Is the Occupy movement being hijacked?
After a quiet winter and with a rival group – 99% Spring – emerging, we examine the development of the Occupy movement.
After a quiet winter, Occupy Wall Street is gearing up again for a summer of protest. Four months after they were evicted from bases across the country, protesters are emerging once more to camp out in New York’s financial hub.
“I believe the way to change the system is to change it from within as well as on the exterior. We need to bring this to all fronts not just on the outside with our demonstrations … we as [the] American people need to occupy the legislative body.“
– Walid Hakim, an Occupy protester running as Democrat, South Carolina
It is a movement that, at its peak, brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets of the US – united by a common anger at the excesses of the financial industry, and a dismay at government unwillingness to rein it in.
There is a day of mass protest and a general strike planned for May 1. The renewed demonstrations will undoubtedly be accompanied by renewed questions about the movement itself – some say is too unfocused in its objectives.
The Occupy movement tapped into a sense of discontent at the global economic situation and there were many similar demonstrations across the world that preceded it. But the first protest under the ‘Occupy’ banner took place in New York on September 17, 2011.
“Here you have an individual who’s going off and pursuing his own course of action, not in the name of Occupy but in his own name, and again he is an individual and not someone who has powerful connections, resources etc. I also hope that folks in South Carolina and the Occupy movement don’t end up becoming simple campaigners.“
– Mike King, an East Bay activist from the University of California, Santa Cruz
By October 2011, the movement had spread across the US with protests in Washington DC, Oakland in California and Cleveland in Ohio, among other places.
At the same time the Occupy protests went global. By mid-October, protests were taking place in hundreds of cities around the world.
But now a rival group has emerged – called the 99% Spring – which says it wants to train protesters for a campaign of peaceful protest.
Critics have denounced the group as a Democratic Party attempt to galvanise support for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Nonetheless, some former Occupy protesters are now advocating that change should come from within the government itself.
So with a rival action group emerging, how is the Occupy Wall Street movement developing? Is the movement’s message in danger of getting hijacked by Obama’s re-election campaign?
Inside Story Americas discusses with guests: Nathan Schneider, a writer with The Nation and The New York Times; Karunga Gashusha, a former Wall Street analyst turned Occupy protester; and Mike King, an East Bay activist from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
|“This is a real resistance movement and not simply a PR campaign and by this I mean the movement itself. It’s got to go beyond talking about message, it’s got to go beyond changing the conversation. It has to disrupt power, it has to create structures that can challenge the structures of power that are currently in place. And co-option is always a two-way street or it can be. I think this is a case of co-option. These are groups, many of whom are sympathetic to what the Occupy movement has done and now they want to get in on the game. They are never going to be able to do it in a way that is as radical as the [Occupy] movement on their own.”
Nathan Schneider, a writer with The Nation and The New York Times
FACTS: THE 99% SPRING MOVEMENT
- It seeks to train people in methods of direct action
- It is sponsored by unions and mainstream democratic groups
- The movement has organised hundreds of training groups between April 9 and April 15
- It intends to target annual shareholders meetings
- It provided pre-made training material for groups
- The group calls for higher taxes on the wealthy in the US and for more rights for workers
- It is supported by dozens of groups including trade unions and organisations like Moveon.org and Greenpeace
- Organisers say it does not seek to co-opt the Occupy movement