On October 10, 2011, the Boston demonstrators expanded a tent city onto an additional portion of the Rose Kennedy Greenway; starting around 1:20 AM the following morning, 141 people were arrested by the officers of the Boston Police Special Operations Unit. Most of these cases were dismissed prior to arraignment with the agreement of the Suffolk County District Attorney's office. Tents were pitched in the following days, and by October 15 the camp itself had consisted of about 90 tents on either side of a path the protesters named, "Main Street," plus another two dozen or so tents divided up between the "Student Village" area and a strip of lawn the protesters named "Weird Street".
A tent library, later named the Audre Lorde to Howard Zinn (A to Z) Library was set up at the Occupy Boston encampment with the mission to "foster inquiry, learning, critical analysis and information-sharing among Occupy Boston occupiers, participants and visitors in order to better understand, challenge and transform interlocking systems of oppression".
Five years ago, on September 30, “Occupy Boston” first pillaged Dewey Square. For 72 days its participants appeared to be darlings of left-leaning media and left-leaning office holders until the lawless occupation of public space was finally dismantled. Today, remarkably, the Occupy movement is a fast fading memory, its professed “cause” aimless and irrelevant. What happened?
In a post-mortem, The Boston Globe determined that Occupy attracted, “populist dreamers, anti-corporate crusaders, and street-weary homeless people to the site near South Station.” And concluded that “city officials embraced much of the message, but eventually tired of the methods.”
Then, as now, scattershot Occupiers commanded little attachment to policymakers, had no vertical or horizontal governance and no inclination to create a structure that would allow greater integration into the political process. In New York, an internal battle erupted at one point between incessant drummers and speakers interfering with one another’s “space” and “respect” (today, those same people would consider such acts as microagressions). It was an unsustainable, ungovernable morass.
Occupy was, and still is, an out-of-tune, undisciplined political cacophony that lacked, and is lacking, a needed conductor. Martin Luther King Jr., Lech Walesa, and Ronald Reagan with Margaret Thatcher were serious leaders for whom a movement could attach an emotional and intellectual connection; they produced lasting results.
Occupy failed to remember that statues and monuments are built in remembrance of great men and women, their ideas, their leadership, and their noble achievements. For those anonymous roving circles clattering in hoodies in 2011 — where artificial rebellion and flimsy political construct was a form of hobby — their movement’s memorial was always going to be discarded power-washed cardboard signs and kitschy cyber junk, fitting codas.
After five years, the ideas are still bankrupt, the dialogue is dying and Dewey Square is once again a public place of grandeur.