The Rise Of The Sleep Over Rebellion

The Rise Of The Sleep Over Rebellion

They wanted the Mayor to sleep over.

For one night. In the park. Sleeping bag and all. They wanted the park renamed after Troy Davis, a Georgia man put to death in September. And finally, Occupy Atlanta wanted a promise no one would be arrested.

No chance on the name change, Mayor Kasim Reed replied. Or the no arrest guarantee. But the Mayor would pray on the sleep-over decision.

The protesters chalked it up as a victory anyway. Yes, Bank of America still raked in too much money. And sure, many of them still did not have jobs. But, at the very least, they were relevant.

They had done it. That scruffy gaggle of un- and under- employed but, thanks to sympathetic local delis, over-fed youths had seized the media spotlight. They would be on the evening news after the game. The Mayor’s PR team spent an entire afternoon crafting the pros and cons of a camp slumber party because of them.

Occupy Wall Street marks an inflection point long overdue. The crystallization of a shattered ideal for millions of Millennials. They are a generation coming to grips that America’s best days may truly lie behind it. An America where politicians serve to get elected, not to govern. A generation that will not be more successful than their parents but will move back in with them.

They were told if they studied hard, if they were prudent, life would be grand. They would have jobs. They would have what their parents had and then some.

Unions Join Occupy Wall Street

They now know this was a myth. Served up by rosy cheeked parents and school teachers in rosier times. They now know that this is a privilege, not a gift. And they are very, very upset by this.

But they also know that they are not alone. They were frustrated before Twitter. But social media helped the rage go viral; Skyping, tweeting, and updating its way across the globe. From Tahrir Square to Madrid’s indignados to Zuccotti Park, Occupy protesters discovered they have a voice. They now must figure out what to say.

Today the grievances are as motley as the geography. In Tokyo, they picket nuclear power. In Rome, they hurl bricks because of Silvio Berlusconi. In Frankfurt, they bash in BMW’s over pensions they will never see. In New York, they protest because bankers make too much money.

Occupy Wall Street Riots in Rome Picture

And in Atlanta, they protest because MARTA raised bus fares again. Because shovel ready doesn’t always mean shovel ready. Because President Obama wasn’t the one they were waiting for.


The Mayor had enough.

He had tried to be civil. He had tried to accommodate. Mayor Reed even extended the deadline to November 7. But every time he offered an open hand, the protesters hoisted more signs with clenched fists. They harassed his spokeswoman. They blew weed smoke in officers’ faces. And now they wanted a park hip hop concert.

So Mayor Reed hauled away the park Port-o-Potties. He pulled the plug on the concert. And he issued the ultimatum: vacate Woodruff Park by Monday or face arrest.

Come Monday, most will go home. They will fold up their tents, commiserate at the closest Chick-Fil-A, and upload the protest pictures to Facebook. They will take to Twitter and report back to Zuccotti Park headquarters. That they, too, are working. They, too, are part of the 99%.

Woodruff Park was not their Woodstock or Altamount. They did not storm campus buildings or stop any tanks. But it was something. And for a jaded, apathetic generation, this was everything. The stirring of an organic, grassroots movement fueled by sleepy youths neglected by their politicians, overlooked by companies, and fed up about all of it.

And they will be back. Wiser, better organized, and in more numbers next time. Because Woodruff Park is only the beginning. The first urban battleground in a war that has only just begun. And this will keep Mayor Reed up at night for a very long time.


“F—— kids,” Jimmy grumbled to the TV. “Need to man up and get jobs.”

The road was long. Jimmy’s repair business wasn’t what it used to be. But he was getting by. All he asked for was a Bud or two after work, the Broncos come Sunday, and he would make do.

“Put on SportsCenter. I can’t watch this s—.”

The Occupy movement falls empty in Red State diners like these. The tactics loud enough to garner attention. The message to inchoate to keep it. Instead, the rallies are clipped to swarmy sound-bytes on local news. Solemn anchors narrating the latest arrests in Manhattan or Denver. Between the lines: Starbucks-sipping, hipsters begrudging the success of hard-working Americans.

“At least the Tea Party got s— done. ”

From where Jimmy was sitting, Tea Party sent fresh ideas to Washington. Occupy Wall Street sent bricks through windows. And to many, Zuccotti Park 2011 is Chicago 1968 all over again. Bill O’Reilly insinuated the protesters are “crackheads”. Glenn Beck warned, “They will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you… They’ll kill everybody.”

If the Tea Party is a referendum on government size, Occupy Wall Street marks a Rorschach test on personal responsibility. The Occupy Wall Street protesters are drug-addled mobsters who will not work, who took on student loans they couldn’t afford. “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks,” Republican frontrunner Herman Cain roared, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

The Tea Party worked within the system. They cheered the loudest at town-halls, flooded the ballots, and swept a shirtless Scott Brown & Co. into office in January 2010.

