Occupy Wall Street Marks One-Year Anniversary

Protestors with Occupy Wall Street are marking their one-year anniversary with demonstrations this week, but critics argue the movement has lost momentum and is in disarray.

The protests started in New York City’s financial district in reaction to corporate greed, rising unemployment and the national recession. It drew attention to the country’s income gap and economic inequality by rallying behind the 99 percent of wage earners. Several other Occupy demonstrations sprouted up across the country to address foreclosures and affordable housing and saw varying degrees of success.

But opponents say the movement has died down because the leaderless coalition had no clear platform or strategy.

From L.A. Times:

Yet the movement cannot claim any new policy, law or regulation as its own. Unlike the Tea Party on the political right, there is no cohesive Occupy group promoting candidates in November’s national election.

Karl Zoellner is a spokesman for Occupy Louisville. He says the movement is in transition, but has successfully pushed an agenda.

“The name, the brand Occupy is not on the front burner like it once was. But the issues of the 99 percent, which is something that the Occupy Wall Street brought attention to, has in turn become the focus of thousands of social justice organizations across the United States,” he says.

The Occupy Louisville movement peaked with a confrontation between protestors and Metro Police at a Chase Bank branch. Around the city, the group’s encampments were moved between various locations downtown—the Belvedere, Jefferson Square Park and Founder’s Square—for six months, but Mayor Greg Fischer shut down the demonstration earlier this year. 

In fact, the only legislation passed as a result of the movement was an ordinance proposed by the mayor to ban overnight camping in small public parks to give Metro Government more authority to handle protestors.

Occupy Louisville has been headquartered at the Braden Center in the West End ever since. And for many, the movement has been under the radar since being booted from Founder’s Square downtown.

Community activist Mikal Forbush has been involved with the Occupy movement since its inception. He says it is still active in the city, but not in the way it was last year.

“It is just that the media has stopped paying attention because you don’t have a group of people who are sleeping in downtown Louisville,” he says, adding their platform includes affordable housing and economic development. “The media has stopped, however, the people are still working. They’re just not sleeping in a public space.”

The lack of momentum is due in part to the fact that Democrats and unions, who would be considered natural political allies, have been focusing on re-electing President Obama. Others point out that Occupy failed to forge partnerships with others in order to gain support outside of its hardcore participants and pop culture fanfare.

Zoellner says the lack of immediate progress and political victories cannot be used against the movement because it is similar to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.

“And nobody in 1953 in Alabama would have been able to foretell a Voting Rights Act of 1965 that completely changed the landscape of political participation for communities of color in this country,” he says.

Local Occupy protestors are celebrating their one-year anniversary with a showing of the new Anne Braden documentary on October 6 at their offices in west Louisville. No other events have been announced.

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