Street Cred

It seems to me that at least some folks still associate Occupy Wall Street (OWS) with anarchists, and anarchists with bad guys who break storefront windows; the resulting conclusion is that Occupy members are bad guys. Others dismiss Occupy activists' in-the-streets protesting as a phase they'll hopefully grow out of. I think this is a costly mistake:

First, whatever you may think of window-breaking, anarchy, and the relationship between the two, is irrelevant to Occupy. No social change effort as large as OWS can ensure that each and every participant stick to the same plan. 

Second, to discount Occupy is to ignore the contributions it has made, such as:
  • Changing the national dialogue from austerity to income inequality;
  • Exposing corporate abuses related to taxes, the outsourcing of jobs, and buying corporate-friendly laws;
  • Creating and increasing awareness that protest is not only our right, it is our responsibility; and
  • Developing the leadership skills of activists and the mobilizing capacity of communities nationwide.
Third, to those who dismiss nonviolent, in-the-street protest as unseemly;  spectacles organized by “kids”; and distractions from the “real” work (such as lobbying elected officials or  meeting with a member of the daily paper’s editorial board), I say this:

In my experience as a community organizer, low-income and other marginalized communities do not necessarily have access to these kinds of “real” social change activities – at least not until their “spectacles” become too hard for public officials and other decision makers to ignore.

Delegitimizing OWS discourages us from more thoughtfully assessing, and learning from, its successes and failures. We cannot afford to ignore what Occupy can teach us – not when there is so much work left to do.