The Occupy movement has been in hibernation mode for several months, but with warmer weather on the horizon, odds are it will become a fixture in every major city in America during this election year. The Occupy movement connects directly to the Arab Spring uprising, and with Occupy Wall Street in mid-September last year, it earned the name American Autumn.
Egypt's uprising of 2011 was fueled by an outpouring of citizens willing to say no to a corrupt regime, and word reached the rest of the world through viral videos and social networking sites. Even though the Egyptian government managed to turn off the Internet for a brief period of time, this only served to add more momentum to the movement and led directly to the Day of Rage and Cairo fell into chaos.
Whatever else can be said about these interconnected historical movements, they are the first social media entwined movements, fueled and organized by social networking technologies -- the message gotten out through viral videos, photos of bloodied human beings caught up in riots uploaded to the web, and meeting place tweets were sent to the loosely affiliated groups involved in the protests.
Last year, battle lines were drawn. Mayors in American cities requested help, and police and National Guard troops were mobilized and pepper sprayed citizens with unerring accuracy. Protesters have stood their ground for weeks on end in every major metropolitan area, from coast to coast. The scene played out on TV screens and on the Internet. Comparisons to social protest movements from the 1960s were made, and the corporate media wondered what the message could be.
The current movement against economic injustice is a worldwide uprising, and has a far more coherent message than detractors are willing to admit. The rallying cry of "We Are the 99%" is pretty easy to understand. When Occupy Wall Street began in Lower Manhattan, it led directly to Occupy Main Street throughout the United States.
Can the Occupy movement regain momentum, and reinvent itself? Mainstream media spent a small amount of time and energy covering Occupy Everywhere as if it were nothing more than a spread out group of Hippie protesters in parks, an updated brand of 1960s activism, without much direction. The message mainstream broadcasters sent out: there's nothing to worry about; they'll just go away if we don't give them enough coverage. If the May Day protests of yesterday don't get mainstream media to pay attention to the Occupy movement again, then the coming summer months could see a rebirth of every type of tactic, and it could foretell a long hot summer.
Maybe if the Occupy movement joins with a broader base and makes lasting alliances with labor leaders, something momentous could develop. Combined, Occupy and Labor could begin a renewed labor movement, which might even jumpstart a rebirth of the labor movement in this country. Or is it already too late? Has the time for a real populist union movement already passed?
Anyone who's paid attention understands how money has co-opted and corrupted politics to such an obscene degree that rulings such as the recent Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling has already shifted most political power to the wealthiest citizens, leaving no choice but for everyone else who wants to get involved to do so in a grassroots and populist way. If significant change is to happen in America, as it has elsewhere in the world, it appears it must happen from the ground up. Occupy protesters, government officials and law enforcement organizations all have a vested interested in Occupy Everywhere continuing to be a workable and peaceful movement.
Many contrasting ideas informed the buzz generated by Occupy Wall Street, but the simple point of pointing out the massive economic inequality was clear enough. Populism is in the air. In the history of America, populist movements always had leaders, and a few strong voices forcefully put across the messages everyone rallied behind. If those two elements can be brought together, waves of significant change may roll across the nation in this election year of 2012.
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