On Sept. 15, a small group of quixotic activists met at the Freedom School at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn for an evening of music, food and camaraderie as they embarked on a new project. But this was no ordinary project and no ordinary group of people. They met to celebrate the beginning of a radical transformation in financial services — the launch of Occupy Money Cooperative, or Occupy Bank.
Yesterday, a rally of about 100 protesters returned to Zuccotti Park, where thousands of people once camped out in revolt of financial inequality, to mark the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.
Although OWS is no longer in the form of thousands of protesters, the movement is still thriving through smaller, localized groups focused on specific issues — an answer to critics who claimed that Occupy failed to articulate concrete demands and generate real leadership. By splitting into various groups such as Occupy Sandy, Families of Police Violence and Occupy Money Cooperative, OWS has adopted a more effective approach to bring about change.
Last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, over 70,000 volunteers under the Occupy banner rallied to provide food and supplies for those devastated by the storm. The Occupy Money Cooperative, a nonprofit led by volunteers, aims to issue debit cards that will serve as an alternative checking method for those whose economic vulnerability excludes them from the mainstream banking system. Under the umbrella of Families of Police Violence, smaller organizations like All Things Harlem have worked to fight NYPD racial profiling and harassment through methods such as sharing incriminating video posts of officers violating civil rights.
Although Occupy once lacked clarity, there is an obvious reason behind its resonance with the 99 Percent. While the number of people below the poverty line in the United States remained steady at 15 percent, the richest have become richer than ever. The combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans passed the $2 trillion U.S. dollar mark this year, setting a new record. With power concentrated in so few hands, an overwhelming percentage of people are disenfranchised from the political process. As long as the issue of economic disparity is pervasive within American society, the Occupy Wall Street movement and its ensuing installments will always be relevant to our socio-political conversation.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]