Occupy Re-Reconsidered




"OC" spelled out by extension cords on grass.

[Original caption from January 2013] The potential power of liberals in Orange County is shocking — and mostly still potential. (Photo of extension cords from Occupy Orange County rally in Irvine, October 2011, by Greg Diamond.)

A recent story in Vox that just came to my attention looks back at the widespread notion, which sprand into being in 2011 and I can attest personally ate up my life for over a year, was some sort of failure.  We’ve certainly heard that here, and will no doubt hear it again in submitted anonymous comments (though whether we post them will depend on how personally nasty they get.)

Like my colleagues running this joint, I have been awfully busy of late — “occupied,” you might say — but I had to come back for a little while to call attention to this pretty good story.  After quoting  Aaron Ross Sorkin’s infamous comment that Occupy would be “an asterisk in history,” the article reconsiders that verdict:

But today, Occupy Wall Street no longer looks like such a failure. In the long run, Occupy invigorated ideas and people that influence today’s American left and Democratic politics.

“Occupy was in many, many ways a shit show,” Nicole Carty, a Brooklyn activist who was a facilitator at Occupy, told me. “But it deserves props, it really does, for unleashing this energy.”

Occupy was the birthplace of some left-wing ideas that have gained mainstream traction: Its “99 percent” mantra, which decried the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many, has endured. It animated the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the resurgence of the Democratic Socialists of America, and it is in ways responsible for the some of the most prominent ideas in the Democratic Party right now: free college, a $15 minimum wage, and combating climate change. It was also a training ground for some of the most effective organizers on the left today.

(Yes, that penultimate sentence leaves out reforming Wall Street — which was after all in the name! — but that’s addressed pretty well in the article itself.  The link is at the start of this article.)

Bernie Sanders (although more economist Joseph Stiglitz) helped to fashion and popularize much of the Wall Street critique of Occupy — which, the article notes, was a strange mixture of social democratic, Tea Party reformist, antifa anarchist, and often conspiracist — Orange County’s chapters having more than the and sure enough you can trace the popularization of some very popular ideas  in politics today.  Donald Trump, believe it or not, ran in part on a platform (such as it was) that had some roots in Occupy — but of course he was lying about reformist inclinations.  (To the extent that Occupy was an echo of the French Revolution — which it wasn’t all that much — Trump might be considered the less-talented echo of Napoleon who hijacked it after it had faltered out and used it for consolidation of personal power and self-aggrandizement.  Luckily, Trump is not that good at it.  Bernie would likely be the alternative-reality Danton who lived.)

This publication played a big role in publicizing and chronicling Occupy Orange County (and to a lesser extent its smaller predecessor by one week Occupy Santa Ana), all the way to when the Santa Ana group  helped move the county’s Occupy movement into fighting foreclosures.  As time permits, we’ll add some links to stories from our archives.

The notable thing about Occupy OC is that, after its early beginnings, it didn’t engage in illegal occupations, but tried negotiated for the use of public land to stage a visible occupation in Irvine, followed by one in Fullerton.  At the end of the Fullerton Occupation, I stopped being active as its Public Liaison and it moved to Huntington Beach — where it landed on the beach without permission and people eventually got arrested.  But we literally spent 2000 consecutive hours (I think it was more) on a corner of the front lawn of Irvine City Hall, and more beyond that in Fullerton, with them overlapping so that we could call it a continuous occupation.  And nobody got arrested (for protesting, at least) during that time.  People who wanted confrontations with police were encouraged to head for Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside — the first three of those being much less culturally conservative than OC.  And we were able to keep these issues in the spotlight — generally celebrated by passing cars — for longer than any other occupation in the world.

Anyway, read the story — and the other links we post, as we’ll update it as time permits — to get a sense of how the early part of the decade shaped the possibilities we see now.

This sounds like a Weekend Open Thread, I realize, but unless I can’t come up with one later, it isn’t.  Have fun reading the Vox story.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)