Forum raises the question of what's next for Occupy and the audience offers myriad answers
A call to action like that has a chance of being huge. With the West Coast Port Shutdown on Dec. 12, Occupy has demonstrated an ability to coordinate nationally. Those actions also showed Occupy's growing unity with labor groups, as ILWU members worked closely with Occupy to plan those actions.
On Dec. 6, Occupy demonstrated its dedication to yet another new frontier—occupying foreclosed homes. That was a national day of action called by Occupy Our Homes and Occupy groups in over two dozen cities participated, defending homeowners threatened with eviction and moving the homeless into empty properties.
By the time moderator Melissa Griffin asked her final question to the panel, it was clear that the "civic conversation" had not gone as planned. Two Occupy protesters had been escorted out for interrupting Jean Quan. A handful of others had stood and turned their backs when she spoke. The crowd was restless for their own chance to grill the panelists, and there were only a few minutes left. With a faint look of dismay and hopelessness, Griffin asked the question that had no chance of being quickly answered: What's next for occupy?
She quoted Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters, the "culture-jamming" organization credited with prompting Occupy Wall Street. In a recent interview with NPR, Lasn said: "I think that we should hibernate for the winter. We should brainstorm with each other. We should network with each other and then come out swinging next spring." Griffin asked the panelists if they agreed with that statement.
Of course, some did and some didn't. In fact, some form of "hibernation" is what many plan to do. In San Francisco, Occupy reading groups, workshops, and educational circles are on the rise. Small actions happen almost daily, ranging from workshops to meetings to marches to pop-up occupations.
Occupiers who were kicked out of camps are sleeping in networks of squats, safe-houses, and what one long-time camper described as "little homeless encampments around the city. We don't put up an Occupy banner, and police don't arrest us."
The forum was a microcosm of the debates and plans brewing within Occupy, and it ended like most Occupy events. New connections had been made. Most people trickled out while several Occupy campers stayed to help stack chairs and clean up from the event. They all eventually exited the warm building, with its empty lobby that could have slept at least 50 people. OccupySF and Oakland activists chatted and advised each other on where to go.
Occupy is a resurgence in the spirit and power of protest and peoples movements, a recognition that the personal is political, that individuals losing their jobs and their homes can have more power in numbers. Organizing and protest has become a lifestyle.
As the Occupiers left the Commonwealth Club building, the future seemed thrilling, although many still needed a place to sleep for the night while those possibilities continue to percolate.