Occupy Wall Street
Exactly two years and one week ago, on November 15, 2011, the movement known as Occupy Wall Street was banished from Zuccotti park amid mass arrests. This sad day was in the middle of probably the most exciting four months of my life – my first glimpse at a movement.
Occupy Wall Street began two months earlier, on September 17 with very little fan fare. In fact, I had gotten an email that a small group of people, a couple of dozen, were to stay at a park in lower Manhattan 24/7 as a protest against the tightening grip of the elite finance capitalists that run our country and much of the world. No one, its organizers included, could have imagined what was to come.
What resulted not only lasted at its peak for many strong months (and continues today at a much smaller scale outside of the eye of the media), but it was the greatest outburst of revolutionary energy that I’d ever seen first hand – an energy so strong that it was palpable in the national discourse. Occupy had effectively pointed out America’s common enemy – the group of people largely responsible for our health care woes, stagnant wages, the rising cost of education, mass foreclosures, the exponential growth of the working poor, imperialism, gentrification, a stagnant response to climate change, a disfunctional “two-party” system, wealth inequality, privatization of public education – we can go on and on.
The message resonated with the public. This small group of people grew to thousands of occupiers, including myself, in dozens upon dozens of US cities and neighborhoods, large and small. It would end up attracting many many more sympathizers than occupiers, who donated well over $500,000, and kept the movement at the front page of most national newspapers. Two or three short weeks after it started, I’d end up spending many days, and several nights at Zuccotti Park myself.
While I have criticized this movement for not being as diverse as it could have been, it was a lot more diverse than it is given credit for. Not only was there diversity of ideological persuasion, but there were advocates for Puerto Rican independence, representatives from indigenous groups, black American nationalists, religious communities, etc all pointing out a common enemy towards their progress.
I will never forget the amazing surge of creativity that was part of this young and vibrant movement – from the witty posters, to the makeshift “Peoples’ Library”, to the extravagant Halloween Parade, to the brilliant painters, sculptors, actors, fashion designers, musicians, and filmmakers that lent their skills.
Virtually no one makes the connection, but so much of the energy that eventually put stop & frisk on the chopping block and that very well may have given Bill DeBlasio the push he needed to win office was born out of the energy of the Occupy Movement. The first three ground breaking protests against stop & frisk were held while there was a physical occupation of Zuccotti Park and shortly thereafter. While the movement to end stop and frisk is a credit to Carl Dix, Cornel West, and a few others – as I wrote in September – it likely would not have been possible without the energy generated by the occupation and all of the willing participants that the movement provided.
Despite it’s near disappearance in early 2012, the Occupy Movement made its impact on the public discourse. Yes, we do use the terms 99% and 1%, but the seeds that it sowed are deeper than that. For the first time, the public was able to see a movement that called out the enemy of progress and the author of regression – the corporate and financial elite that have swallowed both parties and entire governments whole in a race to squeeze profit out of just about anything, anywhere. What people have witnessed cannot be undone, and untold thousands, like myself, were profoundly changed by what they saw.
As the crisis and contradictions of capitalism deepen, the people will be forced to stand up again. For the first time, I have an idea of what that will look like. Hopefully, next time, it will lasts a lot longer.
Assemblyman Green Video
Speaking of the broken two-party system and how the monied elite hurt us in our own communities, Jerry Green’s profanity laced election day tirade is once again online. Just click this link or scroll down the Plainfield View home page and find it in its usual place.