Occupy: we are the world
Far from being isolated protests at St Paul's Cathedral or in Wall Street, the Occupy movement is a truly global phenomenon – and it's still going strongPatrick Kingsley and Adam Gabbatt
Wednesday 30 November
ARTICLE SOURCEGUARDIAN UK
It is the meme that launched a thousand camps. The protests in Wall Street, London and Oakland may be its flagships, but the Occupy movement is a global one, stretching across six continents, more than 60 countries, and sparking up to 2,600 demonstrations. There have been 10 camps in Britain alone.
It is hard to say who started it. Occupy Wall Street, which began in September, was the first to popularise the term. But #OWS was itself predated by camps in Madrid, Athens, Santiago – and even Malaysia. The day most Occupy camps got going – 15 October – was first proposed because it marked the five-month anniversary of the Spanish occupation.
What unites them? A common rage at economic and social injustice and the feeling that "the 99%" are being shafted by society's richest 1%. But each protest has been different. Some were no more than rallies, and their demands differed from protest to protest – if they existed at all. Many protesters propose tweaks to capitalism – a Robin Hood tax, perhaps. Others want wholesale systemic change. Often, anger has a local twist. At St Paul's Cathedral, occupiers have precise demands for the City of London. In Chile, they attacked university fees; in Spain, youth unemployment.
In almost all cases, though, the camps themselves are a kind of demand – and a solution: the stab at an alternative society that at least aims to operate without hierarchy, and with full, participatory democracy. PK
The US's first occupation was eventually cleared from its New York base in Zuccotti Park on 15 November, two days shy of its two-month anniversary. The camp had swelled to around 200 tents before being cleared, and tens of thousands showed their support by joining in protests two days later, attempting (unsuccessfully) to shut down Wall Street and marching (successfully) over Brooklyn Bridge. Occupy Wall Street events have continued since, with students from the City University of New York occupying a college, and a drum circle being set up outside Mayor Mike Bloomberg's Upper West Side apartment. Lawyers for the occupation have been given until 9 December to file a fresh lawsuit, which protesters hope could yet allow them to re-occupy Zuccotti. AG
The Vancouver-based group Adbusters was the first to suggest occupying Wall Street, and, fittingly, Vancouver is also home to the largest Occupy movement in Canada. Some 4,000 people joined a march on 15 October that turned into the occupation of the lawn of a Vancouver art gallery. Protesters were evicted on 18 November, moving to Robson Square, near the city's court, but were moved on 22 November, leaving the occupation without a camp for the first time in five weeks. A small group of 100 protesters occupied a construction site in central Vancouver on Tuesday in a "non-GA backed action", but left after being ordered out by police and remain without a base. Occupy Vancouver is also involved in the west coast port shutdown. AG
The occupation was removed by police on 13 November, but demonstrations in Portland have regularly attracted thousands of people. During demonstrations on 17 November, a protester was pepper-sprayed by police at point-blank range. The moment was captured on camera, and until events at UC Davis and Seattle – where 84-year-old Dorli Rainey was pepper-sprayed by police – was set to become one of the most striking images from the protests so far. Protesters are continuing to hold general assemblies in Portland, and gather each Sunday to plan new actions. Portland police have promised to limit their presence at rallies held by the group, in part due to a lack of manpower. AG
A tent belonging to the Occupy UC Davis protest A tent belonging to a UC Davis protester makes its message plain. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The occupation of Oakland's Frank H Ogawa Plaza has been the scene of the most violent clashes between police and protesters in north America. It first attracted widespread attention when former marine Scott Olsen was seriously injured as police cleared the camp on 25 October. Police have repeatedly used tear gas, rubber bullets and other non-lethal projectiles to suppress protests in Oakland, which have included a march that shut down the the city's port, costing millions of dollars in lost revenues and wages. The camp was finally shut down in a relatively peaceful operation by police on 14 November. Protesters are looking for new sites to occupy and are planning a "co-ordinated West Coast port blockade" for 12 December. AG
Video footage from University of California, Davis, quickly spread around the world last week. A police officer is seen stepping over a line of seated, silent university students, before flamboyantly waving a pepper-spray canister aloft and then dousing each protester in an orange mist. The demonstrators were given this treatment on 19 November after refusing to dismantle their small camp, which had been erected the night before. Two protesters were hospitalised and have since been discharged, while UC Davis's police chief has since been suspended along with two officers. Seizing on the increased interest the pepper-spray incident has garnered, Occupy UC Davis staged a student strike on Monday, in protest against tuition fees and the university's funding practices. AG
Led by charismatic 23-year-old Camila Vallejo, 25,000 Chileans marched in solidarity with Occupy on 15 October. But their own occupations started much earlier: since May, students against university fees have occupied more than 200 high schools. Unlike their European counterparts, the Chileans see themselves as having clear demands – free higher education – and their actions are having a demonstrable effect on politicians. Last week, the government proposed raising education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars. Even these concessions might not be enough for the protesters, who plan to reoccupy their schools in March, the start of Chile's academic year, if their demands for free education are not met. PK
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