The Occupy movement that spread across the country last fall has already changed the national discussion: It's brought attention to the serious, systemic problem of gross inequities of wealth and power and the mass hardships that have resulted from that imbalance.
Occupy put a new paradigm in the political debate — the 1 percent is exploiting the 99 percent — and it's tapping the energy and imagination of a new generation of activists.
When Adbusters magazine first proposed the idea of occupying Wall Street last summer, kicking off on Sept. 17, it called for a focus on how money was corrupting the political system. "Democracy not Corporatocracy," the magazine declared — but that focus quickly broadened to encompass related issues ranging from foreclosures and the housing crisis to self-dealing financiers and industrialists who take ever more profits but provide fewer jobs to the ways that poor and disenfranchised people suffer disproportionately in this economic system.
It was a primal scream, sounded most strongly by young people who decided it was time to fight for their future. The participants have used the prompt to create a movement that drew from all walks of life: recent college graduates and the homeless, labor leaders and anarchists, communities of colors and old hippies, returning soldiers and business people. They're voicing a wide variety of concerns and issues, but they share a common interest in empowering the average person, challenging the status quo, and demanding economic justice.
We chronicled and actively supported the Occupy movement from its early days through its repeated expulsions from public plazas by police, particularly in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. We supported the right of the protesters to remain — even as we understood they couldn't and shouldn't simply stay forever. Occupy needed to evolve if it was to hold the public's interest. The movement would ultimately morph into something else.
That time has come. This spring, Occupy is poised to return as a mass movement — and there's no shortage of energy or ideas about what comes next. Countless activists have proposed occupying foreclosed homes, shutting down ports and blocking business in bank lobbies. Those all have merit. But if the movement is going to challenge the hegemony of the 1 percent, it will involve moving onto a larger stage and coming together around bold ideas — like a national convention in Washington, D.C. to write new rules for the nation's political and economic systems.
Imagine thousands of Occupy activists spending the spring drafting Constitutional amendments — for example, to end corporate personhood and repeal the Citizens United decision that gave corporations unlimited ability to influence elections — and a broader platform for deep and lasting change in the United States.
Imagine a broad-based discussion — in meetings and on the web — to develop a platform for economic justice, a set of ideas that could range from self-sustaining community economics to profound changes in the way America is governed.
Imagine thousands of activists crossing the country in caravans, occupying public space in cities along the way, and winding up with a convention in Washington, D.C.
Imagine organizing a week of activities — not just political meetings but parties and cultural events — to make Occupy the center of the nation's attention and an inspiring example for an international audience.
Imagine ending with a massive mobilization that brings hundreds of thousands of people to the nation's capitol — and into the movement.
Occupy activists are already having discussions about some of these concepts (see sidebar). Thousands of activists are already converging on D.C. right now for the Occupy Congress, one of many projects that the movement can build on.