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Sep 17, 21

Ten Years After Occupy Wall Street, Its Real Legacy is Anarchism in Practice

Statement from Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) on the anarchist legacy of Occupy Wall Street on the movement’s 10th anniversary.

Lenapehoking, Turtle Island (also known as New York City) – Since its demise in the Fall of 2012, various individuals, websites, social media accounts, and politicians have tried to claim the mantle of Occupy Wall Street. The associations are endless, from Bernie Sanders-aligned “socialists” to neoliberal Twitter accounts praising landlords for evicting people. Any journalist writing about the OWS movement should know its actual history, separated from the machinations of those who later tried to co-opt its message for themselves. OWS was anarchism in practice, and that is its legacy.

Several members of MACC were present for the early days of Occupy Wall Street, and, along with thousands of others, helped to build it into what it became. We have drafted this press release to ensure journalists understand that in all likelihood, if you are seeing a website or Twitter account that is “Occupy” branded today, it does not reflect the politics of OWS. On this, the tenth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, we, as anarchists, activists, and witnesses to history, want to clarify and reclaim the legacy of this incredible movement.

As anyone who was actually there at the creation knows, Occupy Wall Street was never about electoral politics, and it certainly wasn’t about earning clout or making money. The occupation of Zuccotti Park was a direct action; we did not ask permission or request a permit. We, the 99%, liberated and transformed the park into a directly democratic space through general assemblies and working groups. Our example inspired the occupations of hundreds of public spaces across the country and informed the horizontal (non-hierarchical) politics of the broader Occupy movement. The goal was not to take state power, but to demonstrate a truly egalitarian society and a living alternative to capitalism. This is what we meant – what we have always meant – by revolution.

Multiple books and articles have been written that emphasize the anarchism of OWS. In The Democracy Project, the late anarchist and anthropologist David Graeber claims OWS was part of a long history of democratic resistance against the state and capitalism. In Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse, the writer Nathan Schneider provides a first-hand account of the self-organization taking place in the park. In Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street, historian Mark Bray interviews over 200 core organizers of OWS, the vast majority of whom identify as anarchists or have anarchistic politics. To those who have studied OWS at length, its fundamental anarchism is not in debate.

Mark Bray has said about the anniversary, “Ten years later, let the historical record show that Occupy Wall Street was planned and organized in large part by anarchists. OWS’s popular assemblies, direct actions, mutual aid projects, rejection of hierarchy, and distance from electoral politics were thoroughly infused with anti-authoritarian values and practices from the beginning. This groundbreaking movement that helped spark a dynamic decade of resistance was not street theater for the Democratic Party, but rather a bold experiment in imagining a world beyond capitalism and the state.”


The legacy of OWS is the ongoing anarchist movement. It is in occupations of public space (Occupy ICE, Abolition Park), workplace actions organized by rank-and-file workers (Industrial Workers of the World, Brandworkers), pipeline disruptions (Occupy the Pipeline, Sane Energy), and refusing to pay debts (Strike Debt). It is in networks of mutual aid providing food (Food Not Bombs, Club A, The Gym, WSP Mutual Aid, Woodbine) medical aid (NYC Action Medical) and care (MACC Care Assembly). It is in the call to abolish police and prisons (Anarchist Black Cross, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement, Black and Pink). It is in the fight against fascism (J20, Charlottesville). OWS lives when people stop thinking of the world as it is, and instead imagine what it could be. OWS lives, when people act as if they are already free.

The Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) NYC was formed by original organizers of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). We have explicitly drawn on lessons learned from that experience. We have assemblies, spokes councils, and working groups. We operate via the consensus process. We have robust financial control procedures. We have a community accountability team to address harm and conflict. The principles and structure by which we organize are directly informed by OWS. We are the legacy. 

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