May Day, OWS Styleby greenspacewriter 05/03/2012
May Day - also referred to as International Worker’s Day - this year drew attention in the United States as a result of an anticipated resurgence of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupiers throughout the nation circulated plans for a general strike, asking people not to go to work or school and to abstain from spending on May 1st. In effect, the Occupy movement sought to convince people to join their May Day protests and marches instead of participating in the capitalist system.
Despite their efforts, these scheduled activities fell short on numbers. While there were enough participants to move forward with the protests in various locations, namely New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, the demonstrations were not nearly as well-attended as anticipated. As for the general strike, there was even less success in persuading workers to take a day off.
In a way, the smaller scale of the May Day activities this week allowed for a certain amount of harmony that has been absent from many of the more publicized and chaotic demonstrations. Fewer participants present greater visibility of the individuals that comprise this particular community of active Occupiers. At the same time, a poor turn out can be discouraging for OWS supporters as the press has deemed the dwindling numbers as a sign of a weakening movement’s decline.
Whether or not Occupy Wall Street is headed towards its demise cannot be certain, however, especially when one considers that the May Day protests go against more than capitalism, but also the American lifestyle by nature. Where strikes are hardly sparse in Europe, rarely does the United States see large, unified, and scheduled strikes.
The Occupiers’ attempt to mimic striking practices that are so common in European countries may have failed not as a result of apathy, but rather of unfamiliarity. After all, in some countries International Worker’s Day is an annual event, meaning the call for a general strike was in no way radical. While the message participants attempted to communicate is not a far-fetched one, it might have gotten lost in translation.
That said, it may be time for OWS activists to build a community using methods based on American values, rather than modelling their demonstrations after those carried out abroad. It’s no secret that what functions well for one population might not for another. If the Occupy movement is going to progress further, it must utilize American terms in order to develop its own unique and unified voice.