On Tuesday, the New York City police cleared out the Occupy Wall street encampment from Zuccotti Park. The Manhattan Supreme Court’s climactic ruling that the protesters would be allowed to return to Zuccotti Park so long as they left their tents and generators at home has been a game-changer to say the least and has left many to consider how the movement will respond. The New York Occupy movement will need to redirect their focus and evolve to sustain their movement. But one thing is clear, they don’t need to occupy to Occupy Wall Street.
Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the movement, was the focal point for Occupy and the media storm that followed it. Zuccotti Park spawned many other encampments across the nation. But it could be argued that Occupy protests have succeeded regardless of their encampments, not because of them. While the OWS movement at large was gaining traction, the occupation strategy in many encampments across the nation was degenerating, breeding crime, drug use, and sexual assaults. At Zuccotti Park and other parks across the nation, violence, sex, drugs, and alcohol seemed to overtake the real political messages posed by OWS.
In Occupy Portland, for example, two died of drug overdoses. A 35-year-old veteran took his own life at the Occupy Burlington camp in Vermont. These events have been distractions and the inability to continue using the occupy strategy will only make OWS stronger, especially by removing the problems that inherently come with living outdoors with hundreds of strangers.
While it changes the nature of the occupation, it does not change the conversation that the Occupiers started. Social and economic inequality, unemployment, the influence of money in politics, and the over-ruling power that financial institutions hold over our democracy will all only become amplified themes as OWS moves forward. The side acts of suicide and sexual assault will no longer be issues. Renewing a national dialogue focused on the 99% is not contingent upon their ability to occupy; it is contingent upon their ability to be heard.
OWS has already changed the conversation. The movement has ignited the public’s demand that Wall Street pays for 2008 and the Great Recession. Without the problems that the occupation actually brings, the movement will in the end become stronger. As is true throughout American history, dating back to dumping commercialized tea into the Boston harbor, the protesters in these broad social movements for justice will be viewed in history as patriots more than problems. The occupiers will prevail in spite of the encampments, and their strength will grow without them.
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