Robyn Gee on Monday, Dec. 12th
Today marks a big move for Occupy protesters on the West Coast. At dawn across the West Coast, protesters marched toward port terminals in Portland, Long Beach, Seattle, Ventura County and Oakland to halt truck drivers from participating in morning shifts.
Their rallying cry was to hurt the corporations that make up “Wall Street on the Waterfront” — like Goldman Sachs and EGT — companies that run shipping operations at many West Coast ports.
According to SF Gate, almost half of the berths at the Port of Oakland were shut down at around noon, with over a hundred protesters in attendance (although Oakland Police reported upwards of 1200 protesters). The protesters are planning to return to the port to shut down the evening shift at 5 p.m.
To follow the West Coast events we suggest searching Twitter for the hashtag #D12, and #OccupyOakland. You can also follow Turnstyle News updates on Twitter live from Frank Ogawa Plaza at 3 p.m.
Below is a Twitpic narration of what went down at the Port of Oakland this morning.
@occupytheport / Port map to help coordinate / comm.
@susie_c / Pepper spray cut-out.
@garonsen / Boots Riley explains the game plan at the port.
@timlohrent / Occupy Oakland drum crew at Berth 30 – 32 gate shut down.
@OccupiedOaktrib / First trucker honks and cheers in support.
Side note: Our reporting shows that truckers that work out of the Port of Oakland are divided when it comes to supporting today’s shutdown. The Teamster union of transportation workers decided not to support the shutdown because a) they legally and contractually cannot support a strike, and b) because they declared to stand in solidarity with non-union truck drivers who will lose wages once the port is shut down. Check out Turnstyle’s coverage of the port truckers here, and an open letter from truck drivers on the website for the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports.
@Treewizdom / Occupy Oakland at Berth 55, pickets not affected by rain or cold. Flag dancers, solidarity.
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Brooklyn and West Oakland may have gotten the most attention for activities related to the Dec. 6 Occupy Our Homes day of action, but protesters in Atlanta also participated in demonstrations to protest foreclosures and begin an effort to aid homeowners in danger of eviction. Occupy Atlanta protesters held two press conferences and picketed on the steps of county courthouses where pending foreclosure announcements are made every first Tuesday.
A small, but dedicated group of protesters, made their way to the Gwinnett County courthouse in Lawrenceville, GA about 45 minutes north of downtown Atlanta. Meanwhile, a similar protest was happening at the Dekalb courthouse in Decatur, GA. Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery joined Occupy Atlanta on the steps of the Fulton County courthouse in downtown Atlanta and called for a nine-month moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions. That protest drew nearly 200 people, making it one of largest Occupy protests in Georgia thus far. Below, photos of protesters at the Fulton County courthouse.
Stay tuned for more updates and stories from Occupy Atlanta.
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Robyn Gee on Wednesday, Dec. 7th
Could a proposed shutdown of all West Coast ports on December 12 hurt truck drivers?
West Coast occupiers are coming together in a collaborative effort to attempt a shutdown of all major West Coast ports on December 12. They will model the shutdown on Occupy Oakland’s Nov. 2 action, when thousands of people showed up to protest at the Port of Oakland to demonstrate against multinational corporations.
Sites that plan to participate in the coordinated shutdown include Occupy LA, Occupy San Diego, Occupy Portland, Occupy Tacoma, Occupy Seattle and Occupy Oakland, and smaller cities plan to direct their supporters to those ports, according to Barucha Peller, a member of the Occupy Oakland Port Blockade Assembly.
The West Coast Port Shutdown is acting in solidarity with two labor struggles going on in Los Angeles and Longview, WA. An Occupy press release explaining the action reads:
“We’re shutting down these ports because of the union busting and attacks on the working class by the 1%: the firing of Port truckers organizing at SSA terminals in LA; the attempt to rupture ILWU union jurisdiction in Longview, WA by EGT.”
The Occupy sites are calling Goldman Sachs and EGT, “Wall Street on the waterfront.”
But this scheduled port shutdown may be bad news for some truckers. At the Port of Oakland, some independently contracted truck drivers said they were dismayed by the plan.
