After the eviction: What should Occupy Wall Street do now?

After New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg boots protesters from Zuccotti Park, media friends and foes offer Occupiers advice

Occupy Wall Street
(Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

New York City police officers evicted Occupy Wall Street protesters from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park in a surprise raid early Tuesday morning, and later in the day, the courts sided with the city, saying that while protesters could return to the park, their tents and gear could not. Across the country, from Oakland to Portland, other branches of the Occupation movement have faced similar crackdowns and evictions this week, in what may be a coordinated effort by big-city mayors. As Occupy loses it grip on public spaces, what should the movement do next? Here, five suggestions:

1. Stay peaceful and on message

"Two traps open up for the movement now," says Todd Gitlin in the New York Daily News. First, Occupy must avoid becoming preoccupied with police brutality. It's far more important to "remain visible as the voice of 'the 99 percent'" than it is to gin up outrage over government crackdowns. Second, it's critical that Occupiers reduce the odds of "violent, vengeful outbursts" on the fringes of their own movement. Such violence can "drive wedges" between the movement and Americans "who like the sound of Occupy's main slogans," but are turned off by radical tactics. Even when dealing with the tumult of eviction, Occupy has to keep its cool.

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2. Get organized

The nationwide crackdown leaves Occupy with just one option: "Institutionalize or die," Michael Heaney, a University of Michigan political science professor, tells the Los Angeles Times. Occupying public spaces isn't sustainable. Instead, the movement should focus on legal means of bringing about change — lobbying, marching, voting, and testifying. Indeed, says Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter, "it is time to take a 'protest' and turn it into politics."

3. Hit the banks where it hurts

Forget about the tents in the park. Occupiers need to "use their money and their power as consumers and as voters to fight back," says Leslie Marshall at U.S. News & World Report. When the movement got more than 650,000 people to move their money from big banks to small credit unions, it hit Wall Street's bottom line. Protesters "were onto something." They should keep on "fight[ing] fire with fire."

4. Give up

"Put a fork in the Occupy crowd," says Jerry Shenk at The American Thinker. "They've lost the elected officials in the liberal enclaves where they tend to assemble." Heck, they've even "lost The Washington Post" — which published a story this week asking if this "is an occupation or an infestation?" Clearly, "the Occupiers have lost. Period."

5. Declare victory

Actually, Winters says, in many ways, Occupy has already won. The victory is "in the fact that the protests have changed the national discussion, inserting a new metaphor, the 99 percent, into our nation's political discourse." The Left is suddenly rejuvenated with "populist vigor," and the nation has been reminded that it's not just "government bureaucracy that threatens Americans' freedom and prosperity, but the decisions and practices of the titans of the financial class." That's no small feat.

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