Has the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started as a leaderless group of several hundred protestors in lower Manhattan rallying against the failed policies of the federal government and corporate greed, finally started to gain momentum and transform itself into a broader national movement? What the movement has needed ever since September 17 was a spark, a rallying point, to transform itself beyond just a group of hackers, hipsters and hippies into a very real movement that the political powers-to-be and the national media would be forced to respect. With the arrest of 700 Occupy Wall Street marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday, we may finally have found that spark. As the October 2 cover of the New York Post proclaimed, the $#!T Hits the Span.
Why did it take the dramatic arrest of hundreds of people with orange police nets on a peaceful march across the Brooklyn Bridge to get people to wake up? Efforts by Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Susan Sarandon notwithstanding – the Occupy Wall Street movement had failed to galvanize many beyond the fringe or activate anyone beyond the types of “adbusters” who delight in celebrating the failures of Corporate America. The movement, which had annoyed many by comparing itself to the radical political protests of the Arab Spring, even employed the same social media tools that the Arab world used – a Twitter stream stylized as an “Action Stream,” a hashtag (#OccupyWallStreet) to inspire self-organizing movements, and a website with a Livestream of the protest camp site in lower Manhattan. Videos and photos of police officers harassing the crowd were widely disseminated across the Web, in an effort to solicit compatriots in other cities and other communities.
The dramatic police showdown on the Brooklyn Bridge could become a Tipping Point for the Occupy Together crowd. According to folks like Malcolm Gladwell, this is the way contagions “tip.” This is the way a cool hipster-hacker-hippie trend transforms itself overnight into something more of a political movement – a Tea Party Extra Strength for those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. The new Occupy Together website is starting to track scores of these “Occupy” protests across the United States. While often little more than “rallies” and “marches” these micro-political actions are exposing the raw emotions of the past few years triggered by the collapse of the housing market, the tanking of the economy, the budgetary collapse of the federal government.
There is a vast, pervasive sense that America has eroded its middle class, that the top 2% of the people in this nation have figured out a way to bend and twist the system so that all of the nation’s wealth flows in one direction. The question now is whether mainstream politicians running for office in 2012 will finally heed the calls of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Will the wealthy fundraisers who dash off checks to Democrat and Republican hopefuls now start sending support to the Occupy Wall Street movement (which, by the way, now has an official US Postal Service box to receive these checks)? This may not be quite the narrative that Michael Moore had in mind, but it may achieve the same objective: a radical re-thinking about the actions that America needs to take to preserve its vanishing middle class.
[image: Occupy Wall Street Crowd by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons]