During the early months when Occupy Wall Street maintained tent cities in lower Manhattan and other metropolitan areas around the country, the occupations attracted an array of young counter-culturalists and itinerant radicals. To many people seeing the images of the encampments on the news, it looked like a motley assembly, not something out of the American mainstream.
But while some of the images of Zuccotti Park that defined Occupy Wall Street in its infancy may have appeared to depict a fringe, the movement as a whole is far bigger than any of its encampments. In truth, the Occupy movement is a protest against a broken economic compact that reaches into the very middle of America and that is resonating in other parts of the world as well.
With the movement’s permanent occupations now largely disbanded, the protesters are looking for ways to escalate and keep the spotlight on their issues. But regardless of what strategies they adopt moving forward, they have already left behind a transformed framework for public debate in America. Occupy Wall Street has struck a chord with a wide swath of the country by highlighting issues that had been all but hidden in mainstream news coverage prior to the street protests. According to a poll conducted by The Hill in October 2011, 74 percent of likely voters say that inequality is a problem in the country, with the great bulk of that group indicating that it is a big one. Moreover, a Gallup poll from February 2011 reveals that in large majorities, Americans believe that corporations should have less influence on our politics.
The same thing that gives Occupy Wall Street strong appeal in the United States also gives the movement international resonance. In an integrated