Occupy Wall Street needs to retreat.
After two months, the movement has started to falter a bit but, more importantly, it's still never truly gained a focus and hasn't done much of anything to change the minds of the masses that they claim to represent. Even worse, after Mayor Bloomberg's decision to evict the Occupiers (more on this later), the discussion has now morphed into a First Amendment debate which moves the focus even further away from Wall Street or campaign finance reform. The bottom line is that the movement is stagnant, both literally and figuratively. The people don't want to move from their spot but they don't seem to be moving many others to their side. This is a cause that needs to step back, reorganize, and figure out a second act.
One of the thing that's really struck me of late (and was basically bashed through my head when I watched the almost viral rant by Keith Olbermann about Mayor Bloomberg) is that many people tied to the cause seem to be hoping that something will happen, someone will cause some kind of crisis, that will galvanize and help define the movement. In Olbermann's rant, he listed off a number of other historic protests and was trying to link their importance to Occupy's. But it's just not the same. Occupiers seem to be hoping to become historic rather than actually focusing on something that they'd like to make history.
Even more annoying is Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones, who tweeted from Occupy Wall Street and seemed to get excited any time a police officer even looked at his/her baton. But what Harkinson tweeted right after the eviction is what kind of ticked me off the most about the kind of sham togetherness of the movement. He was tweeting about a couple who lost their jobs, lost their home, and had been living in a homeless shelter, which they found to be more dangerous than camping with the Occupiers. After the eviction, Harkinson tweeted:
Like many homeless occupiers, the Baldwins now don't know where they will sleep tonight.
Now maybe Harkinson stepped up and didn't tweet this because he didn't want to pat himself on the back but how in the world could he not offer the Baldwin's a place to stay? It's not like after he got evicted from the Occupy zone that he was going to go to bed at a homeless shelter or something. And if many of the homeless in Occupy Wall Street were hard working but harder bitten Americans, why didn't more of their fellow Occupiers lend them a hand or a bed or something. The Occupiers had a chance to do what the 1% wouldn't but instead, it seems, like they went home and called it a night. At Occupy Wall Street, nobody thinks globally and acts locally. They think globally... and play the bongos.
(Hell, the protest didn't even help shed light on First Amendment issues. Instead it served as a distraction from the SOPA bill in Congress that could lead to overreaching censorship on the internet.)
As for the eviction itself, no matter how much people clamor about what Mayor Bloomberg did, the fact remains that all it will do is get the base riled up while most everyone else just experiences the same disinterest or (in the case of the Right) disgust with the Occupiers. People can try to vilify Mayor Bloomberg but if you occupy a privately owned area for two month, you should probably expect the police to come and kick you out. And as for the police not allowing reporters in, how many large scale police actions are media-friendly? (Nevermind that the media showed less fervor in covering the story than the amateurish LA local news shows for following a random car chase.)
The best defense the protesters have is, "We're not doing anything," which is also the best argument for why they should have retreated and regrouped before the cops ever arrived.
It pains me to feel this way and write this because I agree with a lot of the core arguments of Occupy Wall Street but the manner in which they've gone about "fighting" for those changes is, honestly, just annoying and plays into every negative stereotype of liberals. Just as the Tea Party Movement had some good ideas that were waylaid by the over-the-top rhetoric and occasional bigoted signage, Occupy played itself into its critics' hands and didn't seem at all interested in trying to change the minds of those who didn't already agree with them. And that is why the Tea Party scope and Occupy's influence will never be as great as the iconic movements of the past.
Occupy Wall Street was so preoccupied with keeping Zuccotti Park that they stopped considering whether or not they really should stay there or whether their actions were really helping their cause. I'd like to think that the forced exit might make some people go back and try to see how they can help their fellow Americans, where to donate money or volunteer their time, and how they can make their little piece of the world better for their fellow 99 percenters but my guess is that there won't be much change, neither globally nor locally.