Photos of Occupy Wall Street on Day 20, October 5, the day of the big march with unions in solidarity with OWS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
March 14, 2012
The few remaining occupations aren’t easy to find, but visiting one reminds you why Occupy set the imagination on fire. At a late-February “Occupalooza” organized by Occupy Fullerton in Orange County, we talked with Wolf, a 25-year-old transgendered activist, who explained how the group is lobbying the City Council to pass resolutions on issues ranging from Citizens United to predatory debt. We also met John Park, a Korean-American with two kids in college, who launched into a blistering critique of the ideology of free trade. That Wolf has found common cause with a middle-aged immigrant computer programmer speaks to the raw ideological and emotional power of the twinned slogans—“We are the 99 percent” and “Occupy Wall Street.”
At Occupy’s encampments, anyone could walk into the public space, share his or her story, find people with similar grievances and participate in building mini-societies. Creating democratic town squares next to centers of power drew in huge numbers of people who gave the movement life. First-time activists didn’t need to arrive having mastered volumes of social and cultural theory, and they weren’t treated to the same old canned chants and pre-printed signs. The movement didn’t require consultants, focus groups or polls to occupy the center of American politics with a radical left message. As such, Occupy wasn’t just a rejection of Washington and Wall Street; it revealed the failings of liberals, unions and the organized left.
Occupy Tampa protest Oct 2011 (Photo credit: Sasha Rae Photo - Shanna Gillette)
After a wave of shutdowns, about 20 Occupy camps still stand. What do they tell us about the state of the movement?
Occupy Tampa has had a rough life. Born on a “Day of Rage” that drew 1,000 people to Tampa, Fla.’s downtown on Oct. 6, it put down roots three days later on a public sidewalk bordering Curtis Hixon Park. It soon blossomed into a community of more than 100 residents adorned with tents, medics, media, kitchen and library on a concrete patch less than 10 feet wide.
From day one, the Tampa police were a fixture in their lives. “They would come by at 6 a.m. to wake us up, and again in the afternoon to make us move our belongings off the sidewalk,” says Samantha Bowden, a 23-year-old senior at the University of South Florida. The occupiers taped off a 6-foot section of the sidewalk for egress and say the city conceded it had the right to a 24-hour presence, but the police were intent on retarding the occupation’s development by wielding a code against leaving articles on the sidewalk. Occupy Tampa occupiers adapted by placing their belongings on carts so they could be wheeled away whenever the police descended.
Behind the scenes with rogue drummers, homeless, liberals and the black bloc as OWS grapples with self-government
Occupy Wall Street protesters demonstrate on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 17. (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
The panicked emails and texts sounded like a prank worthy of the Yes Men. Occupy Wall Street — which like some comic book character only grew stronger after each attack by nefarious forces, whether pepper spray, mass arrests or New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s threat to close the park for cleaning – had finally been brought to its knees.
What was about to kill the most successful American activist movement in decades? The drum circle.
Drummers possessed with a Dionysian fervor were demanding that they be allowed to pound their bongos and congas late into the night because they were the “heartbeat of this movement.” In response, a letter circulated with the dramatic warning that “OWS is over after Tuesday.” With equal doses of Middle East diplomacy and Burning Man theatrics, the writer explained that weeks of negotiations between a drummers’ working group called Pulse, the OWS General Assembly and the local community board had collapsed.
The protest movement is appropriating the names and logos of corporate-owned publications. Is it copyright infringement or satire?
- Courtesy of Scott Johnson
“I think it is great how it became a meme so quickly,” says Arun Gupta, one of the founders of The Occupied Wall Street Journal. “Like many other aspects of Occupy Wall Street, this idea just spread rapidly across the country.” The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a project originally put together by Gupta and a collective of other Occupy Wall Street activists, raised more than $75,000 in a Kickstarter campaign.
“It’s direct action — another form of occupying,” says Gupta of the newspapers — physical protest objects, and historic artifacts. “They make the movement real in a way digital media never can.”
To Gupta’s knowledge, The Occupied Wall Street Journal hasn’t received any complaint — or praise — from the original Wall Street Journal. “In fact, all the media reports would actually say the WSJ declined to comment,” says Gupta.
“This is why I say it’s political,” says Gupta. “Occupy Wall Street had such a huge kind of ideological and political presence that to go after them this way actually validates everything the movement is talking about: that the 1% is trying to use their power and wealth against the 99%.”
“Because they’re on such weak legal ground, to bring suit would come across as a case of bullying. They have nothing to gain from it,” says Gupta. “I think, though, when you get into other cities, people freak out when they’re being approached by lawyers with intimations of legal action.”
The full article available online at:
Interview with Arun Gupta, a founding editor of New York City’s Indypendent newspaper, conducted by Scott Harris for the nationally syndicated radio show “Between the Lines.”
Full-length Counterpoint interview (20:14):