Occupy Wall Street is still too raw, too visceral in a non-election year. The movement has yet to coalesce around a candidate. Jesse Jackson reported from Zuccotti Park but his motivation, as always, was more cultural relevance than political prominence. Kanye West and Alec Baldwin made cameos, too. As Occupy Wall Street morphs into a populist cause du jour that elicits celebrity photo ops and political lip service but no more.

“Dr. King would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonising those who work there.” President Obama observed. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke understands their “frustration”. But what can they do, they plead? Congress is gridlocked and filibustered beyond repair. Europe backslides. And companies refuse to hire.

The Tea Party demands less government. Less taxes. Occupy Wall Street wants more government. More taxes on the affluent. To claw back the gaudy paychecks of Wall Street bankers. To give it to workers who make things. Real things.

The Tea Party is a reaction to Obama’s federal overreach. Occupy Wall Street to his lack thereof. They thought Obama had more fight in him. They thought Obama would take it to the banks and to the hedge funds.

Occupy Wall Street believed in President Obama. They thought shovel-ready truly meant shovel-ready. But three years later, the iconic “Hope I Can Believe In” poster was sold to a museum by lobbyists. Unemployment hovers around 9%. Banks are back to record profits with monthly charges for customers to have the right to access their own money.
The wealthy are the solution to Tea Party. Job-creators who are persecuted by Obama for their success. To Occupy movement, they are the 1% scourge. The billionaires and millionaires have stacked Washington and jerry-rigged the courts against them.

Everything Wrong With The US Justice System Picture

Neither side will win. In a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 26% support the Occupy movement. 22% support the Tea Party. 63% said they did not know enough about Occupy, roughly what the Tea Party garnered in its infancy.

The Tea Party scoops up a Republican candidate flavor of the month. An anti-Mitt. First Michele Bachman, then Rick Perry, and now Hermain Cain. Each enjoyed their time in the Fox News-powered sun before crumbling to false mental retardation claims, racist-named geological formations, and a tax plan that smacks more of a pizza special, respectively.

Zuccotti Park is not America’s Tahrir Square. The protesters will achieve empathy but not jobs. The movement will oust no CEO. They will force no special elections. Occupy Wall Street protesters will muck up an avenue block, drink, tweet, and be merry. Until it snows or Mayor Michael Bloomberg sends in the NYPD to enforce some obscure privately-held public park technicality. The crowd will disperse. They will console themselves with a moral victory, and bankers will make just as much as ever.

Both movements will serve as a lazy parallel. The Great Recession’s tumultuous rebuttal to the Great Depression’s Bonus Army march. Both movements will serve as a cringing reminder of a nation worn out and tuned out to Washington.

And some Sunday, years from now, Jimmy will be back at the sports bar. His repair business will have more clients. He’ll sidle up, order a Bud, and tell whoever is in earshot about that jangled Fall of 2011. When the Broncos started Tim Tebow. When flag wavers squared off against the flag stompers.

Eventually Jimmy will get tired of it. He’ll order another round. And he’ll ask the waitress to switch back to SportsCenter.


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  1. Roger says:

    Man, I thought this site would get better, but the analyses are downright pedantic and lacking in enough substance to garner my enthusiasm. This is punditcy for the left, and we have enough of that. I’m going to unsubscribe and read Chomsky or something.

    • Roger says:

      Way to descend into nihilism and political quietism without going down fighting. Real honorable.

      • alec says:

        Calm down there chief. First off, there are 5 or 6 different writers who contribute articles to this site, meaning there will be variation in approach and perspective. Second, just because you don’t entirely agree with something doesn’t mean it’s absent of value. Third, if you don’t agree with something, articulate why and what information contributes to that why, rather than just throwing out absent-minded insults.

        • Roger says:

          1) I’m aware of that, I don’t believe I said anything to the contrary.
          2) I’m aware of that, I don’t believe I said anything to the contrary.
          3) I’m aware of that, I don’t believe I said anything to the contrary.

          I believe I articulated clearly in my initial comments: I find the analyses lacking in qualitative substance, similar to that of American punditcy.

          Also, please don’t tell people to calm down; it’s kinda condescending and I’m also not angry while writing this.

      • Roman says:

        Fight whom, and for what? Occupying Wall St. etc…?

        Its only been 50 some odd years since the civil rights movement and we’ve forgotten how to organize, how to politicize an issue? How to re-articulate, and how to make this issue a national debate? You must be delusional if you actually think that OWS (etc) will accomplish anything in it current form, the only thing the movement can agree on is that “we are the 99%”.

