Feature

Occupy Wall Street: Will the crackdown end the movement?

As the police continue to dismantle the tent cities of the Occupy movement, its future as a political force is in question.

Is there “life after occupation?” said Arun Gupta in Salon​.com. In cities and at colleges across the nation this week, authorities continued to clear and dismantle the camps and tent cities of the Occupy movement, which began two months ago in New York City to protest inequality, corruption, and corporate greed. At the University of California at Davis, a campus policeman was filmed pepper-spraying a line of seated, peaceful protesters, sparking widespread outrage and an apology from university officials. The images of “crowds of everyday people confronting legions of cops protecting the conclaves of the rich and the powerful” can only help the movement. But with police cracking down hard, the question becomes: Can “an occupation movement survive if it no longer occupies a space?”

I seriously doubt it, said L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal. From Oakland, Calif., to Portland, Ore., to New York City, this so-called movement of entitled and sometimes violent young people “has worn out the patience of even the most liberal cities.” Local residents and businesses have wearied of the tent cities and their all-night drumming, people defecating into buckets, drug use, and crime. Free speech is one thing; sleeping in parks and downtowns is another, and defying the law and police is yet another. If these protesters can’t get attention without disrupting law-abiding citizens, “their message must not be very persuasive.” Actually, the authorities just “did the movement a huge favor,” said Laura Washington in the Chicago Sun-Times. The camps that grabbed the world’s attention so effectively in September were becoming “known more for disruption and squalor than results.” Now, however, with the “dangerous disarray” of the camps out of the picture, the Occupiers have no choice but “to get off their air mattresses and get something done.”

Don’t count on it, said Mike Gavin in WSJ​.com. Many optimistic liberals are predicting that the Occupiers, like the conservative Tea Partiers before them, will now focus their energies on getting candidates elected to Congress. But “that will be impossible unless somebody takes charge, narrows the focus, and identifies what exactly they want changed.” The Occupy movement had two long months to come up with an agenda, said the New York Post in an editorial, but all it offered was “resentment, envy, and entitlement.” Having worn out everyone’s patience, the movement has irrevocably “passed its sell-by date.”

The Occupy movement does indeed have a central idea—and a powerful one at that, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. It’s “that our financial system has been warped to serve the interests of a privileged few at the expense of everyone else.” To be more specific, the 1 percent who control much of the nation’s wealth have rigged the game, using campaign contributions to buy tax loopholes and relaxed regulation from Washington, and awarding themselves monstrous bonuses while laying off vast armies of the middle class. The protesters may not have supplied a point-by-point political agenda to redress that unfairness. “But they’ve done something more important.” They’ve gotten the 1 percent vs. 99 percent idea “into people’s heads.” Thanks to the Occupiers, said David Carr in The New York Times, the 2012 election may well be fought over the issue of economic fairness. If so, those who slept in parks, sat through endless “general assembly” meetings, and got roughed up by cops will know that “though their tents are gone, their footprint remains.”

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