The Homer Babbidge Library was the site of Wednesday’s event, “Lessons from Occupy Wall Street.” The discussion, hosted by the American Studies department, brought together activists and scholars to talk about their takeaways from the Occupy Wall Street movement. The panel of experts included organizers, policy analysts and professors directly involved in the demonstrations.
The panel consisted of three members: Mary Clinton, a union organizer who was instrumental from the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, Sharron Cromwell, a policy analyst who created the People of Color Working Group within the movement, and Bill Mullen, an English and American Studies professor at Purdue who helped organize Occupy Purdue. This panel offered a broad overview of the movement, with the perspective of those within Occupy Wall Street itself and a more academic view from its periphery.
The discussion focused on the goals, limitations and legacy of the Occupy movement. Mary Clinton described the endgame of the demonstration as, “an overthrow of capitalism.” Occupy Wall Street began as a protest against income inequality, championed by the phrase “We are the 99%,” but it grew to represent various societal issues. Sharron Cromwell saw this firsthand as the demonstration evolved from economic issues to racial problems, specifically police brutality.
All three panelists cited “horizontalism” as the main limitation of the Occupy movement. Horizontalism is the idea that there should be no hierarchy in the decision making process, and all decisions need 100 percent consensus. This proved to be a major problem in a crowd of hundreds of people, as simple decisions took hours to be completed. In addition, the movement lacked a clear goal, or purpose. Bill Mullen described this problem when he called the Occupy movement a, “tactic, not a strategy,” meaning it is a way to get people motivated, but not a way to get tangible objectives accomplished.
In terms of its legacy, the panel agreed that Occupy Wall Street was, in one way or another, a success. Cromwell saw the event as a political experiment, which taught the demonstrators to work across their different cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds. Bob Hannan, a senior sociology major from UConn, reiterated another key facet of the movement’s legacy: “I know the movement might have been disorganized, but it still inspires people now and in the future.” The panel credits Occupy Wall St.reetwith establishing a culture of activism that can be seen in the Black Lives Matter campaign, and the number of protests over Donald Trump’s presidency.
The event was moderated by Chris Viles, and sponsored by American Studies, Asian and Asian American Studies and the English Department at the University of Connecticut.
Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.