In early 2011, in response to austerity measures, protesters occupied the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a localized struggle, but it gained traction on the popular imagination out of all proportion to its size. This clearly indicated that something big was coming, and some of us even brainstormed about how to prepare for it—but all the same, the nationwide wave of Occupy a few months later caught us flat-footed.
From last Tuesday, Parliament Square was wrapped in wire mesh. In one of the more surreal scenes in recent British political history, officers with trained German shepherds stand sentinel each day, at calculated distances across the lawn, surrounded by a giant box of fences, three metres high – all to ensure that no citizen enters to illegally practice democracy. Yet few major news outlets feel this is much of a story.
Nearly two years ago a group named Occupy Sandy organized an unprecedented response to the unprecedented disaster that was Hurricane Sandy. Occupy Sandy, which was sparked by a few radical activists who knew each other from Occupy Wall Street, accomplished very significant feats for any organization, let alone one that was created ad-hoc and spontaneously in the days immediately following a disaster. Occupy Sandy (OS) dispatched tens of thousands of hot meals, more than 60,000 volunteers and was in the hardest hit areas of New York City, often times before the Red Cross or FEMA arrived and after they left. The efforts of Occupy Sandy signify a qualitatively and quantitatively impressive achievement for the radical political activist community in New York City and the surrounding area and for the “Occupy” social movement more widely. This novel achievement can be an instructive reference for organizers and movement builders of all stripes.
This past spring, Cecily McMillan rode a bus across a bridge to Rikers Island, home of the notorious New York City jail. When the Occupy Wall Street activist was released nearly two months later, she had left her old self behind.
Ever since I wrote a book about Occupy Wall Street, I’ve often found myself being asked, “What happened to Occupy, anyway?” Now, more than two years since the movement faded from the headlines and in the wake of French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-selling diagnosis of economic inequality, the urgency of the question is mounting, not diminishing. The answer is also becoming clearer: The networks of activists that formed in the midst of 2011’s worldwide wave of protest are developing into efforts to create durable economic and political experiments. Rather than focusing on opposing an unjust system, they’re testing ways to replace it with something new.
In 1963, in the British journal Anarchy, a short debate took place on the relationship between anarchist forms of organization and organizational cybernetics. Organizational cybernetics, for those unfamiliar with the term, is often defined as the science of communication and control in organic, mechanical and social systems. While the term might suggest images of high technology and even cyborgs, etymologically it is derived from the Ancient Greek word κυβερνήτης (kyvernítis, or kybernetes), which means ‘steersman’ or ‘pilot’, and referred to the steering of a ship.
In any case, calls for One Big Movement, united around a simple common platform with the broadest possible appeal, are fundamentally wrong-headed. This is essentially the same argument that the old establishment Left — some of whom proudly call themselves “verticalists” — have made against the horizontalist direction the Occupy movement has taken.
Occupy Wall Street demonstrator Cecily McMillan has become collateral damage of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's relentless policing of the group and its protests. And the grotesque unfairness could continue on Monday when the 25-year-old faces a sentence of up to 7 years in prison in a case that also underscores a blow to the right of dissent.
In my Public Eye article “The Right Hand of Occupy Wall Street,” I detail many of the issues related to right-wing and conspiracy theorist participation in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement—including the false attempts by the mainstream right-wing media to “smear” all of Occupy as antisemitic.1 I also show how genuine Far Right—as well as conspiracy and right-libertarian—elements were drawn to Occupy by its critique of finance capital, welcoming of everyone, ambiguous categories (such as “the 99%” and “the 1%”), and use of franchise activism. Partly because of the original “smear,” many progressive activists simply refused to acknowledge the presence and extent of right-wing involvement in Occupy.
A cop who was elbowed in the eye by an Occupy Wall Street activist in 2012 repeatedly cited the wrong eye when testifying in front of a Manhattan grand jury, it was revealed Friday. On cross-examination, defense attorney Martin Stolar read from minutes that revealed the cop, Grantley Bovell, previously said multiple times under oath that the wrong eye was injured. Bovell could not answer why he spoke about an injury to his right eye, rather than his left.
On Friday, the trial of Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan began, more than two years after she's accused of assaulting NYPD officer Grantley Bovell during a March 17, 2012 demonstration at Zuccotti Park. Jury selection took the better part of a week, as both sides had difficulty finding jurors who didn't have opinions about the Occupy movement. Testimony began late Friday; this morning, court was almost immediately interrupted when supporters of McMillan entered the courtroom wearing pink paper hearts on their lapels. After the hearts were confiscated by court security, Officer Bovell finally took the stand for the first part of his testimony, telling the jury that McMillan deliberately elbowed him in the face as he was trying to escort her from the park.
A federal judge has ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to give her a better explanation for its refusal to turn over information to a student researching an alleged plot to assassinate “Occupy” protest leaders in Houston.
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.