Monday, November 14, 2011

The End of #Occupy? Or a Restart of New Economic Justice Movement?

This morning, the #OccupyOakland encampment is being shut down.

Oakland police have arrested about 25 protesters at the sprawling Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall while hundreds of law-enforcement officers square off against demonstrators downtown in the second such raid of the tent city.

Law-enforcement officers from numerous Bay Area agencies began arriving in force at 5 a.m. as a police helicopter flew overhead. Clad in armor and riot helmets, they stood in lines and surrounded the camp near the corner of 14th Street and Broadway adjacent to Frank Ogawa Plaza, where dozens of demonstrators have been camping to protest economic inequity and corporate greed.

And over the weekend, Occupiers were forcibly removed from encampments in Portland, OR, Salt Lake City, Denver, and elsewhere. There's still a whole lot of drama surrounding #Occupy, but it looks like its moment in the national spotlight is winding down as reports of violence (by anarchists camping there, as well as by police), homicide investigations at Occupy encampments, internal organizational strife, and just plain winter weather are taking their toll on the movement. So is "The 99% Movement" over?

Not quite. Look at what they have accomplished in less than two months. And look at how the national conversation on the economy is changing.

And look at how far the previously unchallenged dogma of inequality and austerity has fallen. Even in Politico's newest poll, there was strong support for progressive tax reform and strong opposition to gutting the social safety net! Obviously, progress is being made.

However, I am concerned about The 99% Movement going forward. Is apathy laced diaspora the best approach to this next election? An election that can take this country in a radically different direction? An election that will again prominently feature the Supreme Court? An election that may feature this guy or this guy, both of whom holding nothing but contempt for the 99%, as the Republicans' Presidential Nominee? An election that will either get Congress working for the 99%, or result in a Congress that's even more hostile to the 99%? When much is at stake here, I don't see the use in progressives sitting out this election to engage in street theater... While "Tea Party, Inc.", is set to spend however much it takes to take full control of the government.

If one wants to change the system, one can't just sit back as a bystander. One must work to create that change. And while protests are fine and dandy and a great way to express one's right to free speech, protests alone will not solve our problems. We have to remember to vote, too.

I know there's been plenty of disappointment to go around on the left side of the aisle... But come on, we can't ignore the facts. Who delivered for us the first big leap to universal health care, more opportunities for returning military veterans, financial reform, student aid, and more? And who doesn't care about smart foreign policy, ending the foreclosure crisis for good, or doing what's really needed to restore our economy?

Oh yes, and there's more at stake than just The White House. Again, if we want change, we can't keep filling Congress with the same extreme "tea party" ideologues. And we can't keep letting these extremists wreck our state houses. And we can't keep letting these extremists push more initiatives to hurt the working class and roll back our civil rights.

Long story short, we need to occupy the voting booths... And we need to be relentless in urging others to join us! That's the only way this 99% Movement can ultimately succeed. And yes, I want to see it succeed. I just don't see how endless conflicts with local governments over actual space to occupy will help the movement. Registering more voters, on the other hand, most definitely will.

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