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When the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement first began, it wasn’t so much a movement as a group of a couple hundred people who had sent tweets out declaring 17 September to be the day that protesters would “occupy Wall Street” and stage demonstrations in Zuccotti Park, a few blocks away from the New York Stock Exchange.
Now, it’s become a force of energy, and has moved from a hodge-podge of grievances and issues to an initiative with a logo and a slogan (Movement for Economic Justice). It also has a much wider impact than when it first started, spawning follow-on hash-tags like #OccupyLSX to #OccupySA. And OWS has social media, in part, to thank for this.
The people involved in OWS have relied on their own cameras attached to laptops and mobile-phones to film the events and marches and document the process. When the video clip of girls being pepper-sprayed during a peaceful march to Union Square on 24 September went viral, support for OWS started growing notably.
But a week later, when footage of arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge spread across the net, that support grew massively, spreading across the world, spawning cries of solidarity and support from all corners.
The viral videos gathered steam for the movement, as did tweets from high-profile personalities, like hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, or Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo. However, the effect of traditional media interest — something the protesters were always looking to get, but didn’t in the first few days — cannot be denied. It is traditional media, like TV stations, that have shone the spotlight now, ever-so-brightly, on “basecamp” and generated huge amounts of coverage. With the coverage has come the questioning and the queries around what exactly the group stands for.
There is only so much Twitter and Facebook can do. It may get people to a place, but ultimately, what really seems to be working is the general assemblies that take place each day, at Zuccotti Park, which protesters have re-named Liberty Plaza.
That’s where the real focus of the movement is being decided — by the people, for the people.