NEW YORK —
September 17 marks one year since the "Occupy Wall Street" movement emerged in New York City - with a long series of demands, but no specific program to realize any of them.
When the Occupy Movement took over Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, near-by residents protested the prolonged drumming from the encampment as "unbearable noise." A drummer rejected the neighbors’ protest, saying, “We are here to support a movement! Drumming helps that movement!”
The movement spread throughout the world, but there has been no revolution. Though Occupy protests saved a few homes from foreclosure, they have not achieved any of the demands as disparate as the participants themselves -- including tighter regulation of banking, campaign finance reform, a cleaner environment, or freedom for Tibet.
Nonetheless, Columbia University sociology professor Todd Gitlin says the movement’s message about a greedy elite, allegedly at the root of many global problems, has entered the language.
“One will use the term ‘one percent’ and ‘99 percent’ and most of America knows what you’re talking about. You’ll find it now in common usage in newspaper articles that have nothing to do with Occupy itself," he said.
Within months, police nationwide dispersed Occupy protesters from public areas. Today, the movement’s daily physical presence consists of a few volunteers engaging passersby at a park or sidewalk. Justin Stone-Diaz has been with Occupy since its first day. He says small changes are key.
“The revolution is the technology that’s in everyone’s pockets - the cell phones, the information age. What Occupy Wall Street at its core is, we’re trying to foster a paradigm shift towards a more direct democracy," he said.
Stone-Diaz says Occupy protesters now spread their messages electronically. When needed, larger groups converge as they did at the recent conventions of both major U.S. political parties.
Sociologist Todd Gitlin says polls indicate that Americans support Occupy causes more than the movement itself.
“When people are asked how they feel about such measures as progressive taxation, driving money out of politics - sort of the implicit thrust, the unstated demands, let’s say, of a demand-less movement - those causes remain popular," he said.
Today, Zuccotti Park is again just a place to eat and relax. Whether drummers made enough noise there last year to bring their causes to fruition remains to be seen. Justin Stone-Diaz is optimistic, saying Occupy continues to encourage direct action through dialogue.