The police raid on unsuspecting Occupy Wall Street protesters at Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning was a disturbing sight. Cops in riot gear smashed tents, arrested groggy protesters from the park, confiscated possessions and books from the People’s Library (although we have confirmed that the materials are safe) and even brought in bulldozers to rid Zuccotti of the movement’s micro-city. Although protesters have returned to re-occupy their space, they will no longer be allowed to bring tents or sleeping bags into the park according to a New York Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday. With the symbolic and physical base of the movement under threat, everyone is asking: What is next for Occupy Wall Street?
When raids hit and the powers that be try to reassert their influence, the movement pushes back even harder. Today, Occupy Wall Street plans to do just that with a day of direct actions to celebrate the two-month anniversary of when members first converged on Zuccotti Park.
For the event, #N17 Mass Day of Action, protesters plan to shut down Wall Street in the morning and share stories in front of the Stock Exchange, occupy several subway lines and finally march to Foley Square. There are also marches scheduled in other Occupied US cities like LA and Boston and an international general strike of university students planned in cities in Spain, Belgium and Germany.
I reached out to the Arts and Culture group to see what type of actions they might have planned, but haven’t received a response yet. There was some talk on the Google group of erecting a 99% sculpture created by artist Kate Raudenbush in Zuccotti Park, maybe to rival the Mark di Suvero sculpture that has received a lot of attention from OWS lately. Di Suvero has not yet responded to the movement’s letter they sent out last week, asking the artist-activist to make a public statement against the barricades blocking his sculpture. Some members of Arts and Culture are not happy about the artist’s continued silence, especially after the raid.
If all goes to plan, #N17 will prove that OWS is not disbanding anytime soon despite attacks on the movement’s cohesion. Yet, as the raid brings up questions on what the future of this movement will look like and how successful it can continue to be, it might be time for OWS to pick and chose who they want to place pressure on.
What is needed now is not just mass actions, but also specified actions that target the institutions and corporations involved in foul play. When businesses and corporations realize that consumers are angry and willing to boycott, they quickly clean up their act. We saw a perfect example of this when Bank of America decided to cut their proposed monthly debit card fee after customers expressed their outrage over the plan. OWS of course provided much of the impetus for these complaints and the movement in general has created an increased awareness of bank greed and the power of the populous to call them out on it.
Yet while OWS has spread like wild fire to those who feel a connection to and find a voice within the movement, it has yet to really impact the lives of the 1%. It has yet to really make their discontent and anger felt by those who don’t relate, those who still don’t take the movement seriously and most importantly, the problem institutions who will continue on with business as usual unless they feel threatened. More boycotts and backlash against specific corporations that harm the middle classes will help the movement launch attacks where they will be felt most. Also with the rallying power of OWS, consumer resistance that maybe wasn’t possible before now has a fighting chance.
On an art-related note, the website Occuprint is a reminder that there is still so much left to say and so much left to do. The site, dedicated to the poster art of the global Occupy movement, allows visitors to download posters for free and distribute them however they wish. Its a grassroots action that extends universal ownership and access to the movement. This is the base that OWS has created and that will hopefully continue to thrive, whether or not Zuccotti Park remains at its heart.