It’s all fun and games until a protest movement goes global.
That’s exactly what happened today as the Occupy Wall Street shindig suddenly and unofficially spread to 1,500 cities worldwide, including more than 100 in the US. Officially, OWS, as the protesters call it, has become a threat to mainstream banking. This from several hundred people camped out in a concrete park near the southern tip of Manhattan.
To call this a media protest is a wild understatement. Take a minute and look at the streaming video of recent OWS protests, and you’ll see camera after camera snapping and video-ing away as the New York Police Department struggles to not look like bungling fools. (Can you blame them? The NYPD hasn’t had practice for something like this since the Vietnam War.) The cameras are everything. They are the ignition fluid for this wildfire.
In just one month the movement has gone viral (see web traffic graphic below). Occupy clearly speaks to a wide breadth of consumers. The messages that banks are “evil” and “We are the 99%” resonate. When you couple them with The New York Times’ article on Oct. 16 on how banks keep consumers “hooked” on fees via online banking, the time is fast approaching when the “99%” will try to take the bankers from among the “1%” out to the woodshed for an old-fashion whoopin’.
In turn, OWS might look for banking alternatives to promote, although there are few. This is the essence of the problem with OWS: there are no alternative plans in the protests, just more protests. Sure, someone might step up and make a coherent case for instituting more restraints on bank sizes and asset concentrations, but until that time, it is more likely that these Occupy protests will turn increasingly violent, and specifically toward banks like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.
When these massive banks post multiple billions of dollars of profits each quarter, as Citi and JPM have done over the last few days, it is hard to imagine the major US banks facing an existential threat from OWS. However, Occupy is simply not good for business. Which will simply continue to feed the Occupy movement. I hear the Occupy protests in Seattle today made an utter mess of the morning commute. As they say, from sea to shining sea.