“It’s going to have a snowball negative effect. I depend on the port to feed my family. Why should I have to be put in a predicament because these people lack the skills to get a job?” said Vladimir Torres, an independent trucker who is based out of Long Beach, CA and comes to the port of Oakland on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Torres is an independent contractor who pointed out that he would be dually affected because he works at two West Coast ports.
The Teamsters union, which is the largest transportation union in the country and has publically supported the Occupy protesters in the past, includes truck drivers, airport shuttle drivers, delivery drivers and truck drivers. It is not supporting the Dec. 12 shutdown precisely because of how it could affect people like Torres.
“If they shut down the port, then the truck drivers are not going to be working and they won’t get paid. The longshoremen who operate the cranes — they get paid whether the port is open or not,” explained Doug Bloch, the political director of Teamsters Joint Council 7 in Oakland. “It’s one thing to camp out on City Hall and it’s another thing to shut down global trade… We’re in support of going after the one percent, but we need to protect the 99 percent too,” said Bloch.
There are a total of 5,734 trucks registered at the Port of Oakland, according to Chris Peterson, Chief Wharfinger. The number that come through the port every day varies since some come from out of state, and some make multiple pick ups every day.
According to Boch, many of these truck drivers who are non-union will miss out on essential daily wages if the port is shut down.
Torres is worried about those wages. “I hustle for myself… I have to pay truck payments and loans. I won’t be able to go Christmas shopping for my family. I won’t be able to pay rent or buy groceries,” said Torres.
Another trucker named James who declined to give his last name is also an independent truck driver who works at the port of Oakland every day. He said a shutdown will simply back up the work for later in the week. “Right now I work 11 to 13 hours a day, but I will have to work 14 hours,” he said.
“We get paid per container… Right now, the port is really slow, there’s not much going in or out. They make us wait longer for each container so that the union workers get paid more. We used to be able to make three runs a day, now we only make two runs. It hurts us, and helps the union,” said James.
On average, his gross daily pay is $350-$450, but after gas and insurance, he makes less than $20 per hour.
Non-union truck drivers have to buy their own trucks, gas and insurance. Bloch said the truckers might start lining up for their cargo at three or four in the morning. “They’re like day laborers on wheels,” according to Bloch.
“We’re really glad that Occupy is bringing more attention to how these truck drivers are getting exploited. Truck drivers are hauling cargo for companies like Home Depot, Target, and Walmart and these companies are making money hand over fist… but we’re not going to help organize and we’re not participating in it,” said Bloch.
On the other hand, Mike King, a member of the Occupy Oakland Port Blockade Assembly, said that all the truck drivers he has spoken to, are in favor of the shutdown. He said the protesters have been in communication with the drivers. “The concern about workers losing a day’s pay is a concern of the Occupy movement. We’ve been at the port all week talking face to face with truck drivers on the port,” said King. He said that unfortunately, Occupy does not have the capacity to reimburse drivers for wages lost during the port shutdown.
The port shutdown is planned for the evening, and Bloch said that this will have less of an impact on the drivers than shutting it down during the day, but it will have less impact on the companies as well.
In terms of planning for a confrontation with police, the Occupy sites have agreed that if any police violence occurs, protesters at all port blockade sites will prolong the protest into the following day. This could mean an additional day that non-union truck drivers will not get their wages.
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You may have noticed something different inside your San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. The publication contains a full-page ad listing a “99% proposal” on how to create jobs, reduce the wealth divide and control spending.
Marti Roach, one of the organizers responsible for the ad, said the solutions advertised in print resulted from an Occupy Washington hearing that took place on November 17. “[Organizers] brought experts and asked what can we do to increase jobs and reduce inequality, and [they] came up with solutions” Roach said.
However, organizers felt their solution plan would not be heard by other people not present at the hearing, so Roach decided to do something about it.
The ad, which ran today, cost $8500 and Roach says she was able to raise the money with the help of San Francisco campaign “crowdfunding” firm LoudSauce.com. “All the donations were individual donors. A total of 99 people donated from the smallest donation of five dollars to the largest of $700,” Roach said.
