Occupy Wall Street: Day 1
By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons”]

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Much has changed in the past year in the United States. Unruly protests, once considered relics of the Vietnam era, are now an everyday occurrence in major cities across the country. What was once a bastion for college students supporting a cause, protests have grown into a cultural movement that shows little signs of abating. The renewed clout of the protest began almost 2 years ago during the Arab Spring and is illustrated in the violent protests currently occurring around our nation’s foreign embassies across the globe.

The modern incarnation of civil unrest began to take shape during last year’s Arab Spring. Arab nations like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya began organizing large protests against the government, economic conditions, and lack of political freedom. The protests included traditional practices of civil disobedience, strikes, and picketing; however, they were characterized and highlighted by their deft use of the internet and social media. The protestors employed social media to organize, document, broadcast to the world their struggle against the government and security forces.

When the Arab Spring eventually led to the overthrow of several governments and incited rioting and civil wars in others, it became obvious that this new form of civil unrest could produce dramatic changes in the status quo. In America, where political polarity, economic stagnation, and unemployment have led to a crippling recession, high unemployment,  and societal distrust of the government and corporations,  the Occupy movement has latched on to the Arab Spring formula for approaching disruptive protests. However, these protests have not culminated in the societal upheaval that nations like Egypt experienced.

While this may be cause for the Occupiers to remain committed to their cause, governing bodies may see it as a boon. Starting on the 11th anniversary of September 11th, planned attacks and protests on American embassies in many Muslim nations have been bolstered by a film which has made its way to Muslim nations over the internet. The American film with an anti-Islamic stance was barely seen in the US prior to the attacks. Once the video was placed online, protestors and attackers who planned incidents for the anniversary of 9/11 used the video to promote and proliferate their anti-American riots.

The rioters have stormed embassies in many Muslim countries. One attack led to the death of 4 Americans including the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, who actually supported the rebellion against the totalitarian government in 2011. As riots continue to spread to other nations, it is easy to see that the new form of civil unrest is a force to be reckoned with.

The internet has provided the tools for modern protestors to quickly organize and broadcast their message to the entire world. The news is flooded with firsthand accounts and photographs from the people in the streets. The message is not easily silenced, even in totalitarian regimes. The protestors use social media to nimbly develop and fan the flames of civil disobedience, and they have proven their capability to disrupt and destabilize. While the Occupy movement has been peaceful in general, the potential for significant civil unrest in our country cannot be ignored. As we watch and respond to the continuing unrest at America’s foreign embassies we need to prepare ourselves for whatever the second year of Occupy protests brings domestically.

Marlia Fontaine-Weisse is the Content Manager for Preparis.