Can The Occupy Movement Survive the Winter?
1 year ago
Updates from Remaining #OWS Outposts Across the Country
When Occupy Wall Street kicked off on September 17th in lower Manhattan, few expected that it would spread with such rapidity and intensity. But it did just that, especially after the now infamous Deputy Inspector, Anthony Bologna, pepper-sprayed a group of kettled female protesters on a NYC sidewalk.
Loop 21 was one of the first media outlets to report that Occupy was spreading across the nation. Shortly thereafter, the movement took on a global dimension. There are Occupy groups in countless countries – South Korea, Brazil, Nigeria, Argentina, France, and even at the recent World Economic Summit in Davos. In short, there are now Occupy groups on every continent, including Antarctica. The movement’s critique of increased economic inequality and perceived political and financial control by the 1% has become increasingly popular. Even politicians in the U.S. (both Democrats and Republicans) have turned to the rhetoric in order to appeal to voters.
While it has spread globally, it may appear to the general public, here in the U.S., that Occupy’s presence in New York City – where it all began – is on the wane. After all, Occupiers were ousted from Zuccotti Park, where they had created a highly elaborate campsite that many area residents viewed as a tent city by the time New York's Mayor Bloomberg ordered the ousting.
After the November 15, 2011 clearing of Zuccotti Park many wondered if the movement would lose steam. While it may appear that activities have either ceased or been significantly muted since late fall, upon closer investigation, the movement is still quite strong. For instance, the New York General Assembly has an active website with over 100 working groups focused on issues ranging from student loan debt to the environment, political elections, and so forth. It is here that groups are able to coordinate meetings and map out future protest plans.
In an email interview, Johanna Clearfield, who is an Occupier and belongs to several groups, pointed out the success of “Occupy The Town Square.”
Occupy The Town Square, Clearfield explained, “have been and are continuing to hold ‘pop-up’ town squares -- modeled on Zuccotti's ‘community’ layout. Zuccotti Park included: a people's library, an area for exercise classes (these were taught in the morning - yoga and meditation), a medic tent, the kitchen which served healthy meals twice a day, a clothing donation area, an information desk, areas for working groups to meet, and the requisite ‘general assembly’ which was held each day and all-inclusive. The GA planned activities, talked through issues and set the agenda for OWS.”
Clearfield added, “these pop-up town squares include all of that but, because of the heavy police presence in NYC -- and elsewhere -- they are constructing these Zuccotti Parks on a one-day basis.”
So the Town Square pops up, and is then taken down at the end of the day. The first one took place at Washington Square Park, and Clearfield estimates that over a thousand people showed up to that event.
While Occupiers in New York have come up with creative ways to continue meeting and spreading the word about the movement, there are other cities that still have encampments. The online publication, Fire Dog Lake, has a list of current encampments (it was last updated on January 23rd, so the log is not entirely accurate). For instance, at the time of writing this article on February 6th, 2012, Occupy Austin was still listed as having a physical camp. However, that is no longer the case. Just like other Occupations that have been evicted over the past few months, Occupy Austin was abruptly ousted on February 4th. Individuals were arrested, but there are currently no official numbers. Who they arrested is notable. For starters, the official livestreamer for Occupy Austin was one of the first to be detained. Shortly thereafter, Debbie Russell, who is a legal observer for the group and a volunteer for the ACLU, was taken into custody.
In a telephone interview the day after the eviction, Kit O’Connell, who is part of Occupy Austin, discussed the events that night. O’Connell, 33, describes himself as the group’s “twitter magnet.” Like the majority of Occupiers, he does not claim to be a leader, but he does play a significant role in helping the twitter team. O’Connell was not arrested on Saturday evening, so was able to give a full account of what happened after the group received an eviction notice at 9:45 PM.
“After a full day of pretty tiring actions, we all kind of headed home ... the ones who weren’t going to stay the night there. And the people who stayed, they bedded down. It was 9:45 PM when we got it. We were told that we had to be out by 10:30,” he said.