Occupy Wall Street activists sue over Twitter account

On Wednesday, three years to the day since the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, one of its former leaders has sued another leader over a disputed Twitter account.

@OccupyWallStNYC has 177,000 followers, and it’s apparently controlled by Justin Wedes, a self-identified “educator and activist based in Detroit, Michigan” and a “founding member” of the New York City General Assembly. Wedes did not respond to Ars’ requests for comment.

According to the suit, which was filed by the OWS Media Group in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Wedes “hijacked” the account in early August 2014, “making himself the sole person in control of the Twitter Account.”

The suit demands that the court declare the OWS Media Group as the account’s rightful owner (bar any future transfer of the account), compel Wedes to return it, and award $500,000 in monetary damages.

The account was originally created by the Canadian organization AdBusters, which helped spawn the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. As the protests grew, AdBusters handed the account over to Marisa Holmes, a local activist. She expanded the circle of people that had access, including Wedes.

Holmes is now a director of the OWS Media Group, an organization that sprung from the protest movement.

A “last resort”

Earlier this year, Holmes, Wedes, and others began to argue about what was an appropriate use of the Twitter account. In particular, Wedes began tweeting about the Detroit Water Brigade, another activist group in the Motor City that he is heavily involved in.

“It’s really important historically to think about the legacy of Occupy and everything that meant, and going forward we want to be able to continue the movement work,” Holmes told Ars. “We want to be able to have the platforms available to us that we helped build. It’s really that simple. He stole it. We want it back and we want to get on with building the movement.”

Holmes noted that Wedes has yet to be formally served with the suit. She viewed it as a “last resort.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time talking with him over the course of several years now of trying to work together,” she said. “He’s just not interested in any nonviolent communication or mediation and has been unresponsive to that. This is the least harmful option that we could think of, and it’s unfortunate.”

She went on to call the alleged theft of the Twitter account a “moral and ethical breach.”

“It goes against everything that this movement was about, sharing and collecting resources—it’s equivalent to stealing money.”

“I had to say ‘enough!’”

In a blog post on his own website on August 12, 2014, Wedes said that earlier this month a thread on an internal e-mail list concerning appropriate uses of the Twitter account prompted him to seize control.

He wrote:

A thread about “self-promotion” became just another shaming session. If we start from a place of assuming bad intentions—i.e. discouraging “self-promotion” over encouraging solid, relevant content—we will end up with rules that shame rather than empower. Group members took on the task of limiting others to “1 to 2 tweets per day” (or week) on a topic, a form of censorship that would never have been allowed in the earlier days of the boat. I had to say enough!

This party is over. Time to go home. Time to clean house for the next party. Time to sleep, to heal, and to reflect.

Clearly the question of ownership of the account is a contentious one, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. The success of the #TweetBoat was in creating shared ownership of this collective resource by many different people with often divergent perspectives on what Occupy is. Still, even collective resources like gardens need human stewardship. I don’t shy away from currently being the chief steward of this account, and my plan is to reinvigorate it again by putting it back in the hands of responsible stewards.

At that time, he stated that the Twitter account would remain inactive, but it picked up again just two days later.

“We don’t actually want money.”

While it may seem a bit ironic that an anti-capitalist activist group would sue for money, Holmes underscored that her organization “can’t deal with money.” According to her, the $500,000 figure was only imposed to prevent Wedes from further transferred ownership of the account.

It is unclear, however, why imposing such monetary damages prevents such a transfer.

“If we don’t have any damages, then he can decide to just give the password of the Twitter account to a friend and then we’d have to sue his friend and then it would be this endless ordeal,” she said. “We wanted it to be short and sweet. We don’t want to draw this out. We have no intention of collecting that money. We don’t actually want money. What we want is for him to give the account back.”

UPDATE Friday 11:54am: OWS Media Group’s attorney, Thomas Hillgardner, wrote to Ars to say:

If my clients get the account back, they’d be much more likely to forego damages. But if [Justin Wedes] further alienates the account from his possession and control, the only thing left for my clients to recover would be money and his exposure to a judgment for monetary damages would be at its zenith. The measure of damages if we get the account back would be far less and likely would be waived. We think these matters are not lost on Mr. Wedes who is a fairly sophisticated gentleman.

All’s Not Quiet on the Democratic Front: Why Occupy Wall Street Still Matters …

On the third anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, don’t be so sure that that the ranting and raving about income inequality, fracking and student debt is dead. Although thousands are no longer protesting in the streets, a quiet revolution inspired by Occupy principles has been brewing in the American public. It demands more from government representatives and was all too present in last week’s Democratic primary for the governor for the state of New York.

