On September 17, 2011, a group of likeminded protesters united in a fight against the economic inequality apparent in America. They replicated the peaceful and dedicated nature of movements seen in the 1960’s and 70’s, with hope that the government would hear their loud and vigorous cry for change.
The fundamental message of the Occupy movement is to create a more equitable distribution of wealth in our country. Fueled by passion, anger and confidence in their message, protesters gathered in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District. “We are the 99%” slogan quickly became the movement’s mantra, referring to the concentration of the wealth amongst 1% of Americans. The rest of the country was forced to take notice when the movement spread to cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. As the movement expanded so did their agenda. To date, the Occupy movement has addressed home evictions, campaign spending, student loan debt, bank bailouts and even Black Friday, just to name a few.
The movement’s unclear demands, relaxed leadership and overbearing approach has made it an easy target for criticism. At a Republican candidate forum, Tea Party activist turned Senate candidate described Occupy protesters as “unemployed, uneducated and uninformed.” I also think that the social stigma attached to the protesters has many writing off the movement as a hippy rebellion and counting down the days until it dies once and for all.
But they may have to wait. The heart and passion of the movement is still very much alive, but it has clearly reached a tactical roadblock. If changes are not made quickly, there is no hope for this movement. The size of camps have diminished dramatically, and sit-ins are often broken up by police intervention. Polls prove that the majority agrees with the movements ideas, but their execution needs to change in order to maintain momentum. Tony Fels, an associate professor at the University of San Francisco points out, protests in the past have been conventional and ultimately successful when they are concise, powerful and held on weekends so that lower and middle class citizens do not have to sacrifice their jobs to particpate.
I also do not foresee any large leaps of improvement being made unless the movement can solidify its place on America’s agenda. If it does this it is very likely that it will remerge when elections are kicked into high gear in the spring. David Taylor, a student blogger from UCLA, outlines changes necessary for the movement to survive. One of his key arguments is that Occupy has no hope if it cannot work alongside the government. New York Times columnist David Carr wrote, “Occupy Wall Street, by definition, eschews the mainstream political process as corrupt beyond repair…but politics remains how business gets done and history is altered.” As election season progresses the Occupy movement will have numerous chances to merge with candidates and hopefully make their message part of a political platform. The video below illustrates just how powerful a political voice could be for the movement.
If the Occupy movement has done nothing else, I believe it has started a necessary conversation. The fact that people are even considering ways to improve the Occupy movement’s sustainability is proof that it has been worthwhile. I believe it is absolutely urgent that changes be to revitalize the movement, but as of now, a strong foundation has been laid. In addition, it is empowering to know that today’s youth has modern proof that change is not a concept buried in our country’s history. Rather, it is a torch that can ignite at the hands of the educated, courageous and passionate. Instead of waiting for a national crisis we are being proactive and ensuring our government’s commitment to us. Despite one’s political affiliation, Occupy is a reminder that activism what keeps our nation on it’s toes. We need activists, and we need them remind the rest of us that you do not need a political title to have a positive impact on our country, just a voice.