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Inside Story Americas
What happened to Occupy?
We ask if, a year on, the popular grassroots movement is dead or has simply evolved into a new form of democracy.
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2012 10:58

A year ago on September 17 they gathered near Wall Street and began camping out in Zuccotti Park in New York.

They were protesting against corporate greed, calling on the government to act in the interest of the 99 per cent rather than the wealthiest one per cent.

"Occupy is not only alive and thriving, it's much more profound than it was at this time last year… Rather than being in large plazas what people have started to do now is to organise with their neighbours or at their workplaces or in universities."

- Marina Sitrin, the author of Occupying Language

Almost immediately their demonstrations, along with others across the country, were met with fierce crackdowns by the police.

By October, 2011, there were protests in more than 95 cities in 82 countries.

On Monday the anniversary of the Occupy movement was marked in more than 30 cities.

As more than 1,000 activists gathered around the New York Stock Exchange, police were ready and waiting once again. The financial district was turned into a fortress. More than 100 protesters were arrested.

But supporters of the movement conceded that Monday's turnout was not as high as they had hoped for, and many commentators say it proves that the Occupy movement has fizzled out.

But the Occupiers themselves disagree.

"The majority [of those arrested] were randomly snatched up on the sidewalks involved in typical marches or even just passing by and observing the action…the primary police tactic was to spread fear, anxiety and ambiguity about what was permitted and what was not."

- Yates McKee, an Occupy Wall Street protester

On December 6, 2011, Barack Obama, the US president, responded to the Occupy movement, saying: "I'm here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we're greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules.

"There aren't Democratic values or Republican values. There aren't one per cent values or 99 per cent values. They're American values. And we have to reclaim them."

In this episode, Inside Story Americas asks: So where does the Occupy movement stand today? And how successful has it been?

Joining presenter Shihab Rattansi to discuss this are guests: Marina Sitrin, the author of Occupying Language; Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director for the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a progressive legal organisation focusing on cases related to free speech, police misconduct and domestic spying; and Yates McKee, an Occupy Wall Street protester who was among dozens arrested during Monday's demonstration.

"The NYPD has done everything it can to render the city inhospitable to lawful, peaceful protests. One of the tactics used [repeatedly], and which is the subject of a lawsuit, is the issue of unlawful sidewalk arrest."

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director for the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund


JOURNEY OF THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT:

  • Occupy protests began on September 17, 2011, in New York. On September 24, dozens were arrested when police moved in on Zuccotti Park. Footage of police pepper-spraying a peaceful female protestor drew media attention to the protest.
  • On October 1, a massive march across the Brooklyn Bridge resulted in at least 700 arrests. Police used a system known as kittling – manoeuvring protesters into a small cordoned-off area with only one entrance or exit, and did not allow them to disperse.
  • On October 25 in Oakland, California, an Iraqi war veteran was critically injured when he was hit by a police projectile. At least 75 people were arrested.
  • In early November, cities across the US began evicting Occupy encampments. This led to running battles in Los Angeles on November 14 when hundreds of protestors returned to protect the encampment there.
  • The next day police in New York moved on the Occupy camp at Zuccotti Park. The city used a ban on tents and overnight camping as legal cover to remove the protesters.
  • On November 19, demonstrators at the University of California, Davis, were objecting to the crackdown on Occupy, when campus police doused students and alumni with pepper-spray during the protest.

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Al Jazeera
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