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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The ‘Occupy’ Movement: Emerging Protest Forms and Contested Urban Spaces


The Occupy Movement represents the evolving nature of contemporary social movements. It employs traditional tactics as well as new tools of technology and alternative forms of organizing to articulate concerns. In an era of widening income inequality, record corporate profits, and government austerity measures, Occupy protestors claimed urban public spaces as sites of resistance this past year. By framing their cause as one driven by “the 99%”, corporate interests were successfully linked to a diverse set of economic impacts that united the masses, from diminishing prospects of employment to record foreclosures and crippling student debt. In claiming their right to the city, Occupiers created physical and political space for reasserting the power of the people. Occupiers’ seizing of public spaces and use of social media to promote and report acts of resistance suggest that in mediated societies, protests configured for virtual audiences are likely to become mainstays of urban social movements. The Occupy Movement embodies these developments and underscores the need for new thinking on how public spaces can facilitate participatory democracy. Using scholarly blogs and news reports, this paper tracks the movement and explores its implications on the governance of public space and the future of urban protests.


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