Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. You can see past winners here, and make your own nomination for our next awardee here.
For 14 days now, thousands of people have camped out in the financial district of New York City to protest the corporate greed they say has taken over America. Those participating in the protest, which calls itself Occupy Wall Street, are our Truthdiggers of the Week.
The call for action that spurred the protests came in July, when the group Adbusters urged the people of America to “#OCCUPYWALLSTREET.”
“Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” the group asked. The word spread quickly through social media, and soon an action committee had formed and a plan had been made.
On Sept. 17, the “occupation” began. At first, the protest gained little notice. But demonstrators brought blankets, air mattresses and kitchen supplies with them, intending to stay on the sidewalks of the financial district for a long time. For a week the protesters held signs and chanted. “We are the 99 percent!” they chorused, calling for a democracy that speaks for the people rather than for corporations.
The protest has drawn the attention and support of well-known public figures, many who dropped by to encourage the demonstrators, including Michael Moore, Chris Hedges, Cornel West and Noam Chomsky.
But the “occupation” didn’t draw much attention from the media until Sept. 24 when high-ranking police were recorded using excessive force and even Mace on a group of peaceful protesters. YouTube videos of the scene went viral and the blogosphere lit up with news of the unruly behavior of those NYPD officers. But while the scuffle brought the protesters and their cause more into the public eye, they said they hope people don’t lose sight of the reason they are there to begin with.
“We condemn the actions of unprofessional police who used excessive force in subduing a peaceful march,” a news release on the Occupy Wall Street site said. “But we are foremost here to oppose the growing power of the ruling class.”
Occupy Wall Street received an outpouring of support from Truthdig readers this week, many of them having championed the effort since before the mainstream media picked up on the excessive police force angle. Paul Dodenhoff was just one of many Truthdig readers to nominate the protesters, along with his 18-year-old son, “who’s been there since it started and has been arrested twice along with others for speaking truth to power! He’s my hero, along with all the other brave young people there.” One reader called the demonstrators “the spark” of a larger movement that could sweep the nation, something that is already taking root in various cities today other than New York, including Chicago and San Francisco.
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MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell was one of the only people in the mainstream media to report on the Occupy Wall Street protests this week. On his show “The Last Word,” he spends about nine minutes talking about the protests. It is only unfortunate that his sole focus was on the few instances of excessive force by high-ranking police against peaceful protesters instead of their greater message decrying corporate greed.
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Watch Dr. Cornell West address the Occupy Wall Street general assembly on Sept. 27. Because police would not allow amplification systems in the area, the protesters had to use what they call the “people’s microphone” to make sure people in the back could hear what West was saying.
Watch Michael Moore address the protesters of Occupy Wall Street on Sept. 26.
Watch MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell call out police for using unnecessary force in dealing with Occupy Wall Street protesters: