"We are the 99%!"
The cry rings out again today in New York City, as protesters gather to mark the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the encampment in the heart of New York's Financial District that called out the nation on its obscene disparities of wealth and power. The protesters are getting arrested again too, just like in those fabled days of yore.
Here in South Florida, though, where occupations sprang up in sympathy with OWS, radio silence. Occupy Palm Beach has dwindled to a handful of participants, Occupy Fort Lauderdale soldiers on under the radar, Occupy Miami appears to be little more than a Facebook page.
There's a great big caveat: The Occupy movement is, by its nature, elusive, leaderless, more spirit than organization, so who they are and what they're doing is difficult to define. (This may have been the movement's creative genius; it also made it difficult to sustain.) And as for anniversary celebrations, since local occupations emerged at dates other than that of Wall Street's, birthdays differ too.
Occupy Miami's strength will be tested this evening, in a 6:30 rally at the Torch of Friendship, an expression of solidarity with the New York actions, and an initial planning session for OM's "official' anniversary rally, September 30, also at the Torch. Occupy Fort Lauderdale has announced a 5 p.m. rally in Bubier Park, also in sympathy with New York, but shows no signs of anniversary plans of its own. Occupy Palm Beach -- what remains of it -- has no apparent plans to rally, either in solidarity with New York or for its own anniversary date, October 8.
South Florida is stony soil for lefties, and Occupy was split, right from the start, between an anarchist-oriented contingent and a broader, liberal/progressive wing. The initial rallies and occupations last fall held the promise of a mass awakening, a new, broad-based public engagement for social equality and economic justice. But the internal divisions and the effort to maintain physical occupation sites in the face of official harassment depleted the movement's energy.
This is not to say Occupy SoFL is dead. The history of the left is full of false starts and dead ends, and factionalism has been a congenital weakness. (Like the old joke about academic politics: The fights are so bitter because the stakes are so small.) South Florida's Occupations may be dormant, but the energy that fueled them moves on, into foreclosure defense actions, environmentalism and -- in the face of a national GOP run by SuperPAC money and quasi-racist theocracists -- the Democratic Party. A luta continua.
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