How Ferguson could become a movement

Nan Grogan Orrock defied her family’s wishes by sneaking away to join the 1963 March on Washington. But don’t ask her about Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. She doesn’t remember it.

She was struck by something else.

Orrock was stunned by the marchers. They nonchalantly told her they had been fired from their jobs, forced from their homes and beaten and jailed for joining the movement.

A white student at a women’s college in Virginia, Orrock had ignored the movement until then; she’d been taught by her fellow Southerners that civil rights were “somebody else’s business that had nothing to do with me.”

“The highlight of the day was not his speech,” says Orrock, now a Democratic senator in the Georgia legislature. “My mind was on fire from all that I was seeing and hearing. I realized that I was in the presence of great courage. I resolved that day that I was going to be a part of this.”

Some people are asking if the protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, will spark a new civil rights movement. Here’s another question: What makes a movement work in the first place? Why do some movements like the struggle for civil rights take off while others like Occupy Wall Street wilt?

Orrock’s story suggests that it’s not just the big moments — the charismatic leader and the thrilling speech — that make a movement work. There are those tiny moments, such as ordinary people sharing their stories of quiet courage with outsiders, that are just as crucial. What are the ingredients that any successful movement needs?

There is a secret sauce for the weak to beat the strong, say those who have studied and participated in successful nonviolent social movements. The lessons from the March on Washington and other movements throughout history offer clues. If you want to take on the forces of power and privilege known in some circles as “The Man,” they say, you must remember four rules:

1. Don’t get seduced by spontaneity

Spontaneity is sexy. The urge to act on an irrepressible urge can inspire others. A Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire is credited with starting the Arab Spring. And who can forget the lone man who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square during the pro-democracy protests in China in 1989?

A spontaneous act gave the March on Washington its most memorable moment. King’s “I Have a Dream” riff wasn’t in his written speech. He improvised it after he completed his written speech sooner than he had planned and a gospel singer behind yelled, “Tell them about the dream.”

Yet spontaneity is overrated, some observers say. Successful movements are built on years of planning, trial and error, honing strategies for change. A good movement should already have an organizational structure set up to take advantage of a spontaneous act that grips the public.

Some movements stage their own “spontaneous” acts.

Remember Rosa Parks? Schoolchildren are taught that Rosa Parks was the quiet, bespectacled black woman who sparked the civil rights movement when she spontaneously decided one day that she was not going to move to the back of a segregated bus.

It’s a good story but bad history. Parks had been carefully chosen for that moment. The woman who looked so docile in the historical photographs was actually a tough, seasoned civil rights activist who had been with the NAACP for 12 years and had attended an elite training school for civil rights and labor activists.

Parks was just one in a line of several black women chosen to stage “spontaneous” sit-ins on segregated buses, says Parker J. Palmer, author of “Healing the Heart of Democracy.”

“Six or seven black women had done what Parks had done before and had simply been ticketed or arrested and certainly did not make history,” Palmer says. “I can guarantee you when Parks sat down on that bus where she ought not to, she had no guarantee that this was going to work out. In that moment, she felt very alone.”

Parks attracted attention because her arrest could not be ignored, historians say. The other women arrested were unmarried or single mothers who could be caricatured by segregationists as women of ill repute. Parks was a married seamstress who was respected in her community.

“She could not be thrown in jail and forgotten and there would be no publicity,” says Jerald Podair, a history professor at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. “She had been preparing for that moment her entire life.”

A contemporary movement in North Carolina also reveals how deceptive the idea of “spontaneous” can be.

The movement has been called Moral Mondays. News accounts say it began in February 2013 when 17 people were arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina, while protesting the policies of a new Republican-led state legislature. At least 900 people have since been arrested during weekly protests over everything from the legislature’s decision to cut teachers’ pay and unemployment benefits to its rejection of expanded medical coverage for the poor and underinsured under the Affordable Care Act.

Much of the news coverage describes Moral Mondays as a spontaneous reaction to the legislature’s decisions. But the coalition driving the protests actually formed years ago to be a force in North Carolina politics and “go where the sparks go,” says the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP and one of Moral Mondays’ leaders.

“Seven years ago we started to prepare,” Barber says. “We didn’t know we were preparing for this moment. We didn’t see this day coming.”

Barber says the multiracial coalition behind Moral Mondays originally formed to push for increased voter registration, labor rights and more support for public education. It maintained its unity over the years because it knew other issues might arise and it wanted to be ready to hit the ground running.

“You have to do the hard work,” he says. “You just don’t helicopter in and make a speech. You have to build trust, talk with people and struggle with the issues.”

The coalition is multiracial and multi-issue, crucial for any movement that wants to have broad appeal. It has the support of about 150 groups, including clergy, white college students and women’s groups. Barber says he has received calls from people around the country who want to replicate Moral Mondays in other states. Protests inspired by Moral Mondays have since spread to South Carolina and Georgia.

He says the years of planning paid off when the Republican-led assembly provided the spark that helped Moral Mondays launch the “spontaneous” protests.

Barber’s advice for movement builders: Don’t wait for the right spark to organize. Do it now.

