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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Update (11:10 a.m. EST): Police arrested protesters who sat on the ground and blocked traffic into New York City’s financial district on Thursday, part of a day of mass gatherings in response to efforts to break up Occupy Wall Street camps nationwide.

Occupy Wall Street and allies plan to march on the New York Stock Exchange and rally across America on Thursday, attempting to return the national conversation to their message of economic inequality and corporate power, even if the movement’s disorganization means the violence and chaos of the past two weeks and internal attempts at self-policing will remain in the spotlight.

Beginning early in the morning, protesters, who have resumed rallying throughout the day and evening (but not overnight) at their flagship Zuccotti Park, will celebrate the movement’s two-month anniversary. But the increasingly combative approach of local governments, arresting hundreds and seizing property, means a combative minority of activists could use the opportunity to again muddle the message.

“We’re talking about resisting and reversing profound processes of the creation of oligarchy and demobilization of opposition going on for decades,” said Todd Gitlin, a professor at Columbia and leader of Students for a Democratic Society starting early in the ’60s. “You’ve got to do more than get people angry at some cops.”

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s tumult, when the permanent encampment at Zuccotti was destroyed, it has come out that the New York City mayor’s office repeatedly attempted to engage in dialogue with the protesters leading up to the eviction, only to find that because the movement claims to be leaderless (this is false: It is led by the “Spokes” Council), that such discussions were impossible.

As protester Hans Shan told The New York Times, “The mayor’s office had made it very clear that they were hoping to talk with Occupy Wall Street to negotiate and have people to speak with. But there was no one empowered in any process in Occupy Wall Street to engage in that dialogue.”

And this lack of empowered leaders speaks to another problem: Those who would damage the movement’s reputation — like a minority of Sept. 11 “truthers,” people who believe the terrorist attacks of 2001 on New York were an inside job — cannot be stopped.

“If they can’t even get some people to stop beating drums, which I understand they couldn’t, then they have trouble,” Gitlin said of the movement’s self-policing problems.

Despite the risks associated with jumping on board an organization that has resisted setting guidelines for its membership and has all the attributes to spark a new culture war, the American labor movement has gone all in, adopting the “99 percent” rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street.

“The Infrastructure Investment Day of Action is part of the ‘America Wants to Work’ campaign, which not only calls for investment in infrastructure, but also the extension of unemployment benefits, the revival of U.S. manufacturing, an end to the export of good jobs and Wall Street reform, among other policies to create jobs and restore the economy,” reads an AFL-CIO press release. “November 17th is also a national mobilization day around the many issues affecting the 99 percent.”

It seems apparent, though, that even if a symbolic home was lost on Tuesday, excessive police force keeps breathing new life in what was probably a faltering cause.

“There was a period in the late 1960s where the way to radicalize people was to put them in a position where the police were likely to crack their heads, and that happened to some degree,” added Gitlin. “You electrify them and horrify them.”

Though it retains strong appeal to the left, “Occupy” continues to struggle with the conflict between the utopian ideal of an open, wholly democratic movement and the reality of a fringe, even criminal element that will pray upon such good intentions.

“We took care of quite a few homeless people attracted to the [free] food,” said Nikita, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press team. “I think we have very good boundaries, and we learned very quickly to deal with a whole array of social ills thrust on us.”

Then there’s the views of voters, who initially seemed supportive of the cause but are starting to sour on it:

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not wearing well with voters across the country. Only 33% now say that they are supportive of its goals, compared to 45% who say they oppose them. That represents an 11 point shift in the wrong direction for the movement’s support compared to a month ago when 35% of voters said they supported it and 36% were opposed. Most notably independents have gone from supporting Occupy Wall Street’s goals 39/34, to opposing them 34/42.

Retaining broad popular support, however, is not necessarily essential for a social movement to be successful.

“A movement is not a popularity contest, although it’s very nice to do well in the polls,” Gitlin argued. “A movement is a social phenomenon in which lots of people with very different positions feel a connection to the overall entity and feel that there’s something for them to do in it, ranging from occupying a park to writing a letter to your congressman.”


Follow Political Correspondent Matt Taylor on Twitter @matthewt_ny

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  • RonMidgett

    The OWS movement does need to develop a council to speak for the movement and clearly articulate the goals. However, to be truly effective, the movement needs to work towards electing members to public office just as the Tea Party has done. Change in the policies of government are easier to do from within than from without. A point that Mario Savio made some years ago at UC Riverside.

    The “1%” have spent years gutting financial regulation. As a result of their efforts, we have had a number of financial collapses over the last 30 or so years…all bailed out by taxpayers (“the 99%”). Pension funds have been ravished by these, in some cases fraudulent investments. The money lost could have been invested in industries and projects that would have actually resulted in a positive return on investment.

