Should Occupy pull back and reinvent itself?

After Justin Herman Plaza was wiped clean of OccupySF, what's the next step?
Brian Smith

Maybe it's time for the Occupy movement to simply take a bow, step off the national stage for now, and start planning its next big production. Because at this point, Occupy has been a smashing success – winning over its audiences and key critics, influencing the national debate – but it's in danger of losing that luster if its lingers too long in its current form.

Consider the events of this week. When OccupySF's long-standing encampment was finally removed by police and city workers, the general public barely noticed or reacted. Unlike during previous police raids, hundreds of supporters didn't pour in to defend the camp and social media sites didn't light up with messages of indignation and solidarity.

Why? Well it's not because people don't support the movement. Polls have consistently shown most people back Occupy, and even higher percentages support its basic message that the 99 percent are being screwed over by the 1 percent. Top political leaders at every level – Mayor Ed Lee, Gov. Jerry Brown, and President Barack Obama – made statements and speeches this week that echo the themes and ideas that Occupy has injected into the national dialogue.

But the tactic of occupation was only going to get us so far. It was a great way to start a conversation and demonstrate a broad discontent with this country's inequities and plutocratic excess. Finally, the people have started to challenge those who are exploiting them, and it's been particularly exciting to see young people fighting to reclaim their stolen futures.

That energy hasn't dissipated, and it's interesting to see it morphing into other campaigns, such as the recent takeovers of vacant foreclosed homes, the human rights march planned for tomorrow, and West Coast port shutdown scheduled for Monday. But I predict the crowds blockading the Port of Oakland will be a fraction of the size of the tens of thousands who took to the streets during the Oakland General Strike on Nov. 2.

Then, people were reacting to police violently crushing Occupy Oakland's peaceful political assembly on Oct. 25, a galvanizing event, much like the raid on Occupy Wall Street and the abusive police tactics against occupiers on the UC Berkeley and UC Davis campuses. Each example showcased the police state's willingness to use a heavy hand against peaceful protesters, demonstrating for a global audience what an important struggle this is and what we're up against.

Yet it was hard to summon up much indignation over this week's raid on OccupySF, even as protesters complained about being given just five minutes to get out and having their belonging seized and destroyed. Mayor Lee had been threatening the raid for weeks and had offered the group a free new home in the Mission – an offer they probably should have taken, one that would have allowed the group to declare victory and have a base of operations throughout the winter.

But unlike my cranky, "you kids get off my lawn" colleagues in the mainstream press, who have consistently derided the movement and valued anti-camping laws over the core constitutional right to peaceably assemble to petition for a redress of grievances, I think Occupy has been extremely important and effective. My desire is to see it evolve and continue.

Mayor Lee and other city officials have praised the goals and worldview of Occupy at every turn, even as they oppose the tactic of camping. As Police Chief Greg Suhr raided OccupySF, he told reporters that "part of the 99 percent removed part of the 99 percent to give the other part of 99 percent some relief,” tipping his hat to Occupy's basic paradigm. Gov. Brown echoed Occupy's economic inequity language in his call for higher taxes on the rich this week.

“I'm here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we're greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren't Democratic values or Republican values. These aren't 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They're American values. And we have to reclaim them,” Obama said in his big speech this week, embracing the Occupy paradigm even as he tried to transcend it. But go back and read the whole speech and you'll see that it would have fit right in during any Occupy General Assembly, with its regular calls to tax the rich, something this movement has given him the political cover to more forcefully advocate.

So the conversation has now begun, thanks largely to this movement. But, as most supporters of Occupy already know, our elected officials won't simply enact the reforms we need on their own. They will need to be pushed and prodded relentlessly by a restive public, so the supporters of Occupy still have a lot of work to do.

How will they do that and what will it look like? I don't know, but after watching these smart, creative, courageous, and committed young people and their supporters change the political dynamics of this country over the last three months, I'm anxious to see what they come up with and I stand read to chronicle and support the next phase, whatever it's called and whenever it begins.


This obsession with exclusively setting up homes on public land was always doomed. The movement was better off in it's initial focus on banks than what it quickly became - an absurd obsession with an illegal appropriation of public space.

So yes, Steven, even insofar as the movement has a coherent goal (and that's not at all clear), it clearly needs to be re-thought. This story has moved off the front page because the public got sick of the self-indulgence and self-obsession.

Oh, and why the hell do they pick the least sympathetic serial remortagors as poster children? Beyond bizarre.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

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Posted by fastighetsmäklare stockholm on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

The story moved off of the front page because of a federally mandated violent policy of police crackdown.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2011 @ 6:53 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

Whatever you do next, I suggest you stop protesting foreclosures where the homeowner is walking away with 500k in their pocket.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2011 @ 9:14 am

Yes it's time to reinvent yourselves
Many of the people you stop & create havoc are part of the 99%. Yet we need to work to pay bills, keep our families safe. Christmas is coming care about those who brought you here, gave you a voice it's a time for sharing the good things we have every day in our lives

Posted by GuestDing on Dec. 10, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

The end of the US Bill of Rights= US Senate Bill S.1867 passed!!
Did Senators Fienstein and Boxer vote yes on this bill?

