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.
“The 99% Movement” has something for everyone, even the left, but is it Occupy?
(Photo: Dana Deskiewicz / Flickr)
By all measures the Occupy movement is a powerful brand. It has thousands of spin-offs such as Occupy Our Homes, Occupy Money, Occupy the Hood, Occupy Gender Equality and Occupy the Food System. It has powerful name recognition, snagging “word of the year” honors in 2011. And now, ardent supporters are manning the ramparts to defend its integrity.
Adbusters, the culture-jamming magazine that helped spark Occupy Wall Street (OWS), is accusing unions and liberal groups clustered under the banner of the 99% Spring of tarnishing Occupy’s sterling name. Launched in February by groups like Greenpeace, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream, the 99% Spring announced it would train 100,000 people in April for “sustained nonviolent direct action” against targets like Verizon, Bank of America and Walmart.
These groups, bellowed Adbusters in an online missive “Battle for the Soul of Occupy,” are “the same cabal of old world thinkers who have blunted the possibility of revolution for decades.” Adbusters fingered MoveOn as one of the primary saboteurs of Occupy and linked to an article in Counterpunch that claims the 99% Spring “is primarily about co-option and division, about sucking a large cross-section of Occupy into Obama’s reelection campaign, watering down its radical politics and using these mass trainings as a groundwork to put forward 100,000 ‘good protesters’ to overshadow the ‘bad protesters.'”
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.