“No matter where you are now, now is the time to build coalitions,” Barber says. “You do it now because when the moment comes, the only thing that will be able to save you is to be together.”

2. Make policy, not noise

They gave the nation a nifty slogan: “We are the 99%.” But they haven’t been heard from much since. Remember Occupy Wall Street? In 2011, a group of protesters occupied a park in New York City’s financial district to protest income inequality and the growing power of financial institutions.

Occupy Wall Street generated plenty of media coverage, but it has largely faded from public attention. Yet the tea party, a conservative movement that arose in 2009 to protest government spending and debt, is still wielding influence in American public life.

Why does the tea party have more influence than Occupy Wall Street?

The tea party didn’t just make noise; it put people in office, several political scientists and historians note.

“The tea party from the outset focused on winning elections and setting up a structure that could affect the political process,” says Larry Schweikart, co-author of “A Patriot’s History of the United States.”

“The Occupy Wall Street group only wanted to raise hell.”

One civil rights leader told protesters in Ferguson that they, too, had to raise more than hell. When the Rev. Al Sharpton traveled to Ferguson, he chided black residents who complain about their city’s leaders but don’t turn out to vote in local elections.

“You all have got to start voting and showing up,” Sharpton told a black church rally in Ferguson. “Twelve percent turnout is an insult to your children.”

Successful movements just don’t take it to the streets. They elect candidates, pass laws, set up institutions to raise money, train people and produce leaders, observers say.

The March on Washington, for example, had the charisma of King. But it also had the organizational genius of Bayard Rustin, a man whose attention to detail was so keen that people wryly noted he knew precisely how many portable toilets 250,000 marchers needed.

“Occupy used a very smart tactic — sit in parks where people could join the protests,” says Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University in Washington and an expert on social movements.

“At the same time, it was just a tactic,” says Kazin, author of “American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation.”

“A tactic is not a movement. A lot of people got excited by the tactics, but they didn’t have a second act.”

People remember the March on Washington because it did have a second act. Civil rights leaders used the political pressure generated by the march and the subsequent assassination of President John F. Kennedy to pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, historians say.

Still, they were also willing to compromise. And compromise is not glamorous. Failed movements are filled with stories of idealistic people who didn’t make compromises. A successful movement, though, is filled with people who know that it is wise at times to compromise.

A compromise is what helped the March on Washington take flight, some historians say.

The original March on Washington wasn’t supposed to be just about race but about economic issues as well. Organizers originally billed it as a march for “jobs and freedom.”

Yet King and others de-emphasized the jobs’ focus of the march because they thought it would jeopardize the passage of the pending civil rights bill, says Podair, the Lawrence University professor.

Talking about poverty and inequality at the 1963 march would have alienated potential Northern white supporters who would have seen such rhetoric as a ploy to redistribute money from the white middle class to blacks, Podair says.

Instead, organizers reassured them by focusing on King’s dream of racial equality, he says.

“The reason they can get Northern whites to support the march is to say we’re not going to touch your wallets,” Podair says. “What we’re going to do is ask the South to give African-Americans their political rights, something they should have done 100 years ago. But we’re not going to redistribute income.”

Among the lessons any would-be protesters can learn from the leaders of the 1963 march: Don’t confine your efforts to narrow issues that only resonate with your group; broaden them so they can appeal to all sorts of Americans.

“Sometimes it makes you feel good to preach to the choir,” Podair says, “but after a while you have to go outside the church and find other people for your coalition.”

3. Redefine the meaning of punishment

On July 6, 1892, 300 armed detectives confronted a group of unionized steelworkers who had been locked out of a steel mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania. The workers, who were striking for better wages at a time when people routinely worked 12-hour-per-day, six-day weeks, fought back with stones and guns. They eventually forced the armed detectives to surrender. Three workers and seven detectives died.

That confrontation is now known as the Homestead Strike. It pitted ordinary workers against steel titan Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie eventually crushed the workers’ union, reduced wages and eliminated 500 jobs.

The past can inspire, yet it can also be intimidating. Some believe that contemporary Americans are too jaded and lazy to take the risks that 19th century workers at the Homestead Mill took. Can anyone envision striking fast-food workers fighting pitched battles against armed troops today?

One historian who has studied movements, though, says the belief that modern Americans lack the right stuff to rise up is “hogwash.”

Sam Pizzigati is the author of “The Rich Don’t Always Win,” a book that traces how ordinary Americans in the first part of the 20th century rose up against plutocrats like Carnegie to create a vibrant middle class. Pizzigati calls that battle a “forgotten triumph.”

When people experience enough pain, they will mobilize, says Pizzigati, a labor journalist and associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

“When people’s situation becomes worse, when something changes and things that people took for granted have suddenly gone by the board and they see their position in society sinking, that’s a powerful factor that can drive movements,” Pizzigati says.

He points to the Great Depression as an example. In 1928, on the eve of the Great Depression, the top 1% of Americans took in 23.9% of the nation’s income. The rich ruled. (In 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession, the 1% took in 23.5% of the nation’s income, according to a University of California Berkeley study.)

In 20 years, though, a political movement arose that “totally” transformed the nation, he says. A “New Deal” coalition led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a series of reforms to protect Americans from the worst features of unrestrained capitalism. They created Social Security, strong banking regulations, raised taxes on the rich and protected the rights of unions to organize.

