Remember those 99% T-shirts that were a symbol of the unbalanced distribution of power and wealth in the country. What happened to the group that started them? Well one answer can be found on a website started by some members of the group. Occupywallst.org a website that has up to date information on the affinity group that started in the financial district in Manhattan’s Liberty Square and has now spread to over 1,500 cities globally. They apparently take donations for their cause and also gift packages of non-perishable goods (Send them a nice can spam). Their mission statement better explains what they want to prove. “We are committed making technologies, knowledge, and culture open to all to freely access, create, modify and distribute”. They welcome groups looking for journalists, activists and educators to use the site for its content.
There was a shift in the movement’s efforts and assistance when Hurricane Sandy hit the coast last year. They raised more than 1.5 million for relief efforts with addition to help with cleaning out the houses and clearing debris. Even though helping out those in needs who lost homes should be a priority for the group, but some people within the group questioned the movement’s future direction. Some saw the champions of unjust imbalance in society classes turning more into a community of volunteers. What also takes the punch out of their anti 1% logic is they have taken donations from big corporations such as Home Depot and also have applied for Government grants. “We’re helping the poor people; before fighting the rich people” said Goldi Guerra who is a member of Occupy Wall Street who camped out at Zuccotti Park. Some occupy groups have committed themselves back to protests while some have taken the community help direction as a way to remain productive.
Some members of the Occupy movement have taught sit-ins to the victims of the hurricane. In addition to sit ins and community relief one section of the occupy movement uses their tools for protesting the land known as The Gill Tract in Albany New York. They wanted to educate the public with sustainable urban agriculture to show their support for the land. UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulf explains that the university has been contesting the protesters. “We want use revenue from the development to subsidize the housing costs for the students, and the community expressed needs for a quality grocery and senior citizen housing”. “This is not their property and our patience is wearing thin” he explains in frustration.
Another project that the Occupy Movement took to the forefront is medical debt. “Medical debt accounts for 62% of bankruptcy,” says organizers of strike debt. Occupys’ plan was to gather donations which at the time was over 5 million dollars and then to buy bad medical debts in order to zero them out and cancel them. They wanted to buy the debt at a fraction of the original worth the same way private companies do. They raised money through telethons and comedic events that have included Janeane Garofalo and other features. The money raised are put to the medical debt that can be reduced to as little as five cents to the dollar when you pay off the debt as an organization. If paying of this debt works this can help over 3900 families who have medical debt. According to the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about 30 million have debts in collection averaging about $1,500 dollars.
The purpose according to Yates McKee a strike debt organizer “The campaign is not about charity, but about mutual aid and solidarity”. He also opposes the phrase “debt forgiveness”. McKee feels that this would be admittance to the notion that the persons are guilty of being moral failures. He looks as this movement campaign as a debt resistance strategy. “We’re calling this to be a political act of economic noncompliance”, according to Mckee. Actually this is one tool used to bring the command back to the debtor and not the 1%. One other method to add to the campaign is Occupy has created a Debt Resistors Organizing Kit.
Even though the occupy movements have dwindled by large numbers. Many have gone back to work, back to school and even just dropped out of the group altogether. Seeing that the vision of the groups original purpose has changed to a much more community friendly volunteerism efforts more than public sit –ins and protests that gained media attention when the groups were first formed. However in the US the numbers may have reduced but the countries now included as a whole have increased tremendously. One the website they encourage others to report any protests around the world. Maybe the Occupy movement has some staying power, but my question will be now what ultimately will be the triumphant moment when their organizational goals have been met? And then what after that? It’s one thing for a resistance to tyrannical acts, but its another to build or rebuild a whole country from scratch. What is the end game?