American Dissent

Americans who once never thought of challenging the status quo, are taking to the streets in record numbers these days.

With the economic crisis that has shaken this country, many of the people who once thought that they were financially secure have lost everything. A new underlying current of dissatisfaction with the status quo in the way the country has been governed – and wealth distributed – has taken shape. People who a decade ago would never have thought about civil disobedience and protest are stepping up to the front lines of social change. I have been documenting this new passion for change in American society since before the first days of Occupy Wall Street, to the violent clashes with riot-clad police in Oakland, CA. last fall and the recent winter occupation by retirees of Occupy Century Aluminum in West Virginia.

This movement, and my focus, is not only set on large scale protest action but also on local groups across the country fighting against injustice they see in their communities. These small groups of dedicated people are taking on unfair home foreclosures in Detroit by big banks, as well as corporate giants like Century Aluminum in West Virginia, where a group of retirees in their 60s-80s recently staged a 75-day winter occupation near the facility for the return of their health benefits. In February this year, in testament to what a small group of determined people can do, these retirees beat the company as it caved to their demands with a $67 mil settlement for the return of their benefits.

America is ripe for social change and it is only just beginning. I hope this project, at least in some tiny way, will eventually contribute to the documentation of this time in American history. – James Fassinger

Please see the complete collection of image galleries from this project here.

Occupy Wall Street, march on Brooklyn Bridge, NYC,  October 2011.

700 arrests on Brooklyn Bridge, NYC, October 2011.

Occupy Oakland General Assembly, October 2012.

Occupy Detroit supporters protest outside the Bank of America branch in the Guardian Building downtown, along with members of the UAW to demand an end to home foreclosures.

Ed and Robin Mahonen came up Sept. 25th from West Virginia just to be a part of Occupy Wall Street and plan to stay until Sept. 30th. Robin is a licensed social worker who lost her private practice of 14 years because of conflicts with the insurance companies, she says.

A group of protesters watch their trash bin barricade burn on 16th street in Oakland, CA.


More than 10,000 people shut down the Port of Oakland, CA on November 2, 2011 during a General Strike.

Retirees in their 60s-80s camped out for 75 days in the winter cold in front of the Century Aluminum facility in Ravenswood, W. Va. for the return of their healthcare benefits. The company finally caved to their demands and settled with the group in March 2012 for the return of $67 mil in benefits and back pay.