Occupy Wall Street Retakes Zuccotti Park, Kicks Off 2012 Protests


Occupy Wall Street is back, baby.

OWS marked its six month anniversary on Saturday by storming Zuccotti Park, aka “Liberty Square," in downtown Manhattan. You’ll remember that the 33,000 square foot park was the epicenter of the 2011 OWS movement. Within hours the group had retaken the park, with protesters surging in after sporadic clashes with New York City police.

NYPD meanwhile raced to send in reinforcements and crowd control, immediately shipping in metal barriers to surround and contain the park. 

The day ended with a police confrontation and numerous arrests at the park. Typical.

This is, then, the start of Occupy Wall Street 2012, and we have a lot to look forward to this year. The movement will undoubtedly seek to influence the national elections, while also continuing their assault on the Wall Street “establishment.” Still, though, no specific policy platform, policy solutions, or end game can be attributed to OWS 2012. The movement, then, only looks to continue where it left off in 2012.

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OWS has mostly remained dormant over the winter, popping up at the occasional Republican primary and CPAC over the last couple of weeks, but with no major marches or confrontations have occurring.

Without a true policy goal, some have speculated that OWS will fizzle out in 2012. Occupy Wall Street sees it otherwise. On Twitter, the movement declares: “In our first 6 months we changed the national conversation. In the next 6 months we will change the world.”

The presidential and congressional elections, of course, will be the biggest target for OWS. Expect Occupiers to skirmish with conservative voters during the remainder of the Republican primaries. Santorum — with his far right social agenda — looks to be the biggest target, followed by Mr. 1% Mitt Romney.

OWS will have a much bigger impact in the wider general election starting in the summer. The group seems poised to lash out not only against the eventual Republican nominee, but also President Barack Obama, who OWS has criticized for pandering too much to big banks and corporate interests.

Obama, for his part, has begun to echo the OWS rhetoric, occasionally calling out against corporatism and seeking to paint himself as an average American.

Such “99% vs. 1%” rhetoric is the hallmark of OWS. Though there is no clear OWS mission, the movement will also undoubtedly continue to call for Wall Street reform, criticize financial players, and increase their protests against banks. They might start to get some unexpected help, as public sentiment against big banks and the financial industry deteriorates. 

OWS was even hoping for Greg Smith — the former Goldman Sachs vice president and whistle blower who wrote a scathing Op-ed in the New York Times earlier in the week — to appear at their march on Saturday, though it was unclear if he did. With financial insiders now also attacking the banking culture that lead to the 2008 financial crisis, OWS' message is clearly resonating.

Though OWS is seeking to reshape the public discourse on economics, banking, and capitalism, the group itself will still have to navigate through major business hurdles this year (ironic, kind of). Reuters reports that the movement could run out of money by the end of the month, raising questions about the future of the movement. Donations to the group have slowed. A March 2 financial report showed the movement only has $44,828 in a general fund, in addition to $90,000 set aside to bail out protests during planned "American Spring" protests in the coming weeks.

The report said, "At our current rate of expenditure, we will be out of money in THREE WEEKS." The report — posted on the group's website www.nycga.net — showed $14,942 had been spent on the group's kitchen, street medics, New York bus and subway passes, and printing costs. A group that rails against capitalism may have to figure out a new revenue stream ASAP.

The winter, though, has been good to OWS. According to CBS News, the unseasonably warm weather has benefited Occupy. “The warmer weather brings out larger chunks of the population who are not able to participate in the colder months,” Chuck Witthaus, an organizer with Occupy the Midwest, told CBS St. Louis. “It’s definitely going to help perpetuate [the Occupy movement].”

Things will only continue to heat up in 2012.

On St. Paddy’s Day, then, here’s to another year of Occupy Wall Street!

Photo Credit: DoctorTongs