‘The Occupy movement is an extremely exciting development. In fact, it’s kind of spectacular. It’s unprecedented…Occupy is the first major public response to 30 years of class war’ (Noam Chomsky, ‘Occupy’)
On the 17th of September the Occupy (Wall Street) movement celebrated its first anniversary. The movement had planned mass civil disobedience for the day including protests in particular locations (i.e. in front of the Stock Exchange). However, these protests were curtailed by a strong and pervasive police presence in the lead up to the anniversary and on the actual day (thousands of arrests have been made since 2011, see OccupyArrests.com). The day after the anniversary, order had been restored to public areas, and Zuccotti Park was said to have been deserted.
Responses to this year’s Occupy protests in America have been mixed. Some say that Occupy has reached a natural end point. Hunter Walker for the Politicker writes: ‘The narrative that is rapidly becoming conventional wisdom in the wake of yesterday’s protests is that Occupy Wall Street is finished’.
Others claim that this is only the beginning. ‘Occupy might not have the high-profile presence it did a year ago, but it would be wrong to dismiss its continuing relevance’ (Aditya Chakrabortty for The Guardian). Many believe that Occupy is not only alive and well, but that its message is increasingly relevant in a post Global Financial Crisis world.
With protest messages focusing on issues of financial reform and income inequality the movement still has truck for many Americans who make up the 99 percent. These issues are not only relevant to American lives but the lives of global others and generations to come.
In response to a changing social and political environment Occupy’s goals have shifted over the last year. In its second phase members of the InterOccupy (organizing group) describe three of their main goals: (1) occupying the mainstream, moving the message from the tents to the hearts and minds of the masses; (2) protecting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly; and (3) the end of corporate personhood. Other issues the Occupy movement has a stake in are environmental and political in nature, from natural gas drilling and student debt to war and post-colonial occupation.
Popular social and political critic Noam Chomsky argues that Occupy has been successful in many ways. He says that one of the most spectacular outcomes of the movement is that it has dramatically changed the framework of discussion for many issues. Things that were ‘behind the scenes’ or relegated to the margins are now up front and on the national agenda, impacting upon reporting, public awareness and language itself. Things like ‘the imagery of the 99 percent and the 1 percent; and the dramatic facts of sharply rising inequality over the past roughly 30 years, with wealth being concentrated in actually a small fraction of 1 percent of the population’.
To dismiss Occupy – as some have done after its one year anniversary – is to ignore what the movement has achieved and continues to develop: mass awareness of, and public involvement in political and social issues that at times appear out of reach for many people. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have gathered online and in the streets to communicate (worldwide) their disenchantment with the status quo. Occupy now faces important questions about how it will move forward – how decentralized movements will work together to create and sustainable and lasting intervention for the 99 percent.