Can Social Protesters Survive and Thrive without Base Camps?
The Occupy Wall Street Movement was the first to set up a tent city in the heart of New York's financial district encouraging copycat occupations in other American and foreign cities. The authorities originally tolerated the phenomenon but neighbors' complaints, sanitary hazards as well as a sense that the movement was running out of steam and support has led to the eviction of many of the sites.
The Occupy Wall Street site in New York was evicted and the latest evictions occurred in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. This raises the question of what will happen to the protest movement when it is left without its most recognizable calling card.
Some activists claim that the camps are experiencing a winter recess and will bloom again with the spring. This presupposes a renewed tolerance by the authorities.
Some leaders believe that the dismantling of the camps and the loss of a focal point may actually be a blessing in disguise. The camps were virtual cities and although the movement claimed that it was totally egalitarian, the basic needs of physically maintaining the encampments in terms of food, heating and maintaining sanitary conditions generated an informal leadership. This leadership had to devote a great deal of time and energy to the essentials and to fending off attempts to dismantle the camp.
Now the leadership is free to change tactics on-the-fly and scout out target opportunities. For example, when President Barack Obama came to New York for series of fundraisers, he was picketed by dozens of demonstrators who called upon him to stop reelection politics as usual and the pandering to economic inequality.
The demonstrations may come as a nasty surprise to the Democratic Party, some of whose members view the Occupy movement as the liberal response to the Republican leaning Tea Party movement.
The two nominating conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties will represent tempting targets for demonstrations.
In the interim, the movement will continue to compete for attention by demonstrating at banks, showy homes, country clubs and golf courses. It will also focus on symptoms of the economic crisis such as homeowners facing foreclosure. On New Year's Day the protesters plan an alternative Tournament of Roses Parade in California.