Occupy Wall Street is making a comeback this year, to mark its one-year anniversary. On Sept. 17, the protesters hope to cause a bit of chaos in Lower Manhattan. But, Bloomberg reports, interest in the movement is waning and the lack of a coherent message is starting to be a problem:
“We are just going to cause chaos, period,” said Drew Hornbein, 25, who helped develop the website for Occupy’s New York General Assembly. “Have you ever been in poverty in this country? Talk about inconvenience. I don’t have any sympathy for anyone who has any semblance of middle-class life in this country — no sympathy.”
Whether protesters should feel otherwise and reach out to Americans who want to improve the system rather than overturn capitalism is a core question facing Occupy as its first birthday approaches, said Paul Getsos, a former lecturer on community organizing at the Columbia University School of Social Work who has been involved in the protests since Zuccotti Park.
“Does the movement want to engage the 99 percent in a deep and meaningful way?” asked Getsos. “Or does it want to engage the most radical and most committed?”
Todd Gitlin, who incidentally also works at Columbia, was involved with the Students for a Democratic Society in the 60’s, and he was highly critical of Occupy. He told Bloomberg that Occupy needs to be “more identifiable, more available to people outside the inner circles.”
The movement even showed signs of “flagging interest” when we checked in on their rather anticlimactic May Day protests in Midtown. Occupy confounds would-be supporters not only by being more radical and diverse in its political positions than most of mainstream America is comfortable with (even if they hate the banks, too), but also because it developed a strange obsession with its own processes, perhaps at the expense of any focus on achievable goals. While the democratic spirit was alive and well within the movement — the people’s mic, the finger-waving, etc — their lack of willingness to engage with our electoral system is reflective of the radicalism that took over an essentially centerless movement.
One thing to look forward to this year, which also happens to encapsulate Occupy’s problem, really stood out to us: the protesters are going to try to put bankers under citizens arrest, but “some protesters oppose the idea…because they don’t want to validate the U.S. prison system.” Exactly.