According to Roach, the purpose of the ad is to raise awareness regarding the positive developments that are coming out of the occupy movement. She also says the occupy movement is so large and can be hard to understand, so it’s important to direct people to these solutions so they have a better understanding of the movement.“We want to get people’s attention who are getting frustrated with the occupy movement and to show there are parts of the movement that are doing constructive things.”
See the ad below.
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Haldun Morgan on Thursday, Dec. 1st
Recent police crackdowns on Occupy protesters at UC Davis and UC Berkeley have moved college campuses into the spotlight.
But there are plenty of college age protesters outside of campus making the connection between their own debt and the larger goals of the movement. Turnstyle contributor Haldun Morgan talked to some of them participating at Occupy Wall Street, the encampment at Zucotti Park that’s since been dismantled.
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The University of California, Berkeley released a statement today in response to the filing of a lawsuit by 24 students that includes demands for compensation after experiencing police brutality and false arrest, and for violations of First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights, during a peaceful demonstration on Berkeley’s campus on Nov. 9. The statement reads:
“It is disconcerting that the plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit that is filled with so many inaccuracies. For example, the claim that members of the administration are opposed to the “protesters’ defense of affordable, public education” is completely unfounded.
“Since arriving at UC Berkeley, Chancellor Birgeneau has established a consistent record of aggressively advocating for increased state funding for public higher education, and speaking out against the disinvestment that has led to dramatic increases in tuition. UC Berkeley’s administration is fully committed to preserving the public character, access and excellence of this university.
“The chancellor has also been very clear about the extent to which the events of Nov. 9, even if legally justifiable, are disturbing and inconsistent with the character and traditions of this institution. For that reason he has asked that the students, faculty, staff and community members who sit on our independent Police Review Board expedite the investigation of the confrontations. Their findings and recommendations will guide any changes in policy and practice that are needed to ensure we never have a repeat of the events of Nov. 9. At this point our attention is focused on supporting the board’s comprehensive review, for it is this process — not litigation — that will help us move forward together as a campus community.”
Read Turnstyle’s previous report on the lawsuit filed students.
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Turnstyle on Wednesday, Nov. 30th
- The New York Times: The Los Angeles Police Department arrested 200 OccupyLA supporters while 50 arrests were made in Philadelphia. [Update: LA Times put the number at 292.]
- Twitter: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck tweets that he is “proud” of his police force’s handling of OccupyLA eviction.
- The LA Times: 1400 officers were deployed in Los Angeles, including a team in hazmat suits.
- Neon Tommy: Editor Paresh Dave compiled a timeline of tweets, photos and videos on events in Los Angeles via Storify.
- LA Times: Councilman Mitch Englander would like to see the LA’s receipt for the 1400 officers used to evict protesters.
- Philly.Com: Police officers rode into Dillworth Plaza on public transportation around 1:00am.
- KPCC: Occupy cleanup in Los Angeles has begun.
- LAist: A photo shows the aftermath of the OccupyLA eviction, which includes debris, trash, and belongings left by occupiers.
Video via AP/YouTube
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Robyn Gee on Tuesday, Nov. 29th
Students used the popular “human mic” tactic as part of their actions disrupting UC regents meetings yesterday at four University of California campuses.
The regents were meeting at UCLA, UC San Francisco, UC Davis and UC Merced to discuss the budget for next year and the ongoing investigation into the pepper spray incident at UC Davis, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The regents ended up unanimously passing a budget proposal requesting extra funds to avoid a tuition increase, though it’s unclear where those additional funds would come from.
Even though the budget request would stabilize tuition costs, protesters turned out at each campus.
Turnstyle spoke to UCLA Daily Bruin reporter Emily Suh, who was covering the regents meeting at the James West Alumni Center on the UCLA campus, where members of Occupy UCLA and the student government-funded organization “Fund the UC” had gathered to speak and make their arguments known to the regents.
“[The vibe] really shifted. In the beginning it was calm… after public commentary ended, and the board actually started discussing the items, then it got hectic,” she said.
“It first started out about how [the students] wanted to extend public commentary, and make it a ‘people’s regents meeting,’ and wanted audience participating actively,” said Suh.
