Did We Occupy the Wrong Place?

It is always cheering and inspiring to see tens of thousands of people actively fight for their rights; it is especially encouraging when they ask for the same thing as you’ve been asking for. Occupy Wall Street movement witnessed such grand event.

Occupy Wall Street is a grass root movement started in September, 2011 in New York City. Their slogan, “What is your demand” encourages people to voice their thoughts. Some of the major demands are: end income inequality (we are the 99%), reduce the influence of corporate (end the war, tax the rich), relief students’ debt and alleviate foreclosure. Indeed, these are all pertinent to our daily life and concerns wide range of audience. No wonder in a poll conducted by ORGS shows that more than 3 quarters people have interacted with Occupy movement[1]. The organizer adopted various online platform to attract various people with different background. However, when I read on Wikipedia page one line caught my eyes: “Concessions given: none”. I feel confused and baffled: how come an attractive movement that appeals to wide range of audience and ask for something the majority of people want failed to generate any concrete result? Further investigation gave me the answer:

The same poll by ORGS shows that even though the social engagement rate is high, the participating rate is considerably lower: only a half actually marched in a protest and a fifth organized a protest. This is probably the problem with online movement: although it inspire people’s compassion and enthusiasm, it is very hard to make people spend time and effort in the real world. It’s much easier to click a like button or sign up for email list; it is a giant leap to get them out in the street and march. So in the article Reflection on #Occupy Everywhere, the author pointed out three areas OSW can improve[2]: 1) Online movement should compounded with offline activities: hire workers in remote areas to mobilize poorer and less informed audience. 2) Organize political debate/discussion to stress the political focus of this movement. 3) erase the racial and class barrier within the participants.

Since OSW is a huge movement that involves great many people, even though they all agree the world should change, they disagree on how the world should change: middle class may think the working environment should be improved, or they shouldn’t be allowed to work so many hours with so little pay; blue collar workers may think minimal wage should be increased and labor union should help secure every workers’ rights; low class family may want better health care and social welfare where the government help train more competent workers and help them find a job… Each of them seem reasonable to ask for what they want; however, lacking a congregated goal made the OSW less effective as a whole. Furthermore, even though wall street may be perceived as an elitists’ playground, it actually has little power regarding to the policy making. If people want long term benefit that actually improves majorities’ life, consider Washington DC next time.


  1. Juris, Jeffrey S. “Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social Media, Public Space, and Emerging Logics of Aggregation.” American Ethnologist, vol. 39, no. 2, 2012, pp. 259–279., doi:10.1111/j.1548–1425.2012.01362.x.
  2. Costanza-Chock, Sasha. “Mic Check! Media Cultures and the Occupy Movement.” Social Movement Studies, vol. 11, no. 3–4, 2012, pp. 375–385., doi:10.1080/14742837.2012.710746.
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