Occupy Wall Street, Year Two

Approaching its anniversary, the movement isn't dead. It's growing up.

Strike Debt, a project still in its early stages, looks to build a movement around the broader world of debt—not just mortgages but also student loans, credit card debt, and even municipal and sovereign debt.

Organizers are planning a debt strike in which participants refuse to pay back their onerous loans. They're also laying the groundwork for a "rolling jubilee," buying old debt at pennies on the dollar and forgiving it, using the savings to pay it forward in a self-perpetuating cycle of debt nullification.

Another project, Foreclose the Banks (commonly abbreviated to "F the Banks"), began by attempting to pressure prosecutors and elected officials into pursuing criminal charges against the worst offenders on Wall Street. That has been somewhat successful. Protesters claim credit for creating an atmosphere in which the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal is finally being investigated.

"Everybody knew that LIBOR was fucked up back in 2008," says Alexis Goldstein, a former finance worker who now works with F the Banks. "Occupy made it really clear that in this election year, you need to do something to at least make people think you're trying to do something about the corruption. That investigation is a direct by-product of Occupy and the political climate that it created. The banks are so powerful that you need that cover for anyone to do anything."

Still, it has become clear that there won't be any meaningful prosecutions of the crimes that caused the crisis, so F the Banks is pivoting to a new strategy: a public shaming campaign against bank executives subject to internal investigations. "Wanted" flyers have already been posted on the Upper East Side and other neighborhoods where the offenders live, and there are plans to use projectors to display incriminating information near their homes and at places such as the Lincoln Center.

"The idea is to make sure all their socialite friends see this," says Aaron Bornstein, an activist involved with the project. "To make them social pariahs."


Even as the project list of the Occupy diaspora grows, there is a new humility among Occupiers. The early sense of exceptionalism, fueled by the youth of many Occupiers, led some to dismiss unions, nonprofits, Democrats and their inside-the-beltway affiliates, and all the other pieces of the institutional left. These groups hadn't brought the change Occupiers sought. At best, they were ineffective. At worst, they were complicit in maintaining the status quo.

That dismissiveness and a steadfast resistance to co-option by these groups made Occupy an especially prickly partner for more experienced organizations looking to make common cause with the new activist juggernaut.

The skepticism remains, but one year in, there's a growing recognition among Occupiers that there is room for collaboration with other groups, coupled with a confidence that Occupy brings something unique and valuable to the table.

"We're getting clearer about what our role is," says Dana Balicki, who's working on the PR side of the anniversary plans. "We're not just another organization co-sponsoring an event. We're here to push the hardest and the farthest, to push the envelope, so others can fill in behind."

That radicalism is tactical as well as philosophical, says Shapiro. "Occupy has a lot of people who are willing to get arrested and put their bodies on the line, and that's useful.

Unions have found Occupiers' willingness to join strikes and pickets especially valuable.

"There are very restrictive labor regulations in this country," says Jackie DiSalvo, a member of Occupy's Labor Outreach Committee. "When the Communication Workers of America have a picket, there are rules about how many people they're allowed to have there. But we're not a union, so when we join them, we can have as many people as we want there."

Beyond this conception of its role as the political vanguard and protest shock troops, Occupiers say they see an even more important role for themselves in social movements going forward. Occupy's radically inclusive, participatory structure doesn't entitle it to dismiss the more hide-bound, hierarchical organizations of the left, they say; it offers an opportunity for Occupy to broker new and closer collaborations among a legendarily fragmented American left.

"More than anything, Occupy is a set of principles and a way of interacting that allows us to create a sort of glue that can bind these different groups together," Bornstein says.

Occupiers claim direct credit for brokering the coalition of labor and immigrant advocates they helped bring together on May Day, a coalition that will continue to bear fruit in the future, they say. Some believe this new atmosphere of collaboration was also on display last month, when locked-out Con Ed workers attracted an almost unprecedented coalition of unions and other organizations to join their cause.

"A lot of these groups were always aware of each other, but they hadn't worked together," Bornstein says. "In the frame of Occupy existing, they see the value of working together in new ways." 

As September 17 approaches, activists across the country are planning to mark the movement's anniversary with a series of actions centered on New York.

Organizers are also deeply aware of the lessons learned over the past year. They are leery of billing September 17 as another make-or-break one-off spectacle and equally reluctant to be drawn into fruitless conflicts with police over efforts to re-create a long-term physical occupation.

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Kind of pathetic how a spent movement desperately tries to hold on - propped up by self-important media blowhards.


