September 17th this week marked Occupy Wall Street’s second anniversary, and as we depicted in the Occupy Network S17 newsletter, it could not be a better time to take stock of where we are at and consider where we might go from here.
Of particular note, over the past two years Occupy has evolved into a network of many loosely tied, sometimes rather autonomous, groups and projects. This includes offshoots like Occupy Our Homes, Occupy The SEC, Strike Debt, Occupy The Pipeline, Occupy Sandy, OWS Alternative Banking, the People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street, Occu-Evolve, and many more.
Allison Kilkenny analyzed this dynamic for The Nation:
The “Occupy is dead” trope is ridiculous precisely because all of the elements that led to the movement’s birth are still in place—if not worse now. The rich are richer, the corrupt live without fear of going to jail, and everyone knows institutions aren’t coming to save us.
Occupy’s spirit of resistance may be scattered, but it can never die. Not as long as a sense of injustice lives.
I was invigorated to see this spirit lived out once again at the S17 rallies this year, and was especially encouraged to find that regular members of the 99% still clearly relish chanting explicitly Occupy clarion calls like “We are the 99%” and “the banks got bailed out – we got sold out!”
Charles Blow of the New York Times wrote about this state of affairs in his piece Occupy Wall Street Legacy, emphasizing the power of the 99% frame and greater narrative about inequality:
The rich have recovered, but the rest still struggle. This cannot long stand.
So, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which many dismissed as the wails of the young and disaffected without clear objectives, clear leaders or a clear political agenda, may, in the end, have a rather clear legacy: ingraining in the national conscience the idea that our extreme levels of inequality are politically untenable and morally unacceptable, and that eventually the 99 percent will demand better.
Similarly to how I addressed OWS’s Impact on the Presidential Election by changing how our culture views class, Blow took the inequality-based themes inherent to NYC Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s success as evidence that there must really be something to the Occupy idea.
For that matter, Brigid Bergin of WNYC asserts that ‘Occupy Winds’ Lift de Blasio:
Bill de Blasio called it “a tale of two cities” — not “Occupy Wall Street.” But the fierce anti-inequality sentiment that provoked mass protests two years ago Tuesday is giving his campaign for mayor a huge boost. And, that’s fine with de Blasio…When asked whether he saw any similarities between his tale of two cities and the Occupy movement, de Blasio said, “obviously.”
“It’s a complicated movement to say the least, but the core message was that we have to address inequality and I think it was an important message,” said de Blasio at press conference at City Hall.
De Blasio repeated this point by tweeting:
@deBlasioNYC: 2 years ago #OWS helped start a conversation about this city’s inequalities. Today we keep fighting to end this #TaleofTwoCities.
This does not come without context. Rather, this constructive attitude harkens back to when the occupied Zuccotti Park was at its zenith.
@Occupy_Network: Watch: @BilldeBlasio honors & defends #OWS before the eviction http://supervoters.org/candidate/33337/corporate-power/#5793 As Mayor, would he “find a peaceful way forward” #p2NY
Based on this background, Nathan Schneider at Waging Nonviolence looked at de Blasio’s record with Occupy in some detail, and asks whether he will make good on his offer to find a peaceful way forward with us by building spaces where OWS and government officials could communicate.
Regardless of what happens there though, de Blasio’s ascension is still a new and powerful example of Occupy’s ongoing impact, coming despite the fact that Occupy has stayed resolutely disengaged from the electoral sphere.
And taking a step back — S17 last year was most valuable as a harbinger of energy culminating in the launching of a litany of new offshoots.
The movement is in a very different place this year, that’s for sure. But given the increasing body of evidence displaying the raw power of our ideas, there is absolutely cause to hope for new possibilities to soon be presenting themselves once again.