150 California Occupy Groups, UC Riverside Report Finds

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As the frontrunner for the American Dialect Society's 2011 Word of the Year, "Occupy" seems to be just about everywhere you look. And, from Occupy the Rose Bowl to Occupy the Ports to.. even an Occupy Holiday Song, California is no exception.

A recent study, titled "Diffusion of the Occupy Movement in California," by UC Riverside (UCR) researchers has identified nearly 150 occupy groups in the state, equally divided between Northern and Southern California.

The researchers used social media sites Facebook and Twitter to track the movement's growth within the state. According to UCR's press release, a survey of 482 towns and cities in California found that 143 of them, nearly 30 percent, had Facebook Occupy pages.

They also found that, while occupations in larger cities were the first to sprout up in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, smaller California cities didn't take long to follow suit. One of the researchers, graduate student Michaela Curran-Strange, reflected, "When you think about the fact that Occupy Wall Street states on their website that they began on September 17th, that's pretty impressive that West Coast towns -- some of them medium and small -- picked up on it almost immediately." For example, according to UCR's press release, Petaluma Occupiers created a Facebook page on Sept. 27; South Lake Tahoe and Arcata on Sept. 28; the Coachella Valley on Oct. 2; and Half Moon Bay on Oct. 5.

With Occupy movements in small towns like Barstow, Weaverville, Temecula, Idyllwild, Coachella, Calistoga, El Centro and many others, Curran-Strange added that these groups are focusing on local issues as well as the anti-bank, tax-the-rich Occupy Wall Street issues.

The press release gives a few examples of local causes California Occupiers have taken on:

  • A Yreka man who lost his home to foreclosure organized an Occupy group in the small Northern California town.
  • Occupy Riverside activists helped an ex-Marine reoccupy the home that he and his family were evicted from as a result of foreclosure.
  • Occupy Petaluma protestors successfully petitioned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend evictions during the holidays.
  • Ojai organizers urged participants to move their savings from accounts from large banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America to local banks and credit unions.
  • Occupy Redding is supporting postal workers who are protesting job cuts.

Another of the UCR researchers, sociology professor Christopher Chase-Dunn, told KPCC that, because of the diversity of issues behind Occupy movements, he predicts future Occupy groups will be created around specific causes.

And, with the anti-foreclosure movement Occupy Our Homes and pro-immigrant movement Occupy ICE, this is already happening. Just on Saturday night, as LA Weekly reports, an Occupy ICE protest in downtown Los Angeles resulted in seven arrests of demonstrators attempting to hang banners on the fence around City Hall lawn.

UCR researchers wrote in their report that the spread of Occupy movements throughout California, "emerg[ing] in seemingly unlikely places," speaks loudly, "demonstrating the depth of frustration that people feel about the recession and the austerity measures that have been taken by authorities."

Click here to see if your city is on the list of California cities with a social media Occupy pages.

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