The New Deal is a classic example of the weak and powerless — out of work Americans standing in bread lines — triumphing over the fierce resistance of many of the wealthiest and most powerful elites in America who dismissed the New Deal as socialism and class warfare.

Pizzigati calls the New Deal an “egalitarian triumph.”

He says most Americans in the “Roaring ’20s” seemed to accept the economic inequality of that time. Few people thought anything could change, and the courts often ruled against any attempts to protect ordinary workers from workplace injuries and low pay.

Yet that same generation rose up to make the New Deal a reality, he says.

The lesson:

“As dark as things may seem at a given moment,” he says, “things can change very rapidly when a social movement takes off.”

Sometimes there is no cataclysmic event that inspires people to risk it all to join a movement. It can be the steady buildup of humiliation as people stew over being treated as second-class citizens.

Consider the gay and lesbian movement for equality. Palmer, author of “Healing the Heart of Democracy,” says that for years, many gays and lesbians suffered in silence as people denigrated their humanity. That changed when a critical mass decided that the pain of “behaving on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth” that they held inside was too much.

“They redefined punishment,” Palmer says.

“The redefinition goes like this: No punishment anyone can lay on me can possibly be any worse than the punishment I lay on myself by conspiring in my own diminishment.”

4. Divide the elites

It’s easy to demonize “The Man” if you’re talking with friends in a late-night dorm room rap session. But you’re going to need “The Man” if you’re going to beat “The Man,” some historians say.

“Movements at some point have to get support from the elites,” says Kazin, the Georgetown historian. “You need legitimation. You need some authorities to sort of say we may not support everything you’re doing but basically you’re in the right.”

The protests in Ferguson made so much noise in part because they drew the attention of the nation’s elite. President Barack Obama expressed concern over the treatment of protesters by police. Attorney General Eric Holder launched a Justice Department investigation into the shooting and traveled to Ferguson. And comedians Jon Stewart and John Oliver released segments on the Ferguson protests that went viral on social media.

The civil rights movement got that support from the elites when the Democratic Party backed a civil rights bill during its convention in 1948, even though Southern white Democrats walked out, Kazin says.

Five years later, another group of elites lent their support to the movement. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the separate but equal doctrine was unconstitutional in Brown vs. Board of Education.

“The Supreme Court unanimously said that segregation was wrong,” Kazin says. “They had an impact.”

A movement, though, can’t appeal to the altruism of elites to get their support. Elites help movements when they feel their own interests are threatened, says Pizzigati, author of “The Rich Don’t Always Win.”

That cold calculus among the rich is what made the New Deal possible, he says.

Economic conditions were so bad in America during the 1930s that many of the rich in America feared social upheaval, he says. The rich were being blamed for miserable economic conditions. People feared revolution. In 1932, the Communist Party held a rally in New York — 60,000 people showed up as nervous police officers with machine guns looked on, Pizzigati says.

The people at the top feared that social instability would cause American society to crumble. They were people like Randolph Paul, a wealthy Wall Street tax lawyer who warned other wealthy Americans that they were courting disaster, Pizzigati says.

“Paul became such a fierce advocate for very high taxes on the American rich because he said that we could not tolerate the level of income inequality in the U.S., that it was going to bring the country down,” Pizzigati says.

Other wealthy Americans bought into Paul’s rationale. They allowed their taxes to go up. The Cold War helped as well. Communists said capitalism spawned yawning gaps between the rich and poor, and the American elite wanted to prove them wrong, Pizzigati says.

And they were willing to pay the price to make these changes possible, he says. By 1961, a married couple’s income over $400,000 was taxed at a 91% rate, Pizzigati says.

The rich weren’t as rich, but America’s middle class was booming, Pizzigati says.

“We had a fundamental economic shift,” Pizzigati says. “The plutocracy that had existed at the beginning of the 20th century had essentially disappeared. We went from a place that was two-thirds poor to two-thirds middle-class.”

Could people without power spark such a movement today?

Palmer, author of “Healing the Heart of Democracy,” believes they can. He is the founder of the Center for Courage Renewal, a nonprofit that often works with activists through programs and retreats.

He says younger activists are more adept at coalition building.

“The young people today walk across lines of difference like they’re not even there,” he says. “My generation didn’t walk across lines of sexual orientation, race or religion as easily as these kids. For a lot of them, it’s not even noticed.”

Still, there is one final lesson for anyone who wants to join a movement. Victory is fleeting and setbacks are inevitable. At times, it can seem like it was all a waste.

King fought such a letdown later in his life.

Five years after he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, he gave a different one at a church in Memphis, Tennessee. The crowds weren’t hanging onto his words like they once did. He had become unpopular because of his opposition to the war in Vietnam. Black militants scorned his nonviolent approach. And his plan to create a multiracial army of poor people to occupy Washington was floundering.

Yet he told the shouting audience at the Memphis church that “we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”

King was assassinated the next day as he stood on the balcony of a motel chatting with his friends below.

He would not live to see his birthday turned into a national holiday. He wouldn’t see the first black president elected. And he wouldn’t see his four children become adults.

Those who give the most to a movement often don’t see the rewards of their risk.

“We plant the seeds, but we don’t know what the crop will look like,” Palmer says.

That is perhaps the harshest lesson of all.

Pro-Democracy Groups, Beijing Poles Apart Over Hong Kong Election

BEIJING—The debate over how Hong Kong elects its leader has helped expose the wide gap between what pro-democracy groups and Beijing consider acceptable.

Beijing has agreed to allow Hong Kong residents the right to vote for their leader from 2017, but wants to maintain control over the slate of candidates. From its perspective, any steps toward a one-person, one-vote system is already concession enough.

“For Hong Kong’s…

United in Hatred: Occupy and Ferguson

August 29 2014

United in Hatred: Occupy and Ferguson


Charlotte Hays

A Washington Post story headlined “Not Their Grandfather’s Protest” sought to depict the Ferguson riots, triggered by the fatal shooting of a black youth by a white police officer, as a new generation of the Civil Rights movement. Not so.

As much as we mourn the tragic death of Michael Brown, we can’t help noticing that the mob in Ferguson was destructive, hateful, and only too eager to liquidate small businesses that provided a livelihood for people whose only sin was doing business in Ferguson, Mo.

Watching the Ferguson riots on TV, I spotted a sign that said, “Begin the Class War Now.” This was a sentiment not from the Civil Rights movement, which sought to spread the promise of America, but from Occupy Wall Street, which exists to sow the seeds of envy and hatred. Lionized in the media, Ferguson–like Occupy–is a movement of fact-challenged bullies. This is not to say that we have an opinion or even would dare to theorize about guilt or innocence in the matter of the sad death of Michael Brown. The facts of that night are not yet known. The vicious aftermath can be known by anyone who has a TV.

Not surprisingly, Occupy retreads reportedly flocked to Ferguson, while Occupy websites have heaped fulsome praise on their less upscale compatriots. Oakland Occupy—last seen terrorizing shoppers, shutting down the port of Oakland, burning American flags, and trashing ATMs—even hosted a protest in solidarity with Ferguson. “Protesters broke windows and damaged property in both cities,” the San Francisco Gate reported. Now, that’s solidarity.

The Ferguson mob, like its spiritual forebear Occupy, has no respect for normal, decent, ordinary people who go to work every day to support their families. The looting and vandalism in Ferguson put more than a hundred small businesses on the brink of financial ruin. The surveillance video allegedly of Michael Brown shortly before his death committing a strong-arm robbery of a cigar store, pushing and shoving a much smaller clerk, was but a prelude to the two week’s rioting.

The Washington Post reporter who compared the Ferguson mob to the honorable and heroic Civil Rights movement diligently tried not to see what was before her very eyes, but she couldn’t avoid exposing the hollowness of what’s there: “They are fueled by rage, mobilized by social media and sometimes, or so it seems to the old guard, capable of a bit of disrespect.”

You’ve got to love that “capable of a bit of disrespect.”

Like Occupy, which was praised by Nancy Pelosi and sympathized with by President Obama, the Ferguson mob has friends in high places. The Rev. Al Sharpton, the well-known racial opportunist, who is advising the White House on Ferguson, was Ferguson’s Mark Antony, the orator of this mob, who stoked passions while ostensibly innocently praising the dead. Likewise, our Attorney General Eric Holder, who was dispatched to Ferguson by the President, appeared on the scene.

Holder’s mere presence seems to have had a calming effect—which is certainly a very good thing—but probably only temporarily, if the legal case doesn’t go entirely against the police. Like Sharpton, Holder stoked hatred, suggesting that the shooting of Michael Brown was rooted in our troubled racial history.

Certainly that history is an important backdrop to the story today in Ferguson—the suspicion which seeps into too many interactions between those of different races, and particularly when they involve law enforcement. But that history doesn’t play at all into determining what happened between Officer Darren Wilson and Michal Brown before Brown’s final breath.

Couldn’t Holder, our nation’s top legal executive and defender of our legal system, have talked about impartial justice and prepared the crowd for a just verdict, whatever that is? But waiting for facts is not a mob’s way.

But the rest of America should face the facts, whatever they may be, and should not close our eyes to what is happening today. This isn’t the next step in the civil rights movement, but a sad testimony to a crumbling culture and rage that pervades too much of America society.


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Occupy Television Vows to Keep Flailing Movement Alive

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which blazed brightly two years ago amid a sea of arrests, vandalism and attacks against the wealthy, is coming back in the form of an online TV channel.

Occupy Television, in conjunction with FilmOn Networks, the National Convention PBC and a new union of the groups Occupy Television,, and the National General Assembly, vows to bring the group’s mission to the masses.

The channel’s backers say in a press release that recent events in Ferguson, MO, despite the public not knowing the details behind the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, are proof that the culture needs this outlet.

The channel’s mission, according to its press release:

Occupy Television’s goal is to circumvent mainstream media, with its multitude of conflicts of interests, in order to break out of the echo chambers of conventional political discussion.  The station is based on the work of Occupy community members and citizen journalists—it is TV for the 99%.

