I sprinted down 7th Avenue, on 6th Avenue, through Canal Street. The trucks and the cars came to a stop as bodies flooding the street stopped moving. People came out of stores to clap. Children leaned their faces against the back seat windows as parents waved peace signs around the corner. 'before.
A few minutes earlier, I was in a crowd in New Union Square in the city of York. Then the race had started, overtaking the police as we walked down the streets to another march.
It was November 17, 2011, and Occupy Wall Street was two months old. Three days earlier, New York police raided Zuccotti Park, which houses the movement's camp. They had used brute force to tear apart a peaceful protest and ruin thousands of pounds , but their pepper spray and riot gear were not enough to destroy the energy lodged there. Inside the park. "You can't kick an idea whose time has come," read many protest panels.
That was 10 years ago.
Occupy Wall Street politicized an entire generation - a generation that grew up under George W Bush in the years following September 11, placing all their hopes in Barack Obama. Disappointed when his message of "hope and change" failed to emerge after the 2008 global financial crisis, they began to question the American political and economic institutions themselves.
I was one of those millennials.
The movement turned my life upside down, introducing me to new policies and people. It also turned the world upside down, in a series of uprisings that spread from Tunisia and from Egypt to Spain and Chile to the United States, finally.
The rise of Occupy in 2011 marked the return of class consciousness to mainstream American politics.It had two pillars: its critique of inequalities, and its vision of an alternative mode of organization of society. The first went from the fringe to the center, bringing inequalities in the national discourse ; the latter has been largely neglected. The movement made decisions by consensus, which was messy and slow, but it also challenged the idea that the way we live is a given.
This is what set Occupy apart from Noam Chomsky, one of the world's foremost public intellectuals, who has spoken at length about the movement.
"Occupy was different from other movements," he told me, comparing it to the civil rights and anti-war movements. "By its nature, as a tactic, it brought people together to build a community ...It was an educational experience, which for many people changed the way they think about what life could be like. "
Ten years later, Occupy 's lasting influence on its participants and national politics reminds us that the movements are not as fleeting as they seem - and not just a phase that young people go through on their way to real lives .
J 'ai grew up in the affluent and liberal suburb of New Jersey, about ten miles west of Manhattan My mom is a director of a small museum; my dad is a professor at a public university. As a teenager my understanding of politics boiled down to Republicans vs Democrats. say or what "anti-capitalist " meant, but I was interested in politics.gender and I was inherently skeptical of those in power.
In early 2011, as the Arab Spring blossomed , I was in my freshman year at NYU. I quickly befriended another student already immersed in radical politics and participated in my first protest.
That summer, Canadian magazine Adbusters ran a call to "#OccupyWallStreet," with a poster of a ballerina balancing atop the charging bull statue in the Financial District. I was about to start an internship at Village Voice, where I would write for the alt-weekly site. My friend put me in touch with someone who was organizing the protest and I interviewed him for the newspaper.
Kalle Lasn, the editor chief of Adbusters, had been politicized in 1968 "All of a sudden, 50 years later, another opportunity s 'is presented to achieve some kind of global transformation, ”he says now. "This is the legacy of Occupy Wall Street.
On September 17th, I covered Occupy for Voice. The protest landed in a square one block wide on one block called Zuccotti Park. The organizers' prime location hadn't worked and Zuccotti was on a backup list. It was a private public space, not subject to the closing time imposed in the city parks. That night, friends and strangers gathered, circulating someone's old guitar while the police watched in annoyance. The vibe was upbeat and vibrant, but when I got up to walk home around 3am most of the people stayed.
One week later, the demonstrators still occupied Zuccotti. Operating without leaders or claims, they have rapidWorkgroups were created to handle the tasks needed to organize and feed a large number of people, and began to hold regular general assemblies. But during a march on September 25, officers sprayed and pepper sprayed a group of young women. The video of the ' incident has gone viral; the movement has grown considerably. The following week, the NYPD arrested more than 700 people during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge.
At that time, I was captivated by the energy that I continued to encounter on the streets of the city. streets. Occupy's critique of inequality and capitalism, his chants "We are the 99%", his modeling of a leaderless democratic society all resonated deeply with the participants.
"Weare the 99% ", a slogan often attributed, at least in part, to the tardanthropologist David Graeber , succinctly underlined Occupy 's point of inequality: in the United States. The slogan was to build solidarity, suggesting that the middle and upper classes had more in common with the working class than with the wealthy elite.
Nelini Stamp always imagined that she would end up on Broadway. Afro-Latina raised in New York, she studied at famous LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts.
Instead, she dropped out of high school. when she realized that she could not afford to go to college. She worked in retail; she tried the do job.household. When the minimum wage increased in 2005, she learned that the Working Families party, a progressive and popular political party, had helped bring it about. Then the financial crash happened.
