It’s been a decade since a group of protesters filled a small, private, grassless park in lower Manhattan and began a week-long occupation meant to draw attention to inequality and the monolith of financial corporations. of Wall Street.
The fury shown by ‘Occupy Wall Street’ against investment banks, hedge funds and big cats in general is no longer communicated by megaphones, rhythm sticks, free libraries and patchouli-flavored grievance lists for JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Because 10 years later, this populist rage is found inside the stock market where retail traders have taken over to conduct a much different and more effective sit-in on Wall Street, in the digital realm.
For nearly two months, the 33,000 square foot Zuccotti Park became the epicenter of America’s post-financial crisis debate.
The self-proclaimed “99%” have spent these weeks stubbornly arguing that 1% of the world’s population controls inordinate global wealth and that America’s financial system has become a catalyst and source of the ever-growing divide between the haves and have-nots.
When the New York Police Department cleared the last of Zuccotti’s protesters on November 15, it informally ended “Occupy Wall Street,” but the pipes that scoured the shiny black pavement, in an effort to eliminate dirt, have not canceled the movement.
It just moved it to the digital realm, with protesters resurfacing in a new tech culture built on ‘borrowing’ and sharing, the political careers of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among others, and the well formulated, if not totally coherent, call to “Democratize Wall Street”.
Just log on to Reddit to see the new Zuccotti, where individual investors educate each other on the structure of the market and use the actions of the memes to send Wall Street a message that they think the system is still rigged, but that they’re going to do something about it this time.
Undoubtedly at the center of this Occupy 2.0, are strongly exposed stocks like GameStop GME,
AMC Entertainment AMC,
Clover Health CLOV,
and a litany of others that online communities have turned to, as a new method of protest took shape in 2021, with the COVID pandemic still looming in the background.
Crowds of investors on social media platforms like Reddit and Discord are educating each other on how they might fight hedge funds, which have been accused of bypassing companies to death, leaving as carrion for private equity firms.
Much like the Zuccotti protesters 10 years ago, who carried signs with caricatures of Wall Street CEOs they held in low esteem, today’s Reddit retail traders use memes and effigies of unloved corporate executives as war banners in a new battle against the 1%.
Some faces have changed. Instead of Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein, Citadel’s Ken Griffin is the main recipient of the vitriolic on social media, doing Twitter searches for ‘Kenny G’ a bizarre mix of alto saxophone and allegations of bare shorting .
And like the “People’s Library” that sprouted in Zuccotti, a free deposit of thousands of books in a tent donated by punk rock priestess Patti Smith and designed to help protesters learn about the things they were complaining about, Reddit panels have become the hotbed of ‘DD’: due diligence or in-depth articles on financial topics and stock market advice meant to help retail traders keep each other on the forefront of their campaign to overthrow the big bosses of the hedge funds.
These publications, whose quality and consistency do not differ too much from the reports of Wall Street analysts [but are often written with more prurient panache], threw short cuts on everything from Wendy’s WEN,
stock in the uranium market.
And like the protesters who have constantly tried to push their borders beyond Zuccotti and into bank offices or across the Brooklyn Bridge, individual investors have already stepped into the options market. According to Robinhood’s first quarterly report as a publicly traded company, options traded on the 0% commission application had nearly tripled in the first half of 2021 compared to all of 2020.
So while the number of individual investors fighting hedge funds appears to have declined since January, those who remain are becoming more active, more educated, and gaining more attention from politicians and regulators, which even brings the chairman of the SEC Gary Gensler said this week that they have every right to use their own money to try to “break” hedge funds.
There is, however, a difference between the Occupy protesters of 2011 and the Reddit raiders of 2021: The NYPD could move to clean up Zuccotti Park in a day, but individual investors determined to point out the structural flaws in the stock market are already at inside. the stock market, and they don’t seem to be going anytime soon.