Opinion: The future of the Occupy movement

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer is a senior anthropology major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected]

Last year, the Occupy Wall Street movement brought issues of economic equality to the mainstream. Inspired partially by the Arab Spring, people from all over the United States gathered in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to protest a widening income gap and dismal unemployment. Meanwhile, people around the U.S. and the world gathered in their own cities to protest local and national issues.

The movement changed much of the dialogue on class in America and introduced the “1 percent” to the mainstream media’s repertoire. As OWS grew, incidences of police brutality and government interference only galvanized sympathizers. It seemed like the movement had significant momentum by mid-fall and showed no signs of stopping. However, as winter neared and permits expired, the OWS movement began to fade into obscurity due to its significant fragmentation of collective goals.

Now, one year later, where is the Occupy movement? I think that analyzing the movement’s roots can offer some explanation to the past and future of OWS.

Occupy was planned and organized online by the Canadian activist group Adbusters, which has been advocating against income inequality years before the “99 percent” was a part of the collective consciousness. As the movement grew (probably faster than the organizers had planned), a wide-range coalition of many special-interest advocacy groups organically formed in Zuccotti Park and public sites nationwide.

The occupiers in Zuccotti Park were armed to the teeth with smartphones, laptops, sophisticated home-brew wireless networks and social media. Much like the Arab Spring, OWS was comprised largely of technologically adept young people.

It is interesting to think that organizing that started on an online forum became a national news story overnight. For a few weeks, occupiers around the globe were closely scrutinized by the media and police agencies. The public dialogue shifted toward the issues of class, equality and governmental power. There was a certain feeling in the air: things were changing — although how they were changing is still unclear.

Occupy Wall Street lost much of its momentum when the police (at multiple sites) broke up the encampments and winter began to settle. However, in the minds of many occupiers, the groundwork had only been laid for what may be a long-term movement for sociopolitical change. The seeds for a new form of political activism had been planted.

Ultimately, the Occupy movement made no real direct change to the socioeconomic conditions in the United States because of its philosophical fragmentation. However, what the Occupy movement did accomplish is to provide a template for grassroots political action, facilitated by the Internet and an impassioned base.

In the 21st century, things change rapidly. Never before have individuals worldwide had so much power. Any casual user of Reddit, Facebook or Twitter observes this shift in power every day. The Internet has provided regular people with the means to broadcast and share ideas.

When used in the right context, the Internet acts as an accelerator of fundamental social and cultural change. With the digital tools we use every day, each of us has the ability to change the world.