Expect OWS-friendly documentaries like Internet’s Own BoyOccupy Love and Pots, Pans and Other Solutions to be part of the programming package.

Chances are viewers won’t see Occupy Unmasked, director Stephen K. Bannon’s documentary featuring Andrew Breitbart and several colleagues revealing the true nature of the movement.

Occupy Central Or Not? Hong Kong Won’t Accept China’s ‘Sham’ Elections

A showdown is looming in this city. This week, Hong Kongers and other interested parties are likely to find out if the “Occupy Central” movement will go ahead or not. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is currently holding a seven-day meeting in Beijing to make what seems likely to be the final decision on how the people of Hong Kong will pick their next top leader.

At the heart of the debate is a fear held by many that Chinese leaders won’t uphold their promise to allow genuine elections for the city’s next chief executive in 2017. Those concerns are founded on a steady stream of comments by mainland officials extolling the need for future candidates to be prescreened by a nominating committee stacked with Beijing loyalists. Critics have labeled the requirement as a filtering mechanism that’ll result in “fake democracy.” They believe the public should have the right to select the candidates as well.

Occupy Central’s co-organizer Benny Tai, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, has been one of the main proponents for a civil disobedience movement if Beijing insists on sticking with its apparent plan of “electing” Hong Kong’s next leader. Tai believes the city’s resident are entitled to go through a genuine democratic process to choose the chief executive under the “one country, two systems” principle.

Hong Kong’s political system has stagnated since the former British colony returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. All three of the city’s chief executives have lacked a popular mandate and generally failed to gain approval from the city’s lawmakers for any policies of significance.

The name “Occupy Central” will most likely stir up memories of “Occupy Wall Street” in New York for most readers. They have similar names and ideas, but the purpose of the actions do indeed differ markedly.

English: Protesters at the Occupy Wall Street ...

English: Protesters at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About three years ago was the first time I had heard of a movement that used the word “Occupy.” Back then, I was in New York City studying for my master’s, and Occupy Wall Street was heating up in the city that never sleeps. The activists mainly gathered at Wall Street, but sometimes they would also hold rallies at Washington Square Park – the NYU campus – and elsewhere to raise awareness of social inequality, i.e. the 1% versus the 99%.

As Occupy Wall Street is winding down, a new wave of Occupy-something is hopefully brewing in Hong Kong. Under the banner Occupy Central – the financial heart of the city – the organizers are calling on the public for a mass assembly of humanity to convey the message to the Chinese government that Hong Kongers should be able to choose their leader without interference. “Hong Kong people running Hong Kong,” as we were promised before the handover.

Comparing Occupy Wall Street that basically sought to draw attention to the longstanding economic problem of wealth disproportionately accumulating in the hands of a tiny minority, Occupy Central in Hong Kong is first and foremost a political cause. And from its very inception in January 2013, there has been an incessant debate in Hong Kong on the pros and cons of the potential movement.

Some of the voices coming out against Occupy Central see it as a reckless attempt to issue an ultimatum to Beijing when it seems more productive to aim for dialogue instead. A fair number of local officials and business tycoons have also been warning the protests would have a negative affect on the economy. While on the other side of the political divide, some radical elements from the democratic camp said there’s too much discussion, we should just storm the government.

In spite of the rhetoric and shrill warnings, the organizers of Occupy Central are merely hopeful of giving people a platform for their voices to be heard in defense of city’s core values – something many have come to conclude is being eroded under the current political system. They’ve also said that they’re ready to be arrested by the police for their planned “illegal gathering” under the current legal framework.

Whether you view Occupy Central as good or bad, history tells us that political power is almost never given away without a long and difficult struggle. The decisions reached in Beijing over the course of this week will be a signal to its neighbors and the rest of Asia as to whether it can be relied upon to keep its promises.

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What should really get you mad about Wall Street’s overpaid 22-year-olds

The young money is about to get more of it. That’s unlikely to make the Occupy Wall Street crowd happy. But maybe it should.

Goldman Sachs


, Bank of America


and JPMorgan Chase


have announced or are reportedly set to give as much as a 20% raise to their junior bankers. The latest round of announcements came this week after Morgan Stanley


kicked off the pay war for junior employees a few weeks ago. That means 22-year-old Wall Streeters, who only used to make $120,000, will now be justly compensated. Ahmen.

In a good year, those same 22-year-olds may now make as much as $175,000, according to Wall Street compensation firm Johnson Associates.

Oddly enough, the current round of pay raises seems to have been sparked by cries that Wall Street’s youngins were being mistreated. Earlier this year, Kevin Roose, a journalist at New York magazine, wrote a book about how miserable life is for Wall Street junior employees. (Read Fortune‘s review of Roose’s Young Money.) Spoiler alert: all of the bankers in Roose’s book chose to flee Wall Street. Their bucks full of money didn’t have room for their tears as well, I guess.

And perhaps that’s good for the rest of us. Smart, talented people should do a variety of things, not just what pays them most. But here’s the thing: Wall Street firms, just a few months later, are reacting. Say what you will about Wall Street, but its willingness to share profits with employees is much better than the rest of corporate America.

