Although media coverage has dwindled, Occupy cells are alive and well all over the United States – and beyond.
Police cleared New York’s Zuccotti Park, and the movement has reportedly struggled to find more organising space [Getty Images]
Occupy Wall Street was at the pinnacle of its power in October 2011, when thousands of people converged at Zuccotti Park and successfully foiled the plans of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg to sweep away the occupation on grounds of public health. From that vantage point, the Occupy movement appears to have tumbled off a cliff, having failed to organise anything like a general strike on May Day
– despite months of rumblings of mass walkouts, blockades and shutdowns.
The mainstream media are eager to administer last rites. CNN declared “May Day fizzled”, the New York Postsneered “Goodbye, Occupy” and the New York Times consigned the day’s events to fewer than 400 words, mainly about arrests in New York City.
Photo Credit: edenpictures on Flickr
With the spread of political occupations to all 50 states today, lessons can be gleaned from past occupations for a movement that shows no signs of going away.
By Arun Gupta
November 14, 2011
Political occupations have a storied history starting with the first recorded labor strike. Some 3,176 years ago in Ancient Egypt royal tomb builders from the desert village of Deir el-Medina repeatedly occupied temples following the failure of Pharaoh Ramses III to provide wages consisting of wheat, fish, beer, clothing and other provisions.
In the centuries since, other movements have stamped their mark on history by occupying spaces, such as the Diggers who formed a utopian agrarian community on common land in 17th century England, and the workers, soldiers and citizens who established the ill-fated Paris Commune in 1871.
American history is rich with examples of political occupations that left a lasting impact. Sometimes the 99% pushed progress forward, as with Rosa Park’s occupation of a bus seat that propelled the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ended with Alabama’s bus segregation being declared unconstitutional. Often the 1% of the time – slaveholders, robber barons and merchants of war – re-asserted control with new methods of domination such as after the Great Upheaval of 1877. But each event proved that true democracy lies in collective act of taking space public and private, while corporations and the state are just two arms of the same beast.
With the spread of political occupations to all 50 states today, the most dynamic democratic movement since the 1960s, lessons can be gleaned from past occupations for a movement that shows no signs of going away. Here are seven of the most important occupations that changed American history.