Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933

We can do better: That seems to be the theme of the protests down at Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district. I went down there on my lunch break today, with the hopes of hearing Naomi Klein speak and to get the lay of the land. Didn’t see Klein, but did stumble upon Keith Olbermann informally speaking with a bunch of protestors and journalists.

On the day after a march that drew ten to fifteen thousand protestors, as well as endorsements and pledged financial support from big guns like United Steelworkers, MoveOn, the Teamsters, and Democracy for America, the mood of Occupy Wall Street was both festive and solemn, relaxed and serious.

Someone asked Olbermann, who was balancing a slice of donated pizza on a paper plate as he took our questions, if he thought it was ok the movement was still “nebulous” or better to have more specific demands? “A better word than ‘nebulous’ is probably ‘amorphous,'” said Olbermann. “‘Nebulous’ has a negative connotation.” He said every radical movement in history began this way, knowing something is very wrong, and raising a stink before making specific policy demands. Olbermann said he’d have been disheartened if the protest started off so pointed. The gist seems to be that at this stage, inclusion is key.

“What is radical today is status quo tomorrow,” said Olbermann, going on to discuss FDR’s radical reforms in the 1930s during the Great Depression that included Medicare, Medicaid, funding for the public SUNY university system, and social security. I’d add to that list giving the Federal Trade Commission more regulatory power, establishing the FDIC, and establishment of the Works Progress Administration. Those reforms were deemed radical, if not insane, during the Depression, and today are a cornerstone of the United States.

Occupy Wall Street, for all the criticism of it being disorganized, is a fairly well-organized staging site for the protests: Zuccotti Park, normally a sleepy pedestrian plaza where financial workers eat lunch perched on a ledge, is now divided into sections including a Media Center with folks blogging and tweeting on location; an Info section to find out more about the protests; Eating area with volunteers doling out donated food including pizza, granola bars, coffee, soy milk, carrots, nuts, and dried fruit; an area for music, drumming, and mass moments of silence; a daily message board (see below) that lists the weather, events to take place that day related to the protest, world-wide events, tallies of donations, numbers of protestors arrested, etc. It’s more organized chaos than disorganized order.

It’s important to keep pushing the envelope. It is important to keep showing up in Zuccotti Park. It does make a difference. Now I’m just waiting for Obama to come out with a statement in support of the protests. After all, they (we) have got his back, this is a more grassroots (and frankly elegant) way to articulate what he’s been trying to say for two years. Not only should Obama be commenting on the protests here in New York, he should be here. Last night Obama made a statement on the death of Steve Jobs, rest his soul, he can make a statement about fifteen thousand protestors in New York’s financial district.

I never thought I’d be quoting James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, but here goes:

No one should be surprised that Occupy Wall Street is gaining support and spreading quickly around the country. The American Dream has disappeared for students, whose reality is debt and unemployment. The dream disappeared for workers forced to take wage cuts by employers sitting on billions of dollars in profits. The dream disappeared for working families who paid too steep a price for Wall Street’s greed, stupidity and fraud. It’s clear what this movement is all about. It’s about taking America back from the CEOs and billionaires on Wall Street who have destroyed our nation’s economy. It’s about creating good jobs. It’s about corporate America treating its workers and customers with honesty and fairness and paying its fair share to stimulate the economy.

This year, we had an Arab Spring. Will this be our American Fall?

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