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Why Occupy Wall Street Needs to Occupy Real Space

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There have been suggestions that Occupy Wall Street give up the occupation of physical space and turn to the real issues, that the encampments are, as Nicholas D. Kristof states in his Sunday New York Times column, "sideshows." He has a valid point. There is only so far encampments can go until they turn into something more squalid, and desperate, especially with winter fast approaching. Would the specter of frostbitten and starving occupiers further propel issues of economic and social justice to the forefront of the national agenda? Probably not. By now, the audience is well aware that the protestors are out there putting themselves on the line for the many things they believe in. Mr. Kristof, is right about the movement needing to transform itself into something larger than tents and marches. That being said, the tents and marches are the front line. The fact that there are people on that front line means that the movement can become something larger. In fact, it already has.

Because of the occupation of physical space -- much to the consternation of the authorities -- Occupy Wall Street has become Occupy Everywhere. It began with one small park in Manhattan and swiftly became a network of electronically connected posts throughout the country. Occupy fill-in-the-blank. More recently, the universities have jumped in and have begun to worry their administrators. One of the most visible examples being UC Davis, where peaceful student and faculty protestors were pepper-sprayed by an over-zealous and "frightened" police department. Events like these ricochet throughout the news cycle and galvanize further actions. This can only happen when there are people actually occupying space.

The occupy movement was always simultaneously a virtual movement and a physical movement built by bodies in real-time and space. It has existed online since its inception, and its Web footprint gets bigger with each passing day -- though for some odd reason it still fails to "trend" on Twitter. Hm. Anyway, The ideas agenda is out there and it has shifted the national discourse in dramatic ways. Occupy Wall Street, or simply Occupy, was more powerful than any politician in the Senate or the House could have possibly been in terms of shuffling the agenda. But to maintain this force of presence it will be necessary to sustain a physical and usually uncomfortable physical position in cities.