usual in the United States."

Professor Goldstone believes that the Occupy movement is already influencing the upcoming elections. "The movement is just beginning to spread, and link up with unions and other groups. It is already redefining the economic issues as the rich versus the rest (of the U.S. population); it's no longer just about jobs or regulations," Goldstone said.

Two large and economically and politically powerful unions, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), have publicly aligned themselves with the Occupy movement so far.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew has made numerous visits to the Occupy Wall Street protests' site, Zuccotti Park, and given public speeches there, discussing the ways that the movement can galvanize.

AFl-CIO President Richard Trumka has issued a statement to show his support. "Occupy Wall Street has captured the imagination and passion of millions of Americans who have lost hope that our nation's policymakers are speaking for them. We support the protesters in their determination to hold Wall Street accountable and create good jobs," he said.

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