Featherstone: Occupy Wall Street must raise its voice again
It's been two years this week since protesters -- far more than organizers expected -- showed up at lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park and declared their intention to "Occupy Wall Street."
Throughout the fall of 2011, many slept in the park, were arrested and marched. They were protesting the fact that our finance sector -- and the small upper class that profits from it -- has hogged our society's resources, seeing far greater economic gains than everyone else, and dominated our politics.
The message resonated across the country.
Occupy did not change our reality, but it did change our political rhetoric, especially here in New York City.
Everywhere during this mayoral election, we have heard the terms "99 percent" and "1 percent," phrases invented and popularized by Occupy. Besides being comfortable with that language, Bill de Blasio articulated a polite version of Occupy Wall Street's critique: The rich need to pay more taxes, and it's high time they stopped making all the decisions.
De Blasio decried inequality, describing a New York that has beome "two cities" -- the haves and the have-nots.
He won the Democratic primary decisively, and is overwhelmingly likely to become mayor.
For many people who want to see New York City's poor, working and middle classes get a better shake, this looks like a happy ending -- but it's only a beginning.
For any of de Blasio's Occupy language to become policy, the movement has to come back. It doesn't have to take the form of people sleeping in Zuccotti Park, but it has to be as visible, catchy and inviting to the public as Occupy Wall Street was. Tuesday's anniversary events were a start. It also has to be as scary, annoying and unsightly to those in power. It has to be all those things, and it has to grow.
Without that kind of organized, visible movement, who will a Mayor de Blasio listen to? Real estate developers and financiers, just like any New York City mayor. He's a Democratic politician, not Mother Teresa. He will listen to people with power.
That means if the 99 percent want to be more than a talking point, we'll have to organize -- and become a nuisance to the 1 percent -- once again.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.