Opinion: From Occupying a Park to Occupying Debate

Friday, December 02, 2011 - 04:57 PM

More than two weeks have passed since Occupy Wall Street's flagship encampment was cleared from Zuccotti Park.  Part of me misses the 24-hour spectacle of signs, songs, debates, tarps and kitchen queues.  Through the fall, I planned my schedule to include visits to lower Manhattan, knowing I would always find something of interest in that city park that captured the world's imagination.  Now, a visit to Zuccotti involves barricades, unwelcoming security guards and overly zealous maintenance staff ensuring you can't get comfortable -- much less radical -- in the once-public sphere.

But the movement didn't vanish with the tents.  Rather it traded in the sense of place for a sense of boundlessness, and those same weeks have felt like a transformation from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Everywhere.

The change in New York allowed focus to shift elsewhere around the country.  The activities in Oakland, Los Angeles and Philadelphia gained more attention, in part, because they weren't sharing the headlines with New York.  They showed that this movement has countless leaders and takes many forms, and that there is no one place where authorities can unplug it.  The shift from camps to campuses signaled a new front, as UC Davis and Baruch College became central battlegrounds, and students everywhere began organizing against corporate recruiters and the college debt racket.

Furthermore, OWS always had more supporters than occupiers, more people who were awakened than who actually camped out.  Those people are now finding an increasing number of actions in the spirit of Occupy that don't involve sleeping bags and general assemblies.  In Iowa, progressives are launching Occupy The Caucus (, a week of activities leading up to the first GOP contest that will call attention to the influence of corporate power on our society.  In New York, the Knock the 99% canvass is pushing for the Millionaires Tax.  Next week in Washington, actions around a fair and just economy are feeding off the Occupy energy while not being tethered to encampments.

Even GOP thought-leader Frank Luntz has warned Republicans that the public has caught Occupy fever, a sign that while we may no longer Occupy Zuccotti, we are continuing to Occupy the Debate.

Just before the NYPD raid, the Adbusters team that sparked OWS had suggested it was time the movement take a new form.  The evolution is underway.  I may miss the constant political block party downtown, but this important critique of corporate-controlled politics is still occupying the headlines…and may Occupy the Ballot before another year is out.

Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."


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Comments [5]

eatthinkhappy from New York

The Occupy movement started out with good intentions (overall) but seems to have become more of a communist, anti both good and bad group. However, the complaints it originally had were certainly valid. Neither of the two party candidates have done anything to address poverty, middle class concerns, low wages, illegal surveillance, or the destruction of our civil liberties. Consider Govenor Gary Johnson, a real third party alternative that will be on the ballot in all fifty states. Even if he doesn't win the more votes he gets this time equals more funding for the next presidential election. He is truly pro-America, pro-civil-liberties, pro marriage equality, and pro all the right stuff!

Aug. 30 2012 07:02 PM
Ron Callari from New York

Songwriter bwaySteve's song "99 Percenter" recently interviewed by CBS News combines the angst of the past with the present - a unique perspective from the lens of a 60s protester...

Dec. 03 2011 02:15 PM
Just a thought..

Like the movement itself, this commentary seems to be occupying an alternative universe. After earning a criminal rap sheet a mile long, liberal democrat officials in liberal cities took action. The half baked movement pathetically declared victory and fled with its tail between its legs. Progressives in Congress praised them while progressive mayors who have a city to run appeased them as long as they could but the complaints from the other 99 percent could not be ignored forever.

What is interesting is how inside a year the talking point from progressives went from calls for civility to calls for outrage.

Dec. 03 2011 12:34 PM
shaunie from la

a distraction from what? everyone's been distracted thats the point!

Dec. 03 2011 04:40 AM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

I'm no fan of the Occupy movement, but if it wants to grow into something that has a big impact, it's good that it is moving away from focusing so much of it's energy on the actual occupation of parks. It was a big distraction.

Dec. 02 2011 07:03 PM

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