What will it take for #Occupy to enter the mainstream political conversation?

Pic via.

Early this morning protesters gathered down on Wall Street near Zucotti Park to not just commemorate, but reinvigorate the Occupy Movement. Contrary to popular belief, Occupy itself didn’t actually die down on it’s own volition, but was instead shut down by the police.

While people are still organizing protests and meetings including this mornings #S17 action, Occupy encampments and meetings were shut down or infiltrated from the inside out. Nathan Schneider writes at the Nation,

After big expectations for a “99 Percent Spring,” the Occupy movement has had a trying summer. The wave of evictions that ended most of the country’s 24/7 occupations in late fall was only the beginning of the crackdown. Meetings and actions over the winter seemed especially rife with infiltrators, and such suspicions were confirmed in May, when undercover officers lured activists in Cleveland and Chicago into terrorism charges that could put them in prison for decades. Mark Adams, a much admired member of the OWS Direct Action Working Group, served about a month on Rikers Island for his role in an attempted reoccupation of an unused park owned by Trinity Church on December 17. Whenever Occupiers have gathered in public spaces in New York, police have seemed especially willing to use force to ensure that no new occupation can establish itself—even if that isn’t actually anyone’s intent. “Across the United States, abusive and unlawful protest regulation and policing practices have been and continue to be alarmingly evident,” concluded a report produced by the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, a coalition formed by several law school clinics.

Similarly, this morning about 200 people gathered in Zucotti Park and the police presence was heavy. Early reports (from the very credible source of my Facebook feed) initially described #S17 as underwhelming, but it appears to have gained momentum as the day moves on. You can get real time updates following these lovely people on twitter.

Last year, when we first started writing and thinking about Occupy–the media had yet to pick up on it. We were having conversations–concerned with how organized it was, frustrated that it wasn’t getting more coverage or asking about diversity and gender within the encampments. But within weeks, not only was it on the front page of every major newspaper–most progressives were on board with at least one thing–economic inequality has reached disproportionate levels and it was inspiring to see people take action around it.

Yet, here we are a year later and the Presidential race speeds forward, but not one person at the RNC or DNC (except one speaker at the RNC) mentioned Occupy, or the values held in a movement that was directly having a public conversation about class inequality. Instead, what we saw was an overemphasis on the “American dream,” on the importance of the middle class and on personal responsibility.

As activists, we know Occupy is everywhere–from the blog posts we write to the marches and actions being planned for #S17 to the long-term grassroots campaigns across the country, where leaders press on with or without resources, knocking on doors, raising money and gathering on the steps of a city hall somewhere near you. Occupy gave us one language and impacted the public conversation on class more than any movement in our generation, but the work has so many faces.

But we can’t do it alone. While the press is asking “where is occupy?” they have failed to answer that same question with information on the insidious and calculated ways it has been shut down. In a country that prides itself on “freedom” what does it say that the police and FBI took such aggressive action to shut Occupy down?

And what will it take for values represented in Occupy to make it to the forefront of the political conversation? 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Posted September 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    it will take people committed to making change legally, within the system. The Tea Party didn’t waste time getting arrested, they found candidates to run in local races. They turned over the House of Representatives in 2010, not to mention a lot of local elections. OWS has to run candidates to be considered valid.

    • Posted September 18, 2012 at 3:19 am | Permalink

      The Tea Party was in absolutely no sense a grassroots movement though. It had massive, massive funding from the same people who fund the GOP. There were no arrests because they were zero threat to the status quo (also arrests and the occupying of a space for a long time were the only things that really brought public attention to OWS in the first place- arrests get attention).

      I do agree that the way forward is articulating a specific platform (perhaps a list of 10 demands) and a willingness to work within the system, but the Tea Party isn’t a good example to follow because it’s ideological difference makes it a completely different animal with respect to how the state will deal with it.

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