Todd Gitlin on the Occupy Wall Street Movement

“Now what? What’s the relation between the turf and the movement? Both known and unknown unknowns abound, but it cannot be taken for granted that the expulsion is bad for the movement. To the contrary: Odds are that the expulsion — from a place very far from Eden — will function as a pick-me-up, driving greater numbers to the Nov. 17 actions”—Todd Gitlin

In a recent essay in Salon Todd Gitlin, author of The Intellectuals and the Flag, wonders “now what” for the Occupy Wall Street Movement after being evicted from Zuccotti Park.

Gitlin criticizes Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to kick the protestors out as he joins other mayors as “agents of dispersal,” whose pronounced affirmations of the first amendment now look somewhat suspect. Gitlin also questions those who criticize the movement for being aimless. Citing the urban planner Peter Marcuse, Todd Gitlin lists the seven main functions of the movement.

Gitlin concludes by speculating on where the movement can now go both figuratively and symbolically:

Now that the symbolism has been established in the public mind, some token encampment through the winter probably makes sense, but Liberty Square can be movable; Zuccotti has no patent on liberty. Anyway, it would be foolhardy to think that the tent-city way of life Zuccotti has promoted is a way of life that the 99 percent cottons to. It’s that 99 percent that needs, continually, to be assured that the movement speaks to and for them.

All the old questions remain. What of demands, programs, platforms? How will the movement relate to an election year? How can it contain violent outbursts? How can it maintain itself over time? How can the leaders who have emerged through the occupations cultivate their skills and withstand all the pressures that realities place on leaders? These are not problems that can be solved by turf. They are the givens, the questions that coil at the heart of any movement; and they are, and remain, ours.

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