NEW YORK - There were two foci of excitement in New York on Friday - Zuccotti Park, by Wall Street, and the Apple Store on 5th Avenue. At Zuccotti Park, people banged on drums and sang, hoping to avert the evacuation of the Occupy Wall Street movement by police. Outside the Apple Store, a line snaked down the road of people waiting to buy the iPhone 4S.
The talk of the town wasn't inequality, it was the new toy. The Israeli press has covered the four-month-old protest movement intensely; not so here, though organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protest claim people have taken to the streets in 190 American cities. The only media outlets that seem to cover the issues extensively are the freebie papers handed out in the subway. "The press, CNN and Fox belong to rich people. They don't want to give a voice to the protest," claims a man in the park.
Like the Israeli protest, much of this one is conducted over Facebook, tempting critics to point out that the antibusiness protesters are equipped to the eyeballs with computers, iPads and music players. "The protesters don't understand that it's only by virtue of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs that jobs are created," says one park cynic.
While the Israeli authorities embraced the protest movement, helping with organization (at least in the early days), the New York authorities seem more wary. Police observe from on high and megaphones - that mainstay of the Tel Aviv mass demonstrations - have been banned. Yet messages filter through the park like a game of Chinese whispers.
Like in Tel Aviv, the protesters sing and play music. Visitors, in solidarity or curiosity, abound. Like in Tel Aviv, the protesters are of all ages and backgrounds. A group of military vets protests in one corner about American involvement in Afghanistan. Above all flies an American flag, featuring not stars for the 50 states but corporate logos. The stripes are replaced by missiles. Like in Tel Aviv, the demands of the protesters are vague and ephemeral, but the discontent is palpable and acute.
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