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Cascading Occupation

The origin of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement can be traced to June 9th 2011 when a Canadian anti-consumerist magazine titled “Adbusters” registered the domain name OccupyWallStreet.org. About a month later, Adbusters demanded a peaceful demonstration on September 17th in which “20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices” [1]. During the month preceding this gathering, a group called the “New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts” (a group created due to the debt-ceiling crisis) joined OWSand a hacktivist group “Anonymous” encouraged their followers to join the September 17th protest.

When the first day of the protest arrived, only roughly 1,000 people attended: a far cry from the desired 20,000. On day three of the demonstration, Keith Olbermann became the first major journalist to cover the OWS movement and questioned why other major news corporations weren’t covering this story. The level of protestors still remained low due because there was not enough media support to stimulate growth: in order for the movement to cascade, they would need to acquire more support through positive externalities.

On September 24th, 80 people were arrested during a permit-less march uptown and video was recorded of the event. In particular, a group of women were pepper-sprayed [2]. Shortly following this event over the next few days the movement gained more internet and media support with the help of sites like twitter. On the 15th day after the original protest, nearly 5,000 people marched towards the Brooklyn Bridge (5 times the initial physical support). As the movement grew, more videos of police arrests spurred more support. Nearly 15,000 people showed their support 4 days later and on October 6th, protests began appear in Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, California as well as a number of other major cities.

The rapid growth and spread of the OWS movement is largely supported by the idea of a cascade caused by direct-benefit. Videos of the protests and police response (which could be viewed as brutality by certain viewers) spurred media coverage and further support. These positive externalities compiled and have allowed the OWS movement to grow beyond NYC and onto college campuses and nationwide as well as major cities worldwide. It is only a matter of time to see how long the movement will continue to spread and how rapidly.

[1] http://www.adbusters.org/blogs/adbusters-blog/occupywallstreet.html

[2] http://theweek.com/article/index/220100/occupy-wall-street-a-protest-timeline

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