As one of the 34 percent who voted for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, I am part of the growing constituency demanding change. I am not an environmental fractivist or a disgruntled state employee — two groups that clearly have a bone to pick with the incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo. I am an Occupier and interested citizen who belongs to a new voting block between 30 to 45 years-old that is normally outside the political establishment. According to independent journalist Matt Stoller, we are the burgeoning “Occupy Bloc,” a social-media savvy group of techies, publishers, professionals, and students with energy and ambition to influence the political process. Who knows if we have enough strength to muster political revolt, but one thing is clear: if the mainstream Democratic party cannot show real conviction and take a stand for ordinary people, we will look elsewhere.

Teachout’s campaign is an example of this. Her desire to break up the big banks responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, rid the state of monopolies like the Comcast-Time Warner merger and hold officials currently in office accountable for corrupt behavior, was our call to arms. Like Occupy, Teachout advocates examination of the power structures in society to do what really needs to be done: use government to limit the power of Wall Street and corporate America and give regular citizens the opportunity to participate in the political process and create policy.


This is not news to me. As a performance artist for Occupy Wall Street, I have been studying the financial industry since 2011 with the Alternative Banking Group, a close-knit group of academics, bloggers, activists and former Wall Street quants, which meets weekly at Columbia University. I have learned things that should infuriate us all. When I walk past HSBC, I don’t see a bank of convenience. I see a for-profit enterprise that admitted to laundering millions for the Mexican drug cartel and terrorist groups linked with al-Qaeda, but paid an insignificant ‘cost of doing business’ fine in 2012 so no high-level executives would go to jail.

Whenever I’m standing in front of the Federal Reserve near Wall Street, I know that it is not a federal agency but a privately owned central bank retained by the cartel of banks rich enough to belong to the Federal Reserve system. I’m aware that these banks can borrow at a huge discount at 0.75 percent interest, compared to students who pay nearly 5 times that amount on student loans. I would love to attend the World Business Forum in October, but can’t since it costs $3,000 a ticket. The elites of this world have gamed the system to make it work for them, a small minority, and they are banking on the fact that most of us will not notice.

Although many believe the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s trust busting agenda are gone — something interesting is happening. Three years ago, Occupy Wall Street thrust income inequality onto the national stage. At the same time, bank reform politicians like Elizabeth Warren were elected to Congress. Then in last week’s primaries, Teachout did nearly the impossible and won 34 percent of the vote against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo, who had a $35 million dollar campaign war chest. With little money and no name recognition, she effectively challenged him. She had a clear message the public seems hungry for — to value regular citizens and their needs in the decision-making process.

The rest is up to us. It’s time for ordinary people to become part of the political process and contribute. Be a leader, collectively organize for your rights, become aware of who holds power and get involved. No more standing on the sidelines. Take charge of your destiny, and if you’re lucky, you might be taking charge of all of ours.

Marni Halasa, a lawyer, journalist and political performance artist, consults for citizens, unions, community groups and nonprofit organizations on how to stage effective protest and innovative resistance. Contact her at her website, Revolution Is Sexy.

Occupy Wall Street buys, forgives almost $4 million in student loan debt

This post is in partnership with Time. The article below was originally published at Time.com

By Sam Frizell, TIME

An Occupy Wall Street campaign says it has abolished almost $4 million in student loan debts, in a Tuesday announcement marking the third anniversary of the Occupy protests that brought renewed attention to the issue of income inequality.

The Rolling Jubilee Fund, an initiative of the Occupy movement, has been accepting donations and buying up student loan debt for pennies on the dollar from debt collectors, and then forgiving the loans altogether. The group has spent about $107,000 to purchase$3.9 million in debt, organizers said.

The debts were held by students who attended Everest College, a for-profit institution part of the Corinthian Colleges


network. The fund called Everest College a “predatory” institution that is helping fuel the $1.2 trillion in total student loan debt in the United States.

“We chose Everest because it is the most blatant con job on the higher ed landscape,” the organizers said. “It’s time for all student debtors to get relief from their crushing burden.”

The debt belonged to 2,761 people who had taken at loans at Everest College. The group is only able to purchase private student debt, not the majority of outstanding U.S. student debt that’s backed by the federal government. Corinthian Colleges told CNN it stands by the “high-quality” education it provides and denied charges of predatory lending.


