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7 Occupations That Changed US History

With the spread of political occupations to all 50 states today, lessons can be gleaned from past occupations for a movement that shows no signs of going away.

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While the alter-globalization fell apart in the United States after the September 11 attacks, the worldwide movement helped to make the IMF irrelevant, while many veterans are playing critical roles in the Occupy Wall Street Movement today.

7) Lunch Counter Sit-ins

On Feb. 1, 1960, four freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at a whites-only lunch counter in a Woolworth store in the city of Greensboro and asked to be served coffee and doughnuts. They stay until the store closes. The next day the four return with other students, and by day four the number of protesters is nearly 300.

As planning began at two historic Black colleges in the area the prior fall, the students responded to the refusal of service by activating phone trees. Word quickly spreads throughout Black colleges and students in the South as does the tactic.

Tactics of nonviolence and returning to the lunch counter while refusing to be provoked by police and violent white mobs broadens the movement and gains it national support and sympathy. In Nashville, the student movement targets lunch counters as well as bus stations and department stores. In Savannah, Georgia, a widespread boycott movement forces some stores into bankruptcy and the next year the city agrees to desegregate buses, swimming pools, parks, restaurants and other public facilities.

In less than two weeks sit-ins, boycotts and pickets take place throughout North Carolina and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia as well. Within a few months, sit-ins have occurred in every Southern state, and by year’s end an estimated 70,000 people have participated, resulting in more than 3,000 arrests.

The student led sit-in movement sparks the modern civil rights movement, leading to the formal dismantling of American Apartheid. 

Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper. He is writing a book on the decline of American Empire for Haymarket Books.