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Occupy Everywhere: Removing Physical Occupation Sites Only Grows Movement

With the commencement of crackdowns on Occupy movement protest sites, the assumption was that the movement faced a fatal blow from which they would not recover. The physical occupation kept the protests at top of mind and in the news, the theory goes, and without the reclaiming of public space the movement would just fade away.

The fact that the President delivered a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas mirroring many of the themes of the Occupy movement aside, the theory about the physical occupation being central to the protest movement has not borne out. In fact, activists have generated lots of attention through direct actions that have nothing to do with sleeping in a tent.

The Take Back the Capitol protests have succeeded in making those at the seat of American power uncomfortable. Yesterday’s protest at Newt Gingrich’s fundraiser is a perfect example. Protesters, who snuck into the glitzy fundraiser through a back door, used the now-familiar “mic check” technique to confront Gingrich with the implications of their policies for the 99%. Other protesters did the same to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who appeared as a surrogate for Mitt Romney today in Iowa. Activists even performed a mic check in Utah – that’s right, Utah – protesting the state Air Quality Board for their policies on allowing pollution from energy extractors. Mic checks have become a staple of events where politicians – mostly but not limited to the right wing – appear publicly. For politicians, this is arguably a more constant reminder than the occupations, which can be avoided simply by not visiting them.

The Take Back the Capitol protests also shut down K Street yesterday:

Dozens of protesters were arrested during the day’s activities. The demonstrators stopped traffic for several blocks around 16th and K streets N.W., home to the biggest lobby shops in town.

The activity had largely settled down by midafternoon, as police cleared the remaining demonstrators and traffic began to move through the police activity.

The mix of protesters from across the country, including union workers, progressive activists and community organizers, said they’re opposed to the corporate greed embodied by the street known for housing special interest groups and offices of major corporations. Adopting the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York, the activists spilling onto K Street said they were fighting for the interests of the “99 percent” of ordinary Americans.

Demonstrators celebrated their success after shutting down K Street for several hours on a busy weekday. “Thousands of unemployed workers and community members are engaging in peaceful civil disobedience this week to make the voices of the 99 percent heard above the power of the 1 percent and their K Street money machine,” said Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the American Dream Movement, a coalition of labor and progressive groups.

I know that some have dismissed these Take Back the Capitol protests as arising from activists other than the OWS movement, somehow less authentic than the original. But they did challenge the seat of power yesterday. Not to mention their success in giving Bill O’Reilly a taste of his own ambush-journalism medicine.

And this is only one of the several initiatives rolling out this week. The Occupy Our Homes day of action on Tuesday was quite successful. Mike Konczal has some great coverage from outside a foreclosure defense:

I don’t think we’ve heard enough from the neighbors of the abandoned homes that were reclaimed in these events. I talked with one of the neighbors of the house that was reclaimed in East New York as it was happening, and he told me that the house had sat vacant for a few years. Contractors doing nearby demolition work would come in the middle of the night and dump bags of garbage on the house’s front lawn because they knew it was empty. There would be broken sinks, glass, bricks and other garbage that couldn’t sit there, since there were many kids in the area. So the neighbors would have to get together and haul off the materials.

He also brought up that he’d have to shovel the snow in front of the place during the winter, since there were many older folks in the community as well, and the banks weren’t going to keep the sidewalks clear. He expressed concern that someone with a chemical dependency could set up shop in the house. As the neighbor put it, “what if at 1 or 2 in the morning the person’s drugs run out? They step outside, and maybe an older person is walking by themselves down the street. That could escalate into a bad situation.” Or maybe a fire started, which spread to the roofs of the other connected row houses? The Occupy crew that went in to clean the place found extensive black mold – the banks left the place to rot.

The neighbor was very happy to have new neighbors in that house who would help upkeep the property and be members of the community.

This is only the beginning. Next week there’s a movement to shut down West Coast ports. The Occupy movement need not be sustained only by occupations. It’s now everywhere.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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