Al Jazeera top 10 2011
Occupy Wall Street: 'We are the 99%'
Leaderless protest movement targeting economic inequality starts in New York and quickly goes global in our No. 6.
Last Modified: 27 Dec 2011 14:45
Protests against capitalism, corruption and corporate greed have spread around the world [GALLO/GETTY]

The year 2011 witnessed two of the biggest mass movements in recent history - the Arab Awakening and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

But while the Arab Awakening cut short the half-life of despotic rulers in the Middle East and North Africa, the Wall Street movement focused less on a leader and more on the global hegemony of multinational corporations and giant banks.

The idea to "occupy" Wall Street - the US financial hub located in New York City - was first floated in July 2011 by the people behind Adbusters, a counter-culture magazine based in Vancouver, Canada, who called for peaceful action against corporate influence on democracy.

The idea became a trending topic that went viral on Twitter and Facebook, and a buzzword for thousands who took to the streets across the world against what they called unfair wealth distribution and corporate-political nexus.

The protests began in September in Zuccotti Park, located in the heart of New York's financial district. Within a month, they had spread to more than 100 cities in the US.

Much of the media initially mocked the Occupy protesters as a collection of kooky characters, anarchists and hippies, with no clear agenda. But as city after city erupted with demonstrations, it became clear that the movement would not be as short-lived as some once thought.

Hundreds of people were arrested in New York, Oakland, Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and various other US cities as student groups, trade unions, and women's groups joined the protests.

The slogan "we are the 99 per cent" became an anthem for the protesters, as it attacked the root of wealth inequality between what activists said was the wealthiest one per cent and the remaining 99 per cent of the population.

In-depth coverage of the global movement

Wall Street, the nerve centre of global financial institutions blamed for creating an economic collapse, became an obvious symbol of that target.

However, the movement soon morphed into "Occupy Everywhere" as people in more than 1,000 cities in about 100 countries took to the streets demanding better pay, jobs, an end to corruption and greed and above all, better economic conditions.

The global movement has included protests in Tokyo and Melbourne, Frankfurt and Nairobi and several eurozone countries on economic life-support (Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal) also witnessed massive street protests in the wake of hefty austerity measures.

Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian-born philosopher, told Al Jazeera in November that "the marriage between capitalism and democracy is over".

While the evidence of such a statement may be up for debate, what is clear is that the discontent among thousands of people around the world is unlikely to dissipate in 2012.

Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.

Venezuela's president lacks the charisma and cult of personality maintained by the late Hugo Chavez.
Despite the Geneva deal, anti-government protesters in Ukraine's eastern regions don't intend to leave any time soon.
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
join our mailing list