Recent headlines chronicle police busting up Occupy encampments in New York, Los Angeles and Oakland. But the movement has spread so far and wide that it can’t be shut down that easily. Two nights ago on a chilly night in Grand Rapids, with the wind howling off of nearby Lake Michigan, I sat down to talk with the young activists of Occupy Grand Rapids, camping out on the plaza of a downtown church. They were comfy with a big tent and piles of donated food with the brick walls of the church offering a great wind shelter. They weren’t going anywhere—except to classes the next morning. But they would be back.
The week before in Iowa City, I visited the encampment of 27 tents in College Green Park as the wind blew snow sideways to my face. Most of the occupiers were gone, off to college classes or their jobs, debunking right-wing claims that the movement is little more than modern-day bums. Occupy Iowa City is still going.
Karen Kubby, who owns a store on Washington Avenue, Iowa City’s Main Street, noted that College Green Park was once the site of Chautauqua festivities— a grand American tradition of the early 20th Century where people flocked to see lecturers and performers appearing in tents. Not so different from the Occupy actions, another idealistic public education movement taking place in tents.
“Occupy Wall Street and its allied movements around the country are”, in the words of Jeffrey D. Sachs (the economic strategist who introduced capitalism to Russia as shock therapy) “most likely the start of a new era in America.”
Something is happening here that wind, cold, snow, tear gas and police batons cannot deter.