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From the Arab Spring to the American Autumn - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Very calmly but with obviously growing numbers, the “occupy Wall Street” demonstrations and protests in the US financial hub in New York City have continued to expand. Numbers are on the rise and have now exceeded 15,000 people. The city’s local police have also increased their personnel to cope with these protests. According to a first-hand account given by some of the event’s organizers, 700 demonstrators have been arrested from among those who laid down their camping gear and pitched up their tents in preparation for a lengthy showdown.

The protests of these ever-increasing masses have spread over to distant cities like Washington D.C., Nashville; Tennessee, Cleveland; Ohio, and Los Angeles, the largest and most famous city on the west coast. The participants constitute the counter economic, social and political bloc opposed to the ideology of the extreme right wing Tea Party. These protesting masses represent an extreme leftist movement which aims to strike at the unjust capitalist greed of major companies, especially giant financial institutions, due to their huge profits and exaggerated bonuses granted to their executives, which have had a very negative economic impact on a large proportion of the US population.

The Wall Street protesters call themselves “The 99 Percent”, because major corporations and their beneficiaries constitute less than one percent of the overall US population. However, they affect the incomes of all the other categories, and that represents an absence of justice. Although the protestors have initially targeted New York City; it being the financial centre of the country and its economic heart, they are also planning to target Washington D.C.; the political capital of the United States, out of their conviction that a state of a “conspiracy” exists between politicians and the heads of major corporations.

The US traditional right describes this movement as being “anti-capitalist and anti American values”, and is trying to mobilize public opinion against it. However, language of numbers speaks out loud: Declared bankruptcies, failure to repay housing loans and unemployment rates have all soared dramatically. This intensifies the debate going on in the political street, and heightens the pressure on the leaders in the White House and Congress, particularly as this is an election year and so requires specific calculations.

US President Barack Obama is well aware of this fact and is trying to exploit the situation and promote an economy-saving plan by pumping in 443 billion dollars to bolster job opportunities and businesses. This sum is expected to be funded through levying new taxes on rich Americans. The idea was well received by the public, but was rejected by the Republican-dominated Congress. As a result, this could affect Republican chances of winning the forthcoming presidential elections against Barack Obama.

The popular mobility taking place now in the US, according to various witnesses, has been highly influenced by the Arab Spring and the mobility that accompanied it. The call to occupy Wall Street is a movement that is gaining momentum while developing and taking shape on the ground. Over the coming few days, organised trade unions such as the United Auto Workers, alongside school teachers and others, are anticipated to join the movement. Such a move would provide it with greater leverage and effective influence, and indeed it might serve as a new political turning point in a critical year, a very exciting and highly significant election year. The economy is the driving force behind any political decision. Europe’s disease has been transferred to America, just as America’s disease had hit Europe earlier. Now the world waits in anticipation for the final result, with fear and anxiety.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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