Zuccotti Park, home for Occupy Wall Street for two months, is completely irrelevant to the future of the Occupy movement. Now that the activists have been cleared out, we’re watching to see what the most important place will be.
In addition to Occupations across the United States, Occupy activists have been busy bringing their concerns about inequality to all sorts of other places.
Last week, in the wake of the Zuccotti Park eviction, Occupy activists staged demonstrations across the country, including a contingent that tried to reestablish the Zuccotti encampment (at right). The could
use pass the barricades and use the park, but without tents or tarps or anything that might make staying possible. But more significantly, there were marches and protests in many other places, including banks, bridges, and buildings, sometimes leading to confrontations with the police, and generating more than 200 arrests. Keeping the little park clear effectively encouraged activists to find other places to make claims, and this will help the movement.
But it’s not just the Day of Action protests. In the Republican primaries, Occupy activists have theatrically confronted Representative Michele Bachmann and Representative Ron Paul, starting their chants with a call and response, “mic check.” Rep. Bachmann left the stage, while Rep. Paul waited them out. Occupy protesters also confronted President Obama at a speech in New Hampshire, where they asked him to condemn police brutality. The President sympathized with their frustration, and turned to the economy. Just the threat of an Occupy protest led Herman Cain to cancel a campaign appearance in Iowa.
And college and university students protesting against the tuition hikes that are taking place at virtually every public institution, are framing their protests as Occupy efforts. In New York, City University students clashed with police at Baruch College, supported by a group called “Occupy Student Debt.” Some students claimed allegiance with the broader Occupy movement. California State University students protested outside a meeting where the Board of Trustees voted to raise tuition another 9 percent. Cal state students staged events at every one of the university’s 23 campuses.
And it’s happening on campuses across the United States. At the University of California, where tuition has increased dramatically over the past five years, student groups have established Occupy campaigns. At Berkeley, they tried to establish an Occupation, which police shut down with force and arrests. At Davis, campus police pepper sprayed students engaged in a sit-in. When some students refused to move from the sidewalk they were blocking, others took videos of the police. It’s hard to keep secrets anymore. The video below shows four views of the campus protest and the police reaction.
It’s obvious that the students don’t want to move, but it’s equally obvious that they aren’t resisting the police, nor posing any threat to the officers. The pepper spray came out early, and it’s hard to find anyone justifying its use—beyond Fox News. The incident has led to calls for Chancellor Linda Katehi who has, belatedly, announced that she told the police not to use force.
Rallying around the incident in Davis, Occupy protesters have called for a University of California general strike on Monday, protesting increased fees and austerity budgets. The administration and trustees can explain that state support of the University has declined dramatically, leaving spending cuts and tuition hikes as their only options. The Occupy response is that the trustees are wealthy and represent large corporate interests. (As they talk past each other, state legislators, who actually appropriate budgets and levy taxes, wipe their brows and sigh with relief.)
And that’s not all:
Occupy activists are urging Black Friday shoppers to patronize local businesses as they commence Christmas shopping, and are likely to stage flash mobs at selected malls or chain stores like Walmart.
At this point, Occupy shows no signs of going away. Rather, activists are taking elements of the message, wrapping it around their own issues, and trying to develop new tactics and approaches to advancing the movement.
By shutting down the Zuccotti Park Occupation, authorities have unleashed a broader, more diverse, and more creative movement. (Is it like attacking The Blob, and unleashing a hundred smaller Blobs?) Unconstrained by the boundaries of the park, unburdened by the exigencies of tents, tarps, and toilets, and unencumbered by consensus, Occupy is emerging as a set of local and national campaigns.