Jacobin - September 17, 2021
... Ten years on from Occupy, there will be a lot of pronouncements about the movement’s legacy; indeed, I have been getting emails about it for weeks, inviting me to attend press conferences featuring “Occupy leaders” (a pairing of words that gives me flashbacks). But it does have a legacy: there is a traceable line from Occupy to both Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns and the Black Lives Matter movement, as there is to union reform caucuses, the Palestine solidarity movement, and the Democratic Socialists of America, to name but a few directions into which its participants moved.
Many of us on the Left have known each other for exactly ten years. Two of the people who lived in the encampment with me — we then lived together for much longer after that, in actual apartments — recently successfully sued the Boston Police Department. Others I met that September are union organizers, or rank-and-file militants. Others, still, were the core of the Sanders campaigns. We see one another when we happen to be in the same city, relationships marked by a sort of care that is forged in a movement. And while much of Occupy consisted of people like myself — college educated, now white collar — it was broader than that. None of the people who really won me to the Left, arguing against my equivocations, lending me books, explaining what to do in the event of an arrest, had more than a high school education.
As for myself, I spent months waking up in a tent, grabbing my backpack, and taking the subway to attend class, after which I would get back on the train and return to Dewey Square. I became an anarchist, moving into an anarchist collective (upon becoming a socialist, I moved out). I marched for so many miles protesting the wildly cruel and murderous Boston police. I entered a PhD program to study inequality, but before long I was spending most of my time building a graduate-student union. I started writing about other organizing efforts, and I never stopped.
My decision to visit Occupy ten years ago changed the course of my life. It was an entrance into the Left — I’d never been presented with a door before, if I even knew it existed. The same is true of thousands of others. We don’t talk about it much — because Occupy was so messy, so embarrassing, even as it could not have been otherwise given how little experience many of us had in building a movement — but it is true. ...
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