With winter setting in, and occupiers across the country being evicted as cities grow impatient with campers in their public parks, the Occupy Wall Street movement may find that it made a critical mistake. It envisioned a movement, but called itself a tactic. When occupying is what you do, what happens when there are no places to occupy, or when you are forced to occupy places nobody cares about? And how do you sustain a claim to principled civil disobedience when everyone agrees that the laws you have disobeyed are perfectly legitimate?
The participants in the Wall Street occupation and its many spin-offs around the country imagined themselves variously as part of an American version of the Arab Spring and as the successors to Vietnam and civil rights protesters, drawing inspiration from Martin Luther King, Gandhi and even Henry David Thoreau. Their core message was that crony capitalism, and a lot of other things, have created an unjust society of 1% rich and 99% everyone else. Apparently resigned to an inability to achieve their ends politically, even with Barack Obama in the White House, they decided to occupy Wall Street.