6 Places to Occupy Next: Protest the 1% Where They Live, Work and Play
A movement born of mass protest faces a longevity crisis when the demonstrations peter out.
Everyone will soon ask: what comes next?
Mainstream media pundits with little understanding of social movements make all the wrong prognostications, puzzling over whether or not the Democratic Party will join with/coopt Occupy Wall Street. A strong leftist current within the movement (there are other currents, too: namely liberal and many, many unaffiliated) make this impossible, though the call for economic justice could amplify the message of the party’s progressive wing.
The most important question is, will Occupy Wall Street be a one-time, if remarkable, push that tweaks the nation’s political discourse, or an ongoing social movement that transforms the national conversation and wins concrete victories for economic justice?
While countless people are debating what to do, I offer this proposal for consideration: funnel the mass movement and zeal for direct action into ongoing and roving occupations of “1 percent” targets to win victories and sustain the movement through the winter.
Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide can form a variety of distinct groups to mobilize a newly politicized public for ongoing, cascading occupations to demand economic justice from the plutocrats. Imagine if there were a new major action every month, in every major American city, targeting a greedy Wall Street bank or defending a family fighting foreclosure?
Why not occupy everything, as need be, and on a roving basis?
The idea that Occupy Wall Street, propagated by many a pundit, needs a short set of bullet point demands is absurd: the Tea Party had demands ranging from the expulsion of undocumented immigrants and to the proof of Obama’s birth certificate, and from calling for mass cuts to federal spending to the abolition of the Federal Reserve (and yes, some Ron Paul types do insist on showing up at Occupy Wall Streets, despite the complete political contradiction...).
There are countless movement organizations and labor unions that have clear demands for social and economic justice, and perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movement will give birth to more. But Occupy Wall Street benefits from its diffuse, radically democratic, and non-organizational nature, and from its zeal to take action to win jobs and hold the rich accountable for the economic crisis.
Hypothetically, the movement could:
- Occupy one of the many troublemaking banks, whether it be Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan or whichever, until it agrees to let people fighting foreclosure stay in their homes and offer meaningful debt forgiveness. Or target a bank whose casino capitalism deals left municipal coffers broke, demanding that they cut indebted cities and counties some slack.
- Occupy a home where a family is fighting eviction. Millions of American homes have been foreclosed upon, and another wave of foreclosure is now upon us.
- Occupy an exploitative company and demand they stop funding the right-wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or link up with a labor struggle like that of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) against Verizon’s attempt to roll back benefits and retirement. Unions across the country are fighting anti-worker lawmakers and businesses that say America can no longer pay decent wages and benefits for a hard day’s work. Occupy Wall Street should join that fight, and ask workers how they can help.
- Occupy a statehouse that is slashing education and welfare funding or, like in Wisconsin, eliminating collective bargaining rights. The mass protests in Madison earlier this year set the tone for today’s occupations.
- Occupy the office of a congressman who refuses to raise taxes on the rich and end the war, or who denies the existence of global warming, or who refuses to take concrete action to create good jobs now.
- Occupy where the 1 percent “live, work and play.” The super rich all belong to country clubs and other exclusive institutions. If the movement is targeting a specific bank, a picket of the CEO’s country club will hit them one place it hurts: their easy comfort amongst high society.
An overlapping but not formalized set of coalitions could launch this series of occupations. A movement of ongoing protest would maintain the direct action excitement and community building built around today’s occupations so that it feeds into particular movements with concrete demands. Occupy Wall Street need not further organize or formalize itself, or even enter into formal coalitions: that will inevitably cause division and sap the movement of its radical democratic energy.
Occupy Wall Street still has plenty of steam. Here in Philadelphia, the number of tents in front of City hall has doubled since Saturday. But the occupation can continue once the snow begins to fall: blockading the entrance to corrupt banks and exploitative corporations, and defending families fighting foreclosure, will keep the movement moving until springtime. And most importantly, it could win concrete victories for the vast majority of Americans who have been forced from their homes and robbed of their jobs and retirement funds.