Occupy at Crossroads

As the movement matures, Occupiers debate how to move forward


Just more than two months after a modest group of protesters first pitched tents in New York City's Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street movement has managed to, at the very least, capture the nation's attention and, at most, alter the rhetoric of American politics.

But the movement has also suffered a series of setbacks. In the past few weeks, protesters have clashed with law enforcement in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore. Municipal police forces throughout the nation have shown that they're not afraid to use weapons including tear gas and pepper spray to clear protesters.

But while the movement may be a bit shaken, activists said they're strategizing new ways to move forward.

"With the impending cold and the evictions, there have been discussions that we're moving into a phase two," said Warren Hatton, a member of Occupy Boise, in front of the Old Ada County Courthouse. "Where I want to see it go is less focus on the encampments but more on networking with other cities and long-term planning--planning what we're going to be doing for the spring and summer and thinking about new ways to have a presence that's not just a camp."

Nationally some Occupiers may have concluded that the encampments might not be as permanent as originally hoped. However members of Occupy Boise said their encampment has "an important role to play," and as long as relations with the local police remain on good footing, they intend to continue camping out in the cold.

"One of the things that's super important about the encampment is that it's a headquarters," said Shavone Hasse, a member of Occupy Boise. "People think we're just camping out for free, but this is not luxurious. We are exercising our right to peaceably assemble, and in order to do that, you must have a place to assemble. We're also providing services to the community. Anyone can stop by and get involved."

Regardless of whether other cities' encampments continued to exist, Boise Occupiers said they were confident that with each new eviction, fuel is added to the fire.

"I don't think the evictions have, or will, affect us negatively," said Occupy Boise protester Jackie Beale. "If anything, they've made us more committed. It made it clear that this is a precarious thing, but it makes us want to fight for it that much more."

Michael Looney, who has called the Boise encampment "home" from day one, said if anything, the crackdowns make the movement stronger.

"For one, the police have done these big raids with a lot of unnecessary violence," said Looney. "In the eyes of the average observer, they wonder 'what's going on?' And if we get them to that point, we can try and get them to look at what we're about."

As Occupiers continue to discuss the evolution of the movement, they are also looking for ways to coordinate with other movements across the United States.

"There's definitely an attempt to have some kind of national coordination," said Hasse. "But at the same time, there's recognition that this movement is going to take shape based on local needs and the local landscape. That's one of the things this movement is about: recognizing the need for diversity of tactics."