Tag Archives: Occupy

The Cost of Thinking Globally

by Yan Long

In October the principal of Hong Kong’s Shung Tak Catholic English College posted an open letter opposing Occupy Central protests, which was widely circulated and discussed on social media in both Hong Kong and mainland China. The letter asked, “Who will reap the greatest benefits if Hong Kong becomes chaotic? Who will reap the greatest benefits if China becomes chaotic?”1 The principal, Kung Kwong Pui, then accused the United States government for stirring up trouble and destabilizing East Asia.

This was only one episode of an intense battle between the Occupy Central movement and counter-movement over whether western money and training had put protesters on the street. On the one hand, allegations were swirling on how Occupy Central was only a U.S.-financed plot against Beijing’s authority. On the other hand, the primary movement leaders, including Chan Kin-man and Joshua Wong, firmly denied such claim and repeatedly emphasized that umbrella protests were a domestic grassroots movement. Continue reading

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After Umbrella Movement: Pursuing alternative strategies

by Chris King-Chi Chan

The growing Umbrella Movement has come to an end. Alex Chow, general secretary and student leader from the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), told the media that no further occupation will begin in the short term, but expressed the need to think about other types of movement tactics including general strike and class boycott after the occupy site was cleared in the first day. Continue reading

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Transposable Protest Legacies

By Cole Carnesecca

While the Umbrella Movement may ultimately prove lacking in results, it certainly has not lacked in drama. Part of that drama comes from the attempt to locate the Hong Kong protests into a broader legacy of social movements. The image of young Hong Kong students calling for expanded democratic rights drew immediate comparisons to the 1989 Tiananmen protests and the “Occupy Central” part of the movement seemed a clear nod to the Occupy Movement in the United States. Both of these links reflect the transferable nature of protest legacies and the importance of legacy mobility for contemporary protests in China (and beyond). Yet protest legacies can mean very different things to activists and their targets, giving shape to how a movement is understood culturally and structurally, as well as how activists and state agents act. To illustrate this point, I will consider four movement legacies that serve as significant sources for the Umbrella Revolution and their implications for how the Hong Kong protests have unfolded. Continue reading

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Is Moral Monday the Tortoise and Occupy the Hare?


The Moral Monday protests have developed from years of coalition building by the NC NAACP

If you haven’t heard of the Moral Monday Movement, stay tuned. One year ago, on April 29, 2013, 17 people, including ministers, academics and workers, were arrested in the North Carolina legislative building in Raleigh. The 2012 general election ushered in a conservative take-over and super majority of the North Carolina General Assembly and a new Republican governor, resulting in a deluge of legislation that curtailed voting rights, refused federal Medicaid and unemployment funds, and restricted reproductive health services. A broad coalition of organizations responded with non-violent civil disobedience at the capital with weekly Moral Monday protests, which are led by the state’s chapter of the NAACP. The initial 17 arrested grew into about 1000 by the end of the summer’s legislative session, and thousands showed up for each protest. Moral Monday has not only grown and spread throughout the state to other North Carolina cities but also to other states, such as Georgia and South Carolina.

On this one year anniversary of the Moral Monday movement, I can’t help but think back on the first anniversary of Occupy Oakland, in particular, and Occupy Wall Street, in general. Both Moral Monday and Occupy directly challenged social class inequality and their ties to corporate America. Yet they are different – one survived and thrived and the other, well, had a boom and bust (though is not completely dead). Continue reading


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Nathan Schneider’s “Thank You Anarchy” and the Importance of “Being There”

Protest is a visceral experience. You hear the overwhelming sound of chanting, drumming, and shouting; get swept up in a sea of bodies in motion; and feel the butterflies that flutter in your stomach as you look at the line of riot police, imposing and unmovable, just a few short feet away from you. Despite this, we have a relative lack of first hand, ethnographic accounts in the sociology of social movements when compared to analysis of secondary sources or interview-based projects. Yet we know that part of what builds solidarity in a movement is participating in mass action. In other words: being there matters. This begs the question: could we “be there” more as researchers?  

