I am often asked, usually in a pejorative tone, “What has Occupy even accomplished?” As a sociologist though, these questions make me wonder “How do occupiers accomplish anything? How are projects made? How are they spread? Under what conditions are they successful? What do failed projects have in common?”
It was a cold night in late January 2012. The New York subway doors opened and a tall, dark-haired, 30-ish young man dressed entirely in black—leather jacket, jeans, and boots—stepped into the car. Hanging from his backpack were an orange plastic bullhorn and a small drum; tied on top was a thin sleeping mat.
It was two years ago when members of activist group Occupy Everywhere, as well as other groups of protestors, overtook the abandoned Yates Motor Company building at 419 W. Franklin St. Today the building still sits empty on Franklin Street — a point of contention to many of the protestors. According to a memorandum Police Chief Chris Blue sent to Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil in February 2012, there were approximately 65 to 75 protestors in and around the building the night of the incident on Nov. 13, 2011. In the memo, Blue said protestors were planning to hold down the building indefinitely.
In order to fill the vacuum, Occupy Wall Street activists quickly mobilized on the ground. At one point, Michael Premo, one of the volunteers, estimated the recovery effort included 2,500 volunteers, 15,000 meals and 120 carloads of supplies sent to recovery sites.
Wojciech Braszczok is a Detective (for now) in the exclusive NYPD Intelligence Division & Counter-Terrorism Bureau, who worked undercover gathering intelligence and keeping tabs on Occupy Wall Street and related protest movements. Within Occupy he went by the name “Albert” or simply “Al.” He was a regular though somewhat quiet presence at OWS meeting and marches, as well as the Occupy Sandy mutual aid relief effort response to Super Storm Sandy last October.
Nathan, you write in the beginning of the book, you say for nearly two months in the fall of 2011 a square block of granite and honey locust trees in New York’s Financial District, right between Wall Street and the World Trade Center, became a canvas for the image of another world. Two years later how has that canvas been preserved and what are some of the activities that the Occupiers are now involved with?
I’d like to propose a toast to Occupy Wall Street, which celebrated its second birthday this September 17 with protests, marches, puppet shows and ballet lessons atop the Financial District’s iconic Charging Bull.
While economists are celebrating a tenuous recovery five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, this week’s U.S. Census Bureau report on poverty provided a sobering statistic: 15 percent of Americans are poor, a number that has remained the same since last year. It seems recovery is for the rich; the well-being of poor Americans does not enter into the equation of how we measure national wealth.
“After the Crest II”, a recent article about Occupy Oakland, is framed as an objective historical “analysis”. It narrates a specific series of events that were momentous and emotional for some people, and that were followed by “a process of grief” lasting 1 1/2 years. For us, this is a highly biased and emotionally inflected account that does not represent our experience. For the authors of ATCII, there is one narrative, one set of wonderful things, one set of bad things, one sorry state of post-movement mourning. No doubt anyone who tries to tell the story of Occupy Oakland will have their own version that others will contest.
Two years after the original occupation of Zuccotti Park on September 17, many things remain unchanged. Wall Street hedge funds and banks continue to siphon money out of our economy, the 1% has seized still more of our society's wealth, and our public places have not become permanent festivals of direct democracy.
"We should reoccupy [Zuccotti] and say we're celebrating Sukkot," tweeted activist and musician Nathan Leigh, a year ago, as a few thousand took to the streets in Lower Manhattan to mark the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. He'd sarcastically hash-tagged his suggestion #badideas. When asked about it, he explained, "It was a joke with a kernel of truth to it. I'm Jewish, and was thinking about the observance of Sukkot and how it's a context in which it's totally legal (or at least permissible) in New York and other cities to occupy a tent in a public space."
It only took one year and nine months to arrange, but next week I’ll finally have a chance to fight the criminal charges L.A. filed against me for reporting on the city’s violent paramilitary crackdown on OccupyLA.
Watching the heart wrenching scenes of resistance, repression, and mass rebellion in both Turkey and Brazil this month is a bittersweet, and in some ways shameful, experience. For an American, it can only bring to mind the Occupy moment of two years ago - the moment that was torn away from us, and that we failed to muster any similar courage to defend. In Turkey, a comfortable and industrialized country like our own, the protesters’ winning efforts have ranged from sit-ins, to street fighting, to blissfully daring tactics like commandeering mechanical diggers to overpower police vehicles.1 This is the epitome of a diversity of tactics that goes beyond dogmatic nonviolence.
“Did the FBI ignore, or even abet, a plot to assassinate Occupy Houston leaders?” asks investigative reporter Dave Lindorff at WhoWhatWhy. “What did the Feds know? Whom did they warn? And what did the Houston Police know?”
I feel obliged to let you know about the ongoing clash in Turkey, between the state and the protestors who were peacefully protesting until the police attacked them. The situation is getting worse and the Turkish media is not covering ANY incidents related to the events. Even we can retrieve information via foreign media. Currently, there are major protests all around the country.
On May 20, 2013, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy released the results of a year-long investigation: "Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.” The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how state/regional "fusion center" personnel monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.