On Dec. 6, 2008, 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was killed after police discharged their weapons during an altercation with a small group of teenage boys. Four days later CNN reported that students in Greece, outraged by Grigoropoulos’ death, began to occupy universities in order to protest police brutality.
Since then similar instances of civil unrest have spread across the globe, creating thousands of protests in its wake. Although the spark that ignited each protest was different, there were three underlying causes that essentially drove people to the streets: the economy, the corruption of government, and police brutality.
These youth-led protests in Greece served as a catalyst for political movements to come, and exposed years of repressed anger toward economic stagnation, government corruption andpolice brutality.
According to Robert Kaplan, The Atlantic’s national correspondent , the percentage of youth unemployed in 2008 was somewhere between 25 and 30 percent. Kaplan also noted that the disparity between social classes had grown exponentially, public education systems were in shambles, and the government was in need of acomplete overhaul.
While older citizens were willing to soldier on, young adults had had enough. Throughout Dec 2008, CNN followed the civil unrest as young adults took to the streets in droves and rioted against a failing government.
The sheer violence and destruction that followed Grigoropoulos’ death was unnerving, but it brought people back to reality. Gone were the days of sitting idly by as things spiraled out of control.
Greece made one thing clear: now was the time for action.
From Tea Party to G20
In Feb 2009 the Tea Party, a grassroots movement comprised mainly of Americans who identify as rigid constitutionalists, came to life in an overwhelmingly negative response to stimulus money that Wall Street and corporations like GM and Chrysler received, and the fear that the government was getting too big. USA Today’s correspondents, Susan Page and Naomi Jagoda, found that Tea Party members were frustrated with both political parties and strove to return America to its former glory.
April of that same year saw thousands of protesters in London expressing their displeasure with the state of the economy at the G20 Summit, a gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors from the top 20 leading economies to discuss the looming global recession.
However, what was intended to be a peaceful demonstration soon got out of hand as tempers boiled over. Protesters smashed bank windows, started fires, and fought with police, reported The Independent.
Arab Spring and Occupy
The Middle East saw the birth of the Arab Spring on Dec 17 2010, after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, according to The Guardian.
Bouazizi, a graduate who was unable to find employment in a jobless economy, had begun selling fruits and vegetables to make ends meet. When police seized the food cart he was operating on the streets Bouazizi took his life in protest, which caused people to take to the streets.
We all know more or less how Occupy Wall Street started. On July 13 2011 a Canadian anti-capitalist magazine, Adbusters, sent out a call to flood lower Manhattan with protesters starting Sept. 17, Constitution Day. By July 26, a group called “New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts” proposed a meeting on Wall Street to discuss potential protests. A blog entitled “We are the 99%” emerged on Aug. 23, encouraging people to complain about how the 99 percent had been treated unfairly. When Sept 17 finally arrived, 1000 protesters gathered in Zuccotti Park and marched on Wall Street.
Just like the protests held in Europe and the Middle East, Occupy was fueled by citizens frustrated with the economy and government. As Occupy Wall Street spread, police brutality entered the picture and gave protesters another reason to find a cozy piece of park or sidewalk and stay put.
The day Occupiers first appeared on Wall Street, few took them seriously. In fact, Fox News’ business corespondent, Charlie Gasparino, called occupiers “idiotic” because they were not protesting in Washington.
“That’s where they’re squeezing Wall Street and basically taking money out of the welfare state which these protesters want to grow,” said Gasparino.
To date, the Occupy Movement has taken up residence in over 1,500 cities world wide; over 100 of those cities right here in the United States. It has even inspired something historical, the Russian Awakening, a youth-led protest against a rigged election that took place in Dec 2011. Jeffery Tayler, The Atlantic’s contributing editor, noted that this was the largest demonstration in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union
Although Occupy Wall Street is fairly new to the scene, it was based on the protests led by young adults in Greece, the marches at G20, the outrage of the Arab Spring, and yes, even the grass roots movement of the Tea Party helped out.