The UC Regents, in all four locations, were communicating by teleconference. According to Suh, demonstrators at UCLA overheard students at another location begin shouting “mic check” over the teleconference speaker and they followed suit.
“It was mic check after mic check…That’s when it got pretty loud and chaotic. But it was handled well… [Chairwoman Sherry] Lansing tried to calm them down, and get them to wait until the action items were passed. At one point, she asked police to clear the room, but the UC police didn’t do it. They just came in the room, and there was a police presence. They stood in a line between regents and protesters,” said Suh. “[The police are] being really careful right now.”
After this, the regents left to convene in another room and finish their meeting, while the student protesters held their own meeting in the James West Alumni Center.
Afterward, Lansing went back to the original meeting room to talk to the students.
According to Suh, students generally voiced their frustrations that yes, the regents are asking the state for more money, but how do they expect the state to get it? “There’s no mechanism in place.”
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Excerpted from JoshHealey.org:
After missing out on the fun of the initial two months due to travel, I had my first full-on experiences with the Occupy movement last week. I attended general assemblies in Oakland, marched with debt-straddled students and foreclosed homeowners into banks in San Francisco’s financial district, and participated in that huge, beautiful strike at UC Berkeley. Everywhere I went there were tents – tents being set up, tents being torn down, tents even floating in the air at one point. Even more, though, there were people, thousands and thousands of them: proud of the bold, game-changing actions they had organized so far, angry at the violent police reaction they had received courtesy of the 1%, and debating (for hours and hours, in mass meetings and countless committees) what to do next.
This is my contribution to that conversation. I am a student of history, a writer and community organizer, and a deep believer in the power of listening. Last week, I listened to literally hundreds of people, both within and outside of the Occupy movement, who all had powerful, personal takes on the situation. There are many challenges that face the movement, but there are even greater opportunities. From the Arab Spring to the European indignados, revolution (or at least resistance) is in the air, and here in America, we have a rare political opening for mass social change unlike anything in a generation.
First, I want to acknowledge the power and the beauty that my Occupying friends have created so far. From its humble beginnings in Lower Manhattan barely two months ago, people have taken up the Occupy call in over 100 cities and towns across America and even beyond our borders. In a country where the media usually uses the term “class warfare” to criticize people who merely recognize that income inequality exists, the Occupy movement has successfully – and rightly – framed our ongoing economic and political crisis as the fault of Wall Street and the ruling 1%. Taking over public squares and confronting the private interests that control our lives, the protesters have captured the public’s imagination. Thousands swelling to its ranks, the movement has pulled off massive, before-unthinkable direct actions such as the Oakland general strike of November 2, where over 40,000 people shut down the Port of Oakland, directly impeding one of the key nodes of corporate capitalism.
At the same time as these successes, several crucial questions continue to pop up. Confusion – both amongst the media and some protesters ourselves – about demands, principles, and tactics has led many natural allies and regular folks who are sympathetic to the movement’s goals to refrain from joining in themselves. In response to those sentiments, and in the spirit of solidarity, here are some suggestions for my comrades to consider as we figure our our next steps.
Much of this is already happening, while some of it is deeply controversial. Either way, now is the time to be honest with ourselves and each other. Every idea might not be applicable to your city or campaign, but hey, one of the great things of this movement so far has been to take each other’s good ideas and build off them. Here is where I’m at right now, and it seems like a lot of activists and not-yet-activists are here too:
1. The Tents were Great, but It’s Time for Something New
Over the last two weeks, mayors across the country (apparently coordinated by the FBI) shut down many of the largest Occupy encampments, including in New York, Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, and more. Police arrested hundreds of peaceful activists, inevitably leaving clouds of pepper spray and millions of dollars in their wake. While I fully condemn the police raids, I also think they offer us an opportunity to move to the next stage: it’s time to Occupy more than just tents.
The tent encampments were the birthplace of the movement, both a powerful symbol of public outrage in front of the banks and city halls and a 24/7 organizing center where people could come to plug in, get information, and even grab a hot meal. Over time, however, the battle came to be about municipal camping policies, rather than the corporate dictatorship of our politics and economy. Some encampments, inclusive of all who walked through their open doors, came to include too many drugs and other harmful activities that hurt the effort to welcome more people into the ranks. It has become clear to many, though unfortunately not to all, that something new is needed.
