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The 99 Percent

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When I had heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement in September, I was unsure of its exact purpose. My news circuits included teachers, social networking sites, and the public news, each offering very different-and often biased- coverage of the protests stationed in Zuccotti Park, New York City. After a few weeks, the movement was gaining momentum, and its meaning became clear. People were protesting against the United States’ socioeconomic inequality and corporate greed and corruption, and it was drawing quite a response. Some scoffed at the efforts, while thousands of others joined in, sparking similar occupations across the country. When I saw the title “The 99 Percent” on Current TVs’s documentary series Vanguard, I knew it would be something worth watching and learning more about.

The documentary follows Christof Putzel taking up residence among the demonstrators, as a journalist, not a protestor. He has decided to live among the occupiers and document two months of the Occupy movement. From the start, it is evident that the media has distorted all reports regarding the movement. Unlike popular belief, the protestors are not a group of lazy, hippies; rather, many are educated, working-class, and passionate for the cause. The documentary highlights some of these people: one woman is there after her small business went under due to the economy; another man is there after leaving his small hometown, devastated by the recession. All of the people are different, and come from all walks of life. The only thing many of them have in common is their passion and support for the issues at hand.

As the documentary progresses, Putzel participates in the daily activities of the protestors. We see that, despite the media’s representation, the movement is very organized within. The people live in the park, setting up tents, gardening, and eating meals distributed to all of the protestors for free. One tent houses all of the electronic equipment, where occupiers update all of the social media sites with up to date information. Every night the occupiers gather in the center of the park for a meeting. Every action and effort made by the Occupy movement is voted on, and these votes take place at the meetings. Since park rules prohibit use of a speaker system, the occupiers creatively construct their own human speaker system: one person yells his message, and the group of people surrounding him repeat the message, shouting it so that the occupiers on the other side can hear. The cooperation and organization that they exhibit shocked me. From what I had understood prior, the Occupy movement was a rowdy and chaotic bunch with no real goals or aims. As I watched the documentary progress, I realized that those assertions were not entirely true. The people were proud and dignified in their protests, and they worked with ease amongst one another with no disruption or dispute. Instead of a tumultuous assembly of unemployed brutes, I saw a spirited meeting of hopeful activists working towards a cause that held the true roots of democracy deep within their hearts.

Soon though, as the movement progressed and sparked similar demonstrations across the country, the police stepped in. Some of the protestors grew violent, despite their message being nonviolent civil disobedience. Hundreds were arrested as police raided the protests, using pepper spray, netting, and violence to contain the riots. Putzel’s coverage of the police’s efforts was firsthand and it was scary to see them threatening the protestors. While I realized that they were obstructing traffic and occupying public property, I did not understand why it was okay for the police force to treat the protestors with such violent means.

Putzel then travels back to the hometown of one of the protestors. The man’s town looks like a ghost town: businesses on either side of every street are boarded up and out of business. The recession and move of domestic jobs overseas took a huge toll on the small town, and albeit, every small town in America. The man was middle-class, traveling a long distance to participate in the protesting. He was honest, hardworking, and heartbroken to see his town go to shambles. Immediately, I grew compassionate for the man, and I realized that Occupy Wall Street, despite the negativity I had been exposed to from various outlets, was a cause worth fighting for.

At the conclusion of the documentary, Putzel leaves the grounds, but the protestors are still going strong. He explains that while no real legislation has been created or influenced from the movement, there has been a change in the job market and the economy since the protest’s kickoff. It may not be much, but the protests did spur some change, and were successful in coming closer to their goal of abolishing the ridiculous economic inequality within the United States.

After finishing the documentary, there was much on my mind. Prior to watching, I had been receiving news from two very biased outlets. Their biases, though, were for opposites sides of the cause. I was, therefore, unable to make up my mind about my feelings towards Occupy Wall Street. I was extremely grateful for Christof Putzel’s efforts in lodging with the protestors and conveying their goals and dynamics in such an unbiased way. He simply went in as a journalist, indifference his opinion on camera, and relayed what was happening in a factual manner. It was refreshing to learn about the demonstrations in that way, and it allowed me to draw my own conclusions regarding the cause.

After watching, I also realized that people are very ignorant when they comment on the Occupy Wall Street efforts. Many are contemptuous, and assume that the protestors are simply too lazy to get a job; if they were out job searching instead of protesting, they say, then there would be no problem. However, I know now that they are completely wrong and ignorant in saying so. After seeing the one protestor’s small, economically devastated hometown, I realized the people were not jobless for lack of trying.

I also, now, find it ignorant for people to say that they are too disorganized and ambiguous to bring about any real change or achieve any real goals. At the end of the documentery, Putzel listed the changes they had brought about, and though they were few, they were something. People scoff at the protestors for not having a clear list of issues they would like resolved. After thinking this over, I realized that it is okay for them not to have a clear-cut vision of the change they want. To me, that is the job of our elected officials. It is the protestors’ job to tell them there is a problem. It is the officials’ job to fix it. They are the lawmakers; it’s their job to create legislation to better benefit the people. If we do not tell them what we want, how will they know there is a need for change? I commend the protestors for voicing their concerns. There is nothing less productive than a person complaining endlessly, but doing nothing to help spark change and bring about a resolution. By protesting, they are helping bring about this change.
The documentary “The 99 Percent” is extremely well made and informative. It offers a peek inside the Occupy Wall Street movement and the people who started it. It was refreshing to watch an unbiased documentary not clouded by the media’s opinion or the public’s misunderstanding of what the movement was all about.



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