Tuesday, February 14, 2012

occupy movement regroups, prepares for its next phase

NYTimes | The ragtag Occupy Wall Street encampments that sprang up in scores of cities last fall, thrusting “We are the 99 percent” into the vernacular, have largely been dismantled, with a new wave of crackdowns and evictions in the past week. Since the violent clashes last month in Oakland, Calif., headlines about Occupy have dwindled, too.

Far from dissipating, groups around the country say they are preparing for a new phase of larger marches and strikes this spring that they hope will rebuild momentum and cast an even brighter glare on inequality and corporate greed. But this transition is filled with potential pitfalls and uncertainties: without the visible camps or clear goals, can Occupy become a lasting force for change? Will disruptive protests do more to galvanize or alienate the public?

Though still loosely organized, the movement is putting down roots in many cities. Activists in Chicago and Des Moines have rented offices, a significant change for groups accustomed to holding open-air assemblies or huddling in tents in bad weather.

On any night in New York City, which remains a hub of the movement, a dozen working groups on issues like “food justice” and “arts and culture” meet in a Wall Street atrium, and “general assemblies” have formed in 14 neighborhoods. Around the country, small demonstrations — often focused on banks and ending foreclosure evictions — take place almost daily.

If the movement has not produced public leaders, some visible faces have emerged.

“I’m finally going to make it to the dentist next week,” said Dorli Rainey, a Seattle activist. “I’ve had to cancel so many times. It’s overwhelming.”

Ms. Rainey, who is 85 and was pepper-sprayed by the police in November, has been fully booked for months. On a recent Thursday, she joined 10 people in Olympia, Wash., who were supporting a State Senate resolution to remove American soldiers from Afghanistan. She led a rally near Pike Place Market against steam incinerators, which the protesters complain release pollution in the downtown area. In March, she plans to join Occupy leaders in Washington for events that are still being planned.

“People have different goals,” Ms. Rainey said. “Mine is, we’ve got to build a movement that will replace the type of government we have now.”