A few hundred protesters had gathered at Zuccotti Park around 7am to the familiar chants of “we are the 99 per cent” and “all day, all week, occupy Wall Street”. One woman blew up balloons, printed with the words “I am not a loan”.
A group marched to Nassau and Pine streets, a block north of the stock exchange, where they were met by dozens of police in riot helmets. Police ordered the crowd to keep moving, and several people were arrested as marchers spilled from the pavement into the street. Protesters cheered as streamers and confetti were thrown into the air.
One sign read: “Thank you NYPD for shutting down Wall Street”.
Smaller knots of activists roved the streets, occasionally sitting down at intersections and chanting, before converging on Bowing Green, near the iconic statue of the Wall Street Bull.
Workers trying to reach nearby offices were turned back by police and one got into a shouting match with a protester who demanded: “I want my money back.”
For all intents and purposes, the Occupy movement is dead, even as the Tea Party lives on. But why?
One reason, it seems to me, is that the Occupy protesters were purposely — even proudly — rudderless, eschewing leadership in favor of broad, and thus vague, consensus. It’s hard to get anything done without leaders. A second is that while they had plenty of grievances, aimed mainly at the “oppressive” power of corporations, the Occupy protesters never got beyond their own slogans.
But the main reason is that, ultimately, Occupy Wall Street simply would not engage with the larger world. Believing that both politicians and corporations were corrupt, it declined to dirty its hands by talking to anyone in power. The takeover of the park — especially as the police threatened to force the protesters out — became an end in itself rather than the means to something larger. Occupy was an insular movement, whose members spoke mainly to each other.
The Tea Party did just the opposite. It, too, believed that politicians were venal, but rather than turning away from politics, its adherents worked to elect politicians who believed in the same things they did. Yes, the Tea Party had wealthy benefactors, but their money would not have succeeded without enormous grass-roots support. Two years ago, 87 new Tea Party-elected candidates showed up in Washington. Much as you or I may not like it, they have largely succeeded throwing sand in the wheels of government. That was their goal.
Timothy Noah, the author of “The Great Divergence,” a fine book about income inequality, says that Occupy Wall Street did succeed in “massively raising the issue’s profile,” as he put it to me in an e-mail. There is more discussion now about income inequality, he added, than during the entire quarter-century the income gap was widening.
That is nothing to sneeze at, I suppose, but raising the issue is the easy part. The hard part is doing something about it. Without political engagement by those who want to reverse income inequality, it will continue to widen.
This year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to be too broke to file for bankruptcy.
The average cost to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, the most common form of consumer bankruptcy, is more than $1,500, according to recent research submitted to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
As a result, anywhere between 200,000 and one million consumers are estimated to be unable to afford that steep cost this year.
The research, conducted by a group of professors from Columbia University, the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis,examined how bankruptcy filings spiked after people received their tax rebates in previous years. They estimate that another 200,000 consumers, who would otherwise not have enough money to file, will use their tax refunds to pay for bankruptcy this year.
“It becomes harder and harder to pay off the debt as interest payments get higher, so your debt grows larger and larger,“ said Jialan Wang, co-author of the report.
Among those fees is a charge of about $300 just for filing the paperwork with the federal court, while the rest typically goes to bankruptcy lawyers, said Wang.
And there are other expenses on top of that, including fees for mandatory pre-bankruptcy credit counseling and a pre-discharge debtor education course. These average about $85 altogether, according to a recent study sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute, she said.
That means many of the Americans who have seen their debt snowball out of control due to events like job loss, foreclosure or a medical emergency during the economic downturn are now left without their last financial lifeline, she said.
When tents went up on the Quad on Nov. 17, the longstanding protest against high and rising tuition and fees in the UC found expression through the tactics of the national Occupy movement. Campus administrators focused on the relation of this event to other Occupy movement encampments. … The administration did not consider the Occupy movement encampment to be a conventional campus protest. The Leadership Team appeared to perceive it as a vehicle through which non-affiliates might enter the campus and endanger students.
UC Davis campus administrators identified the security risks created by non-affiliates participating in the Occupy encampment as a critical factor influencing their decision to remove the tents erected in the Occupy UC Davis encampment. One source for their concern was the information reported by news media regarding drug use and violence at municipal encampments, particularly the Occupy Oakland encampment, and the presence of non-affiliates at protests and encampments at other universities, such as UC Berkeley.
Assistant Vice Chancellor Castro explicitly challenged Chief Spicuzza’s report that a substantial number of the protesters at the encampment were non-affiliates and the Police Chief conceded that Castro’s information was more credible than the reports of her officers. The Chancellor addressed Castro’s report, asking if she could “prove” that the protesters were mostly students. Castro replied, “I didn’t ask for IDs. It’s just from my sense of what I know.” The Leadership Team did not discuss the matter further.
To date, the assertion that many non-affiliates were involved in the Occupy movement encampment on the Quad has not been substantiated. The status of the protesters arrested on Nov. 18 does not support the contention that many non-affiliates were involved in these events.
Because the presence of non-affiliates on campus in the encampment was the expressed foundation of the Leadership Team’s safety concerns, an accurate determination of the number of non-affiliates in the encampment would substantially support or undermine any immediate need to order the tents on the Quad to be taken down. Yet, notwithstanding the conflicting intelligence presented to the Leadership Team, the Task Force has seen no evidence that any further inquiry was conducted to resolve this question. While the Leadership Team may have worried that the continued existence of the encampment would attract non-affiliates to the campus over time, this concern
would not justify ordering the immediate dismantling of the encampment.
The Reynoso Task Force report on the UC Davis pepper spray incident is damning of the university administration and campus police throughout, but quite interesting that it faults the very premise of the decision to remove the protesters in the first place. Definitely worth your time to read the whole thing.
Fifty years after Port Huron, the Occupy movement has brilliantly shaped the terms of public debate about class and, uniquely, class struggle. But like the signatories of the Statement, the Occupiers need to expand beyond the narrower interests of their original members. When Occupy began, its social composition was primarily white and middle class, and it targeted the corporate criminals and the capitalist elite, a.k.a. Wall Street. Occupy, however, has struggled to extend its reach to strategically essential low-income communities of color. Besides the critical component of the movement’s social composition, there is also the challenge of fleshing out the content of its political program. The question is whether Occupy can truly give voice to all of the “99 percent” that it wants to represent.