Occupy didn’t end when police cleared out most of the Occupations, but the sprawling movement became even harder to define. And mainstream media that could cover the campaigns by strolling to a local park and running tape now had a much harder time figuring out what the movement was.
Can Occupy exist without Occupations?
In fact, Occupiers continued a range of efforts to make claims about political and economic inequality, some detailed in Politics Outdoors. Some Occupiers organized runs for elective office. Occupiers in Oakland seized the City Hall and burned a flag. Activists slept out on the sidewalk on Wall Street. Occupiers challenged corporate practices and profits at annual shareholder meetings. Students protested against tuition hikes and budget cuts and called it Occupy. Activists squatted to prevent foreclosures and called it Occupy. And politicians started talking about inequality, tax justice, health care, and education—but didn’t always call it Occupy.
Although activists didn’t all agree on every claim and every tactic, they could see every effort as part of something larger, a movement that contained contradictions, to be sure, but also immense possibility.
May Day, which is Labor Day everywhere but the United States, is traditionally a day to demonstrate the strength and solidarity of organized labor. (It’s also a chance to dance around a May pole–but that’s another colorful story.)
Activists have worked to organize post-Occupation events for the last several months, building to something bigger and collective starting on May Day (tomorrow). Unsurprisingly, mainstream media have published numerous scene setters or updates on Occupy.
Here’s Sanden Totten at KPCC.
Here’s Brian Montopoli at CBS News.
Jennifer Schuessler at the New York Times spotlights academics studying Occupy.
Meanwhile, organized through phone conferences and online forums, Occupiers are planning all kinds of things all over the country. Occupy Wall Street has published a May Day directory reporting on general strikes planned in 135 cities. As Occupy moves to define itself less by a tactic and more by a set of goals, its politics become sharper. In Los Angeles, for example, there will be separate, but sympathetic protests, on behalf of organized labor, immigrants rights, and Occupy more generally.
Occupy Together summarizes much of the action and offers smaller-scale suggestions at the same time:
If you are inspired by the day of action but don’t live near any organized events you can still take part. If you can’t strike, take the first step. We can work to shift the balance of power back into the hands of the people little by little in our everyday lives.
Here are some examples to get you thinking:
- Move Your Money: If you haven’t already, May Day is as good as any to move your money out of a national, corporate bank into a local bank or credit union. Support your local community and break up the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that threaten our economic system. Learn more about moving your money here: www.moveyourmoneyproject.org
- Have a Potluck: Share a meal with others and and talk about subsidized agriculture and factory farming or make a meal with friends to serve to local homeless people a la Food Not Bombs.
- Start a Personal/Community Garden: On May Day, start or pledge to start a personal or community garden. Growing our own food means independence from corporate farms. This is one more way to take your self out of a system bent on keeping us complacent.
- Have a Free Store/Fair: Get together and share your unwanted items with others. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You could be helping someone who was about to go out and buy a (fill in your item here) anyway.
- Ride your bike to work/carpool with friends: Ride your bike or arrange a carpool to work. When you do this you are lessening our country’s dependency on outdated, unclean energies.
- Screen a Movie: Invite your friends or neighbors over to watch a documentary. After, have a discussion about how it relates to your values or the ideas of Occupy. You can watch political documentaries online at the following links for free:
- Have a Skill Share: Give a free class to share your skills and knowledge. This could be as simple as giving a knitting demonstration or as complex as teaching someone a new language.
We have the power in our hands to change the course of our day to day realities if we are willing to participate and reach out to our neighbors and communities. In the words of Steven Biko, ”the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Big business should not be in control of us, we are the many and they are the few.
The May Day events might be dramatic; they might be disappointing. They will provide a chance for the rest of the world to remember that those making claims on behalf of the 99 percent are still out there. More important than May Day, however, is what activists carry on afterward.