The Boeing Company (BA), United Technologies Corporation (UTX): The Agony of the Airlines and the Birth of Occupy Wall Street

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The “Occupy Wall Street” protests began in Manhattan’s Financial District on Sept. 17, 2011. That day, hundreds of protesters in a “leaderless resistance movement” descended on the area surrounding the famous Wall Street bull statue next to the New York Stock Exchange.

The protests had been devised by activist magazine Adbusters over the summer, but early on it became clear that protest attitudes and political resistance would lead to conflict at some point down the line. New York City police barricaded Wall Street against the protesters in advance of their first strike, and dozens of officers stood guard at the bull and other notable destinations by midafternoon. A police official complained to CNN that no one had sought permits for the protest, and many protesters responded to interviews with scorn or rage for the financial industry.

Adbusters had hoped for as many as 20,000 protesters, so the initial turnout was somewhat disappointing. However, Adbusters editor-in-chief Kalle Lasn was pragmatic, telling CNN: “It takes a lot to rise up and reform the global economic system, and maybe this time we fail. But if we do, we’re just setting the tone for the next revolution.” Some of the earliest protesters set up camp in privately owned Zucotti Park to avoid police reprisal and prepared for the long haul.

Over the following week, dozens of protesters were arrested while marching through downtown Manhattan. Videos taken of police roughness during these arrests and later uploaded to YouTube drew sympathy and scorn for the protesters in near-equal measure. By the end of September, several major labor unions added their strength to the protests, and on the first day of October a large march across the Brooklyn Bridge resulted in more than 700 arrests, which added heft to the protests. By mid-October the protestors were able to marshal thousands when they marched, and the protests had spread to hundreds of locations around the world, with major events arising in Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, Rome, Madrid, and London.

Because Occupy Wall Street had no leader and no unifying voice, many people struggled to pinpoint just what was being protested. The movement’s overriding theme was opposition to inequality, popularized by the catchphrase “We are the 99%.” However, within that theme, individuals might rage against bankers, politicians, corporations, student loans, unfair taxation, lobbyists, industrial pollution, health care (or a lack thereof), and pretty much everything else that can be framed in terms of “the rich versus everyone else.” This nebulous rationale proved compelling to many thousands of people around the world who simply felt that the balance of power had swung too far from the ordinary man. On the other hand, the sheer variety of the movement’s complaints left it open to any number of attacks on its perceived “socialism” or “laziness.”

Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Zucotti Park on Nov. 15, 2011. The movement has failed to recapture its initial enthusiasm since that time. Later reports confirming that Occupy’s hated 1% had captured more of the post-crisis economic gains than ever before in history offer scant evidence that the movement achieved anything approaching real success in its battle against inequality.

The article The Agony of the Airlines and the Birth of Occupy Wall Street originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Alex Planes.

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more insight into markets, history, and technology.The Motley Fool recommends NYSE Euronext.

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