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Is This the End of Occupy Wall Street?

Posted on the 16 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Is this the end of Occupy or will the recent evictions spur protesters on?

October snow falls on OWS camp. Photo credit: David Shankbone,

Occupy Wall Street protesters have returned to Zuccotti Park – but this time without their tents. After police in riot gear moved in yesterday to clear the protest camp on the orders of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, OWS activists managed to win a temporary restraining order against the eviction. But another judge refused to extend the order, leaving protesters legally allowed to enter the park only without camping equipment. With winter on the way, what’s next for the original Occupy movement?

Starting point. Writing for The Huffington Post, Guy Horton said he suspects the eviction is “just the beginning” for Occupy. Horton was scornful of Bloomberg’s claim that the camp was shut down for health and safety reasons: “This tactic has been used throughout our history to clear undesirable people away,” he wrote.

A recent poll, carried out ahead of eviction, showed that just 30% of Americans view the Occupy movement favourably, 39% unfavourably.

Scaling back? Adbusters, the magazine that originated the Occupy movement, issued a tactical briefing before the eviction suggesting that the time may have come to scale back protest camps: “We clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum,” said the briefing. However, Adbusters said that hanging in and sleeping in the camps through the winter was another possibility.

Where next? Police also dismantled the Occupy Oakland camp on Monday, and some commentators feel other US camps could now face similar action. According to The LA Times, Occupy LA may well be next: “New York City’s action appeared to have emboldened Los Angeles, where Police Chief Charlie Beck said officials were working out a timeline to evict Occupy protesters from their camp outside City Hall.”

Rapper Jay-Z has come under fire for selling Occupy-themed clothing through his Rocawear brand. The Guardian’s Angus Batey said the move made him “depressed and a little angry”.

Ideas can’t be evicted. Writing for The Guardian’s Comment is Free, a group of OWS activists said the Occupy movement was about more than one camp and would continue: “We will reclaim our streets block by block: we will occupy our public spaces, everywhere, knowing that this idea cannot be evicted.” The group argued that the manner of the eviction was a blow to free speech and a free press: “We could see and feel that this operation had been planned carefully to exclude all media coverage, sending out a loud message about how dissent will be treated in this democracy.”

Press freedom. Indeed, John Nichols focused on the implications of the media blackout in a Nation blog, slamming the NYPD for keeping journalists from the scene, reportedly roughing up reporters who tried to get closer and grounding news helicopters. Nichols argued that this added up to an assault on press freedom, and said that a free press is essential to society: “Nothing is more necessary in a democracy than the informing of the people, not merely to assure that they can influence the direction of government but also to assure that government does not become a threat to their livelihoods, their rights, their freedoms,” he wrote.

No right to Occupy. Writing for The Daily Beast, John Avlon said that although he sympathised with Occupy protesters, he feels the movement needs to change tactics: “The Occupy movement has to move beyond mob actions if it hopes to influence the national debate in constructive ways going into 2012.” Avlon said that the First Amendment right to assembly does not give people the right to occupy parks indefinitely, and suggested OWS should instead set up something similar to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

Be more American. Ahead of the eviction, The Atlantic‘s Dominic Tierney had another suggestion for protesters:  ”To succeed, OWS needs to Americanize the movement. Politics in America is like a game of capture the flag,” he said. Tierney pointed out that Arab Spring protesters positioned themselves as the true faces of their nations, and that OWS should try something similar.

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