After being evicted from Zuccotti Park by Mayor Michael Bloomberg almost a week ago, Occupy Wall Street is looking for a new New York home--while debating whether they actually still need to occupy a physical space in order for the movement to carry on.
Protesters are scattered across the city, many crashing on friends' couches and many sleeping in churches that have opened up their doors to the marathon demonstrators.
At a meeting of the General Assembly held Friday night at an auditorium in the SEIU building in Midtown, a day after Occupy Wall Street held a series of large rallies in celebration of their two month anniversary, working groups were asked to present their top three priorities for the movement.
...As had been the trend for much of the movement, the groups seemed focused on short-term logistical goals— above all, shelter and communication. Few speakers mentioned priorities related to the movement's long-term political aims.
Several participants in the meeting spoke of the need to remain within the public eye or to muster public sentiment against the city's overnight raid on Zuccotti Park last week, but far more were concerned with how to reconstitute the physical occupation in some form.
Only one working group— appropriately, perhaps, it was the one called "movement building"— seemed to question whether another occupation was actually necessary or desirable. Its representative warned against the potential danger of investing too much time and energy into reestablishing a physical occupation, at the expense of other actions.
The "movement group"'s sentiments echo those of Kalle Lasn and Micah White, editors at Adbusters magazine, who made the initial call to "occupy Wall Street" back in July.
Before the midnight raid on Zuccotti by the NYPD last week, Lasn and White urged protesters to declare victory after two successful months of occupation and leave the park, which they said had become a distraction. And in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Friday, the two expressed excitement over Bloomberg and NYPD essentially doing the movement a favor:
Bloomberg's shock-troop assault has stiffened our resolve and ushered in a new phase of our movement. The people's assemblies will continue with or without winter encampments. What will be new is the marked escalation of surprise, playful, precision disruptions — rush-hour flash mobs, bank occupations, "occupy squads" and edgy theatrics. And we will see clearly articulated demands emerging, among them a "Robin Hood tax" on all financial transactions and currency trades; a ban on high-frequency "flash" trading; the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act to again separate investment banking from commercial banking; a constitutional amendment to revoke corporate personhood and overrule Citizens United; a move toward a "true cost" market regime in which the price of every product reflects the ecological cost of its production, distribution and use; and with a bit of luck, perhaps even the birth of a new, left-right hybrid political party that moves America beyond the Coke vs. Pepsi choices of the past.
It will be interesting to see if protesters heed Lasn's and White's advice. Adbusters had initially called on protesters to come up with a single demand (a la Tahrir Square protesters demanding Mubaraek step down) but changed their minds when they realized the movement's lack of a single demand was actually its strength. They said it would take time for specific demands to emerge.
Meanwhile, scattered Occupy events continue to take place in New York City. Protesters gathered near Mayor Bloomberg's home Sunday, there will be an Occupy Wall Street benefit show Monday night featuring Ted Leo, the So So Glos and Titus Andronicus. A group in Duarte Park has developed the idea of "Tenting," in which protesters, as Gothamist explains, "will set up tents in public spaces around town and decorate them with messages... then leave them behind. The tents will be uninhabited on the inside, but bursting with ideas on the outside."