Nickel and Dimed, the famous book by Barbara Ehrenreich about poor pay and work conditions across the country, came out over a decade ago. How did corporate America respond? It didn’t. Wages have stagnated for the past decade. And Washington has only voted to raise the minimum wage once — in 2009.

Sure, Wall Streeters work a lot of hours. But the average American worker isn’t living a cushy life. Starbucks, responding to an article in The New York Times about workers’ hours, recently said it would no longer force workers to do so called “clopening” shifts, when they have to work back-to-back shifts that end at 11 PM and start at 5AM. But it’s still going on elsewhere.

Wall Street has a pay culture where most of the profits of the firms go to the employees. The reason is a bit historical. Wall Street firms were partnerships, and partnerships by definition tend to pay out all of their profits to their workers. Also, finance firms tend to be low-capital businesses, so they can invest much of their profits in their workers. But the pay practices on Wall Street have generally continued even after the firms have gone public, and as the firms have grown and added bank branches and things that do require some capital.

There’s no reason Wall Street’s pay practices couldn’t be exported elsewhere. Wal-Mart, for instance, generally runs a low capital business as well, yet it has long paid its workers much less than it could afford to. Wal-Mart


could learn a lot from Goldman.

Here’s the explanation in finance speak: Companies should generate enough profits to justify the price that shareholders are willing to pay for its shares. Once shareholders are no longer willing to pay up for those profits, they should invest that money elsewhere.

Wall Street firms get this. A few years ago, shareholders of Wall Street stocks traded for high valuations. Investors are no longer willing to pay up. So banks are shifting more of their capital to workers. And yes that will make it easier for them to recruit and keep workers and hopefully make them happier and more productive. That makes sense.

Likewise, Wal-Mart’s shares have faltered over the past few years. The retailer, however, continues to generate returns that are much higher than shareholders are willing to pay for. Yet, there have been no announcements of large pay raises for Walmart employees.

I have argued that Wal-Mart could increase its salaries without hurting its stock price. Shares of Goldman have not dropped on the news that it will pay thousands of employees tens of thousands of dollars more. Neither have any of the other banks.

At a time of growing concern that income inequality is doing serious damage to America — it is at least a part of what’s fueling the anger in Ferguson — there are reasons to be weary of the news that Wall Street is paying its junior banks around three times the salary of the average worker in America. But only part of the problem, and perhaps smaller than we think, that Wall Street pays too much. It’s the rest of corporate America that continues to pay too little.

Protests Rise Again in Oakland, Initially over Ferguson, MO Shooting

Protests in Oakland, California, involving arrests and vandalism have been planned and executed, occurring initially in connection with those in Ferguson, Missouri. Protest announcements from Occupy Oakland and related groups have also been tying in accusations of past alleged police misconduct in California.

A crowd exceeding 100 protesters made its way through the streets of Oakland and Berkeley and on the UC Berkeley campus Friday night under the banner of “solidarity” with protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and opposition to claims of police brutality there and in the Bay Area, according to the San Francisco Gate.

Reports relayed some protesters taking part in vandalism, anti-police graffiti, and altercations with police. Other protesters were reported as remaining peaceful.

Two arrests were reported in Oakland and two in Berkeley Friday in connection with the protest. Arrests were made on allegations of assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, obstructing police, and trying to remove a weapon from an officer. One officer was briefly hospitalized.

A post on an Occupy Oakland website from August 11 listed information for Friday’s protest event, giving instructions and information. Twice the heading “[expletive] the Police March” was used. A Twitter hashtag created under the same moniker reads #FTP. Another portion of the message referred to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, blaming police for deaths in that and other incidents. The message wraps up with, “stay in the streets until we are totally victorious in all our demands.”

Video of the Oakland protest shows a large crowd moving together. Online posts such as the one mentioned above communicated detailed plans to protest days ahead of the event.

The Associated Press reported, “Another Ferguson-related protest was planned in Oakland Saturday evening.”

A similar protest has been planned for Sunday in Los Angeles and posted to an Occupy LA Twitter account, and an event page has been set up on Facebook that has received approximately 1,700 responses. This event will apparently be held in connection with an incident taking place between a man named Ezell Ford and police, echoing events in Ferguson.

Oakland was the site of Occupy protests in 2011, stemming from the Occupy Wall Street protests that saw hundreds of arrests. Protesters threw “threw chunks of concrete and metal pipes as well as lit roman candles and firebombs, police said,” reported Fox News. The protests shut down the port in Oakland for a period of time.

Breitbart columnist Ben Shapiro recently wrote regarding 2009 riots surrounding a police officer shooting a black transit passenger, Oscar Grant, in Oakland. “While Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2010, rioters took advantage of the situation anyway, trashing police cars and forcing Mayor Ron Dellums to take shelter in City Hall. Local businesses were vandalized. In the end, some 120 arrests were made,” reported Shapiro.

The Occupy L.A. Twitter account also posted a call to protest the L.A. City Council last Friday for considering “A Resolution Supporting Israel.” Video of the demonstration showed a modest group of protesters with large anti-Israel signs.

