October snow falls on OWS camp. Photo credit: David Shankbone, http://flic.kr/p/aA474V
Here’s a headline we haven’t seen for a few months: Occupy Wall Street protestors have clashed with police in New York’s Zuccotti Park. The site was home to an anti-corporate-greed and pro-equality camp set up on 17 September 2011 that sparked a wave of similar protests across the US and Europe, including Occupy London Stock Exchange. Police moved in to dismantle the camp in November 2011.
Occupy activists returned to Zuccotti Park on St Patrick’s Day to mark the six-month anniversary of the movement, after a day of street theater and marches. According to Reuters, the New York Police Department had said they would not take any action so long as protestors did not attempt to set up camp. But as tents were unfurled, officers moved in, leading to 73 arrests. Accusations flew on both sides: some protestors have reported instances of police brutality; and the police are investigating a tweet apparently calling on Occupy protestors to “kill a cop”, said The Daily Mail.
After a surge of news coverage in 2011, Occupy has largely disappeared from mainstream media, with some commentators claiming the movement has lost momentum. So will the latest protest bring Occupy back into the spotlight?
Ed Needham, a member of Occupy’s press team, told Reuters that the police reaction was good news for the movement: “Every time they use violence to put us down, it only increases the number of people that are empathetic to the cause. It adds fuel to the fire and draws attention to the movement.”
What’s next? “Right now, Occupy has to continue as a bold, in-your-face movement—occupying banks, corporate headquarters, board meetings, campuses and Wall Street itself. We need weekly—if not daily—nonviolent assaults right on Wall Street,” wrote film-maker Michael Moore in The Nation. Moore argued that the movement needs to spread across the US, with people replicating protests on a local level, but that the beating heart of Occupy is still Wall Street. “The other Occupies that have sprung up around the country are in solidarity, and while they attack the tentacles and the symptoms of the beast that exist locally everywhere, the head can be chopped off only in one place—and that place is in downtown Manhattan, where this movement started and must continue,” Moore said.
To mark the six-month Occupy anniversary, The Guardian published a round-up of memorable moments, including the Oakland clashes that saw 300 protestors arrested and the Zuccotti Park eviction.
What has Occupy achieved? Occupy is in dire financial straits and has “lost steam in recent months, with media attention and donations dropping off as Occupy encampments across the country were dismantled, some by force”, pointed out an Associated Press piece in The Wall Street Journal. However, the movement has had some notable successes, not least that “the Occupy movement has influenced the national dialog about economic equality, with the word “occupy” itself becoming part of the public lexicon”. And activists are planning renewed protests for spring, including a day of “economic disruption” on 1 May 2012.
An OWS protestor allegedly suffered a seizure after being arrested by the NYPD, reported Gothamist. See below for video of the arrest.
Missing the point. Natasha Lennard argued at Salon that the New York arrests had reinvigorated the movement: “Just like the early Occupy days, police repression has galvanized further action: Solidarity marches were called by Occupy Wall Street, L.A., Oakland, Chicago, Boston and more on Sunday evening in response to the New York arrests.” According to Lennard, commentators who attempt to sum up exactly what the movement has achieved over the last six months are missing the point: “The temptation for writers is to historicize — to churn out articles, books and anthologies about ‘what really happened’ and what it all means… There is, however, no linear historical construction of the past six months that could do justice to the diffuse assemblage that is Occupy.” Lennard predicted that Occupy is far from over: “It’s just about to kick off.”