Eleven Things Occupy Wall Street Has Accomplished

by Mark Naison

December 16, 2011

Many people in the media complain that Occupy Wall Street has no leaders and no goals. While Occupy Wall Street and its spin-offs around the nation have certainly not developed “leaders” who articulate its goals to the media or negotiate with public officials, it has already registered a formidable list of accomplishments for a movement this young.

The evictions of Occupy protesters by law enforcement authorities using helicopters, tear gas, pepper spray, bulldozers and rubber bullets and occasionally using Patriot Act protocols to prevent journalists from reporting on the evictions have only made the movement stronger, encouraging it to take the Occupy movement into working class communities of color who have long been under duress from regressive and discriminatory economic policies and the abuse of police power.

Here is my list of some of the important things this movement has done, with more to come as it grows and matures…

1. Put the question of economic inequality in the center of national discourse for the first time since the 1960’s, even though such inequality has been growing dramatically for the last 20 years. The vocabulary the movement has developed to describe this inequality, “the 1 % and the 99%,” have become a permanent part of our political discourse and has focused great attention on how the maldistribution of wealth has undermined democracy and eroded the living standards of the great majority of Americans.

2. Called attention to the stifling impact of student loan debt on young college, professional and trade school graduates who face the double whammy of a stagnant job market and crippling debt. The attention given to this issue inspired President Obama to marginally ease the loan burden of current recipients. In the future, it might even prompt a radical reconfiguration of the debt or a major program of loan forgiveness.

3. Created political pressures that prompted the postponement of a decision by President Obama to begin construction of the controversial Keystone XL natural gas pipeline.

4. Forced New York Governor Cuomo, whose promise not to renew the state’s millionaires’ tax drew national attention, to negotiate with state legislators a tax increase in the higher brackets to go into effect next year, which will prevent 2 billion dollars in anticipated budget cuts.

5. Inspired a wide variety of actions to prevent foreclosures and evictions and to bring relief to beleaguered home owners and tenants, including preventing the eviction of a 103 year old woman in Atlanta, forcing a Harlem landlord to restore heat to tenants, and occupying a foreclosed house in the East New York Section of Brooklyn.

6. Put the undemocratic character of many education reform policies, particularly school closings, under much greater scrutiny, creating pressures on policy makers that will make these closings much more difficult to implement without more consultation and input from parents, students, teachers and community members.

7. Given the labor movement a new vocabulary to challenge attacks on collective bargaining and union recognition, providing added ammunition to the successful campaign to defeat anti-collective bargaining bills in the states of Ohio and New Hampshire.

8. Focused attention on the issue of police brutality and the militarization of urban police forces in ways that reinforces longstanding complaints of police misconduct and abuse in Black and Latino communities.

9. Helped create a political climate which persuaded the Philadelphia District Attorney to remove the death sentence from human rights activist and journalist Mumia Abu Jamal.

10. Sparked protests against tuition increases at the nation’s public universities, especially in the California public colleges and the City University of New York (CUNY).

11. Closed down several West Coast ports in support of striking port workers.

This would be an impressive list of accomplishments for a movement that has lasted two years. But Occupy Wall Street has only been with us for three months!

Mark Naison teaches African American Studies and History at Fordham University and is founder of the Bronx African American History Project. This article originally appeared on the author’s blog, With A Brooklyn Accent.


5 responses to “Eleven Things Occupy Wall Street Has Accomplished”

  1. Atom Avatar

    I commend their right to protest, I always do, but I will try my best to give credit where it is due. this list tries to say that OWS invented and is helping to reform policies that they didn’t help contribute to founding:

    1. they didn’t “start” “Economic Equality” movements, this was started with honesty tax movements that require a flat tax for everyone, or no tax at all, combined with consumer advocate groups, this statement is highly stretched in reagards for them being the ones “accomplishing things. In fact Ron Paul himself called for an Audit of the fed, which would have exposed this atrocity of bailing the governments out, and the banks they chose.

    2. Obama was to eased Loans BEFORE OWS was even around. this combined with what every American had to do anyways to seek secondary schooling, PAY FOR IT. School is a privilege not a right. I will give it to OWS in half the sense they are expressing here, they are asking for free schooling it seems, and a socialist / communist type approach for the government to “guarantee” JOBS when graduates are done. something I not only disagree with, but feel that if the government stays out of business regulation (except in cases of illegality) we would see a prosperous free market take control and create plethora’s of jobs.

    3. I can’t believe they are taking credit for this, consumer advocate groups, Greenpeace, EPA, and several other agencies were working together to stop the Keystone pipeline….maybe they helped, but not solely…. that would be like Glenn Beck saying he invented the Tea-Party (oh wait he did)(sorry I know you guys like beck)

    4. Again hogging all the credit, this was again honestly tax movements at works with minimal help from OWS.

    5. I like seeing great things happen for good people, this I commend again. but this is a double edged swords approach for what they are doing. they are helping people who can’t pay there bills on one hand, and on the other they are helping people not pay their bills, which means they feel they should be able to do this anytime they don’t agree with someone being charged. I feel though that in times of dire needs that dire things need to happen, and it is my sentiments that people should help themselves and help themselves pay their own bills, but my heart says it is completely wrong to force an 108 and 80 something year old lady out of their homes, because of skyrocketing increases in housing. so at this I agree with their work in regards to the old women of this story, the other stories not so much.

    6. is another “GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO DO THIS” approach which leads to more intervention and more regulation by the government, but on the opposite end they are asking for more “Parental input” for schooling and how these individuals get to decide???? well what exactly do they want? you can’t have both of them at the same time, the DOE has only been around since the 1970’s and since then we are seeing schools close like flies…. where does the problem lie? Marxist government run schooling systems that is where.

