Last night, Occupy protestors in Philly and LA were evicted. According to an article posted on MSNBC this morning, about 200 protestors are being held in LA, though police did say the arrests were mostly peaceful. In Philly, meanwhile, the police issued three warnings that the protestors would have to leave, and nearly all did so, according to the article. But then they started marching through the streets, disrupting traffic at times, and even halting some of the city’s mass transit system.
Now that these two sites have been evicted, there are very few large cities left with ongoing occupation encampments. NYC was dismantled a while ago, though they still have been meeting at Zuccotti park, though without tents. Occupy Chicago was also evicted a while ago. Occupy Boston still has an encampment, but for how long?
These evictions pose a question for the Occupy movement: what comes next? The encampments were successful in the sense that they changed the national dialogue and sparked conversations among Americans and in the media about economic inequality. They also helped create a community of diverse people that have been exchanging ideas about how to fix this country.
However, it’s my belief after visiting occupation sites in Philly and Boston and working with some local activists that for this movement to succeed, it has to grow beyond encampments. The Tea Party succeeded in a sense that people within the movement ran for office, and about two dozen Tea Party members now occupy the federal House of Representatives. They’ve been able to derail legislation and push their agenda. At some point, the Occupy movement needs to consider running people for office, working with the system, and coming up with clear legislative goals. So far, the movement has been against creating clear demands, but there has to be more than just protest. The Civil Rights movement succeeded in getting desegregation legislation passed. The 1930s labor movement succeeding in getting FDR to pass the New Deal programs and creating Social Security. Occupy can push for certain legislative goals, including a constitutional amendment to ban the notion of corporate personhood, which would counter the Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United in 2010, which made it possible for corporations to funnel an unlimited amount of money into politics. The movement can also push for even greater regulation of Wall Street and lobbyists, a higher tax rate for millionares, and a more comprehensive jobs bill than what Obama has offered.
OWS is about three months old now, a very new movement. But for it to stay relevant and continue getting media coverage beyond arrests of protestors, it should move beyond encampments. Recently, the encampments have created issues between police and protestors, and how sustainable will encampments even be when winter comes?