Posted by sf T party on Dec. 12, 2011 @ 11:30 am

From the actions of police, and what has been said about the Occupy movement, yes, it should change. Just like anything it is in a state of fluctuation, and since so many are interested in it's main message about calling out the flagrant excesses of Wall Street, it will continue to move. But, frankly one of the things that needs to change is in the branding of the movement. Occupation Wall Street is appropriately named for it's opposition to Wall Street. But, note it is not Occupy New York City. So, why is it people who I think probably have good intentions, have jumped up to Occupy Oakland, or to Occupy City College? I don't think the initial organizers wanted to protest any particular municipality, or even though some executive pay in excessive, schools. I am part of the 99% the movement was created for, and I don't want to be occupied! But, the tactic to become a squatter on public property is a good one because the media likes to report that type of news, and it provides a centralized place with which to gather. In San Francisco it didn't hurt that the Occupy community was in such close proximity to the Federal Reserve Bank, and also clearly visible not only in those in the financial district, but to worldwide tourists and commuting workers. The movement has been activated, and yes, it does need to change. I spoke with a trusted friend about how I feel the brand-name needs to change from 'Occupy,' which leads followers to think about that as an end-goal, to something else. She suggested the Nationalist title, "Wake up and realize unless we act, we won't be able to change America back to being a good nation." Is a good sentiment, albeit a little wordy. Wake up America.

Posted by Marlon on Dec. 12, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

Focus on the banks. Occupy Citibank and MorganChase.

Hold up signs showing the CEO's pay, how much the banks got from the corporate-welfare bailout, how much they bilked the buyers of their own packaged investments.

John QP will give you full support.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 10:31 am

There are few things sadder than a stillborn movement in it's final death throes

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 11:35 am

Many big banks will not be around in 5-10 years, starting with some large European banks. Flip through the 20 banks on the link below, focusing on the number in red: the percent of PIIGS government debt held by the bank compared to total bank equity. Some of these bankruptcies will have an impact on US and other foreign banks too because of the complicated financial interconnectedness among all worldwide financial institutions.

Self-interest greed is everywhere - it's hard to legislate against that - but it's the politicians who allow the benefits of greed to get funnelled to the economic elites and who make the less well-off working people pay for the greed. That's the far more important issue; politicians favoring the wealthy over working people.

Although it's true banks and the real estate industry make a lot more fees and huge bonuses when prices are increasing and their landlord/speculator borrowers are making lots of money, it's the politicians that create the Ponzi scheme in the first place with all sorts of tax loopholes to landlords/speculators. And it's the government that makes working class taxpayers pay off the bad debts after the property speculators have made their money and skipped town.

Follow the money.

Pick a year, 1975 or 1995. I buy an apartment building for $10 million, putting up $1 or $2 million downpayment, or even zero in some cases during boom-boom real estate periods.

Within a few years the building goes up by 50% to $15 million, even though I've done nothing to the property other than very basic maintenance. With a 10% downpayment, I've made a 500% profit. But no capital gains tax is paid since I still own the building.

I borrow $5 million of my building profit, again tax free since I did not sell the building. Maybe I buy another building or two and keep my profits increasing at an even greater level.

The following year the real estate market crashes and the building is worth only $10 million again. I walk away from the building and loan, leaving the keys with the bank. In many cases, the bank will eat the $14 million of loans in excess of the sale proceeds (the original $9 million loan and subsequent $5 million cash pull out), and I walk away with $4 million of tax-free money. (The non-taxed $5 million I took out of the building, less my $1 million downpayment.)

While this "free money magic" is happening, the government is letting me deduct my interest expenses against other income AND is giving me phony depreciation deductions based on the full $10 million purchase price, even though the building has been "depreciated" many, many times before, and even though the original construction costs were also a tax deduction to the builder.

All of these wonderful government provided tax welfare subsides to landlords and speculators is at the backbone of the many economic ailments in the country. High rents. Massive government debt and burdensome interest payments. High concentration of wealth. It's the government policies making all of this happen and it's where the solutions lie, not trying to make bankers, or landlords, or businesspeople, or unions less greedy.

While flipping through these major European banks remember that even if the shareholder wealth wiped out is only a few billion (the common equity number), there is a ripple effect to other banks that have counter-party debt and insurance arrangements.

The stories about the largest top 20 European banks most at risk for bankruptcy:

A list of the most insolvent Euro countries threatening the entire world economic system because of the government debts they owe to bondholders, who are the ultimate 1%ers that will take down the entire economy if they don't get what they want - more guarantees and more taxpayer dollars into their pockets. Thank goodness at least Angela Merkel can stand up to the 1% bondholders and their banker alter egos. It would be nice if the US had a politician or two who could match Merkel's resolve to make the 1%ers back down from more debt issuances and more printing presses.

P ortugal
I taly
I reland
G reece
S pain

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

and not the millions of ordinary people who work for banks and don't control policy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

Destruction of the Bill of rights!!

Both Senators Boxer and Feinstein both voted for legislation that would deny SUSPECTED terrorists, even U.S. CITIZENS seized within the nation's borders, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention by the military who may also execute US citizens without due process. I
f you demonstrate against the corporate police state and you may disapear forever!!
They have trashed the US Constitution!

Take back America from the corporate billionaires!!!

Posted by sf t party on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

the issue!!!!
All the republican and democrat politicians are owned and operated by the corporate gangsters!!!

Prosecute and jail all the corporate billionaires and their politicians whores, who committed fraud, bribery, accepted bribes and theft!!!

Posted by sf t party on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

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