Hundreds of protestors converged on the New York Stock Exchange Monday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Occupy movement. For many present, the celebration reawakened an energy they had not felt since the protest was officially evicted from New York’s Zuccotti Park last November.
For those of us far from The Big Apple, the anniversary also offers a chance to reevaluate the movement’s success. While Occupy Wall Street may not have produced any direct effect on economic policy, it has contributed to a resurgence in activism which youth should not hesitate to take advantage of.
At the height of its publicity last fall, Occupy was a household name. It spread rapidly from a relatively small contingent of New Yorkers camped out on Wall Street to tens of thousands of demonstrators nationwide, staging actions everywhere from the steps of city halls to college campuses. It was the largest contiguous, long-standing protest this country has seen since the Vietnam War and it motivated many individuals previously unengaged with socioeconomic justice to reconsider our nation’s distribution of wealth.
Occupy has been criticized for never effecting a policy change; however such criticism misses the point. Occupy Wall Street was always intended as a popular awareness movement. It never presented a formal list of demands because it intentionally avoided the hierarchy necessary to generate and deliver those demands.
Regardless, the grievance of Occupy protestors was clear and their message, delivered. Ninety-nine percent is no longer an arbitrary figure; it is an ideology. Meanwhile, those who participated in Occupy gained a fervor that translated into demonstrations for more specific causes. It is no coincidence that Los Angeles, for example, has had a particularly fruitful year for protests—from the largest anti-Walmart demonstration since the store’s opening to the labor rights actions that have taken place on our own campus.
College students have traditionally been the driving force behind activism in the United States, and with the advent of the Occupy Movement, we have the tools to continue in this tradition. Occupy Wall Street prepared America; if we have something to say, more people than ever will perhaps be listening.