The Occupy Oakland Twitter account has also been posting calls to block an Israeli ship from coming into the port, posting on Saturday, “Ship is Blocked for the day. It is now diverted. Too far from Oakland to reach port in time to unload tonight. Success. ?#Blocktheboat ?#gaza.” However, Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak reported on the incident, noting, “the ship was still far away from the port at the time of the protest.”

Why Occupy Wall Street is connected to Palestine

10614127_1451255695145673_4907426003436789480_nAmin Husain grew up in Palestine, just outside of Ramallah, and is a veteran Occupy organizer, activist, artist, writer and lawyer. Now, he is one of the key organizers behind #NYC2Gaza, an ad-hoc collective of activists in New York organizing solidarity actions for Palestine. On August 20, he and many others will be marching in solidarity with Gaza and occupied Palestine. I got a chance to catch up with him about the importance of continuous collective action and civil disobedience to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and break the siege on Gaza.

To start with, tell me a little bit about #NYC2Gaza.

It is a loose group of individual organizers, activists and people that are moved by what is going on and recognized that there was a space. We had come together with a call to put out saying that this is a direct action front for Palestine.

Many of us knew each other from Occupy, so we wanted to create a hashtag that symbolizes what we think we’re trying to do, which is create that bridge between New York and Palestine, recognizing that this is the center of empire and the people here have a responsibility to escalate in ways that reflect how bad the situation has become in Palestine.

Recently there have been other Palestine solidarity activists that have questioned the need for civil disobedience if there is, in fact, a ceasefire brokered between Israel and Hamas. What do you think about this?

Of course it is still needed. The situation in Palestine is so dire; I think people are moved by the fact that they see these bodies on television and they see bombs falling, but the killing is happening on a daily basis because of the structural violence of the Israeli occupation, the apartheid-like regime and the siege that has been put on the people of Gaza for over seven years. There is no way for these people to rebuild. There are no medical supplies, there is no electricity, there is no water and there is a temporary ceasefire right now that is likely to fall through.

So, I think these calls to halt civil disobedience, even if they are well intentioned, are out of touch. It points to a bigger problem with the type of solidarity work and the challenges that we have to understand about this work. It does not begin and end with whether you see a bomb or not; it begins and ends with whether the occupation goes away or not.

Right now Israel‘s atrocities are all over the news, but it isn’t always like this. How can activists maintain pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestine and break the siege on Gaza when it isn’t necessarily in the headlines?

Number one, the issue of Palestine is something that relates to empire, and our struggles being connected. The NYPD has something to do with the Israeli occupation. The bombs that are being experimented with on the Palestinian people are part of an industry that we are promoting in our country. Our tax dollars are going over there.

Number two: part of the way you avoid actions starting and ending with whether or not there are bombs on television is if the person who is organizing is closer to the activity or not. It is very important for people who do solidarity work, for example, with Palestine to actually see and wonder and ask who is in the room with them. Are there any Palestinians? Are there any Muslims? Are there any people of color? Because the privileged white male position, although welcome, could be dominating and out of touch.

There has been a lot of talk lately about representations of Palestine and Palestinians in the media improving recently. Do you think this is the case? Do you think that it matters?

I think no one can deny that the front page of the New York Times featuring a picture that shows the humanity of Palestinians is significant. But the language and the ideology surrounding [media depictions] still hasn’t changed. Why do people talk about Hamas as if it is a terrorist organization, not a resistance organization? Why is the focus always on two parties in conflict — this sterilized way of thinking about things — when in fact there is an occupier and a people who are occupied, there is an oppressor and a people who are being oppressed. The voices that are always quoted tend to be the voices of those who are powerful. To me, that is what has not changed much.

But I think that there is also this media opening, and I think it is facilitated by social media. I think a lot of people have become this other kind of journalist which has allowed us to stay more informed than we normally would.

What are the connections between the struggle for economic justice and equality and justice for Palestine?

To me, I have always said that my involvement in Occupy Wall Street was what I could do for Palestine from here. When we were doing Occupy Wall Street, my dad came and visited me in the park. He came, he sat down, and he looked around, and he’s like, “Amin, this makes sense.”

What we were doing in the park made sense because we know who funds Israel. We know that it’s not just about funding. We know why the project that the state of Israel — and I want to be clear, I am not talking about Jews or Jewish-Americans — serves the national security interests of the United States today. I think we know that those national interests are not the people’s interests. Three billion dollars per year going to Israel, with $220 million extra for the Iron Dome, is money that could be allocated for things over here and is definitely not money that should fund another people’s oppression.

What about the Arab Spring?

If you look at the history of Occupy, which actually was inspired by the Arab Spring, you can understand why what is happening in Gaza, that resistance, is another iteration or promise of an Arab Spring that all of these large powers have tried to extinguish. Ultimately democracy is about freedom and liberation. That’s exactly what the people in Gaza and the West Bank are fighting for.

What do you think about the pro-Palestine and pro-Israel labels? Are they outdated?

I think they are used so that we can legitimize both sides. So if you’re not in this camp, you’re in that other camp. Games are like that. Competitions are like that. But that is not the issue. It’s not a soccer match! Don’t talk to me about peace. Peace is a white man’s word that actually white washes the whole damn thing. Talk about liberation. Talk about freedom. Think about freedom not as something to be attained, but something to be exercised daily.

