The May 2012 issue of American Ethnologist has three open-access articles focused on the Occupy movement. In “The Occupy MovementMore…
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The first issue of the Journal for Occupied Studies is out. From the journal’s credo: The Journal for Occupied Studies isMore…
Less than ten years ago, a day of international protests swept across the globe, involving millions of human beings for nearly a full 24 hours. It was a global protest against the United States starting a war against Iraq, and was, as far as we know, the first coordinated global protest against state-sponsored violence. A few years before that, at a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, a series of intense, angry protests against global economic injustice began. These actions occurred repeatedly over several years, and across several continents. As recently as the winter of 2011, there were enormous protests in Madison, Wisconsin against anti-union legislation. The protests were explicitly focused on class and inequalities, not just on wealth, but also on the discrepancy of power between the very rich and the rest.
Horizontal social relationships and the creation of new territory, through the use of geographic space, are the most generalized and innovative of the experiences of the Occupy movement. What we have been witnessing across the United States since September 17th is new in a myriad of ways, yet also, as everything, has local and global antecedents. In this essay I will describe these two innovations, and ground them in the more recent past, specifically in the global south in Argentina. I do this so as to examine commonalities and differences, but also to remind us that these ways of organizing have multiple and diverse precedents, and ones from which we can hopefully learn.
You can learn a lot about a movement by listening to its opponents. Everywhere, evidence is accumulating that at the level of formal power relations, the targets of the Occupy Wall Street movement—banks, transnational corporations, and the politicians who serve them—are quaking in their boots at the sight of a mass, leaderless, flexible, inchoate, constantly morphing movement characterized by unprecedented solidarity across formerly separate and even antagonistic groups and by the use of direct, disruptive, and innovative tactics.
Across America police have been called to clear protestors from parks and university campuses. Ostensibly progressive cities like Portland and Oakland have been in the vanguard of evictions. From Harvard to Berkeley, university presidents have joined mayors in using police in riot gear to remove students and other protestors from campus lawns. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took pride in giving police a direct order to evict the original Occupy Wall Street encampment from Zuccotti Park. The police moved in at night and made a point of blocking media coverage of their actions.