Mainstream media often reports that the NYC Occupy movement mostly involved affluent whites, lacked purpose, and simply faded away after NYPD’s violent raid on Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti Park). But the new study, “Occupy’s Precarious Pluralism,” provides evidence complicating received media wisdom about what we fought for in New York City, who gathered behind those purposes, and the scale of our organizing across the months after the repression of Liberty Square.
Among the findings:
- Months after the NYPD eviction from Zuccotti Park, NY Occupy activists conducted over 120 political projects allying hundreds of organizations – even as media coverage of the movement declined.
- NY Movement Most Often Sought to Expand Public Communication, But Low and Middle Income Allies More Often Fought For Basic Rights and Subsistence
- The study found Occupy organizing in NYC enabled a pluralistic network of alliances connecting over 200 non-profits, emerging grassroots groups, religious organizations, and incorporated businesses with over 120 Occupy groups. Occupy united allies across social divisions based in identity, professional and non-professional status, and racial and economic background.
- Producing spaces for public political communication may have been the most common purpose pursued by Occupy activists.
- 5 times as many projects sought to reform existing systems than to create alternate systems and less than 2% of projects sought to create or revive deliberative assemblies such as the New York City General Assembly.
The movement was more far reaching than previously documented or as suggested by declining levels of press coverage in 2012. The fact is, the NYC Occupy movement connected people taking political action for the first time to a highly diverse and active network crossing social divisions maintained by ruling elites – even as press coverage declined.
However, competition over movement purposes may have developed along lines of established social privilege/exclusion. According to the report, “Projects seeking to create spaces of communication and wage issue campaigns for healthcare and financial reform tended to emerge from alliances of wealthier, whiter, professional identified partners.” In contrast, partners from communities of color and low-income struggled for human rights, subsistence issues, and against foreclosures. Mass protests, the study reports, may have emerged from alliances of white, mixed, and non-white low and middle income communities but with little participation from upper-income or professional partners.
The study recommends Occupy activists should rally behind poor people’s struggles against the common opponents of the poor and the relatively affluent: banks, corporations, corrupt officials, oppressive police systems, and the 1%. If recognized through poverty and mass incarceration, the injustice of the ruling order demands more than a fight for improved financial regulation.
The study itself fulfills a long term goal of The NYC Occupy Project List to address concerns many of us share about how our efforts impacted power relations and to share knowledge about the democratic basis of our network. Activists participating on the Project List gathered the data used in this study and enjoyed the support and authorization of the OWS TechOps and InfoHub working groups.
Check out the story on The OWS TechOps Blog
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