Occupy Wall Street A Failure? OWS 2014 Marks Survival Of Brand With Blurred …


A demonstrator holds a sign during an Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan in New York, Oct. 3, 2011.
 Reuters/Mike Segar

Though its plan of attack was hazy, Occupy Wall Street took direct aim at corporations and financial structures considered “too big to fail.” If the protest movement’s primary targets are still thriving three years later, does that mean OWS was too sprawling to succeed? Or can we credit Occupy with planting the seeds of a dialogue that may eventually lead to shifts in income inequality? 
Since OWS first sprouted at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, 2011, the decentralized opposition group has been routinely dismissed for its disorganization and lack of a core message. Within a year after the first Occupy encampment, news outlets were using the words “fizzled” and “failure” with notable regularity. And by this time last year, even many people who still associated with the group were expressing frustration over its wandering trajectory and leaderless makeup.
“I wouldn’t give them an ‘A’ for organization,” Lillian Pollak, a protester who showed up at Zuccotti Park for the second anniversary, told International Business Times.

But while the thrill is gone for many once-passionate Occupiers who believed the movement would enact real change for the 99 percent of Americans facing an increasingly bleak economic picture, some say thinking about Occupy in terms of success or failure misses the point.

“How would we define success anyway?” asked Lisa S. Banu, a scholar and former design professor at Purdue University in Indiana, who studies Occupy’s branding strategies. “The movement didn’t necessarily have a particular teleological goal. It wasn’t like, ‘Once we achieve this, our movement has won.’ The point was to start a conversation.”

And if starting a conversation was the point, Banu said it’s a point that stuck. Occupy may have been mocked for its hippy-like encampments and festive drum circles early on, but it was instrumental in pushing income inequality into the national conversation, an issue that has seeped its way into every part of the culture since — from viral videos to best-selling books like Thomas Piketty’s “Capital.”

Politicians both local and national have seized upon aspects of Occupy’s message as well. Making wealth disparity a core issue of his 2013 mayoral campaign, New York City’s then-public advocate, Bill de Blasio, vowed to tackle the “Tale of Two Cities” that he said defined the Big Apple during the Bloomberg years. A year earlier, issues like income inequality and class warfare dominated the 2012 presidential campaign. President Barack Obama continues to address these issues, whether it’s through pushing a higher minimum wage or discussing the decline of economic mobility. “I believe this is the defining challenge of our time,” he said in a 2013 speech.

The extent to which Occupy has influenced such political rhetoric is debatable, but it’s no small triumph that the very issues it set out to fight continue to permeate national politics three years later. “It’s hard to beat the bully pulpit of a U.S. presidency,” Richard Kaplan, a law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, said. “If Obama’s talking about it then that has some significance.”

Of course, the problems Occupy was trying to tackle are bigger than simple rhetoric. As more and more data shows, income inequality is only getting worse, and it’s not expected to reverse anytime soon. “Most of the things that caused it to begin with are still very much in place,” Kaplan said. “If anything the same trends of globalization, returns to higher education and that sort of thing, have exacerbated. It’s not new. It’s been going on since even before Reagan.”

Amid its congested messages and image problems, Occupy’s most salient feature has always been basic branding — from its effective use of hashtags and memes to its populist catchphrases like “We Are the 99 Percent.” It’s a strategy that was brought into focus by Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the anti-consumerism magazine Adbusters, who registered the domain OccupyWallStreet.org in the summer of 2011 and used social media to build a buzz around the first Occupy Wall Street encampment. The Occupy brand has since become an international franchise.

In a paper published on Academia.edu in April 2012, Banu explored Occupy’s successful approach to branded anarchy, a concept she admits sounds oxymoronic on its face. “How do you brand a grassroots movement?” she said. “How do you give it a logo, when it’s supposed to be anti-logo to begin with?”

A protest celebrating Occupy’s third anniversary is planned for Zuccotti Park on Wednesday, although how many people will actually show up is anyone’s guess. The folks at Adbusters haven’t abandoned the cause either. They’re calling Occupy’s third anniversary “World Revolution Day,” and as usual they haven’t been very specific on what that means. The slogan this time around is “What Will You Do?”

It’s a good question — for people and for protest movements.  

Got a news tip? Email me. Follow me on Twitter @christopherzara.

Occupy Wall Street Offshoot Has Purchased Nearly $4 Million in Student Debt

Occupy Wall Street made a name for itself demanding systemic change that would help the country’s “99 percent,” but at least one offshoot of the movement has evolved into quietly helping individuals on a financial level in the years since its inception.

