Occupy's next steps

Staging a national event in Washington, D.C. could cement the movement's place in history


EDITORIAL In less than three months, the Occupy movement has changed the national political debate — and possibly the course of U.S. history. A small group of protesters, derided in the mainstream media, grew to a massive outpouring of anger at economic inequality — and it's no coincidence that politicians at all levels have begun to respond. At least five different measures aimed at raising taxes on the rich are in the works in California. In Kansas Dec. 6, President Obama made one of the most progressive speeches of his career, talking directly about the need for economic justice.

While even some supposed allies say the encampments weren't effective, the truth is that the out-front, in-your-face tactic of holding nonstop protests in the financial heart of places like Manhattan and San Francisco got attention. The visibility of the Occupy camps forced everyone to pay attention. The U.S. economy is in a crisis; less disruptive tactics wouldn't have worked. But now most of the encampments are gone, broken up by police forces and scattered from the central areas of major cities. It's crucial that this growing and powerful national movement not fall apart after the almost inevitable crackdown on one style of protest. Occupy needs to look forward and plan its next steps.

Some of that is already happening, with Occupy activists targeting home foreclosures and marching on West Coast ports. But it's worth considering another tactic, too: Occupy ought to begin planning now for a massive spring mobilization in Washington and a series of nationwide actions that could bring millions more people into the movement.

Part of the strategy of the Occupy camps was to maintain a presence, day after day — and that made perfect sense when the movement was starting. But single-day events, if organized on a massive scale as part of a larger campaign, can have a profound and lasting impact.

The original Earth Day — April 22, 1970 — involved 20 million people across the United States. There were events in hundreds of cities and thousands of high school and college campuses. It brought together old-school, sometime stodgy conservation groups with radical young environmentalists, the United Auto Workers with people concerned about pollution from car exhaust. It was, by any reasonable account, the birth of the modern American environmental movement.

The other great thing about Earth Day — and the reason it makes a great model for the Occupy movement — is that it was largely a grassroots event. Although there was a national office, most of the work was done spontaneously, in local communities, with no top-down direction.

And everyone — from Washington D.C. to the state capitols and city halls — paid attention.

Mass marches and mobilizations helped end the Vietnam War, spark the Civil Rights Movement and fight the anti-labor politics of the Reagan Administration. None of those events took place in isolation, any more than a national Occupy Day would take place in isolation. The nation's ready for major economic change — and organizing a national event alone could help make stronger connections among the broad constituency that is the 99 percent.


Do the Peace, Feminist, Civil Rights, and Environmental movements have better advertising agencies that write better ad copy?
The names of these movements describe their agenda, their specific purpose. Even their slogans reinforce what they’re about.
The peace movement is an anti-war movement, aka, Peace. As boomers, we remember the common slogans during the Vietnam War years; they were equally descriptive: “Hell no, we won’t go [to war]“; “Make love, not war”; “Draft beer, not boys.”
The feminist movement is about women’s rights: voting privileges and gender equality. Even the banner phrase “Women’s Liberation” is clearly about ‘liberating women.’
If we look at each word, the meaning of the civil rights movement is clear – each of us, all of us, are entitled to our rights as declared in civil law. Rather than a slogan, the 1960’s civil rights movement expressed itself with a song, ‘We shall overcome” [socio-economic segregation, racial discrimination, gender inequality.]
Environmental is defined as “of or relating to the external conditions or surrounding.” The environmental movement is just that, champions of our surroundings. For those of you who know me, you know why my favorite slogan is “Green is the new black.”
If we follow the same associate pattern, as illustrated above, is the Occupy movement about . . . homesteading?


Posted by Guest Shinazy on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

If folks are going to really consider pushing for a national mobilization in DC, in the spring or whenever, please take a look at the Washington Peace Center's "DC Principles:" http://washingtonpeacecenter.net/DCprinciples

As someone who grew up in the DC area and has ties to the activist community there, I think it's really important to consider the effects of mass actions in "the nation's capitol" ... what they mean for DC residents, communities, and activists/organizers.

Posted by rick on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 10:35 am

Their issues are national ones so harming working people, local cops, local banks and city governments is completely missing the point.

Obama alloed this situation to arise so he should be the target.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 11:01 am

I'm only saying that, in the past (and in my experience), many mass actions that come to DC do so without really touching base with local organizers, without recognizing that DC is not simply a backdrop for symbolic and transitory actions but a real place with unique issues, an enormously oppressed and class/race-stratified city of 600,000 residents who will remain after we all come home.

Again, here's a good link: http://washingtonpeacecenter.net/DCprinciples

Posted by rick on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

protest giving a crap about the fact that it is probably the most dysfunctional city in the US. It's a fake city, like Ottawa, Canberra, Brasilia and every other capital that was contrived.

Those cities never make the news for what goes on locally (Marion Shepilov Barry excluded). It's more what they symbolize.

Point being, the Occupy concerns (insofar as they are a constant that anyone can divine) are national not local.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

I guess we're going in circles, but my point is people need to *start* giving a crap, if they're going to go to a place where 600,000 struggle day in and day out, use their backyard as a one-day photo-op, then split. It's disrespectful.

The national/local division is also just wrong IMO. Occupy concerns are both, as well as international (and interpersonal, and, and, and). In any case, as someone *from* DC now living in the Bay, I can assure you that it would be best for everyone -- out-of-towners, local organizers, local community -- to collaborate. And that collaboration requires people "going to DC" to start caring about the city and the communities they are basically forcing to host them. DC folks talk about other activists "dumping" on them, which doesn't lend much to solidarity efforts. Aside from basic politeness, it would help build a stronger movement to foster an awareness of issues in "the nation's capitol."

Posted by rick on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

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