A movement that began Sept. 17 urging people to flood lower Manhattan in protest of economic inequality has since ballooned into a movement with meet-ups happening in more than 800 American cities. The Occupy Wall Street protests were spurred by an announcement released on July 13 by Adbusters, a Vancouver, B.C. based not-for-profit magazine.
On Oct. 7, the movement spread to Bellingham. Ramy Kahlil, a Western graduate student studying history and president of Western’s chapter of Socialist Alternative, gathered with other students and community members around 4 p.m. on Holly St. In a phone interview with Kahlil, the AS Review asked a few questions about the movment:
AS Review: How did the Occupy Wall Street movement start?
Ramy Kahlil: Adbusters magazine put out the call for this occupation to happen on Wall Street on Sept. 17, and now it’s grown huge. It was inspired by the revolutions in the Middle East where masses of impoverished people occupied central squares and demanded the resignation of dictators. There were similar massive protests and some labor strikes in Greece, Spain and Israel, protesting economic cutbacks in education, healthcare and jobs like the ones we’re facing.
ASR: Why should students care, and how will their involvement help?
RK: Students should care because our tuition keeps going up by hundreds of dollars every year, and the government says they’re doing that because they have a budget deficit and no other options but to cut education, and then the university raises our tuition. The economic crisis looks like it will last for years and they’ll keep raising tuition and pricing working class and middle-class families out of being able to get a college education -- unless we organize strong protests and demand tax hikes on the super rich and Wall Street, an end to the costly wars and job creation programs.
ASR: How does socialism provide a solution?
RK: Really the fundamental problem is the fact these giant corporations are privately owned by a few super-rich investors. There will be no end to poverty, unemployment, the environmental crisis and war until we have public ownership and democratic control of corporations. That’s the idea of socialism, that the world’s resources should be controlled by the public -- not a wealthy elite.
ASR: What, in your eyes, is the solution or goal of Occupy Wall Street?
RK: By protesting we bring attention to issues that corporate media and politicians ignore. We empower people and we’re beginning to build a movement that will hopefully organize and educate and rally people to challenge Wall Street’s domination over society.