I don’t speak for everyone in the Occupation movement, however, I live with and am friends with people who are a part of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston movements. I have also been involved with the Boston branch of this protest.
It’s a complicated movement, and I have many thoughts about it. I thought I’d share my insights with you all [author’s note: this was originally an email to my family] since my uncle asked for someone in the US to comment on it and I think there’s a lot that could be cleared up about what it is and what it isn’t. This is by no means comprehensive.
What the Occupy movement is:
The occupation is comprised of people who are frustrated with the status quo: capitalism, corporate greed, corporate interests and money running the country, ineffective progressive politicians, the wars and war industry, the fact that college graduates (like myself) are often faced with meager job opportunities.
For example: in order to pay rent, pay off my loans and put food on my table — with no financial help from either parent — I work three jobs. All are part-time, because no one is willing to hire me full-time. Two are temporary. I do not know, month to month, whether two of my jobs will continue or not. This is what I face as a graduate from a well-known liberal arts college. Most of my friends have either gone straight into graduate school (racking up more debt), are unemployed and living at home, or barely scraping by, living on next to nothing.
For the above reasons this movement might appear to be a youth movement, but it is not that simple: veterans for peace, and others of all ages and backgrounds have joined. This movement is attempting to be non-hierarchical; there is direct democracy, consent-based decision-making and anti-oppression training going on at the camps (i.e. people working together to reject racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, etc).
This movement is about creating community and making people realize that they’re not alone. We are the 99%, after all.
Fun fact: I’ve been to both the Occupy Boston and Occupy Philadelphia campsites. I’ve heard from the trenches of Occupy Wall Street. At each camp there is a library, a medical tent, different tents dedicated to different faiths (I saw a sukkah at Occupy Philly), art, comedy, workshops, homeless people, students, families, the list goes on. It’s amazing.
What the Occupy movement isn’t:
Chaotic. Sure, the occupy movement does not seem cohesive. Many protests start with a specific goal (for example: returning funding to Planned Parenthood) and the narrowness of that goal attracts maybe dozens or a hundred people who care about that goal. Here we see no goal attracting thousands and tens of thousands of people.
But what does the movement expect to change if it doesn’t have a goal?
That is something that I find personally frustrating, to be sure. But I have come to appreciate that an unspoken goal of the movement is this: to get a voice. To show others that we (the people) have a voice. The movement has so far been highly successful in this goal.
I recently walked down the street in Harvard Square holding a sign my friend wanted to bring to a march. Six or seven different people (of different ages, races, genders) approached me and asked me about Occupy Boston, about the Noam Chomsky lecture, about my views. They shared with me their views. I walk in Harvard Square all the time and have never been approached by anyone. This movement is opening up dialogue among strangers. That’s a beautiful thing.
What do I think, really?
This movement is powerful and it is absolutely crippled by lack of focus, leverage. It’s a contradiction. It’s necessary and it’s the first step of many. Better to support those who are in it, rather than tear them down with judgment, misunderstanding and condescension.
In the fullness of time, I expect the solidarity, community and dialogue that has been sparked by Occupy Wall Street to be called upon by future protests, organizing efforts and policy-making. What is happening now is bigger than a couple dozen tents.
Addendum:Thoughts on police:
The Occupy movement has been peaceful. Yet there have been 2500 arrests (unlawful, for the most part) made in the month that the Occupation movement has been ongoing. We need to look around us and realize the truth: it is illegal to peacefully protest in the United States. The powers that be (all corporations, most government officials, some of the rich) want us to shut up and go away – at the expense of our first amendment rights.
I’ve attached some video links below – they are potentially disturbing but they are of the Oakland police last night in response to the Oakland occupation movement. This is the America we live in today.
(2:00 min in is where he addresses the Occupy Wall Street movement)
Barbara Ehrenreich on homelessness and the Occupation movement