Saturday, November 12, 2011

Who are the occupiers?

I find the Occupy movement fascinating, because its strategy and tactics seem different from any protest movement I remember seeing before. While these encampments have attracted lots of people who don't have a clue, they have also drawn some pretty impressive participants. There seems to be an intelligence behind this seemingly leaderless, directionless movement that gives one hope that it is still heading in a positive direction. But where did they come from? How did they get here? And where are they going?

Some of my questions were answered in an interesting article in last week's New York Review about the origins and goals of the occupiers. Far from being a spontaneous mass uprising, the idea for the Wall Street protest was apparently formed by some members of a group called Adbusters, which started in Canada more than 10 years ago. Somebody sent an email to subscribers suggesting that a group of people camp out on Wall Street, and a bunch of people seized this idea and began meeting over the summer in Tompkins Square Park to plan the protest, developing the idea for the General Assembly, and training hundreds of activists in the democratic methods that these encampments later spread all over the country and the world. There are some savvy and intelligent people behind this movement, but they deliberately stay behind the scenes, eschewing the very idea of charismatic leaders, and lending more credence, and more reality, to the democratic and popular image of the group.

The occupiers have released manifestos. They meet and talk endlessly. They plan activities. They have some general ideas in common, most notably the idea that they represent "the 99%," and that our economic and political systems should serve the 99% and not just the top 1%. But they have released no demands, have not attempted to make specific changes, have tried to avoid being co-opted by any other organized groups, and have not made clear what their end game is. While unusual, all these decisions seem smart to me. Where they go from here is unclear, however. Perhaps a severe winter will make them pack up their tents in places like New York City. Perhaps they will wear out their welcome in other cities. Perhaps there will be more confrontations. Or perhaps they can just declare victory, and morph into a new strategy in the spring.

(photo by me)


  1. As I predicted a month ago, the fringe parts of OWS would show themselves on the west coast as the east coast is frozen out for the winter.

    There are some bright left over hippies in OWS and some smart young people; both who have strong points that I agree with. But Oakland is the prime example of what this is becoming -- something unfortunate. Time to do what the tea party did; VOTE!!

  2. yeah ok or go look for a job rather thatn sit on your ass all day