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Jerry Ashton Headshot

Occupy's Sept. 17th Second Birthday: Whose Protest Is This?

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The very famous comedian Jimmy Durante always broke up his audience with a plaintive-yet-dismissive snarl when the stage got overly crowded: "Everybody wants ta get into da act!"

Occupy Wall Street, turning two on Sept. 17, appears to have the same problem -- everybody wants to join in on the party, and everybody wants a share of the Microphone. (Or, in OWS terms, the Mic Check!)

A continuing criticism which has followed Occupy almost from birth, was its presumed inability to tell the public exactly what it wanted. This was a main street media spin, but insiders and hard-grounders (those that slept on the sidewalks) knew better.

These Zuccotti citizens had carefully crafted a well-written -- and quite clear -- Declaration of the Occupation of New York. Careful not to put forth "demands," these activists had still been very clear in their message: Wall Street got bailed out, we got sold out, and we are here to correct that.

What happened along the way didn't help. Ruthlessly dispossessed of the Park by night-time thugs dressed as NYC police, the Occupiers lost a physical location and the General Assembly as their central voice. Much like down from a thistle, individually and sometimes collectively, the Occupiers drifted off to other climes and other soils.

Variations of Occupy-inspired groups sprang up in scores of encampments in cities around the U.S and around the world. Some participated in Anti-Fracking demonstrations. Many joined the March Against Monsanto. Others coalesced around single issues -- never the same -- and created Working Groups that focused on debt, banking, art, animal rights, GLBT, anti-war, Student Debt and so much more.

An onlooker would have to ask: "Is Occupy an organization, or is it a movement?"

Your own actions may serve to answer to that question on that mid-month Tuesday. Will you join in with the Occupy Working Groups who have promised marches and a presence at Zuccotti Park? Will you be on hand to protest the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership?) Will you be at Union Square for a mass protest, or with the Occupy Puppets in their Money Warz spoof at Times Square?

Might you celebrate the publishing of an anti-banking (and what to do about it) manual with the Alternative Banking Group which works happily free of General Assembly permissions and restrictions? The militancy of the very-independent Strike Debt crew is also compelling.

Will you align yourself with union folk and surround fast-food restaurants and demand fair wages? Alternatively, will you join with activists donning green "Robin Hood" caps and marching on the U.N. to demand a Wall Street transaction tax to see these funds eliminate poverty, student debt, and provide for universal medical care? (There are 265,000 "likes" on FB).

Quite a menu.

Having started this piece with an appropriate quote from a comedian, it seems only fair to complete this blog with a slightly-adjusted -- and also appropriate -- quote from the humorist Will Rogers: "I don't belong to any organized group. I'm an Occupier."