        You want to be taken seriously? Setup an organization, setup NGOs, start pooling community leaders, get some representation in the government, appoint a leader, put together a list of demands (well thought out list of demands and goals and how they may be accomplished). MAYBE then the system will be forced to absorb those complaints and issues and address them in some way shape or form.

        Look up the Japanese-American reparations movements in the US/Canada, history is filled with this type of stuff, you can see the results, the successes and failures.

        And just because someone has an opinion contrary to yours it doesn’t mean the quality of the opinion is somehow degraded.

        • Roger says:

          You ascribe a LOT of things to me I don’t remember saying, so I’ll just address the things that refer back to what I said or have to do with them.

          There doesn’t need to be a whom; I was referring to oppressive power dynamics (e.g. racism/sexism/classism/capitalism-at-large) and a general sense of political/cultural alienation. ‘For what’ elicits a response I take to be self-evident, that all life is a struggle against this alienation.

          I never implied that my opinion was contrary to the article, or that it being so was a reason for it having a lack of quality (seriously, where are you getting this stuff from?). I said that it was lacking in substance. Huge difference; one can agree with an opinion but disagree with its justifications/arguments.

          For example, two people may believe that the moon orbits the earth, but while one can believe this due to mathematical/physical observations, another may believe this because he dreamt it was true. Bad example, but ya get the point.

          • Roman says:

            You can move my comment down 3 posts, and still fully applicable. But I am going to have to say that I simply do not understand you, OWS, and what you explain to be OWS movement.

            1. What are you fighting for (please, don’t tell me alienation) what exactly does the movement want. Marx wrote about alienation of the working class, described what is happening today almost to the tee.
            2. Why, does the movement want these things, ie. for moral reasons? equality? on which grounds can the movement demand these things, religious, cultural, social etc… which paradigm?
            3. From whom are you demanding these changes? From society or the government, ie gov favor the rich vs the poor etc… what nature of policy?
            4. Lastly the most important, how can this be accomplished?

            There is no coherence and the article hits the nail on the head. When the movement can answer the above to at least some general extent, the press will stop calling you hippies, and start judging your movement as a whole. The Tea Party in this sense has accomplished way more in way less time, personally I think comparing the Tea Party to OWS in a general sense is giving OWS too much credit, they arent as organized, they arent as funded, they dont have the political representation that the Tea Party has, (thou politicians dont represent their goals or ideals) at the very least they have that.

            “It is a grassroots, bottom-up movement based on the process of consensus. This is an extremely powerful and radically profound concept, but it can lead to confusion. People take the lack of demands, the lack of an ideology, etc. as a profound weakness for the movement. I would argue that this is untrue. ”

            Sorry but that is just hubris.

            • Roger says:

              No one speaks for the GA except the GA, so I’ll give my own opinion:

              1. For freedom from oppressive power dynamics (and the alienation that comes with it; I couldn’t fulfill both your request for an honest answer and an avoidance of that word). It’s hard to say exactly *what* freedom is, but we don’t need to know it entirely in advance to understand it. I believe it is probably jiy?, the kind of freedom that cannot be given or taken away.
              2. Self-evident, as explained before. Life is struggle within oppressive power structures. Moral/religious/cultural justification isn’t required any more than it is for any other political theory or struggle.
              3. I demand nothing from a group, at least not for now. It is unnecessarily agent-centric to say that there *must* be an enemy in struggle. Power structures often do not have a face and a name, but manifest themselves in the concrete, lived experiences of individuals. We need revolutions, overturnings of these structures: racism, classism, sexism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and perhaps most importantly, capitalism.*
              4. This is a question that cannot be answered in a comment box, and it is something that I have pondered over long and often. Short-to-mid term, one thing is we need a reclamation of public spaces/centers for information sharing and a will to use them for liberating conversations and actions. The former is being fought for (and has been fought for) through various movements, direct action, and through legal challenges to city/state/federal ordinances that impinge the right for peaceful assembly, through countercultural/alternative media, freedom of information/open source software, etc. The latter is given by alienation and the current level of wealth disparity. This may be a good start, but it is only one of many, many tactics and strategies that must be considered. As a particular side note, we definitely need revolutions in the form of the education system, the medical/hospital system, the military, and the prison-industrial complex (though these are all affected by other, larger interacting structures, so they cannot be considered as separated from other concerns).

              * The last one, I can guarantee would *definitely* not be agreed with by many occupiers. But there might be a rather significant number who would, in my experience, agree.

      • ANONYMOUS BANKER says:

        Hey Roger,

        Always love to hear feedback. What specifically bothers you?

