Occupy: The Symbol Needs a Space

Organizing Protests

New Orleans With the startling police state like efficiency in which Occupy sites in New York, Oakland, and many other cities are now being dismantled, commentators have tried to run a con that, hey, maybe this is good for the movement because now they won’t be so absorbed with protecting a small patch of ground and can concentrate elsewhere.  That’s both semi-right and horribly wrong!

A particular space doesn’t matter, this park or that park, so in that sense a tactical retreat from any particular piece of ground is meaningless.  Some of the Occupy forces have understood that and have attempted to decamp to universities, church grounds, and friendly turf for this new Woodstock Nation.  That’s smart!

But to think that any notion of the Occupy movement can survive without some kind of space to project their protest and create the symbol and rallying point for their causes is totally wrong and the worse kind of trap.  In Prague I recently city officials there wisely allow a permanent shelter for petitioning, information, and communication around reform efforts in several places in the city.  In Tegucigalpa the city officials allowed a half dozen tents to be allowed in the middle of the plaza in front of City Hall for long term protestors and hunger strikers among teachers.  Same for Mexico City along La Reforma Avenida and other planton locations.

These kinds of protests have to have a place.  Their constituency is mobile and disparate, even if potentially large (99%?!?), but without a space it is too diffuse to hold together, especially given the amorphous, unstructured kind of organizational formation that they are using at this time.

Other Occupy sites are now imperiled because following the American prototype there will be efforts throughout the world to quickly dismantle and prove your mayoralty spurs.  Organizers would be tactically shrewd to move first before the finest and to move now to maintain the momentum and the flexibility necessary to keep the movement alive.