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‘Occupy’ Protest Energized by Park Eviction, Yet Misses Troubling Issue: Youth Unemployment

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
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Citing public safety and health concerns, NY City Mayor Mike Bloomberg ordered the police to clear Occupy Wall Street protesters from their base in Zuccotti Park Tuesday morning. Roughly 150 people were arrested during the eviction, including about a dozen people who staged a 'sit-in' (or 'out') of sorts by chaining themselves to trees and to each other.

Government officials took similar steps in Oakland, CA and London.

By midday Tuesday, protesters were allowed to return to Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan after a local judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the city or Brookfield Properties, which owns the park, from evicting protesters or "preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents and other property previously utilized," Gawker reports.

The Mayor's office is now urging the judge not to extend the court order for fear that the "unsafe and unsanitary conditions" will return and threaten public safety.

Still, Tuesday's police action appears to have reenergized the movement and raised the stakes for Thursday's two-month anniversary, for which protesters had already promised a massive "day of action."

In the accompanying video, I discuss the Occupy Wall Street movement with Robert Cherry, an economics professor at CUNY an author of Moving Working Families Forward.

As a university professor, Cherry expressed sympathy for college grads who cannot find jobs, a major source of frustration among Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Still, the professor says the protesters are lacking a clear, defining agenda and are missing a separate, but potentially more troubling issue: Mass unemployment among teens, which is 25% for whites ages 16 to 19 and a shocking 85% for African Americans in the same age range.

"There has been ambivalence to tackle this problem because from a middle class perspective, teen employment takes time away from schooling which should be the most important youth activity," Cherry writes. "But for working class youth, employment is often crucial for them to move ahead. It provides valuable soft skills and social networks. It also keeps them away from risky behavior that they might engage in to finance their consumer purchases."

To combat this problem, Cherry recommends creating more school-to-work occupational and vocational programs in high schools and community colleges. "Rather than focus on a vision of four-year degrees for all, these more practical educational initiatives in the high schools and community colleges greatly benefit many working class youth who would very likely fail in academic programs," he writes.

Left unaddressed, Cherry warns high levels of youth unemployment among males can lead to rising crime rates, as occurred in the 1980s, as well as young women seeking "sugar daddies," which contributes to a underage pregnancies and a general decline in morality.

If truly left unchecked, youth unemployment can lead to massive social unrest, as occurred in the Arab world last spring. Fortunately, U.S. society is not nearly as dysfunctional as Egypt and the like. But amid reports of legalized insider trading by sitting members of Congress and a general sense the system is "rigged" in favor of a select few, Americans would be wise to pay closer attention to the issues of youth unemployment and the rising economic inequality that sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement in the first place.

For additional coverage of Occupy Wall Street, see:

Occupy Wall Street: What's It All About?

Occupy Wall Street Gains Traction: "The Message is Definitely Getting Out

Randall Lane: Wall St. Protestors Don't Hate Success, They Hate Big Rewards for Failure

Taken to Task: Occupy Wall Streets Nattering Nabobs of Negativity

Forget Wall Street, Protesters Should "Occupy Congress," Says Mauldin

Steven Rattner Feels the Pain of Occupy Wall Street - On Both Sides

Occupy Wall Street: The Youth Perspective

Trump: Occupy Wall Street Indicates "There Is Something Wrong With This Country"

Occupy Wall Street Shows People Want Democracy, Not Corporatocracy: Jeffrey Sachs

The Top 5 Facts About America's Richest 1%

'Occupy' Crowd Too Focused on Wall Street, Not Enough on Corporate Power: Author