May Day: Occupy movement returns, but can it win converts?
On May Day, Occupy protesters sought to signal that last year was the beginning – not the ending – of their movement. But this year, they have to be more than lobbyists, experts say.
The Occupy movement kicked off its “spring awakening” in New York’s Bryant Park with a mini-replica of Occupy Wall Street efforts from last fall – free food, a skills exchange, and plenty of noise and soap-box style rhetoric.Skip to next paragraph
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But the movement, which was displaced from its Wall Street area encampment by the New York Police Department last November, mainly used the midtown park as a staging area with groups of 40 to 50 mostly youthful protesters at a time marching to nearby corporate headquarters.
“Pay your taxes!” chanted one group outside of News Corporation, which owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. “No New York City taxes!” they yelled outside the building housing the hedge fund Paulson & Co. The NYPD monitored the protests and made some isolated arrests of about seven people through midafternoon, according to the National Lawyers Guild, which was monitoring the events.
Protest organizers said that the goal of the day, aside from much of the anticorporate rhetoric, was to show that it was back after a relatively dormant winter.
“We want to displace the narrative that this is a fad and disappearing,” says Mark Bray, a spokesman for the Occupy movement. “We want to show that we are building a long-term social movement.”
Outside observers believe it’s important for the Occupy movement that the May Day protests appear successful. “There have been lots of false starts,” says George Ciccariello-Maher, a political scientist at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
“This is the next big stage,” says Mr. Ciccariello-Maher, who is a specialist in social movements. “They have to be able to show they can attract the numbers, not just do political lobbying.”