The Occupy movement began in New York City as “Occupy Wall Street” as a group of Americans tired and sick of the wealth inequality in this country and the influence of corporate America on government. They came together on September 17, 2011 in New York City’s Zucotti Park to begin what would lead to months of protesting, encampments, and the spark of a nationwide movement that would come to define part of history. Calling themselves “The 99%,” the protesters that initiated the movement had a great online presence (using social media websites and blogs such as Facebook, Twitter, Adbusters, and the independent, non-profit website “Occupy Together”) that encouraged people to participate and generate action in their local cities, and within less than one month, major cities such as Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Denver became “occupied” for months to come. Soon after that, cities all around the country (New Orleans, Portland, Oakland, etc.), cities on other countries, such as Rome, and even college campuses developed their own agenda (some varied among cities) and initiated protest forces.
According to the New York Times“Times Topic” page focused on the “Occupy-central news, “The protest was a stand against corporate greed, social inequality and the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process.” The description on the page goes on further to say that the original Wall Street protesters’ idea was to camp put for months to replicate, and hopefully match the scale of the protests that broke out earlier in 2011 in Egypt. What is interesting to note now, when looking back at the web page, is that everything is in the past tense. It leads to the question, “Is the Occupy movement dead?” Before I make my statement, let me first highlight why I believe the movement is/was effective, and worthwhile.
The “Occupy” movement generated noise – their efforts were not gone unnoticed. It was covered daily by all major news sources, many of whom developed topicalized blogs completely dedicated to “Occupy” related news content (see such examples from the New York Times, Washington Post and Bloomberg Businessweek, to name just a few) gaining major attention among the general public, the government and, reluctantly, with great resistance, large corporations. Regardless of whether or not the wealthy, powerful, corporate or governmental figures gave any sort of care, concern or time of day for the cries and complaints of the vocal “99%,” the “occupiers” were seen and heard, they brought attention to the issues with monetary unbalance and unfairness that so often go ignored in America.
Despite the huge spread of the mass protests and the momentous force of the “Occupied,” the movement received harsh and abundant criticism. One of the most repetitive critiques was that the protesters did not have a clear goal. But what I think is that people just failed to listen. I will say that yes, many efforts may have been a bit scattered or wiry in intent and organization, and there were of course people who hastily and ignorantly jumped on the parading bandwagon by getting swept up in the fervor of the protests without perhaps being educated or informed enough to validate, but the same can be said about those in opposition to the movement.
“The one thing we have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” said a statement on the official website for the movement, Occupy Wall Street.
To me, that goal is clear. On the Adbusters #occupywallstreet website, the first thing you see is the statement, “#OCCUPYWALLSTREET is a leaderless people powered movement for democracy that began in America on September 17 with an encampment in the financial district of New York City. Inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas, we vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy.”
For a solid three months, the Occupy movements swept the nation and brought attention to a serious issue in the American political and corporate spectrum. In my opinion, that alone is a success. In a country where we have seen such apathy and lack of passion, I found the movement inspiring, if nothing else. In addition, there hasn’t been a powerful protest movement garnering significant attention since the anti-war protests of the sixties and seventies, which, I think, is abysmal, especially for the amount of complaining people do. The Occupiers brought their complaints and strife to the streets, out in public, and made themselves heard. In a country where people often blindly submit to the controlling, puppeteering hand of corporations, a large force of people said “no more” to keeping quiet and letting big business have their way, noise-free. In this sense, the Occupy movement accomplished loads.
The New York Times released an article Thursday entitled, “The Occupy Movement May Be in Retreat, but Its Ideas Are Advancing.” It is still a topic worth noting, even as activities have died down.
News began to dwindle on the topic as November came to a close, but the movement is not forgotten. Isn’t that success? I think they got what they wanted, which was to be heard. Granted, there haven’t been any overnight changes to capitalism and the wealth imbalance, but when have there ever been overnight people-pleasing changes in this country? Everything takes time, and I think that Occupy Wall Street may just be the catalyst for some change this country really needs. It could take years and a thousand more protests and a hundred more movements, but it all has to start somewhere.
(A great amount of the references in this post come from my Occupy curation blog that I used to follow the movement from when it began September 17, 2011 through early December).