Occupy is staging an international wave of protests today, and it is no accident that they are taking place on May 1, or May Day. Today is essentially the international Labor Day, and they're calling for people to take a day off of work, school, and keep their money out of corporate hands for one day. Protests may also be jamming up traffic (though a plan to block the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has been scrapped). What is happening today may or may not be considered a "general strike," the first since the late 1800s. It seems to lean towards not technically being one -- and many unions are insistent upon not calling it that -- but it depends upon who you ask, it seems, and upon which source you read. This is both part of the problem and the solution that Occupy offers as a movement.
Citizen Radio co-host and "MHP" veteran (can we use that word yet?) Allison Kilkenny wrote a detailed preview in the Nation of today's wave of protests, which are already well underway. The disconnect between the movement and unions today on these protests is notable, and an Occupier she quotes encapsulates one of the greater questions about the movement, its much-debated strategies, and the manner in which it continues to define itself:
“Early on, Occupy Wall Street realized that the unions couldn’t call for a general strike, we were told, because of legal reasons. However, that’s the beauty of the call. It can be answered in various ways. When we say general strike, we aren’t limiting ourselves to the word’s traditional meaning.”
Part of what has made Occupy such a frustrating thing for the mainstream media to cover, and for many Americans to grasp, is its purely nebulous form. While I know from having covered it how meticulously aspects of the movement are planned out; today's events have been cooking for months, and they know what to expect. Yet at the same time, it gives off the appearance of spontaneity, which can lead to a number of its elements becoming a little too free-spirited. (I saw in person how the anarchic behavior of few Occupiers nearly derailed the recent Trayvon Martin protest in New York City's Union Square, for instance.)
No doubt, there's many ways in which the movement has been problematic -- and many ways in which it's been nothing short of heroic. But with mainstream media coverage and public interest waning, it is curious how a blast of media-magnet protests will play out, and set the stage for the Occupy movement's next step (whatever form that takes):
There is also evidence of media fatigue, with mentions of the term "Occupy Wall Street" down 75 percent this month compared to late last year. So far in April, the term has appeared in 4,323 articles, according to the Factiva data base. Last October, the same search yielded 17,327 references.Chris Hedges, a former journalist and one-time vocal supporter of Occupy Wall Street, said the movement has been plagued with internal problems since it swelled in size. He said he did not expect May Day to "resurrect the movement." "If you look closely at movements, they don't follow a sort of straight trajectory upwards. They stumble, fall, have reverses - sometimes, they're crushed," he said. But Hedges cautioned that writing off Occupy based on the success of May Day would be "short-sighted."
That last sentiment is especially true when independent of Occupy, workers take matters into their own hands. No, the Golden Gate Bridge won't be blocked, but that's because Occupy Oakland and others will head over to support the Golden Gate ferry workers who are actually striking this morning, blocking access to San Francisco for commuters coming in on the North Bay. The workers are without a contract, and have been since last summer -- and now they're protesting an increase in their health care costs.
But even last night in San Francisco, a peaceful Occupy protest was marred by violence (see video at right).
We'll see what today brings. Outside of following Twitter accounts of those like Kilkenny, Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson is about the best source I see out there for real-time updates on today's Occupy protest. Other stories on our radar today are below the jump, including the terrific discussion about the Occupy movement that Chris Hayes had on his program this past Saturday.
- I'm not ready to directly associate this with Occupy, but the FBI arrested 5 men planning to blow up a suburban Cleveland bridge in an apparent May Day protest.
- A British parliamentary panel concludes that News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to run his media empire.
- President Obama has his highest job approval since Osama bin Laden was killed one year ago.
- Mitt Romney thinks that "even Jimmy Carter" would've ordered the attack on bin Laden's encampment. The Atlantic's James Fallows unpacks that in a must-read post.
- Speaking of Romney, have you met W. Cleon Skousen, slavery apologist? Mother Jones makes the introduction.
- This is a few days old and it's now viral, but this Jezebel guide to "hipster racism" is instructive.
- And as promised, the "Up with Chris Hayes" segment on Occupy's May Day protests.