One-year anniversary of the Occupy movement

Activists fed up with the growing income disparity between the rich and the poor formed the Occupy Wall-Street movement, a year ago. 

Their goal was to change the scope of politics and America’s capitalist system. A few hundred protesters marched down Wall Street in New York Sept. 17, to celebrate the anniversary of the group’s original “occupation” of Zuccotti Park in Manhattan.

Attendance was significantly lower than one year ago when thousands of people marched towards and assembled at the New York Stock Exchange and other institutions that the occupiers viewed as the symbols of greed and capitalism in America.

A drop in attendance, as-well-as media coverage and overall hype, signals that the movement that spread across the world like wildfire last year may be flickering out.  “People don’t seem to pay attention anymore,” said former occupier Dan Legaspi. “They can’t get stuff done, not unless they stop scattering.”

“It seems clear that the movement has fallen out of public consciousness,” said DePaul history and media expert Dr. Wolfinger. He claims that for awareness the most important aspect “is for outlets to see that there is a mass protest, and for outlets to see that as a story that creates readership. When the movement lasted for a while and no revolutionary progress was made, they lost their status as an interesting story.”

Tom Bostwick, who witnessed the movement in New York, agreed with Wolfinger. “I was impressed by their ability to assemble. But I feel they never straightened out for a purpose,” said Bostwick.

Occupy Wall Street was founded when the Canadian activist magazine “Adbusters” called upon people of the world to protest a year ago, when the financial recession and the uprising in the Middle East led to a turbulent political atmosphere. Protests in Spain and Malaysia technically took place before any in America; however the Occupy Wall Street movement was the first to truly capture the world’s attention.  

Last November many of the occupiers “camps” were vacated; including in New York and Oakland where police were called to forcibly remove the protestors. With this in mind it is easy to see why much of their steam may have dissipated.

However, many blame their dwindling momentum on what they see as flaws present within their movement, not the evictions.  “Today, I feel perhaps only two out of 10 participants would be able to tell the purpose behind it,” said Bostwick.

Occupy’s seemingly all-encompassing concerns included not just the growing income disparity, but also: the vast amounts of funding flowing through lobbyists, the large perceived power of banks, and the inability for many recent college graduates to find steady employment to pay off crippling student loans. Many see their broad ambitions as a sign of weakness and a lack of focus.

“I think the Occupy movement was too deliberately broad,” said DePaul sociology professor Dr. Roberta Garner. “And as a result they achieved less than they potentially could have. The two goals they could have focused on was demanding for more financial regulation and serving more of an educational purpose.” Supporters of the movement say that the focus was about creating a public space where people could talk, and shift the dialogue of the nation.

In addition to the perceived lack of focus, some say that some of occupy’s methods of change are too extreme. According to Garner, “the group may have represented the concerns of the 99 percent, but it did not represent the wants of the 99 percent.”

Some of the movement’s proposed solutions include: the elimination of power structures, the implementation of participatory democracy, and the elimination of capitalism altogether. While these propositions are not universal among occupiers, their ultra-radical nature caught the attention of the public. “Even though people criticize them, the governments and financial markets are still rooted in the interests of the people,” said Garner. “People don’t want collapse.”

“We haven’t seen the last of these kinds of movements,” said Garner. “Hopefully next time they’ll be more focused.”