The return of Occupy
17 September 2012
Photo: edenpictures’, reproduced under a CC license.
Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges was one of the first people that live streamers were able to interview in the early hours of the mass actions centered on Wall Street today, celebrating a year since the occupation of Zucotti Park. His support for Occupy was consummate and his message was simple, making comparisons with the Velvet Revolution, he stated that the movement will succeed but it will not be overnight. He also pointed out how encouraging it was to see that, despite extensive ‘propaganda’ from the mainstream media, thousands of people were coming back into the streets.
The hashtags #OWS and #S17 have since been a furious stream of messages on social media from activists. At the time of writing, the actions are only six hours into what is bound to be a long day. Reportedly, over 100 people have been arrested so far, including veterans, a bishop and three disabled activists in wheelchairs. There is no doubt that the Occupy movement has been planning well in the lead up to today. The morning was devoted to affinity groups making short forays out of the crowds and closing down or occupying banks and other symbols of economic injustice before melting back into the crowds as the NYPD arrived.
By the end of the day there will no doubt be many more arrests. Police were pictured from early on stationed across the financial district with large bunches of white zip ties hanging from their belts. As I write, thousands of people have made it to one of the key locations that gave birth to the OWS movement, Bowling Green. Police have been lining up on both sides of the green and snatch squads have reportedly arrested five live streamers in the past half hour. This would suggest a retaliation that the NYPD are keen not to have publicized. Occupy Wall Street have announced that they intend to peacefully occupy Zuccotti Park by the end of the day.
Despite the fact that the mainstream media has consistently criticized the Occupy movement for not being clear about its message, it is apparent that the vast majority of ordinary people do understand what they are trying to say. Not only is the movement not fizzling out but it is sharpening its focus and diversifying its tactics.
The movement in the UK and Ireland is remarkably active. Without having to deal with the glare of the mainstream media and the pressure of running camps, Occupy activists have been spreading their influence into neighbourhoods and peoples’ lives through a plethora of avenues. As the bite of unnecessary and failing austerity measures increases, Occupy’s apparently ‘unclear’ message has become something that makes more and more sense to those who are despairing at governments that seem bent on shoring up the power of the financial institutions responsible for the financial crisis of 2008.
The next main day of action in the global Occupy and Indignados networks has been called for 13 October when there will be a day of Global Noise. It will be a worldwide cacerolazo, or saucepan march, where people are asked to come out into their neighbourhoods banging pots and pans in the same way that people did in Argentina’s uprisings against economic injustice in 2001. This tactic could be similar to Peter Finch’s legendary speech in the film Network where his newsreader character exhorted viewers to open their windows or go into the streets and shout ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!’
Occupy may not be sophisticated politically or in terms of alternative economic solutions yet but it is touching a collective raw nerve that no governments seem to be remotely close to. If enough people start banging their pots, then a political change may well follow on from what is clearly the peoples’ desire for radical and systemic change.
Jamie Kelsey-Fry is a contributing editor to New Internationalist and an activist with Occupy London.