As across the country Occupy groups are beginning a new season of occupying, or not occupying, two questions come to mind:
- How has the movement changed / evolved since it began?
- What has law enforcement done to better prepare to manage this and other similar movements?
According to my observations of several midwestern Occupy groups at least two things are happening that speak to the evolution of the movement. First, Occupy groups all across the country are developing “Good Neighbor Policies” to deal with individuals and groups within the movement that are either disrespectful or hazardous to their members. The widespread adoption of this approach is indicative of the movement’s hierarchy, which begins in New York, and also the degree to which Occupy groups all across the country dealt with the infiltration of their encampments by the criminal and the under-served mentally-ill. Occupy meetings have had lively debates in the off-season about what to do about threats to their safety. The answer was call the police, which is interesting.
Local Occupy groups have been feeling around in the off-season for some other, fresher, issues to adopt that might revitalize numbers and refocus attention on the movement. This may be a regional phenomenon, as certain Occupy groups, such as the “Occupy the SEC” group in New York, are making substantive contributions to the conversation about our financial system which is at the core of the original movement. But Occupy groups in northern and midwestern states and Canadian cities have disbanded or broken up due to lack of focus, lack of interest, lack of resources, and lack of a reason to continue.
Debates have ensued over the prudence of losing focus on the 1%. Some Occupiers have suggested taking up hydraulic fracking, the controversial process of rock fracturing for oil and gas extraction that has become a boon for northeastern shale deposit owners. Indeed a “Stop Hydraulic Fracking” banner was unfurled by Occupy Lansing members at Michigan’s Capitol during a State of the State Address protest activity. Others have set their sights on “Occupy the Homes”-type scenarios where foreclosed homes can be occupied as a way to bring attention to the foreclosure crisis and back to the banks. One thing is certain, some of the energy of last summer has waned, and the movement can no longer support individual groups in every city in the country.
Another interesting question that stems from all of this is, “Is the Occupy Movement over when the tents come down?”
Another trend of note is that some Occupy groups are attempting to incorporate, seeking the protections and rights and permanence of corporate entities, mostly in the non-profit vein. Occupy Detroit, for instance, has a fiduciary. That is the United Auto Worker’s Union (UAW) which shares a joint bank account with Occupy Detroit. Occupy Detroit has investigated the possibilities of incorporating in order to access the resources necessary to expand their movement. These relationships cause one to wonder how the movement will navigate the conflicts of interest generated by working both against and with financial institutions and governments. Look for taglines like “We’re not just a protestor, we’re also a customer!”
It is as yet unclear how law enforcement has used the lull in action to learn the lessons of 2011. The Occupy Movement has an unpredictable relationship with the police. Many in the movement feel that the police are part of the 99%, and have consequentially been cooperative with authorities. Others, as stated in this article, note that the police are the “face of 1% power”.