Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy At Two Months: The Evolution Will Not Be Televised

Today, on the two month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a  massive day of direct action is planned.  Here's the link for national and international events.

Dave Johnson at Campaign for America's Future writes that the "National Day Of Action looks like it will be really big. People will be out doing things all over the country. There will be all kinds of events that say, "We are the 99%!" My  favorite is people will be gathering in front of various decaying bridges, to demonstrate that our #1 need is jobs and our #1 place to put people to work is rebuilding our decaying infrastructure."

The big day comes on the  heels of polling which suggests support for the Occupy movement is waning.  As David Atkins observes this is hardly surprising given the "constant negative stories in the press about supposed poor behavior" and that the "focus of the movement has become more about the process of occupying ground and conflicts with police, than about the original reasons for the protest in the first place."  He also points out that "advocacy for social justice has never really been publicly popular at the time."

Pollster Tom Jensen explains that the bad poll numbers don't "reflect Americans being unconcerned with wealth inequality"and that "what the downturn in Occupy Wall Street's image suggests is that voters are seeing the movement as more about the 'Occupy' than the 'Wall Street.'  The controversy over the protests is starting to drown out the actual message."

Todd Gitlin at openDemocracy points out that "tactical changes" were already afoot before the clearing of Zucotti Park; that Occupy Wall Street "was already evolving and the movement was, and remains, a lot bigger than the Zuccotti Park’s half-acre."  Spin-off groups "were already organizing direct actions elsewhere around the city, such as demonstrations at bank branches, foreclosure hearings and subway stations."  And, as noted above, massive and varied actions around the country and internationally are planned for today.

Nevertheless, Gitlin warns of traps that have opened up for the movement, which are particularly relevant in light of the recent polling:


The first would be to become preoccupied with police brutality . . . The emotions are understandable, spiky, immediate and adrenaline-infused. But while of course deploring attacks on their civil liberties (whatever happened to “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”?), the movement would be well-advised to keep its eyes on the prize. Let the ACLU and liberal politicians defend their (and everyone else’s) legal rights; it’s their business, and bless them for it. The OWS movement has to remain visible as the voice of “the 99%.”
Secondly, the occupiers must understand that the odds of violent, vengeful outbursts at the edges of the movement have now gone up, even as the overwhelming majority of the movement’s activists and supporters adhere rigorously to nonviolence . . . So the movement will need to work out contingency plans for minimizing the danger of violent hijack.
As Hunter says at Daily Kos, "We are at a necessary evolution point in the Occupy movement."  First because of the "hard truth that cities around the nation simply cannot tolerate camping as a form of free speech, thus necessitating a response to "putting tents up" that is increasingly relying on tear gas, riot gear, and mass arrests."  And second, the government, Wall Street, and the media still aren't listening:
Most press coverage revolves around which cities beat the holy hell out of which protestors on any given day or which senior citizen posed such a damn threat to the riot-gear-laden police that they needed to be pepper sprayed, but the underlying messages of income inequality, corporate corruption and a captured government are, unsurprisingly, still being stonewalled.
So, happy two-month anniversary.  Here is hoping for many more, and for a big day of non-violence in which the overarching message can be heard over the din.  As the sign says:  Resist austerity, Reclaim the economy, Recreate our democracy.

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