Walking down the sidewalk these days, it’s not uncommon to hear people ask each other what happened to Occupy Wall Street, in the same way they might ask, “What ever happened to so-and-so from way back? She had so much potential.” The answer is almost always that the person never reached the level others had believed she would — that she’d failed and was now a waitress at the diner in the town she’d never left. That’s not exactly what happened to Occupy Wall Street, but it’s close. The movement didn’t fail, but rather fell short, stalled, and is now battling internal obstacles as preparations for a second phase get underway.
Just as millions of Americans banked on Obama’s “Change You Can Believe In” rhetoric four years ago and thought he could erase eight years of damage overnight, some people thought Occupy Wall Street could create instant change. And now, six months after the movement began, it’s clear that a lack of organization caused it to plateau. Protesters chose to gather before figuring out what they wanted and decided to organize themselves around parks rather than issues. They aimed their anger at unrealistic targets instead of tackling specific issues, amassing simple wins, and building a following based on a track record of success.
Read more. [Image: Andrew Katz]
Of the $737,000 or so Occupy Wall Street reports it has raised in donations since its inception nearly six months ago, it’s managed to spend or earmark more than $700,000 of that, according to its latest finance report. Amid the staples, copies, computers, and materials for its direct actions, it paid for tea, cigarettes, and lots of Metrocards. For the group that occupied Wall Street in the first place, a financial hangover is at hand.
At its peak, Occupy had around $500,000 in the bank as donations poured in thanks to the national exposure of its Zuccotti Park encampment. Now, aside from the $89,029 that remains of its $100,000 bail fund, it has $30,537 to work with, according to last week’s report. So where did all that money go? A sampling of some of some of line items in the Occupy budget:Read more. [Image: AP]
$45,000 on Metrocards The movement moves by New York subway. (Though it’s a little hard to tally because some of those are reported as one of a few bundled expenses, such as $87 for “metrocards and earplugs” for the security detail on Nov. 9).
$9,900 on legal expenses Almost all of that going to bail out activists arrested during Occupy actions.
$6,000 on tea and herbs And do not forget the equipment to prepare them, as documented in expenditures slated for the Tea and Herbal and Herbalist working groups.
$7,196 on laundry People living in the Zuccotti encampment needed clean drawers.
Embracing Occupy Wall Street means embracing the language of the 99 percent—even when you’re filing for a super PAC. Today, an election lawyer tipped us off to a Federal Election Commission filing for a brand new super PAC: The Occupy Wall Street Political Action Committee. It’s the type of document that’s typically stuffy and technical, but less so when the treasurer of the super PAC is an Occupy organizer. Note the mailing address.
It looks like a high school prank but the committee’s treasurer John Paul Thornton promises us it’s anything but. ”We’re utterly serious,” he says. A data technician in Decator, Alabama, Thornton says he’s an active member in his state’s Occupy movement, contacting state representatives and city council-members, participating in weekly general assembly meetings, and saying active in his local branch’s private and public online forums.
Read more. [Image: FEC/Flickr/Vectorportal]
Srdja Popovic is something of an expert on unjust societies, and in particular their rectification and reconstruction by nonviolent means. Just over a decade ago, Popovic was a student activist in Belgrade working to oust Slobodan Milošević. After that odds-defying campaign ended with the Yugoslav president’s one-way trip to The Hague, Popovic spent a few years in electoral politics before founding the Centre for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS, and began training activists interested in copying the Serbian model of bottom-up regime change. CANVAS has worked with people from 46 countries, and graduates of Popovic’s program include organizers of the successful movements in Georgia, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Maldives. The young Iranians rioting against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 downloaded 17,000 copies of Popovic’s guide to nonviolent action. The Syrians currently standing up to Bashar al-Assad are the latest in the long line of advice-seekers. With little fanfare, Popovic, who is 39, has become an architect of global political change. And no one is more surprised about this than Popovic himself. Read more.
[Image: Fabrizio Giraldi/Luzphoto]
— Ai Weiwei on Occupy Wall Street. Read more.
Documentary filmmaker Casey Neistat pairs footage of the scene at Zuccotti Park between 1am and 6am on November 15 with Sinatra’s “New York, New York” for an ironic twist
Eighty-four-year-old activist Dorli Rainey tells Keith about her experience getting pepper-sprayed by the police during an Occupy Seattle demonstration and the need to take action and spread the word of the Occupy movement. She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to “take one more step out of your comfort zone” as an inspiration, saying, “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.”
Broadly, Rainey has been active in politics and Seattle public life since the 1950s. A former schoolteacher, she ran for a seat on the King County Council in the 1970s and lost. During the same period, she was a school board member in Issaquah, a nearby city. Last year, she ran for mayor but eventually withdrew from the race saying, “I am old and should learn to be old, stay home, watch TV and sit still.” But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a good rapport with the current mayor. Read more.
Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement protests that are now experiencing national upheaval are being uprooted without having yet presented a definitive set of demands. At a basic level, they’ve been expression of frustration with a level of unemployment and underemployment that seems to show no signs of improving regardless of who is elected. More fundamentally, they’ve been a reaction to the growing income disparity in the United States, and the impression that the richest among us were disproportionately responsible for the current crisis, and that the system is rigged to reward rather than punish them.
But a more distilled way to express the root problem is quite simply this: we have not had meaningful financial reform in response to the crisis. The Dodd-Frank Bill that was passed last summer was better than nothing, but it did not do what needed to be done to fix the problems that caused the current crisis. Nobody has been punished. Banks were not broken up so that they wouldn’t be “too big to fail” in the future. The banking system that’s brought us the current crisis remains in power, its wings clipped only superficially. “Why?” ask the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Lawrence Lessig has an answer. In his new book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It, he spends 20 pages reviewing the the 30 years of deregulation that led up to the financial crisis and outlining our present circumstances. In fact, this book, published just before Occupy Wall Street began, is perfectly positioned to become the movement’s handbook. While few of the protesters will need convincing that the government is corrupted by money, the book lays out the case in a such a comprehensive and persuasive manner — and proposes such specific and radical solutions — that it seems tailor-made for the Occupy movement. And it’s ambitious proposal for state-based activism on behalf of a Constitutional Convention could provide the movement with a next organizing step as the movement nears its two-month anniversary Thursday — and faces questions about how to ride out the winter and police crackdowns alike. Read more.
Reporter Jared Maslin captured his own arrest on video in the early hours of November 15, while police arrested protesters and cleared Zuccotti Park. He describes his experience (in third person) in a post for The Local East Village:
The Local’s reporter, who repeatedly identified himself to the police as a journalist while on the scene, complied with the order and walked north while filming protesters, however (as seen at the 2:11 mark in the video) his progress was stopped by a group of officers blocking the sidewalk at the intersection of Broadway and John Street. One of the officers arrested him using plastic Flexi-Cuffs, even as he continued to identify himself as a journalist and called attention to press credentials hanging from his neck.