In mid-October I spent two days and a night with Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. Since then I’ve read a barrage of advice for what OWS and its companion movements around the world should be doing. But I’ve been haunted by another question: What should those of us who are sympathetic to OWS (according to polls, roughly two-thirds of Americans are), but are not going to relocate to a downtown park, be doing to advance the wellbeing of the 99 percent?
I got one part of my answer as I groggily logged on to the web at 5:30 the morning after I returned home from Zuccotti Park. When I left the park, its private owner Brookfield Properties had announced it would clear the park “for cleaning” and enforce rules preventing tarps, sleeping bags, and lying down. Mayor Bloomberg said the NYPD would enforce those rules, effectively ending the encampment.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the eviction. When OWS put out a call for support, thousands of people began to converge on the park for nonviolent resistance to eviction. Unions called on their members to protect the encampment. The president of the AFL-CIO’s Central Labor Council lobbied the city to cancel the crackdown. Lawyers prepared to bring suit to protect the occupiers’ first amendment rights. City council members and other New York politicians lobbied the mayor to halt the eviction. Against all expectation, Mayor Bloomberg announced that Brookfield was abandoning the “cleanup” plan and the company announced it would try to reach an accommodation with the occupiers. The mobilization of supporters had forced the Mayor and the park owners to back down. I had my first answer to what the rest of the 99 percent can do: Protect the occupations.