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Where Does The 'Occupy' Movement Go From Here?

Protesters gathered again in New York's Zuccotti Park after it was re-opened on November 15. But they won't be allowed to camp there.
Protesters gathered again in New York's Zuccotti Park after it was re-opened on November 15. But they won't be allowed to camp there.
By Charles Recknagel
New York City officials took the "occupy" out of Occupy Wall Street by removing the protesters' tent camp from a downtown park, but that is not likely to spell the end of the movement.

In New York, police forcibly cleared the protest site at Zuccotti Park early on November 15, arresting some 200 people.

The action received strong legal backing later in the day, when a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that the protesters' constitutional right to free speech does not entitle them to camp out indefinitely in the plaza.

But the judge did not rule out continued protests, and by the end of the day protesters were allowed to return to the site but without the tents and electrical generators that had made the site a mini-city since September.

The protesters have vowed to continue their presence in the park and at similar camps elsewhere in the United States despite the crackdown.

The question now is how long the protesters can continue to gather outdoors as the weather grows colder.

It's a question Occupy movements in other countries face, too, as authorities in many cities start to take a harder line against the global protest phenomenon.

Given Ultimatums

In London, British officials have given activists who have camped out around St. Paul's Cathedral since mid-October until 6 p.m. on November 17 to remove their tents and equipment before high court proceedings are issued.

In Paris, where 300 protesters started occupying the city's financial district, La Defense, on November 4, officials have been tougher. The protest camp has been torn down almost daily by police forces and even blankets and food have been confiscated.

A protester is confronted by New York police officers as authorities cleared Zuccotti Park.
A protester is confronted by New York police officers as authorities cleared Zuccotti Park.
But as in New York and London, the protesters in Paris show no signs of giving up. After a call for help on Facebook, some 400 additional people swelled the camp at La Defense last week.

Since the Occupy movement began earlier this year, it has spread rapidly throughout Europe and beyond. In October, activists in more than 25 countries made calls for protests and there are now permanent tent camps in cities as diverse as Madrid and Kuala Lumpur.

Jason Hickel, an activist in the London protests and a lecturer at the London School of Economics, says the movement's goal at this stage is to generate awareness of problems and create a forum for discussing them, rather than put forward specific demands.

"At this stage, I would say that demands are not a good thing to have," Hickel says, "because I think the idea is to create an open space for critical conversation on a broader level, not just in the [local] occupations, but nationally, internationally, etc."

Open-Ended Movement

The protests in individual countries often focus on local issues, but what they have in common is a concern over economic inequality, high unemployment, and the influence of corporations -- particularly banks -- upon governments.

The Occupy movement has alarmed city authorities because for now it appears open-ended. As the tent camp in downtown New York grew, the mayor decided it amounted to a takeover of public space that obstructed free movement.

"From the beginning, I've said that the city has two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety and guaranteeing the protesters' First Amendment rights," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on November 15. "But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority."

Russian police officers detain an activist during a copycat Occupy protest in central Moscow on November 7.
Russian police officers detain an activist during a copycat Occupy protest in central Moscow on November 7.
Hickel says that if authorities think removing tents will end the protest movement, they are wrong. But he also predicts that the movement itself will not continue occupying sites in city centers forever.

"I don't really see the Occupy movement as relying necessarily on the physical act of occupation for the entirety of its existence," Hickel says. "I think that the occupy phase is a very important initial phase, but I don't really see why it has to last another month, maybe two, because I think the issue is going to have to change and eventually we are going to have to move into a more demand-oriented mode."

He says the occupations have been important so far or creating a Facebook community but that physical occupation is not necessary in the long term to keep the movement alive.

That longer-term life will depend upon the movement's success in finding leaders within its ranks who can put forward specific demands.

Then the true test will begin: How to bring those demands in from the cold of a street movement and make them part of the political process so that real changes can be achieved.
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by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 16, 2011 23:48
The second photo is very nice, as long as it clearly shows that in fact it is not the US that has problems with people demonstrating against capitalism on the street - it is, of course, Russia that does :-)).

by: stan chaz from: NY USA
November 17, 2011 11:59
You do not need to be religious to understand -and embrace- the idea that "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." But in their blind greed and schemes, the 1% has forgotten and closed its eyes to what the word "society" should really mean. Because of Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, we are finally talking less about CUTS and more about BLEEDING. Instead of demanding more budget cuts -to be borne by the middle class and poor- we are FINALLY focusing on the shameful bleeding that the poor and middle class has endured for all too long. Instead of talking about even more cuts in the taxes of millionaires...we are now talking about fairness and justice - about an economy and a political system that is run for the rich, and by the rich. Instead of talking about LESS government, we are talking about a government that WORKS FOR ALL OF US, not just a favored few. Thank you OWS, for reminding us that people -ordinary working people- really DO matter, and for helping open our eyes to what’s really going on in this country. Thank you OWS, for standing up for the workers, and for those looking for work, and for those that will graduate or come back from war ...and find no work. Thank you OWS, for standing your ground, for enduring illegal beatings and arrests - non-violently. Thank you OWS, from all of us who can’t be there in person, from all of us who are working two and three jobs just to keep up, from all of us struggling to raise our children, or caring for our elderly, or just trying to live with some dignity.....while the rich become richer and more powerful, at our expense. The 1% are running this economy. Indeed, they’re running it right into the ground - with their get rich schemes, their shipping of jobs overseas, their tax evasions, and their cuts in social programs. You inspire and motivate us OWS. You strengthen us, and give us hope. And we’re damn PROUD OF YOU! This land IS our land! AND WE WANT IT BACK! We want our FUTURE back! But it’s much more than mere words.... it’s much more than just politics..... it’s your freakin’ LIFE, and how you want to live it, and how you WILL live it. The time has come to choose....to risk...and to act. If not now...then when? If not you, then....who? You DO have the power my friend. Don’t let your dreams die.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 17, 2011 19:19
VIDEO: Scuffles near Wall Street, cops tough with arrests: http://www.youtube.com/russiatoday#p/u/7/Xg2sV4GFobQ