        • Roger says:

          Hey Anonymous Banker,

          First off, I do want to say that I make my comments not so much from a place of disagreement, but from a difference in approach. I do have my disagreements with the article, but I don’t take that to be as important. And if I have seemed uncivil, it is mostly toward my long-term feelings over the site in general, and I will make any further comments here as even-handed and relevant to you/your article as possible. As I said I will be avoiding the site after this, but I don’t pretend to come to this discussion from a place of moral superiority or radical incommensurability.

          My main problem with the article is that I feel the approach falls into question-begging, in that it assumes certain political axioms (what change should happen, how it should take place) from the start. I will expound upon this in two points.

          First is the overall tone and style of the article. It seems to assume from the start that the Occupy protestors are hippies in politick: okay with small victories that mean nothing, not addressing the overall structural/political realities that must take place for real revolutionary change and reform. For example:

          “The protesters chalked it up as a victory anyway. Yes, Bank of America still raked in too much money. And sure, many of them still did not have jobs. But, at the very least, they were relevant.

          They had done it. That scruffy gaggle of un- and under- employed but, thanks to sympathetic local delis, over-fed youths had seized the media spotlight. They would be on the evening news after the game. The Mayor’s PR team spent an entire afternoon crafting the pros and cons of a camp slumber party because of them.”

          In one sense this is true, but it is misleading in that it doesn’t give a complete portrayal. Having participated in a few GAs and Occupy actions, small victories are great and something to be excited about. When Occupy Tampa met with the city council and actually got one-on-one face time with city council members, we were ecstatic. That lasted for about 5 minutes before we got back to work on a multitude of other projects: setting up a legal observation/jail support team with the help of an NLG lawyer, creating an official Occupy Tampa newspaper, and planning for our next major goalposts of progress to bring up at the GA that night. We have been content to fight for small goals for now, but only in the context of a larger schema; to put it another way, fighting the war through small battles.

          For clarity’s sake, I do not pretend to speak for any Occupation when I talk of this larger schema, as no Occupation seems to have particularly figured out what that is beyond wealth disparity, i.e. we are the 99%, not the 1% (though it’s noteworthy that the NYCGA has specifically talked of the problems of neoliberalism). I am speaking for myself and my own interpretation of what the Occupy movement is/ought to be.

          This leads into my second point: I feel that the understanding of Occupy you present here is misguided. It is qualitatively different from the Tea Party and from past political movements on the right and the left. Not entirely different or a-historical, mind you, but different in ways that are significant enough that the media-at-large does not seem to understand.

          It is a grassroots, bottom-up movement based on the process of consensus. This is an extremely powerful and radically profound concept, but it can lead to confusion. People take the lack of demands, the lack of an ideology, etc. as a profound weakness for the movement. I would argue that this is untrue. Instead, our schema, our ideology *is* this lack. By basing our decisions on consensus, we are consciously combatting hierarchy in the movement, and are avoiding a ‘top-down’ ideology imposed upon the people that wish to participate. This allows us to come together in a productive, horizontal-not-vertical conversation that decides our course of action over time. We do not need

          We are, as Gandhi said, trying to *be* the change we want to see. We are creating a better society by structuring ourselves as a new one in the shell of the old, one free from the constraints of ideology and marginalization of certain groups (e.g., NYCGA has a policy to allow historically marginalized groups, such as women, people of color, queer persons, and the disabled to speak first in discussions). To put our vote behind a candidate, platform, party, or legislation is to go against everything this dynamic stands for. This dynamic is trying to shift the political system through it AND outside of it, unconstrained by such boundaries.

          That’s what I mean in my original comment concerning ‘punditcy’. Pundits, in general, offer an analysis that serves to reproduce the dominating aspects of the political system, as they are part and parcel of that system. This takes form concretely in various ways, but here I take it to be that it constrains the discussion of OWS to ‘how will it change things in the traditional ways?’ The traditional ways of change are a part of the problem OWS is addressing.

          Admittedly, the point cannot be ignored that I am biased in my assessments, having participated in the protests myself. Yet every perspective is biased, and those who have not participated in the movement are missing something crucial. I am concerned most with your conclusions, that OWS will fade away into the political background. This is overly dismissive, and I do not buy the justifications. I object to the quietism it implies, the axioms* that lead to it, and to the possibilities it seems to subvert.

          *If I have not explained adequately what I take these axioms to be, I will state them here for clarity’s sake:
          -The way of political change is to be found only through traditional channels of legislation and political reform, not through potentially revolutionary (albeit entirely non-violent!) change, such as grassroots democracy, direct action, and the shifting of public dialectic.
          -That the above are mutually exclusive.
          -Occupy protestors are merely content with hip, ironic parodies of the political system, such as camping out, not large-scale structural change.

          • Roger says:

            Sorry, at the end of the 9th paragraph “We do not need to figure out our ideology from the start, as such an idea is a product of an age/system that feels we must all adhere to ideologies above action and equal discourse.”

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