@faluovo They're all too busy enjoying all the perks of a prosperous bountiful free society, hands in pants and free astroglide samples to bother putting down the double big macs created by the oh so evil 1%


Great summary.  Hope you'll follow up with a piece recognizing that the change Occupy brings is not only external.  Change can't occur w/o each of us changing our own lives... the way we relate to others and to the earth where 'inclusiveness'  and compassion resides. 


Inner change is such a difficult job as it involves dealing with our own contradictions.  To many this would seem daunting, to others impossible, and maybe to most it has not yet occurred to them this part of the journey.

Stereolab like.author.displayName 1 Like

Lots of Occupy haters and cynics here.  Weird.  History moves on.  Here's the obvious: Capitalism by its nature is never static and will always induce anti-reactions.  In some form or another, I don't think the nascent Occupy Movement is going away quickly or quietly.


And to those who object to my downplaying "repression," I have two words: Pussy Riot.


What police repression? A few sprays of some icky chemical and maybe, what, two dozen protests over the whole year while a group of thousands illegally occupy a PRIVATELY OWNED park? I'm in complete sympathy with most of OWS' aims, but I dismissed them from the get-do as clueless about how to organize an effective-over-time protest movement, how to wield real power, and especially the inherent self-contradictions of using the resources of capitalism to bring down capitalism. It was all summed up in an early photo of two earnest-looking OWSers eating McDonald's takeout while on their iPhones.


"The economic conditions are just as bad as they were a year ago." Sure enough.Thanks to Nick Pinto and the Village Voice for this helpful article. 

andy10003 like.author.displayName 1 Like

There's plenty to criticize in OWS but could we not single out individuals for attacks? That does all of us damage. Anonymous individuals who post here but can't formulate their criticisms without attacking individuals shouldn't be trusted or given credence.

JPMcMahon topcommenter

There's plenty to criticize in the Republican Party, but could we not single out individuals for attacks? There's plenty to criticize in the Democratic Party, but could we not single out individuals for attacks? andy, If you want to play politics, those "attacks" are part of the game. Can't deal with it? Get out.


To quote a former Senator, your guys talk a lot but you don't vote therefore I don't know why i'm wasting my time talking to you.  Like the collectives of the past they talk a lot but don't do anything.


These guys should get it together just in time to attack the democrats and ensure Romney gets elected-ensuring the final nail gets pounded into the coffin of the working class.


JPMcMahon topcommenter

I just visited NYC a couple of weeks ago and saw no indication of OWS either at the surprisingly small Zuccotti Park, or at Union Square, where there admittedly was an OWS 2012 chalk  drawing on the ground. There were just a lot of cops and security personnel, and sweaty tourists drinking 4 dollar Gatorades from the food trucks.  I visited the 2 Occupy DC sites at McPherson Square and Liberty Square before the DC cops shut them down in February, and they were smelly and grim, as were the people there. Who could be convinced that OWS was doing something worthwhile just by stumbling across the encampments is beyond me. I happened on to a Communications Workers of America protest in front of the FCC building in DC in June, and there was no one in the protest that didn't have a red CWA t-shirt on. When I tried to talk to one of these folks about what they were doing, I got a "Mind your own business." in reply. So much for outsiders working with them. The Occupy movements in other cities seem to have disintegrated as well if their web sites are any indication. A big issue became that there were no women at the General Assemblies anymore because they were afraid to be there. When you let homeless men join right on in, that is something that seems pretty likely to happen. Occupy Oakland occupied an Obama campaign office a few weeks ago, much to the chagrin of the people working there.

OWS isn't real, in the sense that there isn't an accurate contact list of the members with real names, phone numbers, and addresses. It's pretty much a group of people that gets together randomly to do what are pretty random things. When you don't have leadership, organization, and delegated responsibilities, that is pretty much what you get. The article pretty much skipped over the entire horizontal  governance thing.  I am sure that the Republicans are praying mightily that OWS has a big, crazy birthday party in September. The  out of control 1968 Democratic Convention got Nixon elected, and I am sure Romney and his boys would love to see the same thing happen again.


What a bunch of OWSHOLES.


Occupy the polling places and vote for Anonymous for President.  On the fifth day, not of September, but November, the Identity of Anonymous for President will be announced.  The way the occupy movement succeeds is we all write in the same name for President and watch the one percent run for the hills.  Won't Mutt and Jeff be surprised when Anonymous is elected President?

Warriorgal: you must be of the one percent describing the 99% as jealous beggars, no we are American citizens tried to seeing the one percent sell off our beautiful cities to those from other countries.  This will end when we end business ad usual by electing Anonymous for President.


