What's happened to the Occupiers?
Perhaps unsurprisingly for such a large and disparate collection of people, the movement has seen plenty of friction. According to Glazer, those who went so far as to mention support for a mainstream political candidate were likely to get into trouble, in a way that has driven off the soccer moms and more ordinary folk.
“There are people that are anarchists that are part of the movement. There are people that are socialists, there are people that are completely apolitical. If you show your support for anybody on any political side they just start swearing at you and start screaming at you. I don’t see it as healthy.” The visible activists have dwindled. Glazer was a part of Occupy camps at both the Democratic and Republican conventions and was surprised by the small number of protesters. A couple of hundred people camped out and between 1,500 and 2,000 attended marches, he said. “I think the police outnumbered us five to one.”
Down the street from Zuccotti a young woman called Darah McJimsey is overseeing the library: a suitcase containing books donated and salvaged from dumpsters (sample titles: Portraits of American Politics; Treasure Island).
The 24-year-old from California came to New York last November. She has noticed a sort of class difference within the movement. “I live in front of Trinity Church with a bunch of other people who are part of the movement. We are all homeless, we sleep out here on a 24/7 peaceful-protest physical occupation.”
The group, which includes people who were homeless before they joined the Occupy movement, would be grateful for emotional support and food, she says, but they rarely receive visits from the organisers who don’t sleep out.
A number of problems face those sleeping out, and Occupy’s dispersed locations make it harder for people like her to keep up with events. “A lot of us try to attend meetings regularly, which are ridiculously far away, and we have giant backpacks and no metro fare and we’re hungry. We don’t know what’s going on, we don’t have access to computers. That’s another divide – the technological divide.”
Earlier this year, McJimsey says, Occupy introduced a spending freeze. “I don’t even know what’s up with our finances.”
There are other potential complaints about Occupy, including the broad spread of causes it embraces and the diffuseness of its aims. The General Assembly website lists 92 groups, ranging from anti-racism allies and global justice to PR and meditation. Almost every group has its own website.
Yet this diversity within unity is at the heart of the movement’s appeal: the sense that everyone in the 99 per cent is connected and their causes are connected too. One reason Occupy never became the Tea Party (or acquired similar political influence) is because it never set out to do so. “Occupy Wall Street isn’t like the Tea Party,” Amin Husain, a lawyer turned artist-activist who has been involved with Occupy since the very early days, tells The Irish Times. “It’s not looking at Republicans and Democrats and Independents. It’s not looking at left, right and centre. It’s talking about people and the fact that people have been screwed. How many people: 99 per cent of people have been screwed. They have been screwed by 1 per cent of the political elite and economic elite.”