Why Occupy Works

Why Occupy Works
by Sue Basko

Occupy is the most successful protest movement in the U.S. in at least 35 years.  In many ways, it appears to be the most successful national protest movement ever in the U.S.  Before arguing against this, please consider the list below of why Occupy works. These are not in any order of importance.  Many of the factors are intertwined, and they are all crucial to making Occupy such a success.

Wikipedia list of Occupy sites in:


1) Occupy is nationwide and worldwide.  Occupy has been “franchised” to many cities,  neighborhoods, and universities, but these have the strength of operating under the bigger Occupy banner.  Strong personal bonds have been formed among participants nationwide.  Worldwide, protests in many locations have been inspired by Occupy, and some have taken the Occupy name. 

2) Occupy is decentralized and local.  Each local operation is run by its participants, as they see fit.   They can address their own issues and needs in their own style, but they are still part of the whole big Occupy.  Anyone can start an Occupy at their town or campus.   In some cities, there are a number of Occupy groups, in different parts of the city.   

3) Variety. There is always something interesting happening somewhere in Occupyland, and it seems there is an activity to suit almost any taste.  Some like epic activities such as the 99 Mile March or the Bike Across America or Occupy Caravan.  Others like to sleep on Skid Row or write with Chalk.  Some like to bang on pots and pans.  Many like drumming and dancing.  Some like to do Foreclosure Defense.  Others like meeting and discussing.  Some like writing or making videos.  And on and on.  Since there is no hierarchy of asking permission or seeking approval, you can make your own activity that suits you and/or your friends (as long as it is peaceful). 

4) Occupy is peaceful.  This is its greatest strength.  And in the face of often-intense police provocation, infiltrators, and bullying, manipulative pro-violence advocates, Occupy has maintained peacefulness.  Excellent Occupy communication systems have aided this. 

5) People can join without joining.  People can participate without agreeing to a list of exact precepts, other than to be peaceful.

6) Occupy is multi-racial and multi-generational.  Occupy also has many strong female participants. 

7) Occupy has its own media.  Thanks to Ustream, Twitter, blogs, and youtube, Occupy is not dependent on mainstream media.  Occupy also has many energetic, reliable, technically adept people who devote themselves to live streaming, tweeting, writing blogs, and making videos.  This, among other good things, removes any need for violence.  Protesters used to use violence to get attention from mainstream media, which usually goes for the cheap, easy shot.  Occupy has its own media, fully covering the everyday meetings as well as marches and protests of all kinds.  There is no need to beg the corporate media for coverage to feel legitimate.

8) Occupy has superb communications tools.  Twitter, Ustream, facebook, youtube, blogs, websites, chatlists, Google hangouts, free conference call services, and other free things give Occupiers the unprecedented ability to easily organize, gather, and plan without the old-fashioned use of paper, copiers, etc.  Whenever anyone talks about wanting paper fliers, I cringe.  May Occupy be the paperless revolution.  (Note: There are big phone expenses in live streaming, which is why Ustreamers ask for donations.)

9) There are many highly educated, reliable, friendly people with time on their hands.  Occupy benefits from having this highly-qualified, highly-skilled, devoted volunteer work force and participant pool.  

10) Professional helpers.  Lots of highly skilled people have been willing to give their time and efforts to Occupy: Lawyers, nurses, medics, filmmakers, video editors, chefs, cooks, event planners, publicists, solar power techs, designers, printers, journalists, writers, internet and computer tech people, and many others.  Occupy works like a well-oiled machine.

11) Occupy is not a cult of personality.  It’s not a cult of anything.  It’s a recognition of a generalized need for change in how money, work, housing, education, and health care work in the U.S.  Occupy is asking questions, not dictating answers.  

12) Alternative Payment Systems.  We Pay and Paypal have made it possible for livestreamers and Occupy sites to get donations from those able to give.

13) Anonymous, Wikileaks, and other internet helpers, such as those providing secure connections, provide back-up support for Occupy.

14) Willingness to Learn from Elders.  Those with experience in protest movements have been able to give information to those fairly new, including information on topics as Cointelpro, infiltrators, entrapment, and bullying, to such topics as staying hydrated, staying healthy, etc. As one of those helping others recognize and deal with infiltration and bullying, I have noted that the internet is an easy tool for such negative antics, but also provides an easy method for spotting it and calling it out or actively ignoring it. 

15) Veterans.  Veterans bring deep concern for our nation and our rights, and also often have qualities such as tenacity, perseverance, endurance, organization, physical fitness, and survival skills.  Veterans were also the group pushing strongly for encampments.  The strong presence of veterans gives Occupy credibility and a strong base of highly-skilled do-ers.  

16) Resisting Being Pegged.  Occupy has resisted the call to come up with a list of “demands,” the call to endorse candidates, the call to be co-opted by other movements, the call for violence, the manipulations of infiltrators, and on.

17) Food.  Occupy is known for great food, which is especially helpful, since many participants are hungry and in need.  Food Not Bombs, a great nonprofit, provides splendid vegan meals.  Local cooks and chefs set up kitchens and buffets.  Local people order pizzas or give other meals to Occupiers.  Eating becomes a political act when the food is carefully chosen for its world impact, such as with vegetarian meals served in recyclable containers.  Occupy has generous benefactors.

18) Music and Chants.  What would Occupy be without the drummers and great chants?  Occupy chants, like true folk music, have spread nationally.  Some of it is so catchy (one, we are the people..), while other chants have spread for their funny matter-of-fact observation (SAFUABS).  Local musicians, Tom Morello, and Guitarmy have all made Occupy a strong musical experience. 


FREE POSTER: If you like the  poster above, it is by Los Angeles designer, Aaron Kuehn, and you can download a pdf of it and print it up:  Aaron Kuehn FREE Occupy Poster.

The author - As disclosure, I should mention that I have helped people at many Occupy locations worldwide with protest set-up, planning, or legal help, and with legal needs of independent media. I have also assisted an international human rights assessment of Occupy and the NATO protests.