"Ma family has been underwater in different ways. And I saw this message of hope and change [from Obama] and was like, I want some! me a bit of that - like a lot of people did with Obama, "she recounted. She remembered PAM and started canvassing: in the summer of 2011, Stamp was the political director of WFP in Westchester and Putnam counties, just north of the town.
On September 17th, she passed Courgettes. View all world sharing their stories got her hooked.
"This is the world I want to live in, where the gThey are not afraid to say the struggles and the difficult times they have had, "Stamp thought. "Because I was scared. At that point, I hadn't really told a lot of people that I had dropped out of high school. I thought it was going to be looked down upon. "
This conversation space was one of the hallmarks of Occupy.
Rebecca Solnit, author and activist involved with Occupy in California, spoke about the changes the movement has brought about. "Part of what I thought was incredibly exciting was a deep and real conversation between the people at a time when part of what capitalism, neoliberalism, financial desperation was doing to people isolated us, "she told me." Occupy immediately taught me that, oh yes, when you lose your job, you stay home. When you lose your home, you disappear from the neighborhood. When you are overwhelmed with medical debtor unable to receive medical attention, you may suffer invisibly. And the sheer visibility of all this suffering was made visible by these conversations. I found it to be like a big awakening.
Consensus decision making, glittering fingers - up for approval, down for disapproval, straight for lukewarm - used to silently express opinions while someone Another spoke: everything was new for Stamp, who came from the structured world of electoral politics. But when the assembly got down to task forces and someone mentioned awareness, it jumped up. "I was like, this is what I know how to do. I don't know what you all are talking about. Direct action, I don't know how to do it.
She started keeping a sleeping bag under her desk at work; she used office printers to make dOccupy flyers. Some mornings she would meet a nearby Sephora to cool off. Others, she was going to her apartment to take a shower, just to go back to sleep outside that night.
She considered quitting her job, but the WFP supported its movement- construction works. "They were like, this is a big movement for class politics in our country and we are going to support our staff who are there by always paying them… And that was a level of trust.
There were, of course, a few negatives as well. Occupy has prioritized economic justice and neglected nuance in an effort to strengthen solidarity between “the 99%”.
"Everyone in the world said how white Occupy was, and then when I was asked to be an entertainer almost every night, so much so that my voice was lost and people brought me tou tea, I was like, why is this happening? And it clicked in my head: Oh, black woman, ”she said. “There were a few of us blacks who were constantly put out there to facilitate. And yes, I didn't want blacks and browns to be erased in the move, and I didn't want to be used either.
"Honestly," she continued, "you recreate a world, you will get the best and the worst.
In February 2012, an NYPD officer killed Ramarley Graham, an unarmed 18-year-old black man; Weeks later, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, 17, in Florida. Stamp began to organize around racial justice. She co-founded Dream Defenders, a group that organizes youth in Florida. She also co-founded Occupy Our Homes, which occupied homes to avoid foreclosures. She is now the Director of Strategy and Partnerships of the PAM.
As the Black Lives Matter protests filled the streets in the summer of 2020, amid a pandemic that disproportionately affected communities of color, Stamp used the skills she learned in Zuccotti for a movement that centered on the problems Occupy had sidestepped. There was a campaign to cut $ 1 billion from the NYPD budget, and she helped organize an occupation outside City Hall with people she met in 2011.
For Stamp, it has been a decade of uninterrupted momentum since Occupy, but it is far from the only one to experience the enduring legacy of the movement. "[Occupy] was a phenomenon of almost immeasurable impact," Solnit told me. "Like a stone thrown into a pond, the ripples continue to spread outwards.
Tamara Shapiro had just returned to New York in September 2011. She grew up near Washington DC, where she participated in a program that brings together black and Jewish high school students to fight racism and anti-Semitism.
She organized around Israel / Palestine, first at the University of Wisconsin then in Brooklyn. But in 2010, at age 28, she quit, exhausted by the loneliness of this job. She made the nanny and traveled abroad. Back in New York, she did an internship with two filmmakers.
During the first week of the occupation, she set out to discover Zuccotti. She found it hard to take him seriously. “I had a lot of skepticism because I came from a more traditional organization. So I was like, what's the point? Who's behind it? "She remembered. " I can't really join something if I don't understand who is proposing it. "
But she knew someone from Occupy who was working to connect the many Occupy encampments that were rapidly spreading across the country. Within one month, more than 600 communities in the United States , as well as many cities abroad , had organized demonstrations.
The working group , which became known as InterOccupy, quickly engulfed Shapiro, and she became busy facilitating calls between occupations in different cities.
In October 2012, she went on retreat where the occupants debriefed on the past year. They rushed home because they heard that a storm was coming. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, organizers quickly formed Occupy Sandy, a mutual aid disaster relief group. The experience deepened the friendships Shapiro had made through Occupy.
Soon after, Shapiro started a part-time job at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and co-founded Movement Netlab, which studies how decentralized networks like Occupy work best. She ped start IfNotNow, a movement to end American Jewish support for Israel's occupation of Palestine. She had moved further to the left since she quit her work on Palestine in 2010, and she felt the left had become more tolerant. She felt more energy for direct action among young Jews. She has also been heavily involved in the organization of projects stemming from Occupy Sandy in the Rockaways, one of the most urban areas.seriously affected.
