The Difference Between the Occupy Movement and Black Lives Matter

After reading this week’s assignments, I noticed a lot of parallels between the Occupy movement and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Occupy Wall Street started on September 17th, 2011 in New York, but it quickly spread to Occupy Everywhere as people across the US and internationally began occupying their local cities and protesting. The movement gained attention online through a popular hashtag, mainly on twitter, where word spread quickly of the movement and it’s goals. People joined all over to set up camp in areas that would cause the most disruption and began marching and protesting. According to Jeffrey S. Juris, in Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social media, public space, and emerging logics of aggregation, Occupy Boston was a fully operational community. They had a logistics station, legal team, press tent, a kitchen area, and student tents. The movement was branded a success in terms of gaining visibility and starting a conversation about social and economic inequality. Although no immediate policy change was noticeable, politicians discussed unemployment and the income gap which was directly reflected in the Democratic win of the 2012 presidential election. The Occupy movement has been heavily critiqued for only representing a small group of the 99%, white educated males. The movement failed to include and represent people of color. Rinku Sen and Yvonne Yen Liu write for Colorlines that, “Some of the conditions that are new for this generation of the white middle class… are very old indeed, and often function with a particular sharpness, for people of color.” The Occupy movement highlighted what was wrong with the system, but it was not a new problem, it had already caused huge inequalites in American society for years, starting with discriminating against people of color.

Similarily to Occupy, Black Lives Matter started with a viral hashtag. The movement is centered around a common goal, expose the systematic racism and police brutality that people of color face on a day to day basis. Unlike Occupy, the movement is not as organized. They have not occupied spaces and set up camps, but they do utilize marching in protest with signs and chants. Both movements use social media to share videos of police brutality against protestors and the adversity they face.

Social media is clearly a great tool to get a social movement started and keep everyone up to date. Although these social movements may not result in immediate policy change, they spread awareness of societal problems and start an important conversation.

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