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November 13, 2011

Who sides with the 99% movements?

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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The 99% movements - called Occupy Wall Street/ Bay Street/ etc. - are making history as the participants reclaim their future and the future of next generations from the 1% who control - by hook or crook - the financial sector, media, and politics.

Two recent news items from the UK and one from the US reveal the struggle between the two camps and who sides with each.

British PM David Cameron has admitted that news revealing that bosses at 100 UK businesses are now enjoying average earnings of nearly £2.7 million was "concerning".

The study by Incomes Data Services (IDS) showed that “the average bonus payments for directors increased by 23% from £737,000 in 2010 to £906,000 this year,” despite rising unemployment and falling standards of living for most of the population.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "(W)hen people are struggling, when the middle is being squeezed, when people are seeing their living standards fall, it is not fair for those at the top to get runaway rewards not related to the wealth they have created."

The top earning chief executives are: Mick Davis (Xstrata) £18,426,105, Bart Becht (Reckitt Benkiser) £17,879,000, Michael Spencer (ICAP) £13,419,619 , Sir Terry Leahy(Tesco) £12,038,303, and Tom Albanese (Rio Tinto) £11,623,162.

In the meantime the chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, Dr. Giles Fraser has resigned from his post over Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters occupying the churchyard.

The news came as the cathedral announced it was planning to reopen a week after it closed for the first time since the Second World War “for health and safety reasons”.

"Prayers have been offered for the whole situation since it began but we will certainly be remembering all those involved in the events of the past week and praying for a peaceful outcome," the church said in a statement.

The Guardian reported that Fraser’s resignation followed refusals by the Dean of St Paul's and the Bishop of London to rule out forcibly evicting the Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstrators camped in the cathedral's courtyard in the heart of London's financial district. The Corporation of London and the Church – both of which own parts of the land the 200 tents are using – will consider a legal challenge to evict them.

Dr. Fraser, who has been sympathetic to the protest camp, said "It is with great regret and sadness that I have handed in my notice at St Paul's Cathedral."

He later told the Guardian: "I resigned because I believe that the chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church."

The Guardian reported that the cathedral's dean, the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, said officials were considering all options in response to the protest, including legal action to evict the protesters.

But an Occupy London Stock Exchange spokesman said: "We are deeply moved to hear that Giles Fraser has resigned. He is man of great personal integrity and our thoughts are with him.

"From the moment Occupy London arrived at St Paul's Churchyard he respected our right to protest and defended it.

"For that we are very grateful, as he ensured that St Paul's could be a sanctuary for us and that no violence could take place against peaceful protesters with a legitimate cause - challenging and tackling social and economic injustice in London, the UK and beyond."

A protester added: "He's pretty inspiring. He's standing up for the Christian values of what's happening here."

Fraser said: "I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land.

"It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent."

In the same week the US headlines read: A critically ill Iraq veteran, 24-year-old Scott Olsen, has become a figurehead, and Oakland, California where Olsen was injured resembled a war zone as riot police made a heavy-handed and ultimately futile attempt to clear protesters from their streets.

Videos of Olsen’s life-threatening injuries flooded the internet. His name was on protest banners across the US and in Oakland, a thousand people attended a candlelit vigil.

The struggle between the 99% and the 1% shall continue. The good news is this: Right will win over greed and might - I know; I was a witness in Tahrir Square earlier in the year.

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