Assessing Occupy's legacy

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Despite the incoherence of its spokespeople and stupid experiments like “The General Assembly”, Occupy still managed to make economic inequality an acceptable point of discussion in mainstream American discourse. For all that it’s referenced in the popular press now, before Occupy the topic was strictly off-limits.

Once that discussion was no longer verboten, other formerly unspeakable related concepts (like a UBI, or avowed socialists running for office) became open for discussion in turn. That is the signature legacy of Occupy.


I was a tourist at an occupy encampment, only attending a couple protests and then going home. I agreed with the anger over the bailout and the government’s prioritizing corporate profit above people, but I never saw how my being active in occupy could make a difference.
To the extent that there is a legacy of changing legislation thats great, but to me the biggest impact was just seeing what a diverse set of people were willing to get out and fight for income equality


We’re voting this week in Denver to overturn the “public camping ban”, put in place to disrupt the local occupy movement. The usual suspects are losing their minds. One of my Trumpian work acquaintances assured me that we will be stepping over used needles and human feces in our front yards by year’s end. I just want the young family that’s been discretely living in their camper all winter in my local library parking lot to not have the additional worry of being hauled in for simply trying to survive. The ability of human amygdala to fixate on all the wrong fears absolutely amazes me sometimes.


I’ve put off responding to this until tonight because the legacy of Occupy feels very different in Cleveland and an article that leaves off that difference hurts in a way that is somewhat difficult to put into words. Cleveland had the last full time occupation of a public space of any city, but that isn’t what sticks with so many of us. What sticks with us is the federal informants who were sent in and the people who are still in prison. To write about the legacy of Occupy and leave out the fact that 4 (5 before plea bargains for one) people were sent to federal prison on trumped up terrorism charges is absolute bullshit. One gets out soon, but the others still have a few years. They’ve all spent a sizable share of their time in SHU and every month the lovely person who handles fundraising for them struggles to keep up with their commissary accounts.


It “helps” when there are people deliberately stoking the fears they want people to be afraid of.

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It may be too early to tell what the ultimate impact of occupy was, but it’s positive that there might be a legacy for it.

At the time, it was massively disappointing that the class-based critique of financialised capitalism was split and dissipated. We didn’t take the opportunity to react properly to the problems that caused the credit crisis. Instead, politicians around the world did just enough to stave off a depression, and left the poorest to carry the can, which opened up political space for the far right.

And the reaction of online activists was almost universally disappointing. We had this great moment where people were ready to unite against the kleptocracy of the 1%, but instead, people fell into post-thought bickering and factional, identitarian squabbling, rather than trying to build on the unified movement that existed.

However, the only thing to do is to keep trying, push forward with the hopeful currents of the GND, and the fight for 15, and push for progress to be made in the backlash to the backlash.

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