The Occupy Movement

Fletcher, Samantha (2014). The Occupy Movement. In: Maile, Stella and Griffiths, David eds. Public Engagement and Social Science. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 83–94.




The Occupy movement is one of many new protest movements that emerged in the year 2011. The limits, borders and boundaries of its affiliation are fairly fluid and can include not only those captured under the narrative "Occupy" explicitly, but also those linked through solidarities with the "reclaim", "decolonise" (Schrager Lang and Lang/Levitsky, 2012) and "(un)Occupy" (Davis, 2011) movements. Despite the difficulty in quantifying actual numbers of participants "on site", there have been some efforts to capture estimate figures from various camps. Occupy Wall Street is perhaps the, albeit Western-centric, hub of the Occupy movement. Estimated numbers at Occupy Wall Street have ranged from 2,000 to 15,000 according to mainstream media outlet ABC News (2011). Speaking about his own experiences regarding the Occupy site at Zuccotti Park, New York, Neil Smith of City University New York highlighted that alongside the claim that Occupy had "captured the global imagination", the Occupy movement was relatively "small" in terms of the numbers of people physically occupying spaces. Smith (2012) estimated that Occupy Wall Street had around 21,000 protestors in total, a number that is comparatively small if taken in the context of other movements in the last decade, which have seen far more people physically take to the streets. For other Occupy camps, the reported numbers varied even more, but what is clear is that, comparatively speaking, for a movement that utilised the concept of the "99%" to refer to widening income disparities between rich and poor, not even a mere fraction of that "99%" turned out to occupy. For a protest movement that claims to represent the interests of the "99%", these numbers are somewhat moderate.

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