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Before AOC Wore It On A Dress, Occupy Wall Street Called To "Tax The Rich"

Ten years after thousands gathered to protest capitalism, the message and mission of Occupy Wall Street still feels relevant.

Posted on September 15, 2021, at 4:55 p.m. ET

This week, social media has been abuzz with critiques over Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Tax the Rich” dress, yet the sentiment is nothing new to those who witnessed the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Some may even argue that if not for the Occupy movement, a candidate like Ocasio-Cortez would not have been elected.

Since the organizing of Occupy Wall Street, America has aged 10 years and witnessed remarkable mass movements, including #MeToo, March for Our Lives, and Black Lives Matter. Occupy Wall Street was started in a time of recession and corporate bailouts for financial services, and the main messaging was centered around the divide between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. It was on Sept. 17, 2011, that a group of protesters launched the two-month-long rebellion calling for economic inequality reform. Hundreds of people set up camp in downtown Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, and thousands joined in daily protests until being forced to vacate the area in November 2011. Versions of the protest popped up across the nation; according to the Guardian, over 600 communities in the United States and 70 major cities saw OWS initiatives.

Occupy Wall Street sparked conversations and demands for a higher minimum wage and encouraged everyday people to question the status quo. Reading the messages scrawled across the signs in these photos gives us the opportunity to reflect on where our country stands today and how much further we have to go.

Group of protesters gathered outside City Hall in New York
Mario Tama / Getty Images

Demonstrators rally outside One Police Plaza during an Occupy Wall Street march on Sept. 30, 2011, in New York City.

A protester wears a dollar bill over his mouth
Mario Tama / Getty Images

A protester at the start of a march by demonstrators opposed to corporate profits on Wall Street, Sept. 30, 2011, in New York City.

Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

Protesters shout slogans while holding Occupy Wall Street banners on Oct. 3, 2011, in Los Angeles.

A man signs a large drawing of the Constitution at a protest in Washington, DC
Jewel Samad / AFP via Getty Images

A man signs a huge banner during "Occupy DC" at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, on Oct. 10, 2011.

Ramin Talaie / Corbis via Getty Images

Protest signs are left on the ground in Zuccotti Park where protesters demonstrated against the economic system in Lower Manhattan, Sept. 19, 2011.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Demonstrators opposed to corporate profits on Wall Street march on Sept. 30, 2011, in New York City.

Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

A protester holds up a sign during the Occupy Wall Street march on Oct. 3, 2011, in Los Angeles.

A masked protester in front of a flag during Occupy Wall Street
Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators continue their protest at Zuccotti Park in New York on Oct. 20, 2011.

Michael Nagle / Getty Images

People protesting the economic system flood sidewalks in the Financial District as office workers head to work on Sept. 19, 2011, in New York City.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

A protester with the Occupy Las Vegas movement takes part in a march on the Las Vegas Strip, Oct. 6, 2011.

The sign is a drawing of a noose turned into a necktie
Michael Nagle / Getty Images

A protester demonstrates against the economic system near the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 19, 2011, in New York City.

Sign reads 1% Rich 99% Poor
Mario Tama / Getty Images

A sign at a gathering of demonstrators opposed to corporate profits on Wall Street at Zuccotti Park in the Financial District on Sept. 30, 2011.

Two men in suits hold a sign that reads 'greed' in downtown New York
New York Daily News Archive / NY Daily News via Getty Images

Protesters march with a golden calf around the Occupy Wall Street protest encampment in Zuccotti Park.

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP via Getty Images

People demonstrating around Wall Street attempt to disrupt the pedestrian flow for financial workers who are going to work in New York City, on Sept. 19, 2011.

A group of women wearing outfits that read "Granny Peace Brigade" take part in Occupy Wall Street
Mario Tama / Getty Images

Granny Peace Brigade demonstrators affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement march through downtown Manhattan on Sept. 30, 2011.

The sign that reads "Democracy Not Corporatocracy"
Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

A protester holds a placard during a late afternoon march through downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 3, 2011, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement rally in Foley Square before marching through Lower Manhattan on Oct. 5, 2011, in New York City.

Sign reads "lost my job found an occupation"
The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Images

A protester in Freedom Plaza, part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, on Oct. 6, 2011, in Washington, DC.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Demonstrators with Occupy Chicago protest outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Oct. 3, 2011.

Stan Honda / AFP via Getty Images

Demonstrators march to One Police Plaza, headquarters of the New York Police Department, on Sept. 30, 2011.

A sign reads "the only way to experience the American dream is while sleeping"
Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

A man chats with police near a sign where protesters were staying overnight in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 2011.

The sign reads "WTF"
Ramin Talaie / Corbis via Getty Images

A protester at Zuccotti Park where hundreds of demonstrators camped out in Lower Manhattan for 14 days, Sept. 30, 2011.

A man holds a sign that reads "slaves no more" at an Occupy Wall Street march
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Thousands of Wall Street protesters are joined by union members during an afternoon protest on Oct. 5, 2011, in New York City.

Sign reads "dollars should not vote"
Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images

A sign is planted in the ground in Dewey Square in Boston on Oct. 2, 2011, as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Sign shows a heart with text referencing the Human Rights Act
Joe Longobardi / Flickr Vision

The protest is in solidarity with movements across the country that began on Wall Street in New York City on Sept. 17, 2011.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.