I wrote my last blog post in the immediate wake of the forcible eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park that took place early Tuesday morning. For a lot of people, that afternoon was a filled with uncertainty mixed with vague but tangible optimism, thanks to so many other Occupy movements still holding, November 17th actions imminent, and an overwhelming wealth of public support. While the past week’s events have justified initial optimism, building developments both in and (most importantly) out of the Plaza are reason for even more confidence.
Down on Wall Street, vigorous organizing is still taking place around Liberty Plaza, with meetings of various working groups and the relatively new ‘spokes-council’ happening frequently both in the square and at 60 Wall Street (an indoor location required a month or so prior to eviction). This is fantastic, a sign of real endurance. It’s heartwarming to see that the square is still teeming with revolutionary activity. What these meetings demonstrate is a commitment to a core of organization, and they maintain a sense of stability and of perseverance. What’s more exciting though, are the events taking place outside of Liberty Plaza, which prove that losing the Zucotti Park encampment may actually have been the best thing to happen to the movement in New York City.
For one, New York occupations are now reaching out more into the boroughs. What these geographically specific occupations have—what Zucotti didn’t could never really seem to get—is the ability to empower and represent more diverse communities. While the occupation on Wall Street was often shunned by even supportive people of color, Occupy Harlem has proven to be a much more effective forum for those who represent the non-white majority—not to mention those most effected by the historical inequality of capitalism. By rallying more diverse support, these movements prove, as one veteran protester rightly argues, that “Occupy Wall Street is not a quote-unquote white thing.”
And it’s not just the occupations that are spreading beyond the park. So too is the organization of the working groups themselves. With less time and energy being spent down on Wall Street, many organizers that I’ve spoken with are feeling more free to organize specifically around other issues, such as student debt. Like geographic diversity, this tactical diversity will also allow support for the movement to grow. With attention shifting from broad and singular to narrow and varied, people generally familiar with the movement may find more meaningful reasons to take part. Of course, Occupy Wall Street remains central as a symbol and as a communication hub. However, with force from cops and the weather both increasing, these independent (and mobile) points of organization are going to be key to keeping the movement alive.
Life continues in the square, and that is truly excellent. But what really makes me certain that these movements have political staying power is that they are moving beyond Wall Street. A week ago we lost the park, and while we may have gotten it back (sort of), what we really gained was the knowledge that we may no longer need it.