I learned the importance of “being there” first hand as a student. I had already begun to read in the sociology of social movements, but nothing I read could have prepared me for my first mass protest, which I went to while studying the Global Justice Movement. Even the most dramatic of photographs or descriptions cannot adequately capture the rush of emotions dredged up through mass collective action. I have a strong memory of being at the 2001 protests against the FTAA on the U.S./Canada border in Buffalo, New York and listening to a speaker at a rally, when what seemed like thousands of protesters broke apart from the event and ran down the street in an impromptu march. Continue reading

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New book “Occupy the Future” captures tensions and looks towards the future

The editors of the Occupy the Future (2013, Boston Review), Stanford faculty David B. Grusky, Doug McAdam, Rob Reich, and Debra Satz, were involved in an Occupy teach-in at Stanford. Short versions of the essays were initially posted online as preparation for the teach-in, and contributors then expanded their essays for Occupy the Future. Building on the momentum of the Occupy movement, the book “offers a broader framework for understanding why rising inequality is the core problem of our time.” According to Rob Reich, contributors were asked to examine the cleavages between American values and practices. Chapters examine economic gender inequality (Shelley J. Correll), educational inequality (Sean F. Reardon), art and Occupy (Michele Elam and Jennifer DeVere Brody) and the language of social justice (H. Samy Alim), among others. Doug McAdam’s chapter looks to the future of Occupy. He argues that Occupy, in its present state, should not be called a social movement, but “in light of the economic and political stakes, this is a challenge worthy of our efforts.” For those of you who are interested in the persistence of Occupy and what top scholars in their fields have to say about it, you should certainly check it out.

Mobilizing Ideas essay also hosted an essay dialogue in January of 2012 on Occupy.

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Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left

By Mark Trekson

Arts of the Political

Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left (Duke University Press, 2013)

Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left, by Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, isn’t exactly beach reading, but to those interested in a novel effort to link a wide range of political theory to practical politics, it is an interesting and (surprisingly—given the theoretical range it covers) engaging read. With apologies to Claude Levi-Strauss, this is the sort of book that is “good to think with,” especially for readers willing to use its engagement with political thought as a jumping off point for further reading or as a way to understand their own activism in  a new way. That said, while this is a book about social movements, those looking for a direct engagement with what I would consider to be the main currents in social movement theory  (both contemporary and historical) will be disappointed.

Amin and Thrift, at least in the United States, are probably best known to those working in what could loosely be considered “critical” urban geography. Continue reading


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Why Occupy is not Decolonization

Two recent articles both of which are critical of the Occupy movement provide a compelling case for why non-Indigenous activists should take greater care in talking about Decolonization.

Tuck, Eve and K. Wayne Yang. (2012). “Decolonization is not a metaphor” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society.1: 1-40.

Barker, Adam J. (2012). “Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America” Social Movement Studies. 11:327-334.

Among their many contributions, both articles deconstruct and critique the Occupy movement’s use of the following two images: Continue reading

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Operation Dixie at the DNC

While the Obama sign waving and t-shirt wearing union members at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) creates a picture of a giant love-fest between unions and the Democratic Party, underneath this façade is a burgeoning labor movement in the South that is shaking the foundation of this relationship.

On September 3, on the eve of the DNC at an overpacked church 7 miles from the convention, 300 labor and community activists held a Southern Workers Assembly. Continue reading


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WTF M1GS? Occupy May Need to Separate to Unite

“Where’s the Fairness?” chanted about 300 striking Summit Medical Center nurses and other supporters on May 1 in front of Alta Bates Hospital on the Berkeley/Oakland, California border. This California Nurses Association (CNA) event was part of a string of events for the Occupy movement’s call for a May Day General Strike (M1GS). Reporters, tweeters, and bloggers converged in downtown Oakland to report on more tear gas and arrests, but a broader analysis of May Day in the Bay Area conveys a different story.

Historically, successful political movements have a broad-based alliance of distinct groups          engaged in their own struggles but which also come together under a common cause. On May Day, labor and community-based organizations, along with Occupiers, participated in a series of events which demonstrated the potential for this unity.

Yes, potential. When I mentioned this observation to some Occupy and labor activists, the reaction was that I was being, well, Pollyannaish. Indeed, two key actions that day created movement schisms. Nonetheless, it is because more organizations want to participate in this broader movement that these inevitable debates occur. Indeed, the organizing of diverse semi-coordinated actions that day by a variety of groups – Occupy, student, labor, immigrant, etc. – was a sign of the possibility of an alliance, however tenuous. Continue reading


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