The idea of Occupy as a physical space has been beneficial but has served its time. As a movement that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1% its future is limitless but also uncertain. There was drama and symbolism in occupying space against authorities, but more important it created a message that resonated with Americans and brought supporters to its cause. Soon the sheer amount of work necessary to maintain an encampment while dealing with external and internal forces overwhelmed the ability of occupiers to promote the reforms in their list of demands. Now not having to defend and manage real estate should be a liberating experience and open up new opportunities, ones they must seize or face irrelevance. Even our NJ Occupy sites which have not been evicted must look to the future and evolve.
The Occupy movement retains its powerful message, equality for the 99%, but it is so broad that at each location participants must hone their issues and focus one-by-one on targets that are practical, supported by membership, and have a chance of achieving success. Those sites which built a strong contact list can set up workgroups approved by a General Assembly to address specific problems. They then review the issues, decide on the changes needed and meet with authorities who in some cases may even agree to make changes. Short of that, they then plan an event or series of events that will capture attention and support of the public, and they proceed to exert pressure.
Occupy Newark (ON) started with workgroups and with the goal of focussing on local problems. They attracted over 60 people to Sunday’s General Assembly, but Newarkers can be a raucous group, with disparate cultures and agendas. With their energy going to providing a voice to each participant, managing services for a 24/7 encampment, and dealing with police, it is difficult for ON to focus on pushing the demands against the 1%. Occupy Trenton (OT) maintains a presence at the WWII memorial but has not marshalled the energy, desire or support to tackle specific issues. OT is surrounded by our state’s executive, legislative, and judiciary headquarters, the lobbying offices of our most powerful groups, and in a city beset by problems. OT has many specific issues from which to select, and they have an opportunity to seek broader support and boldly press for change. Both groups remain viable. However, they must be less concerned about real estate and make organizational changes that allow them to concentrate on what will benefit the 99%.
Imagine the influence of many Occupy sites throughout the nation promoting the demands of the 99% by targeting local actions on specific issues the participants care most about. The opportunities for the NJ groups are numerous and can be selected from what other groups are doing nation-wide and then refined for the local situation. Occupiers cry out against the greed of the wealthy, so why not support the NJ legislative movement for a higher tax on millionaires? They see the heinous practices used in foreclosures, so why not select one of the most egregious banks and stage demonstrations in front of a key office and on a neighborhood block where the blight of foreclosure is most evident? They do not like how some of our largest retailers take advantage of employees, so why not target a “Big Box” company and push for a specific change? Our “prison industry” seems greedy and corrupt, so why not launch an effort at a corporate headquarters?
Failure to engage is what the 1% hope for, and it’s a path toward extinction. With so many possible issues to select, it is not necessary to labor over the decision, but rather select a few which seem likely to achieve some success and develop a plan. Then get the local press involved, and as Nike says, “Just do it.”