Happy Birthday, Occupy Wall Street

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Source: The Intercept

Protesters of “Occupy Wall Street”, in Zuccotti Park.

Photo by Visual Effects South AB/Shutterstock


What should we make of Occupy Wall Street 10 years later? My friend Guido Girgenti put it plainly when I talked with him last week: “There are parts of Occupy I would not want to return to or romanticize.” Don’t misunderstand Guido. He was 19 years old when Occupy exploded onto the scene, and he dove headlong into Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy Colleges. He was, like me, deeply inspired by the movement and thinks it was enormously important.

But it’s also true that the movement’s excesses and shortcomings were not hard to spot — for any casual visitor to Zuccotti Park or most any of the other hundreds of sister occupations that popped off across the U.S. in the fall of 2011. Occupy was scrappy and wholly authentic — a beautiful mess. As a defiant stand against the status quo, it attracted participants who were deeply alienated from that status quo, and that often presented its own set of problems. Occupy’s celebrated hyperdemocratic decision-making processes, while electrifying, were in the end so dysfunctional that much of the real decision-making moved into informal and unacknowledged power centers. If you were trying to steer it, you had about as much chance of success as “a pebble in a volcanic eruption,” as my friend and fellow Occupier Han Shan liked to put it at the time.

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