At an OccupyOakland general assembly last week, many activists called for new Occupations around town: at foreclosed homes to stop people from being evicted, and at the banks themselves doing the evicting. That is, taking the occupations directly to the victims and perpetrators of the economic crimes we live through everyday. This is already starting to happen, as the Oakland movement marched yesterday to one of the five local elementary school slated to be closed by budget cuts — in a beautiful move, the march was led by the first graders and their parents. In Washington, DC the other day, OccupyDC activists took over a former homeless shelter owned and shut down by the city. University student activists across California are taking their their long-running campaign, against massive tuition hikes and the privatization of public education, directly to the banks with strong ties to the UC Regents.
In each city, these actions will and should look different. Many groups are still using the original occupation sites for general assemblies and ongoing organizing/service centers…and then going home at night to rest and fight another day. This approach is more sustainable in the long-term (who really wants to sleep outside come January?), and it attracts more supporters who are down for the cause but not the tents. Look to our European comrades who also used the tactic as an example: los indignados in Spain moved beyond physical tents and their movement has now exploded to every corner of the continent.
2. Acknowledge the Complexity of the 99%
You can’t go to an Occupy march these days without hearing the chant, “We are the 99%!” It’s one of the best things the movement has achieved so far, a sense of unity and recognition that whatever our respective race, income, and geography, we are all getting screwed by the super-rich and their political puppets. It has caught on because it’s true, and also because it invites everyone (well, 99% of everyone) to get in on the party. It’s a broad-based movement trying to change some very broad-based problems.
At the same, we need to recognize that, truth be told, we are not all the same. The 99% includes graduate students and high school dropouts, gentrifying hipsters and gentrified-out families, immigrants and indigenous folks, suburban Occupiers out in Walnut Creek, the good folks of Occupy the Hood, and yes, as we have seen in many of the encampments, some of the over one million homeless Americans. We come from very different places, with different traditions and expectations. These differences can cause tension and alienation amongst activists, let alone uninitiated folks. One huge step for the Occupy movement would be to start recognizing the true diversity of the American 99%, and figuring out ways to use that diversity as a strength rather than another way for the ruling class to divide and conquer.
Last month, the Oakland-based immigrant rights youth group 67 Sueños targeted Wells Fargo for their investments in private immigration detention prisons. A few weeks later, UC-Berkeley students protested outside Wells Fargo again (the exact same branch, in fact) against sky-rocketing student loans. Dare I smell a coalition? This movement is broad enough for different groups to find their specific points of entry, and when we come together in unity, that’s when the fun stuff really happens.
One last thing, but maybe the most important on this point: much has been said of the overrepresentation of white people in the Occupy movement. Hey, it’s true. Especially in a city like Oakland, it is weird, almost painful, to be at a general assembly with at least 80% white folks. But I also know that the general strike was much more diverse. Why? Its demands, framing, and tactics spoke to communities of color who have known about things like police brutality since long before there were tents downtown. The question is who we are talking to, and how.
Let’s keep it real: the original OccupyWallStreet call to action was put out by Adbusters, a small magazine by and for young, white, college-educated (or dropped-out) lefties. It was very quickly embraced by a much larger audience across the country, but still majority white. There are pros and cons to this. The con is that people of color, who generally have felt the effects of the recession much harder than white people, are hesitant to join in, due to a history of exclusion and even betrayal by majority-white labor and liberal movements. At the same time, though, I have heard from some black and Latino comrades, upon seeing all the white people in the streets, a sentiment of “It’s about time!” Similarly, I have always been frustrated by the apathy of many of my light-skinned brothers and sisters. So to everyone who is joining in, I say, it’s nice to see y’all. Just remember: we’re not the only players in this party, and if this is going to really jump off, we’ll need to check some of our privilege and practice real solidarity.
