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OWS NEXT STEPS
According to the OWS New York City General Assembly site, Saturday, December 17, marked the three-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the birthday of Bradley Manning, and the one-year anniversary of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi – the act that sparked the Arab Spring. Events were organized in New York City and other locations across the country and noted with the Twitter hashtag: #D17. Hundreds participated in a march in New York, at the end of which approximately 50 people stormed over a wall separating Duarte public park and a vacant lot owned by Trinity Church with the intent to occupy a new space (Boston Phoenix, International Business Times).
On Sunday, two conferences took place: an all-day “InterOccupation Unconference” at Pace University organized by the university’s Political Science Department and Netroots New York and the “Occupy Onwards” conference at the New School sponsored by Verso Books, the literary magazine N+1, and the Occupy! Gazette. The former had 350 registered participants, was free and open to the public, and included a mixed bag of proposed workshops on self-defense and farming to movement building. Walt Roberts from the Coffee Party focused on what could be feasible Occupy goals: reforming Wall Street, the tax code, and campaign finance laws. During an OWS panel in the Netroots conference, members of Occupy the Hood and OWS said that pro-active occupations (occupying warehouses, closed schools, foreclosed properties, banks, etc.) are the future of Occupy. The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny argued that focusing on these deeply symbolic targets (e.g. families need shelter, workers need to work, children need schools) is one way to broaden the appeal of OWS. At the latter conference, L.A. Kauffman of the Global Justice movement suggested that OWS protesters should be “cautious of getting too addicted to the daily rush of in-your-face activism.” Yotam Marom of the OWS direct action working group stressed that the movement can’t look in two years the way that it looked during the first two months.
On Sunday, a few hundred OWS protesters also marched for International Migrants Day, highlighting the income inequality and exploitation faced by immigrants and undocumented workers, reported CBS.
In a piece for TomDispatch/Nation, Barbara and Tom Ehrenreich highlighted the way that OWS has helped to build a class identity for Americans not part of the superrich – the 99%. The piece noted existing tensions, such as those between the middle class and the homeless and those between blue-collar Americans and professionals, have been perpetuated by conservative messaging that has demonized the poor and the “liberal elite.”
The Center for American Progress released a new brief supporting the efforts of the “Occupy Our Homes” movement to highlight how the ongoing recession and foreclosure crisis disproportionately affect communities of color. The brief examines the issues on which the movement focuses and also suggests nine policy ideas.
A Gallup survey conducted Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 with a sample of 1,012 adults found that 82% of those polled said it is “extremely” or “very” important for the government to improve the economy (12% somewhat important, 6% not important), while 46% of Americans felt the same about the government reducing the income and wealth gap between the rich and poor (26% somewhat important, 28% not important), despite the attention given to OWS demonstrations in recent months. At the same time, 70% said it was extremely/very important to increase the equality of opportunity for people to get ahead if they want to (18% somewhat important, 12% not important). While large majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats said it was extremely/very important to grow and expand the economy, the results were divided along partisan lines with regard to reducing the income/wealth gap, with a majority of Democrats (72%) saying it’s extremely/very important and fewer Republicans (21%) and Independents (43%) saying so. Politico noted that poll results indicate that jobs are the priority over the wealth gap while William Galston from Brookings and The New Republic interpreted the results to suggest Obama will have a stronger campaign if it is focused on growth and opportunity rather than inequality. Of course, OWS and labor have argued that addressing jobs and inequality are flip-sides of the same coin, rather than in tension.
OWS & POP CULTURE
The phrase “We are the 99 percent” has already taken hold in the public lexicon, but now it has topped a Yale librarian’s annually-released list of the year’s most notable quotations alongside remarks by Elizabeth Warren that rich didn’t do it on their own and Warren Buffet noting that rich people pay a smaller share of their incomes in federal taxes than middle-class taxpayers do, reported the Associated Press. OWS is the newest chic cause for celebrity parties-for-a-cause, according to Salon.