The early spring has led to a second round of protests and demonstrations from the Occupy movement, marking its six-month anniversary and showing signs of what’s to come in 2012. You may not have heard much about Occupy after the eviction from Zuccotti Park in New York (November 2011), but even after many encampments across the country have been uprooted – sometimes violently – the spring is here and it looks as though Occupy will turn out to be a factor in this year’s elections.
They are now using Union Square and various locations throughout New York City as staging areas for gatherings and demonstrations. Unlike Zuccotti Park, these parks are public and open 24-hours. But the police still aren’t letting anyone “Occupy” Union Square overnight, leading to some skirmishes.
I visited Zuccotti in October last year and I saw a vibrant community that was active and bustling while settling in for (what they thought was) the long haul. Every cause under the sun was represented, economic and social injustices and remedies for those, through education and/or non-violent actions. There were niche causes (‘End the Fed’) but some others were more popular such as the anti-fracking movement in New York State and surrounding areas. Occupy now seems willing to act on popular ideas, especially justice for Trayvon Martin who was tragically killed while walking in his neighborhood. The range of issues represented serves to not only broaden the appeal of Occupy, but also to make the issues themselves more visible to the public.
We’re also seeing some offshoots develop that aim to take things to the next level. One example is the 99% Declaration, a movement for a national convention in Philadelphia over July 2nd-4th. The plan is to convene a third Continental Congress, or as they are putting it, “The National General Assembly”, which brings back the summers of the late 1780s in Philadelphia when the founders of the country put together the Constitution and Bill of Rights. A plan like this seems to show that Occupy is more than just a one-off movement of disaffected youth. Instead, this Assembly may have the potential to provide a framework (or at least some sort of a list of demands, the absence of which many outsiders have decried,) for what the movement will focus on in the future. As someone who has watched Occupy grow over the past 8 months, I’m curious to see how the 99% Declaration turns out, and more importantly, if their demands are listened to, acted upon.
There are of course going to be more actions and demonstrations to come, including a May 1st general strike throughout the country, plus marches on Wall Street and what might be the best PR move in recent months, the continued occupations of houses that have been foreclosed upon through modern-day sit-ins. This second wave of Occupy has started in earnest but the specific role that it will play in this fall’s local, state and national elections remains to be seen. For now, they continue to Occupy for the 99%.