  • dpaano

    It’s easy to say that the Occupy Wall Street movement needs to find a candidate to back….without the BIG money that comes from the corporations that OWS are against, they have NO chance of vetting a candidate to run against the GOP and the Democratic Parties. And, if they do find an independent candidate….those votes will be take away from either the Democratic candidate OR the Republican candidate (heaven forbid) and it’ll be another Ralph Nader moment. I do agree that the OWS does have to set up a committee that oversees the movement in ALL states and is the spokesman/woman for the group. Without a viable leadership…nothing will ever be accomplished and the OWS movement will continue to attract criminal elements to it’s gatherings.

  • Peter

    With limited time and resources before the next major election, what OWS supporters should concentrate on is developing a pledge document similar to Grover Norquist’s that would clearly and simply outline their specific requirements for cleaning up our crooked system of government. For example, I would be inclined to favor a candidate who pledges to never “revolve” out of their role as an elected offical to feed on any corporate feed-bag as a lobbyist, advisor or “historian”.

  • rj.madness

    the feds know we are telling the truth, the shooting has started. take the NAZI’S DOWN.

  • DAlnB

    The article says polls show the majority of voters are now opposing the OWS movement: I would say that may be the result of some polls but like most it may have slanted data, poorly developed questions, and selected content. A poll early this week in Reno Nevada ( showed a 3 to 1 support for the OWS movement. Based on the questions though there was very little movement in response; 100% for, never liked it at all, no opinion! Such polls fail to gather useable data. Although I agree most people DO SUPPORT the movement few support it 100%.

    The majority of people support the need for the voicing of America’s problems and there seems to be no means of doing so and no one who is willing to listen. It takes events like OWS to get any attention. The Tea Party movement is supported with huge amounts of money, most coming from GOP supporters who continue to support wealthy Americans at the cost of the average working American. They have bought numerous members into Congress and the Senate and continue to influence actions that are in conflict with the OWS and America’s best interests. They influence by money, a resource the OWS people do not have.

    In spite of the Americans support for the OWS the huge majority of supporters DO NOT support violence from OWS or government. They do not support radical Television commentaries suggesting out-of-control crowds and suggesting massive criminal acts and arrests. The White House Shooter was immediately tagged as a part of the OWS movement and radical FOX news talk show hosts have created an atmosphere of disdain enflaming followers of FOX to create problems that may be alleged as an OWS problem.

    The OWS movement needs to be recognized as a valid means of communicating the nations weariness over the preferences given huge corporations including Wall Street, GE, and dozens of other corporations that pay little or no tax, the wealthy who many pay less than the average American Worker, the obvious widening gap between the wealthy and the poor; a gap that in the past 10 years has become almost as wide as the nation itself, and Congress’s passive efforts in getting Job Development actions and Fix America actions passed! Those supporting OWS will cheer the movement on as long as it remains, peaceful, complies with laws, and reasonable!

  • roadrunner45

    Why don’t the OWS meaning the 99% elect a leader a person that understands what the 99% percent want’s and need someone who can negotiate decide and where to hold rallies.Right now I myself a 99% because I believe in the movement we are flying blind and taking guesses where the rallie should be and then we act on it sure we like to have a peaceful rally and yes we are mad and pissed off but I think it’s the best way to elect a person who understands what we need and stay the course but a person wgo is strong and won’t be bought or swayed by the 1% or the republican and democratic party in the white house.

  • Blue Indy

    ROADRUNNER: You hit the nail smack on the head. How in the Hell do you choose a leader within EITHER party of bought and sold [email protected] of Capitalist greed? I was one of the 99% before anybody ever heard of them.

    We have to stay in the streets no matter how bad it gets, or the Fascist Reich Wing will destroy this country in the name of saving it. But HERE is a suggestion I have often made; think about it: What we need in this country is a TRUE Socialist movement. What they, (the wealthy, the corporations, etc)REALLY need to see are the RED BANNERS FLYING.

    And a STRONG Socialist Party needs to form, a REAL threat to the established order, that can put up its OWN candidate. Also, understand THIS: The Socialists do NOT HAVE TO WIN. They just have to be perceived as a real threat.

    Trust me. No other message will be louder or clearer than that. They will hear it from the top CEO’s office on Wall Street, to the President’s office, to the lowest rung of the Podunk police department. It will scare the devil out of them. In such revolutions, the Socialists have a long habit of WINNING, and the powers that be know that.

    Scare them. FLY THE RED BANNERS.

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