Yesterday an Occupy Wall Street action in San Francisco of between 100 (the AP reports) and 300 (says the San Francisco Chronicle) protesters achieved one of the first real occupations of 2012, taking over an abandoned building belonging to the city Archdiocese where it plans to set up a permanent homeless shelter. (Here’s some biblical irony for you. A banner on the building’s outside read, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.”) While it remains unclear whether the protesters will be allowed to stay — the Archdiocese is meeting today to discuss the occupation — yesterday marked a serious attempt to break out of the doldrums where the Occupy movement has been languishing.
Beyond San Francisco, there was also some activity in New York City, where some 100 protesters, including a contingent of the Granny Peace Brigade, returned to the Brooklyn Bridge to mark the anniversary of the mass arrests there six months ago. And in Boston, a similar number turned out for an April Fools’ Day rally in Dewey Square, carrying signs like “Tax the Poor” and “Bigger Cages, Longer Chains.”
Still, these turnouts are a far cry from the hundreds, if not thousands, that turned out in the fall. In November, Occupy Wall Street commanded up to 14 percent of national news coverage — now, it barely registers.
Occupy Wall Street leaders are no doubt acutely aware of how little coverage they are getting and how pessimistic the coverage that they do garner is. “Less Visible Occupy Movement Looks for Staying Power,” read a Times headline this weekend, while still others suggest “regaining momentum” is likely at the top of the group’s agenda. With their spring offensive in the offing, Occupy Wall Street really is in desperate need of an adrenaline boost.
“They have fewer people, and it’s not a new story anymore that there were people protesting in the streets or sleeping in parks,” the president of the liberal nonprofit Center for American Progress told the Times. “They need to think of new ways to garner attention and connect with people around the country.”
Yesterday’s actions may have won the Occupy Wall Street vanguard a few more headlines, including this one, but if they wish to recapture the national conversation they will have to surprise and shock us again — tent cities and bank boycotts may not cut it anymore.