    You can’t ask for government oversight to finance these schools and have parents say we want to increase / decrease spending and the government better supply the money with no questions asked. I am afraid it doesn’t work that way.

    Ending the DOE and running it at state level or with private firms teaching state guided curriculum or based on your child’s needs in education would be a better alternative.

    7. I commend unions, and you won’t hear me say otherwise, but having organized socialism on the business end while having a capitalist system of governance in terms of socio-economic policy. will once again not work. now in a free market this would be different. If you are allowing Unions to work for ridiculous amounts of money, and granting only unions work through tax-payer based government hand outs, you are once again engaging in government run business models that lead to socialism / communism…. of course this only applies if your system is a capitalist system having socialist based unions.

    not to mention when you award unions work, you are also giving the union leaders RIDICULOUS pay bonus’s…. sort of on the same lines as Wall-Street, in which this movement is singling out because of their ethics…. Irony at it’s best.

    8. Singling out races to gain a message is wrong. Police brutality has been brought up decades before OWS, and effects EVERYONE. Wearechange and COPWATCH and other organizations have been doing this for years, and once again OWS organization claims it “accomplished” these feats themselves… good for bringing attention to this tragedy, but bad for harboring work not done by your organization alone.

    9. Good news, if they believe a state shouldn’t have a death penalty and charging an assumed innocent man with death this is great, but once again the “FREE MUMBIA” movement as well as civil rights movements were on this for at least a decade before OWS came along.

    10. they are taking away schools “business rights” to charge what they will for schooling. if the college’s were a monopoly I can see the gesture, but this is a business type world where they volunteered to pay a school for a secondary education. Cost of living and Cost of Production cost money, and with the economy the way it is Consumers of education as well as the college’s themselves feel tightening on budgets… so on this one I will give them both the benefit of the doubt, but I feel they need to recognize that without one, there would be no other.

    Government subsidies at the federal level are the reason most of these public schools had to raise tuition, and government bailing out banks is the reason why they have to subsidize the education and help the college kids, because the economy is so bad…. So I see the problem as being from the highest level.

    11. Closed down several ports, which helped slow down imports and exports, which in return only hurts our economy further. looks like they were helping out union workers again, I wonder what types of work they did for non-union workers who were striking, if at all?

    Many of our ports are owned by China essentially, so the closing of them helped and hurt our economy depending on how you look at it, but slowing or stopping consumed good from getting to the rest of the people, seems like exactly what they are fighting against….equality and dispersion for all.

    ok that was too much writing, but all in all, the seem to be asking for double edged communism, which is not ok with me. I respect their right to protest, but maybe some should go back and understand the fundamental principles of a constitutionally run government, I think indeed the government itself should go back and see that we are a “republic” run off a constitutional law, and not a democracy, where we make up laws not based on any legal definition or constitution to base our rights off of.

    Sorry if this pisses anyone off, but it’s my opinion.

  2. Jacquelyn Williams Avatar
    Jacquelyn Williams

    Although I agree with much of what you have said, I disagree with your labeling of Ending the FED as a “superficial slogan”. Superficial, by definition, means near the surface, lying on and not penetrating below. I believe Ending the FED is anything BUT that. The FED runs deep and to the core of the financial ruin we find ourselves in. I believe the 99% possess enough expertise, desire, commitment, energy and focus to tackle all of the problems in our society. Throwing an imperative objective, such as Ending the FED, to the side in order to focus on other objectives is both unnecessary and unwise.

  3. OccupyMarkD Avatar

    The Occupy movement needs to orient itself towards the most oppressed in society for it to get anywhere. The movement has already changed the national conversation and brought the issues of high inequality and corruption in corporate board rooms and the halls of governments into the minds of all Americans. Now we need to elevate the needs of the most oppressed in society to the top of the order of the day. By standing up for the basic rights and needs of women, people of color, LGBTQI, the elderly, the young, students, the disabled, etc., the Occupy movement will find a base of support and tap into an infinite well of energy to fuel its fight against the 99%’s common oppressors. By orienting towards the most oppressed, we fight for everyone. We need to move past superficial reforms such as “End the Fed” and “Overturn Citizens United v. FEC” and start elevating slogans such as “Free Education Through College”, “Single-Payer Health Care”, and “Nationalize the Banks”, because these are programs that will actually help people. Our political and economic system is bankrupt (quite literally!) and we must push the Occupy movement to overturn it and replace it with a system that can provide for the needs of society rather than the wealth of an elite minority. The Occupy movement has so far been a great organizing and “consciousness raising” tool, but we need to move forward with concrete demands that speak to the needs of all people, rather than focusing energies on reforming a system built to oppress us.

  4. Ahmad Hesam Avatar
    Ahmad Hesam

    This is a joint movement against capitalist system employees, against banks and finance dictatorships! We have shown employees who together fight against the capitalist system! Are always stronger than all! The Social Democratic movement accuracy is not too ends this republic! Because each new movements against capitalist democracy means freedom preparation development, all countries need Socialist Party. Freedom and equality should have no boundaries. We all want to be free of all political democracy demonstrators heißet news! 99% of the people make decisions Weill Baruch workers safe and long life! All future children! secure job!, equal pay equal work!, of course, every country people are employed throughout the same blood! together against capitalist system, and have clear interpretations of the same opinions! Everyone him his home city of their country and fighting against big capitalists system. People want better lives! Schuler students want exactly bessre training workers want better future for your children! The protesters say because any freedom without equality has no meaning! Kirieg burst the peace Hutten.
    Ahmad Hesam

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Ocupy is the best thing this is happening right now. I support and donate to occupy. This is a growning movement and will continue to grow. Thing will happen for the good of things. It is time for us take back for what has been stolen from people.