She now works full time at the New York City Worker Co-op Network. I ask when she realized that organizing had become her career. "Yesterday? " She replied half-jokingly.
"Can this be a career? Absoutely. Do I think this is the right career for me? she asked. “As a white person, I don't know if I should be paid to do the kind of organizational work that I did. I really think it should be people of color leading, ”she says. Now she is wondering how to be helpful. “I don't know the answer to these questions. This is what I am up against today. "
Occupy was " an accelerator "
The lives of many people who have frequented Zuccotti Park continue to cross paths, a networkto the growing number of organizers who call on each other when moments of action arise or meet at events and parties. The bonds forged during those heady months of fall 2011 endure.
Born in Panama and raised on military bases around the world, Sandy Nurse is born in Panama. 'Never felt like she had a town hearth. But in 2009, at age 25, she arrived in New York City, the closest hometown she could find. Decades earlier, her father had come to the United States via Mexico, aged 17 and undocumented, before going to New York and joining the military to become a citizen.
Nurse enrolled in a master's program in international affairs at the New School of New York, but took a hiatus in early 2011 to work with the United Nations World Food Program in Haiti for three months. "A fistSo many things that I have been through have really exposed the flaws of these great top-down global institutions, and the way they provide aid and perpetuate chronic problems, "she said.
She attended the Occupy general assembly on September 17. She had never organized direct action, but it was 'sound funny. He was a natural person, quickly becoming engrossed in the logistics of organizing actions.
The nurse wanted to do something else thing to observe and write about conflict. "I wanted to be part of the physical dissent somehow," she told me. "I wanted to be part of the physical dissent somehow. just needed to put my body in a movement that wasn't objective, but very personal. I just needed to squeeze out some rage somehow or other. another. I was outraged. "
She realizedvery soon that she would not return to the new school. Whatever she does now, she wouldn't need a piece of pa to prove her qualifications, she thought. In addition, she had a lot of student debt. The legacy of Occupy includes the integration of ideas from the target free public higher education and forgiveness of student debt : policies championed by Bernie Sanders in his presidential campaigns, which themselves were based on the class consciousness that Occupy helped build.
Zuccotti felt essential to Nurse. "The relationships that I have developed in this space, in a short time, have completely transformed my life, my perception of what can be a deep friendship and what can be a faloving chosen mile, "she said. She then co-founded Mayday Space, a movement organizing center; started a compost collection service called BK ROT; and trained as a carpenter. In 2020, she helped organize the occupation of Town Hall with Stamp.
This summer, Nurse won the Democratic primary in her neighborhood town council. Brooklyn. The local government has access to the resources, she realized: there are only a limited number of times you can take out the bolt cutters to gain access to a space, then get kicked out before you go. ask you what has to happen to keep it open. When she appealed on Facebook for a masseuse to help her campaign staff, their bodies destroyed by long hours knocking on doors, it is Shapiro who responded, claiming his partner was a masseuse. The nurse hired him.
"For some people, Occuper was everything - and it was really important - but for me, I didn't feel that Occupy totally defined me ", the nurse told me." But this 'was an accelerator. It was a concentrated number of people in a space that allowed for ideas and co-creation… [it gave me confidence] that where I was going there was a lot , many, my ny people pulling in that direction. "
O one morning last summer, I have cycle to Zuccotti Park. NYPD barricades were clustered on the east side. On the south side, street vendors sold falafels and smoothies. Construction workers gathered on the west side. About two dozen people sat scattered around the park benches. I looked for a trace of Occupy, but only found stone slabsand well-maintained street lights, perfectly spaced trees and flower beds.
Today, OWS is about networks, countryside and the political changes it generated. These are the people, the work and the experiences that he has led thousands to do, catching so many of us at the right time and place to turn our lives upside down, shifting trajectories or cementing those already underway.
"This put inequality on the national agenda, and it has remained there," Chomsky said, citing Sanders' presidential candidacies. , the success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the strength of the climate justice movement as part of that legacy. "But it was more than that. You've probably felt it in your own life, but for the actual participants, it was participating in a community for the first time in their lives. We are a svery atomized society. People are separated from each other.
But with Occupy, he continued, "You had people coming together, learning they could work together. They can work in a participatory community. They can create their own supply. They can have meetings where things can be discussed. Life can be different. There are different forms of existence than simple individual subordination to a master in a labor economy. This is important, and it has turned many people into activists and given them a vision of a future on a human scale. "
Occupy wasn't even meant to be here, I thought, looking around Zuccotti. But for two months in 2011, this little park modeled the beauty and mess of trying to reorganize society on different terms. , and this, in turn, caused many to contendurge to seek new possibilities in our ways of living, working, eating and engaging. in the world.
Space was secondary, then essential, then disappeared.