By the time I got to Zuccotti Park around 11:30 at the April 4th launch of the so-called ‘Wave of Action’, the first thing I saw was five police vans parked next to the park. The police were already there and ready; for what I have no idea, but they clearly anticipated trouble. However, amid the pouring rain and cold wind, an estimated 100 people showed up, a rather modest beginning to an idea which was meant to launch an occupy-like movement across the world.
There were a few cool events that took place that day including a teach in about marijuana legalization, a talk about the National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED) act which would attempt to reform the monetary system, a ‘people’s gong’ counter to the closing bell at the stock exchange, and a protest of the 10 PM closing of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in which several people including veterans were arrested. However, most of the time there was a lot of waiting around for things to happen and some confusion as to if things were going to happen.
I asked a variety of different people the same simple yet difficult question: why are you here? Dr. Linda Busch said she got involved with occupy when her niece was arrested. “I realized that Occupy was telling my story because my husband had recently passed away from cancer. . .I lost everything.” She went on to cite advocating for a single payer healthcare system and getting money out of politics as her primary causes. Brendan Burke relied to my question simply, “To keep the pressure on.” Others, such as Kyle Zeleny who travelled from Nebraska for the event, cited income inequality as reasons for coming out. However, the event felt more like a social gathering than a demonstration. There was a lot of talking in groups, connecting, networking, and sharing of ideas but very little protesting.
The knee jerk response would be to label this attempt at sparking a new movement as a failure—but I disagree. A wise man once said that the only failure is not trying and although perhaps not the world changing event many were hoping for, the results of this action could be interesting.
Harrison Schultz, organizer for Green Rush NYC (@greenrushnyc) and Occupy the NEED ACT (https://www.facebook.com/occupytheneedact) , put it best: “The world is about to change or die. This movement is about to change or die.” Schultz, who organized the two talks, cited a change of conversation within occupy. “We have goals now. That’s new for Occupy Wall Street. . .we plan to have medical marijuana legalized by the end of the wave of action.”
This action—not unlike Occupy– brought a lot of people of various different stripes and situations together. It allowed people who otherwise may never have met to talk, teach, and inspire one another. That is what I saw there, and I don’t see how anyone could possibly call that a failure. It’s all well and good to laugh and deride people who are trying to change the world, but it is incredibly short-sighted to sneer and gain pleasure from lack of numbers because the very fact that people are coming together to talk about important issues is revolutionary in and of itself—especially in the age of Obama, the NSA, and state oppression.
However, in no way does that excuse how disorganized this event was. The agenda that was planned for the day was not followed and a lot of people, including myself, didn’t get the memo that we were to meet indoors if it rained. The most productive thing that happened that day was a think tank that had people discussing what they wanted and how things could go in the future. The strange thing about that is that they all seemed to agree that they needed focus, but not on what to focus on. I suppose that is the downfall to having an all-inclusive, movement of movements.
Although there are some people—including the aforementioned Occupy the NEED Act group—that are doing good work using the Wave of Action as a starting platform, the fact is that these splinter groups bear little resemblance to the original Occupy Wall Street—and perhaps that is a good thing. After all, Occupy lasted only as long as the parks were occupied, and that is because occupying is a tactic; a tactic that had some value initially but for which the oppressive forces have since adapted too and which we must now adapt to as well.
Forget Occupy. . .activists need to get out of the anarchist philosophical paradigm and create something that is more organized and—yes—has a definitive structure and leadership. People are aware of what they want and if someone would simply step up and take some kind of leadership role responsibility, then we may be having a different conversation a year from now.