In conjunction with its third anniversary, which passed quietly this week without much media attention, the Occupy splinter organization Strike Debt and its project Rolling Jubilee announced they had purchased and forgiven nearly $4 million of student debt — the latest in a string of debt purchases made by the groups.

The purchase helped relieve the debts of nearly 3,000 individuals across the country, while at the same time drawing attention to what the group calls predatory practices by for-profit colleges and the Department of Education.

NYC’s pay out to the Occupy movement is not the end of angry protests. Read more here.

Strike Debt, the name of the debt forgiveness movement, bought $3.8 million in private student loan debt from lenders for students of Corinthian Colleges, a private for-profit college company that runs campuses around the country. The group spent just over $100,000 to buy the bundles of debt, using funds it collected during a telethon and viral campaign.

“It was very small donations, people would give $5, and say, ‘I’m completely broke but I want to help,’”Laura Hanna, one of Strike Debt’s organizers, told VICE News. “Our original plan was to raise $50,000 and prove a point, that $50,000 could simply buy $1 million of debt, to demonstrate that it wasn’t worth it. It’s taken some time to do it.”

Starting at the end of 2012, through the Rolling Jubilee project Strike Debt began purchasing medical debt for thousands of people, since buying more than $18 million worth. The organizers used their next batch of funds to go after private student loan debt.

“We knew we wanted to focus on issues around for-profit education and looking at education as a commodity. The basic challenge is that we shouldn’t need debt to finance basic necessities,”Hanna said.

The FBI is hiding details about an alleged Occupy Houston assassination plot. Read more here.

“We can’t solve the entire problem (of student debt) but we can help along the way while trying to fix the systemic problem,”she said.

Strike Debt volunteers worked with industry experts and pro-bono legal counsel to purchase the debt from debt collectors. They then sent letters to nearly 3,000 Corinthian Colleges students notifying them that at least one of their loans had been forgiven and they needn’t worry about paying it back.

Corinthian has been investigated by the federal government for its recruitment tactics and job placement rates, and was recently hit with a federal lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accusing the company of predatory loan practices. The CFPB has asked the courts to grant relief for more than $500 million worth of private student loans taken out by Corinthian Colleges students.

Kent Jenkins, a spokesman for Corinthian, criticized the complaint, saying in a statement to VICE that fewer that 40 percent of its students took the private loans with an average interest rate was 9 percent, which it called “well below market rates.” He said they forced students to repay them while still in school to “help them develop the discipline and practice”of repaying their loans each month.

Corinthian Colleges is currently in the process of selling off a large number of its campuses.

The case that could rock the Occupy movement. Read more here.

Strike Debt organizers pointed out that they were only able to buy the debt for private student loans, not the federal government-backed loans that most students at not-for-profit colleges take out to pursue education.

“While medical debt is widely available to debt collectors on secondary markets, most student debt is not, because it is guaranteed by the federal government and cannot be erased in bankruptcy,”the group said in a statement.

In order to help individuals in debt to the federal government, as well as those with medical debt or credit card debt, the group is launching the next phase of its project called The Debt Collective, a website and organization they hope will unite individuals and give them collective bargaining power.

Individuals can sign up on the website and input their debt and the region of the country they’re in. The group will hold meetings and calls to discuss tactics it could use to fight lenders, including “strikes” in which people refuse to pay or are late in paying their debts.

“We want it to be a virtual factory floor where we’re thinking about how can we build collective power in the face of financial markets that are almighty and powerful,” Hanna said. “We’re looking at how fragmentary the labor force is and labor rights are at this point, and looking at old models of unions and how much of that can apply.”

Photo by Flickr/Michael Fleshman


occupy wall street, americas, student debt, rolling jubilee, strike debt, politics, department of education, corinthian colleges, consumer financial protection bureau, laura hanna, the debt collector, wall street

Occupy Wall Street Activists Suing Ex-Member Over Twitter Account

Occupy Wall Street Activists Mark 2 Year Anniversary Of Movement
Occupy Wall Street protesters wearing masks made out of enlarged dollar bills act in a short skit in Times Square in New York City on Sept. 17, 2013
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Not only is Occupy locked out of the “1%,” they now can’t even get on Twitter

Five Ways Occupy Wall Street Is Still Fighting

By Rebecca Nathanson |
September 17, 2014

On September 17th, 2011, activists gathered in downtown Manhattan with the stated goal of occupying Wall Street. They ended up in Zuccotti Park, where they built an encampment and remained until the NYPD surprised them with a violent eviction on November 15th. By then, the movement had developed a web of working groups and spread to cities around the country. Its “99 percent vs. 1 percent” critique of inequality articulated what many were experiencing in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, but critics were skeptical of a demand-less movement and predicted its demise as police departments systematically destroyed encampments across America.