3. Beyond Violence vs. Non-Violence: Let’s Talk Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility
Nothing gets an activist debate going, or media headlines buzzing, like the role of “violence” in the movement. This has been especially true here in Oakland, where small groups of protesters have repeatedly smashed bank windows and other actions that have provoked confrontation with the cops. Let’s be clear: I don’t consider breaking a window to be violence (humans bleed, glass does not), but I do consider it stupid. Shutting down the Port of Oakland on November 2 cost big business, according to their own estimate, $8 million dollars in one day — cracking some glass at Whole Foods or Bank of America costs them pennies. More importantly, it enables the inevitable police crackdown and dissuades a sympathetic public from joining the movement. If we want the full 99% to join in, petty property damage ain’t the way to do it.
The proponents of such actions usually defend them under the catchphrase “diversity of tactics.” I am all for different tactics, but what this phrase’s backers really mean by it is anonymity of tactics and absolution of responsibility. A small group of people throw a couple bricks under the cover of night and black masks, then run away from the cops, leaving the whole movement to take the brunt of the police and media backlash. Whether these folks are hardcore anarchists or police provocateurs, I don’t know. Probably some of both. Either way, I’m done with the “violence versus nonviolence” debate. I’d rather discuss strategy versus stupidity, accountability versus irresponsibility. As I mentioned earlier, I’m all for direct actions that may not be technically legal, especially occupations of banks, schools, and homes. But we need actions that speak to people, that invite them to come on in, rather than scare them away.
For this to happen, folks are going to have to step up and demand the Occupy movement take some clear principles. So far, many people have resisted the idea that there are and should be leaders in the movement. Sorry if this breaks your non-hierarchical bubble but, formally or informally, there already are many people who have taken a lead in one form or another. The question is whether that leadership is as democratic, accountable, and collective as possible. Direct democracy is more than just repeating “Mic Check!” at a general assembly and then approving every resolution that comes forward. It’s making tough decisions, and sometimes confronting your comrades. It’s time for individuals and community organizations within the movement to step up and do just that. Not for the sake of division, but for long-term unity. We have way more to gain than to lose.
To read more, visit JoshHealey.org.
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Turnstyle on Monday, Nov. 28th
This editorial was originally published in The Oracle, the student publication of the University of South Florida on 11/20/11.
Student loan debt is a growing concern within the Occupy movement, and a group of New York protesters have a solution: absolve all student debt.
A student-debt refusal campaign, scheduled to kick off today, wants students and graduates to sign a pledge that if a million people agree to it, they will refuse to make any more student loan payments.
Andrew Ross, a New York University professor and an outspoken proponent of the Occupy movement, wants the current lending system to be overhauled, in addition to the forgiveness of outstanding debts, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
To proponents of the idea, it may seem like a logical step in line with President Barack Obama’s increasingly liberal changes to federal lending, such as his plan to forgive debt after 20 years of payments. However, complete debt forgiveness is a foolish idea, seemingly removed from the original thrust of the movement.
There is no better example of the undue sense of entitlement prevalent among America’s youth than the idea that their financial debts could be wiped away with no repercussions.
Most protesters would agree the financial institutions responsible for the current economic crisis acted irresponsibly. Yet, many now wish to take no responsibility for their own debts, which they personally accrued. Any legitimate ideas the movement stands for are being drowned out by misguided campaigns such as this one.
Students across the nation last week joined in several organized protests, including a walk-out Thursday. According to the Huffington Post, students at nearly 100 colleges walked out of classes to show solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.
It is unclear why skipping class was a necessary sign of support. If students are forced to take on large amounts of debt to attend college, shouldn’t they want to attend the classes they’re paying so dearly for? Neglecting their educations is an unwise move unless, of course, they are confident their debts will be absolved, which is an unsure bet.
Students in New York also criticized the New York Police Department’s clearing out of Zuccotti Park last week. As the movement continues to lose what focus and direction it had to begin with, clashes between occupying forces camped out in major cities and local police are getting worse.
Officials argue the camps are becoming public safety hazards, as legitimate protesters are gradually being replaced by the homeless and the criminal element, individuals who likely care little about economic reform, according to the Washington Post.
However, police action, which has been too harsh at times, will only add fuel to the fire of protest and may lead to the further radicalization of the movement.
If the Occupy movement wants to retain any claims to legitimacy, it needs to organize better and weed out pipe-dream ideas such as student-debt refusal.
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