On Monday, protesters will converge near the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, marking the day they began camping out in Zuccotti Park. News 4's Marc Santia reports.
After making headlines and spreading to cities around the world over several months last year, the Occupy Wall Street movement began to disintegrate in rapid fashion last winter, when the weekly meetings in lower Manhattan devolved into a spectacle of fistfights and vicious arguments.
"We weren't talking about real things at that point," says Pete Dutro, a tattoo artist who used to manage Occupy's finances but became disillusioned by the infighting and walked away months ago. "We were talking about each other."
Today the community that took shape in Zuccotti Park still exists, albeit in a far less cohesive form. Occupiers mostly keep in touch online through a smattering of websites and social networks. There are occasional conference calls and Occupy-affiliated newsletters. Meetings are generally only convened to organize around specific events, like the much-hyped May Day event that ultimately fizzled last spring.
The movement's remaining $85,000 in assets were frozen, though fundraising continues.
"The meetings kind of collapsed under their own weight," explains Marisa Holmes, a 26-year-old protester among the core organizers who helped Occupy rise up last fall. "They became overly concerned with financial decisions. They became bureaucratic."
Occupy organizers in other U.S. cities have also scattered to the winds in recent months. In Oakland, a metal fence surrounds the City Hall lawn that was the hub of protesters' infamous tear-gassed, riotous clashes with police. The encampment is gone, as are the thousands who ventured west to help repeatedly shut down one of the nation's largest ports.
"I don't think Occupy itself has an enormous future," says Dr. Mark Naison, a professor at Fordham University in New York City. "I think that movements energized by Occupy have an enormous future."
Across the nation, there have been protests organized in the name of ending foreclosure, racial inequality, stop and frisk, debt: You name it, Occupy has claimed it. Occupy the Bronx. Occupy the Department of Education. Occupy the Hood. Occupy the Hamptons.
"All around the world, that youthful spirit of revolt is alive and well," says Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that helped ignite the movement.
In New York, groups of friends who call themselves "affinity groups" still gather at each other's apartments for dinner to talk about the future of Occupy. A few weeks ago, about 50 Occupiers gathered in a basement near Union Square to plan the anniversary.
There were the usual flare-ups, with people speaking out of order and heckling the moderators. The group could not agree on whether to allow a journalist to take photographs. An older man hijacked the meeting for nearly 15 minutes with a long-winded rant about the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics.
A document called "The Community Agreement of Occupy Wall Street" was distributed that, among other outdated encampment-era rules, exhorted Occupiers not to touch each other's personal belongings and laid out rules about sleeping arrangements.
It is this sort of inward-facing thinking — the focus on Occupiers, not the world they're trying to remake — that saddens ex-protesters like Dutro, who wanted to stay focused on taking down Wall Street.
Hanging in the entryway to his Brooklyn apartment, like a relic of the past, is the first poster he ever brought down to Zuccotti Park. In black and gold lettering, painted on a piece of cardboard, the sign says: "Nobody got rich on their own. Wall St. thinks U-R-A-SUCKER."
He keeps it there as a reminder of what Occupy is really fighting for. Because despite his many frustrations, Dutro hasn't been able to stamp the Occupy anger out of his soul. Not yet.
He said he'd be down at Liberty Square again on Monday. And he'll be waiting, like the rest of the world, to see what happens next.
"We came into the park and had this really magical experience," he says. "It was a big conversation. It was where we all got to realize: 'I'm not alone.'"