Since the disappearance of the occupations, though, a diverse group of new campaigns have aimed to translate the skills and networks developed during the initial two-month run of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) into tangible change. Three years after that first night at Zuccotti Park, many of these groups still remain. Here are five campaigns that OWS-inspired groups have continued to fight for since the movement’s presumed conclusion:

Occupy Homes

Home foreclosures were one of the most visible aspects of the financial crash, bringing the reality of corporate greed into living rooms across the country. In October 2011, an Occupy Minneapolis protester facing foreclosure suggested expanding the occupation into her home to prevent eviction. “That really transformed what OWS could do because it brought politicization into neighborhoods and not just into traditional protest spaces,” says Cat Salonek, an Occupy Minneapolis participant who helped organize Occupy Homes Minnesota, which is part of a national network currently focused on organizing renters while also pursuing policy changes and targeting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Salonek credits OWS with creating the necessary conditions “If OWS were a dandelion that the state crushed, a lot of seeds scattered and are now taking root,” she says. “We’re one of the organizations with really deep, strong roots to be able to build more power for the 99 percent.”

Student Debt Reform

Higher education has seen better days: Total national student debt topping $1 trillion. An average student debt load of $29,000 per graduate. Increasing costs. Decreasing public funding. OWS student debt organizing began with a working group that has since turned into Strike Debt, which is creating a collective to help debtors self-organize. Countless efforts by student activists to halt tuition hikes and combat undemocratic administrations also demonstrate the vitality of the struggle for accessible education for all. A public letter sent to NYU’s president from a student who recently dropped out because of insufficient financial aid illustrates how the desire for education has become synonymous with accepting a lifetime of debt. Its more than 43,000 views illustrate how many others share that reality.

Occupy Sandy

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused massive damage to neighborhoods around New York City. By the morning after the storm, former Occupiers were coming together to provide mutual aid to impacted communities, quickly setting up kitchens and distributing goods and resources where they were most needed. After the first month of providing immediate relief, Occupy Sandy began to develop long-term projects that are still evolving, including a worker-owned cooperative in the Rockaways and a participatory documentary project to tell the stories of those affected. “We all have knowledge, skills, and resources,” explains organizer Tammy Shapiro. “Mutual aid is about using our skills, knowledge, and resources to benefit ourselves and others, as opposed to the idea that there are givers and receivers.”

Alternative Labor

New York City fast food workers staged the largest strike in their industry’s history on November 29th, 2012. Paired with increasingly visible organizing by Walmart workers, this signaled a new stage in the alternative labor, or alt-labor, movement that organizes workers outside of traditional unions. Fast food workers around the country, organizing through the Service Employees International Union’s Fight for 15 campaign, have been protesting for a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union since that historic strike. Their campaign inspired 15 Now, an effort to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 that drew heavily on OWS’s rhetoric and now has 20 chapters nationwide.

Prison Reform

Cecily McMillan, a 25-year-old graduate student and organizer, was leaving Zuccotti Park on March 17th, 2012, when she was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer. This spring, a jury declared her guilty, despite evidence showing that she had been sexually assaulted by the officer and thrown her elbow back in self-defense. She spent 58 days at New York City’s Rikers Island jail and emerged in July with a list of demands crafted by herself and other female inmates. She has since used her media attention to raise awareness of the structural problems facing poor communities that lead to mass incarceration. “People are denied jobs, denied resources, essentially left to their own devices to live and take care of their own,” she argues. “And when they do, you put them in jail? That, to me, is a political prisoner.”

Occupy Wall Street’s Student Debt Solution

Six years ago this week, storied Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy as part of the financial crash that led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. Out of that crisis came Occupy Wall Street, a grass-roots protest movement whose greatest claim to fame was a two-month occupation of New York City’s Zuccotti Park that began on September 17, 2011. Since then, OWS hasn’t exactly commanded headlines, but it has now made news again — although this time it’s not the big banks in the activist group’s crosshairs, it’s for-profit schools.

