I had forgotten that this weekend was what some called the “Day of Rage” where protesters hoped to occupy Wall Street. Why? Well, as the New York Times put it:
For months the protesters had planned to descend on Wall Street on a Saturday and occupy parts of it as an expression of anger over a financial system that they say favors the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary citizens.
The protest was organized on the left but some of the themes probably have broader appeal — such as gripes against the bank bailouts and complaints of crony capitalism and the role lobbying plays in currying favors with the government. One of the signs I saw read “I can’t afford a lobbyist.” You might find a sign like that at a Tea Party. Of course, right next to it was one calling for the end of capitalism.
Usually protests make for some significant media coverage. Not always, and not always because of bias. For instance, while many an essay has been written about the disparity between coverage of pro-life and pro-choice protests, a small part of that might be due to the fact that pro-lifers come out en masse every January while the pro-choice movement tends to hold big marches only every few years.
And another issue is that reporters can be a bit lazy. The better your protest group’s media team is, the better your coverage might be. By definition, I learned from the video embedded above, this was a very decentralized effort. That probably has something to do with the fact that the media coverage has been very slight.
Likewise, while the media coverage of that very first Tea Party protest in Washington was seriously lacking, I don’t think anyone — including the organizers — had any idea how large it would be. My husband and I headed down to cover it and were gobsmacked at how difficult it was simply to get on the Metro because of how overloaded it was with protesters. When we arrived at the protest site, it was really weird to see that many people with mostly just conservative and foreign press around. In this case, I think the organizers hoped for much larger crowds than turned out.
Still, I can’t believe how lacking the media coverage of this Wall Street event has been. I had to work really hard to just find basic facts out about the protest and its size, much less anything interesting about it.
I think it was in the video I embedded above, from an independent media site called Waging Non-Violence, where I noticed a Celtic cross in one of the scenes. That intrigued me. I wanted to find out if there were any interesting religion angles to this protest.
At one point in the early afternoon, dozens of protesters marched around the famous bronze bull on lower Broadway. Among them was Dave Woessner, 31, a student at Harvard Divinity School.
“When you idealize financial markets as salvific you embrace the idea that profit is all that matters,” he said.
A few minutes later about 15 people briefly sat down on a sidewalk on Broadway, leaning against a metal barricade that blocked access to Wall Street. For a moment things grew tense as officers converged and a police chief shoved a newspaper photographer from behind.
Could he be the holder of the cross? I don’t know, but I found this group called The Protest Chaplains and they’re pictured holding the same cross. They say they have ties to Harvard Divinity School and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and they explain that they’re there to protest but also to provide a service:
We also want to be of service to those camping with us. We draw strength from the rituals of prayer, song, meditation, and devotion that we have inherited as the very best and brightest points of the troublesome Christian tradition. We’re not out to evangelize anyone – seriously. We’re not going to New York in order to convince anyone that Christianity is a good thing: we too are very critical of the genocidal, anti-Semitic, homophobic, etc abuses of the Church and the Christian faith over the past 2000 years.
They add that they’ve seen burnout in the social justice movement and hope to be of use to everyone who’s camping out. You can follow their tweets here. It’s a small group, to be sure, and it’s hard to know how representative, if at all, the progressive religious contingent is. But it’s even harder to know when there’s so little coverage of the protest to begin with.