Now in its second year of existence and approaching the second "May Day" celebration in which it has participated, Occupy Wall Street has both toned down and ramped up its rhetoric and goals. The desired effect: to wake Americans up to the continuing and ongoing predations of Wall Street and multinational corporations and diminishing civil rights.
In NYC alone, to "stand up for worker and immigrant rights and fight back against the 1%," OWS Working Groups will be joining labor unions, the May 1st Coalition, and student groups in a major outpouring which will be reflected in similar bandings in major cities across the U.S.
Beginning with early morning rallies at NYU's Washington Square Park and ending in a late-afternoon major demonstration for Labor and Citizen's Rights at the Federal Hall National Memorial, 26 Wall Street, Occupy hopes to eclipse both numbers and enthusiasm of last year's protests.
But, it might fairly be asked... do feet-on-the-street really make a difference? Are Wall Street banks being affected? Are their bought-and-paid-for House and Senate minions loosening these bonds to focus on correcting the obvious and evident economic and social sins?
Not that any of us can tell... yet
Consider HSBC, announcing 4th Qtr. Results showing profits of $157MM for the year -- an increase of 8.6 percent over 2011. As delineated in a New York Times editorial, HSBC settled with state and federal authorities for $1.92 billion (paltry) as a way to deflect prosecutorial actions.
Between 2001 and 2012 this bank exposed the American financial systems to money laundering and terrorist financing risks. The fine levied represents only six week's worth of HSBC's 2011 profits. Six weeks!
Or, Citigroup. According to Bloomberg, SEC investigations prove that the bank misled investors in a $1 billion fund that included assets the bank had projected would lose money. At the same time it was selling the fund to investors, Citi took a short position in many of the underlying assets. It made money; its investors did not.
The SEC only attempted to fine Citi $285 million, even though Citi's customers lost on the order of $600 million from their fraud. Moreover, they were not required to admit wrongdoing. Judge Rakoff refused to sign off on the deal and it's still pending. Citi is one of those banks that is simply too big to jail.
Occupy's question is: Who said that these bankers are too big to jail? Not us!
Which leads us back to the question, Do "feet on the street" make a difference? The answer would have to be -- based on historical precedent -- eventually.
My own memories of the slow burgeoning of citizen outrage and massive rallies against the Vietnam war tell me this. It started small, separated and disconnected, and ended up in massive rallies which compelled our elected government to throw in the towel.
Civil rights -- same thing. In this case, it required a leader of immense skill and courage to live -- and die -- for this cause. If it weren't for the thousands of people who attended rallies and vigils, even his sacrifice would have been diminished.
We shall overcome
It is likely that this May Day demonstration will be the largest of its kind in some time and will take place in cities across America. Tens of thousands of people throughout the U.S. and the world -- workers, students, immigrants, professionals, houseworkers -- employed and unemployed alike -- will take to the streets to unite in a holiday for the 99 percent.
It is a day for people to come together, across all those lines which too often divide us -- race, class, gender, religion -- and challenge the systems that create these divisions.
History has been Occupy's teacher. It was true then, and it is true now, and it will be true in the future: If you do not confront power with numbers and passion, you will never get the attention and the change you demand.
Now, here's the real secret weapon -- the behind-the-scenes thousands of people in hundreds of organizations in countless cities across the U.S., meeting in public spaces, donated spaces and people's homes and apartments to think and plan. Only then to make their case online with Social Media. (Facebook details here.)
Feet don't appear magically, they appear strategically and intelligently. Just as in the days of Civil Rights and the Vietnam War, people meet, plan, grow stronger -- and then show up in numbers.
Those numbers will confirm that the best thoughts of the natives of Zuccotti Park, dispersed like the wind-blown seeds of a plant, have settled onto fertile grounds on Main Street and into our national consciousness.
Mayday! Mayday! Occupy is answering that call.