This Day In History: September 17

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On September 17, 2011, hundreds of activists gather around Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan for the first day of the Occupy Wall Street Movement—a weeks-long sit-in in New York City’s Financial District protesting income inequality and corporate corruption. While the movement failed to see any of its goals or policy proposals come to fruition, years later, Occupy Wall Street is still considered a blueprint for decentralized activism.

The protest was organized by members of Adbusters, a Canadian anti-consumerist publication, including founder Kalle Lasn and editor Micah White. Adbusters staff coordinated the time, place and marketing of the event. White sent out the first #OccupyWallStreet tweet which would be seen by thousands of people following the movement online. The occupy hashtag is largely responsible for the movement’s exposure and helped make it among the largest activist efforts to go viral on social media and spread around the world.

Organizers first planned to meet at Wall Street's Charging Bull Statue and One Chase Plaza, but police erected barricades at both city-owned parks before the event on September 17. The nearby Zuccotti Park was left untouched; over the course of the next two months, thousands would come to occupy it. On November 15, 2011, members of the NYPD forcibly removed the protestors and arrested some 200 people. Later efforts to re-occupy the park were met with police resistance.  

The terms 99 and 1 percenter, first coined by the Hells Angels motorcycle club, were popularized by the Occupy movement; the first refers to the majority of people living in the United States, and the second represents Wall Street and the wealthiest portion of the population. These terms—and Occupy Wall Street’s social media strategy—would be modeled by movements including #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.