Hong Kong’s Pro-Beijing Groups March to Oppose Occupy Central

Tens of thousands of pro-Beijing demonstrators marched in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest the Occupy Central movement. Video: AP

HONG KONG—Pro-Beijing groups in Hong Kong mobilized thousands in a march to oppose Occupy Central, a democratic group that has threatened mass civil disobedience if China doesn’t offer the city a real choice in the next election for its leader.

The counter-rally, dubbed a “march for peace,” was meant to overshadow this year’s July 1 pro-democracy march, and to undermine the Occupy movement, which opponents have accused of putting Hong Kong’s economy at risk.

For months, Occupy Central’s organizers, led by two college professors and a Baptist minister, said they would assemble thousands of protesters to paralyze the city’s financial district if they judge China’s proposal on electing Hong Kong’s chief executive to be insufficiently democratic.

Their cause gained strength in June when an unofficial poll on democratic reform drew nearly 800,000 votes, followed by the large pro-democracy march. But public support for the civil disobedience appears to be waning, while the movement itself has been marred by internal discord over when to take to the streets.

A Look at the Turnout for the Pro-Democracy and Pro-Beijing Rallies in Hong Kong

In recent weeks, a countermovement backed by the business community and Beijing-friendly groups, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, started its own petition drive to denounce civil disobedience and Occupy Central in particular.

The group says it has collected over 1.3 million signatures, far more than Occupy Central’s poll on democracy in June. Those who signed the petition include Hong Kong Chief Executive

Leung Chun-ying

and other senior officials.

“They didn’t suddenly speak up; there’s no magic in this,” said

Robert Chow,

a former Hong Kong radio host and the public face of the Alliance for Peace and Democracy. “Occupy Central screwed up. This is a group of people saying they want one step less than a riot.”

Mr. Chow said he is confident that a critical mass of Hong Kong people won’t sympathize with the civil-disobedience movement, especially if their economic interests are at stake.

Pro-Beijing protesters gather ahead of a march against the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong on Sunday.
Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Hong Kong, a former British colony, continues to observe British common law under the doctrine of “one country, two systems” established when the city was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The city is governed by the Basic Law, a mini-constitution that guarantees a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

On Sunday, the pro-Beijing group rallied in downtown Hong Kong with what local police said was a crowd of 110,600 people at its peak, though researchers at the University of Hong Kong estimated that between 79,000 and 88,000 participated. The university estimated the July 1 pro-democracy march drew between 154,000 and 172,000 protesters.

The next test will come later this month when China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress, issues its position on democracy in Hong Kong, which is expected to all eligible residents to vote, but only for approved candidates.

The anti-Occupy Central campaign’s focus on the impact of civil disobedience has appealed to the pragmatism of many Hong Kong people. While many support democracy, they also just want to live their lives and go to work unimpeded.

Thousands marched in Hong Kong on Sunday in opposition of the Occupy Central movement.
Getty Images

“I don’t care if you want democracy, even if you protest and have demonstrations. But why do you have to stop people from making a living?” said

Bill Chan,

a taxi driver, referring to the Occupy movement.

Despite Occupy’s threats, lawmakers and political analysts expect the National People’s Congress to require prospective nominees to overcome a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.

“We can’t be optimistic at all—the pro-Beijing camp will control the entire list of candidates,” said

Joseph Cheng,

a political-science professor and convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of democratic parties supporting Occupy Central.

“This is our worst fear, our worst-case scenario,” he said.

In a last-ditch attempt to negotiate,

Emily Lau,

chairwoman of the Democratic Party, and other pro-democracy legislators met Friday with Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong, but they left with no clear promises from the Chinese government.

“We left him under no illusions,” said Ms. Lau. “We will under no circumstances accept an electoral method that is fake and dressed up as one person, one vote.”

Demonstrators carried a Chinese national flag during a rally Sunday in Hong Kong. Pro-Beijing groups mobilized thousands for a march to oppose Occupy Central, a group that has threatened mass civil disobedience if China doesn’t offer the city a real choice in the next election for its leader.

To achieve universal suffrage in 2017, the Hong Kong government must broker a reform package that will garner both the support of Beijing and two-thirds of the Hong Kong legislature. The government’s final proposal is expected to be released at the end of the year.

Universal suffrage for the chief executive was codified in Hong Kong’s de facto constitution. But so was a nominating committee to select candidates for office. Occupy Central demands that the committee won’t be able to screen candidates for political reasons.

Organizers of the Occupy campaign recognize that garnering support for civil disobedience is an uphill battle. Some moderate democrats have already signaled that they may be willing to accept a compromise that would keep Beijing’s plan intact.

Still, pro-democracy activists hope that the democrats will stay united and reject any electoral reforms that include political screening.

“Hong Kong people don’t want North Korean-style democracy,” said

Joshua Wong,

the 17 year-old convener of Scholarism, in reference to illiberal elections with severe candidate restrictions. The high-school activist group gained attention in its role to scuttle plans to impose pro-Chinese patriotism classes in local schools in 2012.

“If we are buying fruit, don’t give us three rotten oranges to choose from,” he said.

—Chester Yung contributed to this article.