The Occupy movement is busy. Far from being dormant for the winter, occupiers are finding themselves with all sorts of new actions, challenges and plans. Though most of the 24-hour encampments have ended, the movement is beginning to focus much more on actions directed toward concrete demands. Last night I attended Occupy Wall Street’s Spokes Council—now finally active after weeks of turmoil—and caught the above video of documentarian Michael Moore’s unplanned speech. In it, he reminded the 100 or so people present that the fight ahead is a long one, and that they’re only just getting started. Here’s a glimpse at how the fight will be unfolding in the coming months:
- On New Year’s Day, President Obama signed into law the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which includes new powers for detaining US citizens and further entrenches the prison at Guantanamo Bay in American policy. Occupiers, some of whom see the new powers as likely to be directed at them, mounted a roving protest in New York on January 3. NDAA will also be a focus of the Occupy Congress action in Washington on January 17, which has reportedly just secured permission from the Park Police to hold a protest.
- The day after Occupy Wall Street’s General Assembly passed a Resolution to End Corporate Personhood by consensus, the New York City Council approved its own resolution against corporate personhood on January 4. This comes after similar resolutions in several cities, including Los Angeles, as well as Montana’s vow to uphold a ban on corporate campaign contributions, despite the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Corporate personhood is the focus of Occupy the Courts, a nationwide day of action on January 20, the eve of the second anniversary of Citizens United, spearheaded by the preexisting coalition Move to Amend.
- A number of events are planned around Martin Luther King Day, including a worldwide “candlelight vigil for unity” on January 15, “Occupy the Dream” protests at all 13 Federal Reserve sites around the country on January 16, and Occupy 4 Jobs actions on January 14 and 16—which purport to fulfill King’s hope just before his death to mount a mass action against unemployment. Posters about Occupy 4 Jobs are among the first Occupy posters I’ve seen in my predominately African-American neighborhood, suggesting that the movement is enlarging its demographic reach. Then, for the anniversary of King’s death on April 4, Occupy the Dream is planning for big mobilization in Washington.
- Speaking of which. Occupy Washington DC, the occupation at Freedom Plaza that began on October 6, has just announced plans for its own “Phase II,” which includes several new organizing spaces, an Occupy Media project, a “co-operative sub-economy” fundraising program, and NOW DC, a renewed national occupation in Washington starting on April 1.
- Chicago will see action in the spring, too, with protests being planned for the G8 and NATO summits May 19–21 by antiwar groups like United for Peace & Justice and UNAC. Occupy Chicago has called for a subsequent Occupy Spring mobilization on April 7.
- On May 1, there’s a call for Occupy May Day—a worldwide general strike. Thousands have already signed up on Facebook.
The defining challenge that the movement in the US will face in 2012 will almost certainly be the presidential election. With billions of dollars being poured into directing the whole country’s attention at the candidates nonstop, the Occupy movement has to find a way to make the issues that matter to it take precedence over the personalities and advertisements of presidential hopefuls. Occupiers in Iowa, who called on people to vote “uncommitted” in the caucuses, appear to have had little impact at the polls. (Occupy the New Hampshire Primary is now gearing up with somewhat different tactics.) It is already taken as a given in the movement that there will be massive protests at both Republican and Democratic conventions. But if these are to be constructive, rather than simply chaotic, the movement will need to be able to offer people something more hopeful, more compelling and more tangible than any presidential candidate can promise to deliver.
This is a tall order, but if people can remember that political power begins in themselves, perhaps it’s not as tall as it sounds.
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