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The end of OWS or the beginning of something else

David Whitford, Fortune
Kalle Lasn, the white-haired evangelist of Occupy Wall Street, was on the phone from Vancouver, pressing me in his thick Eastern European accent. “So how do you feel there at Fortune?” he asked before I could begin my interview. “Are you scared? You feel that some sort of a heave is happening underneath your feet?”

It was late October, six weeks into a movement that Lasn and his crew of “culture jammers” at Adbusters magazine take credit for launching.

… But what’s next, now that winter is on its way and mayors in New York and Oakland, two of the movement’s epicenters, have sent riot squads to shut down the camps in their cities? Lasn told me during the same interview that perhaps the occupation as we know it was coming to an end. “Some heroic people will hang in there and sleep in the snow and inspire us all with their guts,” he predicted, “but by and large I think this movement is kind of peaking now and probably moving into its second phase, where people will go home and initiate myriad projects of all kinds.”

In the latest “tactical briefing” issued by Adbusters hours before police began dismantling the encampment at Zuccotti Park, Lasn noted the “ominous mood” and suggested a possible response: “We declare ‘victory’ and throw a party … a festival … a potlatch … a jubilee … a grand gesture to celebrate, commemorate, rejoice in how far we’ve come, the comrades we’ve made, the glorious days ahead. Imagine, on a Saturday yet to be announced, perhaps our movement’s three month anniversary on December 17, in every #OCCUPY in the world, we reclaim the streets for a weekend of triumphant hilarity and joyous revelry.” Time will tell.

What Occupy Wall Street got right

Not since the 1960s have we seen anything like this, at least on the Left. I recently spent a few days visiting Occupy sites in New York, Boston, D.C., Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland (I was in Oakland on November 2 for the general strike and the march that briefly closed the country’s fifth busiest port) and I’m telling you: No matter how you feel about the protesters (and you’re not alone if you’re conflicted or confused), you would be impressed. Tent cities in the public square in cities all over America, crowds of marchers in the streets, over 4000 arrests nationwide—in my lifetime, and I’m past 50, that’s new.

I don’t wonder why this is happening. I do wonder, a little, why now?
(16 November 2011)
Excellent reporting. I recommend reading the whole article. -BA

Adbusters, the Occupy Wall Street innovator, says movement should wind down and start up in spring

Helen Kennedy, New York Daily News
Just hours before the raid on Zuccotti Park, the original godfather of Occupy Wall Street – a Canadian anti-capitalist group – advised the protesters it might be time to wind things down for the winter.

Adbusters, which first proposed an occupation modeled after Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising, suggested Monday that the time was coming for the protesters to “declare victory” and scale back.

Adbusters suggested Dec. 17 – the three-month anniversary of the movement – as a good day to pack it in until spring.

“Then we clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps,” the editors of Adbusters magazine wrote in a “tactical briefing” published online Monday.

“We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next Spring.”
(15 November 2011)

Liberty Park can be anywhere

Todd Gitlin, Salon
… now that Mayor Bloomberg has joined the mayors of Oakland, Denver, Portland and Salt Lake City as agents of dispersal, the larger question preoccupying not only the occupiers but their larger concentric circles of supporters, as well as the chattering classes, is: Now what? What’s the relation between the turf and the movement? Both known and unknown unknowns abound, but it cannot be taken for granted that the expulsion is bad for the movement. To the contrary: Odds are that the expulsion — from a place very far from Eden — will function as a pick-me-up, driving greater numbers to the Nov. 17 actions planned by MoveOn and other groups for lower Manhattan and 300 other sites nationwide.

Movements wither when they don’t evolve, and they evolve when they learn intelligently how to avail themselves of opportunities and adapt to changes in the environment — an ensemble of several moving parts (supporting groups, politicians, police). In fact, as many occupants and commentators have pointed out, Zuccotti was already having a hard time managing, and was looking more unruly with the passing days. Although the local community board overwhelmingly endorsed the occupation, not a few residents were annoyed by undisciplined drumming (reportedly by a few drummers who, even after the general assembly voted restrictions, insisted on their absolute right to drum whenever and wherever they liked — an unwitting echo of Michael Bloomberg’s la ville, c’est moi).

Since Sept. 17, there have been so many moving parts in the evolving ensemble known as Occupy, each rubbing against the others in a whole ecology of protest, that predictions are foolhardy. But there’s a good chance that the great sprawling hard-to-pin-down Occupy movement is well along in the learning process and that it can gain more than it loses by leaving the Zuccotti/Liberty campground.
(16 November 2011)

Occupy Wall Street: Time to become more overtly political?

Gloria Goodale, Christian Science Monitor
… Many pundits suggest that it’s time for the activists to hire political consultants and assemble a list of demands – in short, to become much more involved in electoral politics. But many bleary-eyed protesters vow that they will not be bent to a neat electoral timetable. What they’re doing, they say, is birthing the blueprint for a new social paradigm. It’s a somewhat messy process, but it’s real-time, direct democracy in action, they say.

“It’s a very complicated movement with many things going on,” says Nathan Schneider, editor of the website Waging Nonviolence, who has been covering the New York Occupy Wall Street from its inception. At its core, he says, “it is calling on people not to enact policy proposals, which is what people expect, but rather to rethink how politics work.”

It is notable, he says, that no politicians have emerged. “They are quite consciously not building political parties or jumping into the electoral process,” he notes, adding that they think doing so would “fall too far short of their real demands.”

On the other hand, he points out, there are specific Occupy working groups tackling topics such as economics, immigration, education, and student debt. And a glance at the Occupy Together calendar reveals a brisk schedule of upcoming events.
(16 November 2011)

As Occupy Camps Close, What’s Next For Movement?

Scott Neuman, National Public Radio (NPR)
… In a previous generation, the call from Adbusters’ Lasn to “pack up and go home” might have represented the kiss of death for a protest movement, Polletta said. But, no longer.

“If people leave and go home, that’s the end of the movement. But the fact is that with these new digital media, it’s possible to mobilize people again very quickly,” she said.

Protest “used to be hard work. It required a lot of effort to get information out. It required time, it was inconvenient, it was often dangerous,” she said.

Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, have become powerful new organizing tools that represent a game-changer for protest movements, she said.

Last month, several organizations and individuals that support the Occupy protests met at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., to discuss what comes next for the movement. Suren Moodliar, of social activism group Massachusetts Global Action, was among the participants.

Moodliar agrees that social media –- and in particular the use of Twitter hashtags — is a potent new factor, but also that the protests have become a training ground for a new group of activists who may have come together for different reasons, but now have many shared goals.

“The physical encampments themselves have become nodal points for all sorts of progressive groups to condense and connect with one another,” he said. “A large number of individuals who were previously not involved politically were inspired by the Occupy movement and educated in various ways by the different groups who have become involved with the Occupy movement.”

New Politics of Protest

David Meyer, author of The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America, agreed. “The people who are engaged in Occupy right now, even if they are not sleeping outside in tents, are forming politics that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

What would happen to the movement if the encampments disappeared tomorrow?

“Occupy demonstrated a successful tactic,” Meyer said. “The success of a tactic is always going to be limited in time either because people get bored or authorities find a way to deal with it.

“What generally happens for successful social movements is that you get groups of people that go off and do all sorts of things,” he said.

Expect to see “a bunch of different things,” Meyer said.
(15 November 2011)
NPR has had a shoddy record in terms of Occupy Wall Street. For example: Lisa Simeone, NPR Freelance Host, Fired For Occupy DC Involvement. Totalitarian regimes know that depriving people of their livelihoods is a wonderful way to stifle dissent. -BA