The US Occupy movement is still alive and well in many cities and small communities across the nation. Despite the lack of mainstream corporate news coverage of their activities, Occupy Wall Street affiliated groups have been marching and protesting against a wide range of issues effecting the nation. Two prime examples of their active participation in the cultural dialogue are recent nationally organized demonstrations against Monsanto, and also major protests in opposition to the US government’s PRISM surveillance program.
As further proof that they did not completely disappear, Occupy activists have scheduled their second national conference for August 21 – 25 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The organizers of “Occupy National Gathering 2013” say they chose Michigan as the location for their conference because the state is a perfect place to discuss economic injustice. Some of the major metropolitan areas in the state (including Detroit) are currently being governed by financial managers as a result of bankruptcy. The Midwestern United States has been suffering for many decades from high unemployment and economic austerity.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the country Occupy-affiliated groups have been busy addressing social and economic issues within their own local communities – home foreclosures, student debt, cuts in social services, the XL Keystonepipeline, coal trains, genetically modified organisms, etc. Recent Occupy campaigns have focused on raising money and offering assistance after natural disasters. Occupy Sandy groups were instrumental in picking up the pieces in New York and New Jersey when local governments, FEMA, and power companies dropped the ball. In Oklahoma tornado relief efforts sponsored by occupy groups are still underway.
One outstanding example of the Occupy movement’s emphasis on localism is a successful project that was launched in Eugene, Oregon. “Occupy Medical” offers free health services to local residents. Volunteer medical workers offer their time and skills while traveling throughout the community in a mobile van. The group reports that they have received referrals from both the Veterans Administration hospital and county medical programs.
A weekly national press briefing is still being held every week at the Interoccupy website. US Occupy groups are also very aware of their connections to social movements in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Occupiers have been discussing their common concerns with activists in Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, and other parts of the worldwhere people power has taken to the streets to demand democracy, protection of the commons, and economic justice for the poor and middle class. in June 2013 eighteen Occupy Toronto protesters were arrested in Canadawhile occupying an oil terminal construction site owned by the Enbridge corporation.
The Occupy National Gathering in Kalamazoo will be another opportunity for activists to convene en masse to share information and resources. Occupy Wall Street has transformed itself into a large number of independent groups of activists working on specific issues relevant to their own communities. The concerns which move folks to act in Boston may not be the same issues that effect people in Seattle, but a common spirit prevails amongst the participants of last year’s major national protests. Despite its apparent disunity, today the movement is still calling for national efforts to improve conditions for the 99%. These activists still share the same intense longing for economic and environmental justice that motivated them to try to shut down the New York Stock Exchangeand occupy dozens of city parks in 2011 and 2012.
The 2012 National Occupy Gathering in Philadelphia opened on Independence Day for obvious reasons.
The OWS activists want to declare their independence from Wall Street and its corrupt financial practices. Unfortunately, during past national conferences city officials and police have not been sympathetic to the cause. At the Midwest Occupy Conference in St. Louis 14 attendees were arrested after a march.
The city of Kalamazoo has already denied the use of one public park by the 2013 Occupy National Gathering participants, but so far this year occupiers have not staged mass sit-ins. Most of the youthful energy has been turned towards specific causes and community-oriented campaigns that are making a difference in the lives of people in every region of the country from small towns in California to major cities on the east coast.
The US media is now actively boycotting these efforts to follow the original OWS vision of peace and justice, and the participants are being completely ignored by the established political parties. Yet despite this current state of cultural neglect, the legacy of the Occupy Wall Street movement will continue to live on beyond all of the media hype, negative stereotypes, and political misconceptions.
If the occupiers have one thing right, it’s their unique state of independence from the two major corporate political parties. The Democrats and Republicans are more likely to ignore the activists than to oppose them. Perhaps due to this relative anonymity, the occupy movement will fare better than the Tea Partygroups.
The fact that OWS folks are now operating beneath the media and political radar may prove to be one of their greatest advantages.
History will show that the long-term effects of Occupy Wall Street have not yet been fully realized by the US press or by our political leadership.
After all, that’s usually the case when you are a little ahead of your time…