To me, occupy Boston has an intersting dillema. Unlike a big rally, or a series of meetings/rallies/lectures, or a march, the Occupy Boston concept has no set end (not that the movement needs and end, but that the action of occupying Dewey Square has no end – and the movement is tied very closely to that one action. This, to me, even differs from sit-ins, which almost always involved occupying a space that you are not suppose to occupy – non-public spaces like a Dean’s office, or forbidden spaces like a segregated lunch counter. Sit-ins are typically designed to be short lived, right? And generally, I think, they are more about a dramatic removal, rather than they are about a group’s staying power. I dont think many sit-ins aspired to be permanent. And they were also a method of several movements. It wasn’t the “occupy this lunch counter” movement – it was the civil rights movement.
The closest example I can think of to the Occupy Boston form of protest is when parishioners protested the closing of some catholic churches around greater Boston. There are still a few churches that are being occupied, and have been occupied for over 7 years. But you hardly ever hear of them anymore in the news. And to my knowledge, none of the churches have been re-opened. But even this is different than Occupy Boston. First, the parishioner’s occupying the church had a purpose in and of itself – to keep the church open. Even without any media coverage, the parishioners have still succeeded in keeping the church open for now. And additionally, its obviosuly different to protest the catholic church than it is to protest the U.S government.
To me, it seems like there are three possible ends:
The protesters lose (they are removed from Dewey Square)
The protesters win (they have their grievances address).
The protests fade away (weather, months of no results, and decreasing media coverage contribute to a general sense of apathy or disillusionment).
I think the outcome will really boil down to conflict.
What I mean by that is:
If something terrible is caused by a protester, (i honestly can’t think of an obvious example, so, lets say hypothetically that more radical elements infiltrate the protests and people begin discussing more violent activities similar to the weather underground and those discussions spook the police and public at large – again, that’s probably an unlikely scenario, but I can’t think of a better one right now) then I think public sentiment begins to turn against them and eventually there is enough political cover to have them removed.
If something terrible happens to the protesters from the establishment (an incident similar to, but perhaps more drastic than the pepper spray incident in NYC, then I think public sentiment will stay with them and they could end up achieving something.
If nothing happens, I think eventually it will fold. Hypothetically, if the establishment – media, politicians, police, etc. – just leave them in that specific location in Dewey Square, and basically ignore them, while simultaneously not letting them expand in geographic size, I can’t see how apathy won’t set in. Without continued conflict to keep the media focused on them, the movement will fade or morph into something more controversial that will draw more attention. There may be a few die-hards who remain – actually, I am confident there would be at least a few die-hards who would not give up the struggle, but most, I think, will leave if the movement loses steam.
I guess what I am trying to mull over is what happens next? Even regardless of those three possible outcomes (btw, are there other possible outcomes?) what happens after that? How does this protest continue for the next several months, if not several years?