The plaza sits in the heart of New York City’s dense financial district and is considered the birthplace of the often discussed but rarely substantiated Occupy movement. Six months ago, a group of protestors led by Canada’s Adbusters magazine started a demonstration against corporate greed and extreme free-market capitalism. On Sunday, March 18, dozens of people were arrested while attempting to reclaim the park, which had been cleared by police in mid-November.
This act brings up many questions in the hearts of people who had participated in or watched the protests as they spread across the nation and the world. Where had the protestors gone? Why are they still trying to be heard? Perhaps, most importantly, are their protests futile at this point?
General media coverage has not quite died down over the movement, although stories haven’t showed up in headlines as often over the winter months. Still, a search on Google brings up hundreds of articles even in the past thirty days.
On February 28, the article “White House Privacy Plan Takes a Cue from Occupy,” published in Consumer Reports describes how the Department of Commerce plans to hold “open, transparent multi-stakeholder processes” to decide on policies that could be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.
Also on February 28, a New York Times story was published on the dismantling of the St. Paul’s Occupy camp in London by city bailiffs.
On March 5, a comparison of the Occupy movement was made to the Wisconsin protests against Governor Scott Walker’s anti-bargaining rights crusade.
These are just a few of the articles that are being published, many of them discussing the validity of the movement and its influence on national – and world – politics. People are still talking about the protests and attempting to find out what they mean for our society.
At the same time, the Occupy protests themselves still seem to be extremely active, even if the headlines aren’t as bold as they were last fall. Adbusters is currently arranging an event on May 18, called a “Global #LAUGHRIOT,” protesting the movement of the international economic G8 summit to Camp David in Frederick County, Maryland – far away from its original site in Chicago.
“On May 18, the day the G8 leaders meet in Camp David, why don’t we, the people of the world have a #LAUGHRIOT,” Adbusters wrote on their site’s blog. “Let roars of laughter rise up from towns and cities everywhere at the spectacle of the world’s leaders trying to crisis manage the economy from behind closed doors and razor wire fences.”
The change of location for the G8 is being called a “surprising victory” by Adbusters, who also wrote on their blog, “Despite the tough talk of anti-Occupy technology, ordinances and paramilitary preparations, this is perhaps the first time that a major world summit has been relocated due to anticipated protests.”
Occupy groups are still meeting nationwide, outside of the larger cities. Ithaca’s own group is still holding weekly General Assemblies, in which followers of the movement meet together to plan strategies and events. On March 21, Ithaca occupiers planned to meet in solidarity with the “Million Hoodies March” in New York City, protesting the death of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch leader. Events are still being planned, people are still meeting.
In other words, the protesters have never gone away. They just haven’t made major headlines lately. Their goals are the same as they were in the beginning – fighting economic corruption on a Federal level – but they have brought new causes in along the way. However, if headlines aren’t being made about Occupy like they were six months ago, are the protests futile?
It depends on how a person looks at it. Sure, many common people seem to have completely forgotten about the Occupy movement. Newer, fresher, and perhaps more dire news events have come up. Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 has come into (and perhaps left) public knowledge in a matter of days earlier this month. Syrian war atrocities are always fresh on the minds of the news-watching public. These topics deserve more coverage than six months of protest, so it’s easy to see why the Occupy movement isn’t quite as big a story as it used to be.
The important thing, however, is that people are still talking. Months after the first Occupiers made their way into Zuccotti Park, news sources are still publishing stories trying to understand what happened – how so many people could become so enamored with a cause that seemed, at first, shallow and contrite. Groups that the protests targeted – Bank of America and other corporate banks, the U.S. government – have recognized that discontent with the current system no longer runs on the fringe. Anger has, and still is, running through a thick vein of our nation’s population. People of many political ideologies – conservatives, liberals, libertarians, tea partiers, socialists, anarchists, and more – banded together in an unprecedented way. While many protests before Occupy lent themselves to a certain ideology, the movement in Zuccotti has gained support from many groups.
People are angry, and big corporations and the government have touched an extremely raw nerve within the general population. This sort of anger can perhaps only be seen in two prior times in U.S. history – the American Revolution and the Civil War. The 1% that occupiers talk about constantly took notice because, for perhaps only the 3rd time in our history, a majority of people showed discontent. The last two times such anger showed, our entire society was thrown head-over-heels.
Even if nothing truly substantial comes or came out of the movement, the top one percent still remembers last fall, and they still have nightmares about it. Even if the movement were to stop today, it is still deeply engraved in our national consciousness – and that, at the very least, means success.