Related: Six Years After Lehman’s Bankruptcy, Wall Street Is as Reckless as Ever

To coincide with the three year anniversary of the Zuccotti Park protests, Occupy announced two days ago that it had eliminated almost $4 million in private student loan debt for nearly 3,000 students through a program called Rolling Jubilee, part of an Occupy offshoot called “Strike Debt.” All of the vanquished loans were held by students who attended Everest College, which Occupy calls “a predatory for-profit institution.”

Everest is part of a chain of for-profit schools run by Corinthian Colleges, or CCI. CCI made news itself this year for getting into trouble with the Department of Education — enough trouble that the DOE cut off the federal financial aid payments Corinthian relied on to stay in business. This forced the company to try and sell 85 of its campuses and shutter the rest. Corinthian was being investigated by the DOE over whether it provided students with good educational value for the money. Specifically, the department had requested detailed information about CCI students — relating to job placements and grade changes, for example — and CCI didn’t respond, prompting the financial aid cut-off.

Related: Pros and Cons of Paying Off Your Student Loans Early 

Occupy was able to accomplish its debt elimination by collecting donations and using the money raised to buy up the “Unpaid Tuition Receivables” for pennies on the dollar — less than three cents on the dollar, to be precise, or about $107,000 in all. The Occupy group then simply erased the debts, or as Occupy phrased it, “abolished” it. As for why they did it, the group says: “We bought debt from this school in order to focus public attention on the grim consequences of allowing higher education to be used as a vehicle for private profit. The students at this college were conned … Our long term goal is to end student debt, along with other forms of predatory lending.”

For-profit schools have been under scrutiny for a while now. A report released last year by The Institute for College Access Success found that more than 600,000 federal student loan recipients who began repaying their loans in 2010 were in default by 2012. According to the report, 46 percent of these defaulters attended for-profit institutions like the kind run by CCI, even though for-profit schools enroll just 13 percent of students nationally.

There’s about $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, according to Federal Reserve data. Clearly, $3.9 million of abolished debt is less than a drop in a bucket. But while the financial system was never in any real danger of being taken down by Occupy Wall Street, by helping students out of bad financial situations the group has found a way to keep fighting its fight. 

Top Reads from The Fiscal Times:

Here’s Who To Thank For Our National Obsession With Inequality

Three years ago this week, Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan went from being a place bored office workers went for a cigarette break to the center of Occupy Wall Street.

Today the protesters are long gone, and the public disgust with the financial system that the movement inspired and embodied has faded. But Occupy’s effects live on, in the way we talk and think about the American economy, and in the continued work of a core group of activists.

Occupy gained prominence and a following by focusing its efforts on concrete space, but its most obvious legacies are largely ambient and linguistic: Today, 45 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with their ability to get ahead by working hard. In 2008, just 31 percent felt the same way. The ubiquity of the phrase “99 percent” spiked with Occupy’s protests. And it’s hard to argue that the enduring, derogatory use of “the 1 percent” is not the group’s doing.

Introducing Americans to a dramatically different way to talk about inequality is a big achievement. And while much of the change over the past six years in how Americans view the rewards of work is due to the recession (hello, falling household incomes), giving that shift a way to express itself is impressive.

Where you won’t find Occupy’s legacy is in American attitudes toward banks. Despite its initial aim, Occupy did not spark continued, mass disgust with the financial industry among the U.S. public. A Gallup poll shows that American’s now have net positive view of banks:


Occupy Wall Street may have had a short-term effect: From mid-2011 to mid-2012, Americans’ already negative view of banks got marginally worse. The drop was not sustained, and its size was very minor compared to the drop caused by the global financial crisis.

How American’s feel about banks isn’t really even the best way to judge Occupy. Its goals were always both bigger (changing the dialogue about the American economy) and smaller (specific policy proposals and concentrated activism) than just getting people upset at one industry. Occupy could be the rhetoric of the 99 percent and the 1 percent (or 0.1 percent), and it could be Occupy the SEC with a scalpel-sharp 325-page, 301-footnote comment letter on the Volcker Rule.

The wonkier legacy of Occupy can be seen in things like a Senate hearing Wednesday afternoon called “Who is the economy working for? The impact of rising inequality on the American economy.” Or the determined, complex work of Strike the Debt, which just bought and canceled $3.9 million in debt from students of a for-profit college. Since 2012, it has wiped out $15 million in medical debt.

Occupy’s legacy being about something other than the banks may be for better. Popular outrage against the financial system — as cathartic and necessary as it was — may have outlived its use a vehicle for change. Credit to Occupy Wall Street for building more durable forms of activism at the height of its popularity. Occupy’s real but limited success shows just how hard a fight they picked.