Compressed air and organic sulfur will return Reason to the land, the whole land, even the land that Putin thinks he controls, Occupy may be a national thing but when the one percent fail they fail world wide, the non peaceful activities will be killing traitors to the Constitution who live in beautiful cities built with our hands.

November 5th fear will grip Mutt and Jeff, and we will vote for Anonymous, we the anonymous who are the United States of America, and we win!   Mutt and Jeff can go to their foreign lands they could get prosecuted if they stay.   And the corporations esp pHarma and Monsanto will be prosecuted out of existence, vaccines no more, culling the herd, no more we will cull the one percent with the Boycott and bankrupt your silly selves.

We spend the money, we do the labor we are the Citizens, and answer only to citizens, not a world bank, or any rich fuck.  Rich just became a liability.

Anonymous for President 2012 is the vote the one percent failed to recognize as the end of the ride.

Our new President will not wage war on Iran, but Monsanto, GE, pHarma will save lives, screw the jobs, poisoning children is un American.  Israel did you hear the warning, grow up or go into captivity again, arrogant bastards, and I am a Jew and Campaign mgr. for Anonymous.

Anonymous for President is true occupation and we win.


What a peaceful bunch of people!  Is that Bill Ayers in the photo?  These people should go back to their countries and get jobs.  We are NOT France nor Greece.  We BELIEVE IN WORKING!  NOT destroying nor defacing our beautiful cities.  These are jealous beggars.

lloyd31 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Glad to read that OWS' network is intact and active. Next month they should use the resources at their disposal to go all out to help Obama get re-elected. He may not be their perfect choice, but if Romney takes control, OWS won't be able to accomplish much of anything...

bloomster like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @lloyd31 Occupy Wall Street is dead. All the banks got bailouts. The money is already spent. The bankers got their big bonus checks. We got nothing. A bunch of kids thought it would be Kool to demonstrate. Now they're sending E-Mail resumes to banks for jobs. Wachovia Wells Fargo & HSBC are laundering money for the Latino narcotics traffickers while Barclays Bank is rigging LIBOR. Whose kidding who. The OWS demonstrations are dead. Money talks BullShit walks.

thebat like.author.displayName 1 Like

http://youtu.be/YixCFJjj6J8 shows what the self proclaimed leaders of OWS nyc think of the actual activists and needy people that are the heart of Occupy.


People like Aaron Black, Justin Diaz, and the Occupied Air group have all but killed Occupy in nyc, in their hunger to be a 'force' at the tables of power instead of embracing the cause. Abandoning the homeless and the most needy among us in the name of 'image' and the 'brand' they have made OWS nyc just another PAC, spending hundreds of dollars a week on taxi rides and other luxuries while true Occupy activists globally work together for change.  People like Fatima, Mik Check, Occupy Trinity, Shawn Carrie,  Recai Iskender and others in nyc keep fighting for the people and the causes Occupy stands for without mention or assistance from the OWS nyc spin machine, while others merely seek to profit and control. But it can be said that Occupy in nyc has inspired the world two times, first by bringing activism to life again for some, and now a year later by showing what pitfalls to avoid in the future.


 Thanks for the awesome mention "Bat". You seem to have gotten the wrong impression of the work many of us hard grounders do in NYC. You should really double check your facts before you go dragging your personal trolling games into a perfectly nice article about the movement. You might be shocked when you find out who bottom lines the Homeless Working Group & has been at #TrinitySleeps & #OccupyUnionSq since day one defending Occupy from NYPD Livestreamers. As always I invite you to come Occupy with us & Speak TO US, Not For Us. Happy Occupy!@thebat 


@justinstonediaz @thebat really? Well you should ask Fatima and Mik Check what they personally think about me. I would like to say that you are extremely ill informed, you have no idea who is on the ground, you have no idea who works their tails off for the movement. Aside from Trixie, Uppity, Rocky, and yourself, not too many folks have anything bad to say about me, why? Because I put Occupy before everything else, my own health, my own family, my own livlihood..And here you are sitting in your mother's basement making attacks not just regular attacks, but personal attacks, against my friends (even threatening physical harm to one) making insulting remarks about my physical appearance, and my love life (you should be one to talk) you really are an ignorant human being. But it's OK I have my own stream now, you want to destroy my reputation because you are envious of my hardwork, or because you have a secret obsession with me, you are more than welcome to. You go right ahead and you sit in your mother's basement, you make your little attack, videos, you make your little attack tweets...Because you are really making your folks proud by doing so...Seriously, get a life, you loser...