Scenario: Occupy Wall Street Regroups Over Winter

16Oct11

Cold weather is coming.  It seems likely that the size of the crowd in NYC will shrink soon.  The protests may have spread to other cities, but this movement is growing at a gradual rather than revolutionary pace.  The concerns have not been resolved, but the traditional outdoor mass protest approach is going to have to wind down soon.

It is not likely that the owner of a building on Central Park South or in lower Manhattan will allow the protesters to use it as their snow shelter, emerging to engage in marches and then retreating indoors for hot chocolate.  Some winter redoubt (e.g., San Francisco) could function as the movement’s outdoors Valley Forge.  But aside from token presences here and there, what seems most likely is that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is going to become a web- and TV-based production for the next half-year, assuming it survives that long.

It does not appear that the coming winter will be unusually cheery.  There will surely be a fair amount of bad news.  There will probably be an occasional bit of very bad news.  Conceivably, there could be a flashpoint.  If the movement is capable of retaining public attention through creative midwinter activities (and perhaps even if it’s not), April may see it develop into a serious force.  One factor making this a real possibility:  there’s a presidential election next year.

The riots of 1967 were a precursor to the riots of 1968, also an election year.  Some of the most notorious events took place at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968.  Then, as now, there was a mixture of causes, including especially race and anti-Vietnam War movements.  It is interesting, in that light, to read current discussions of how OWS and the Tea Party actually have a number of things in common.

There’s always the possibility that Obama, or one of his Republican challengers, could discover an inner demagogue and come out swinging, giving a growing mob something to cheer about.  What appears more likely is that Obama is working on becoming today’s LBJ — a deer in the headlights, in other words.  From today’s perspective, the 2012 Democratic Convention will be no more a celebration than the 1968 convention was.

At this point, it’s not that OWS has become a compelling movement attracting millions.  It’s that there doesn’t appear to be anything in motion that would prevent it from becoming that, next year.  It is going to need time to become huge, and it is going to have time.  The primary question seems to be whether it will mutate into a more potent form.  It could.

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One Response to “Scenario: Occupy Wall Street Regroups Over Winter”

  1. And now, OWS has become a previous chapter in history. In part, because it lost focus and become an “event” (read: party and money-making opportunity) in its own right.

    I’m sad. I’d really hoped it would turn into something.


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