In September 2011 and onwards, Occupy Wall Street and its many spinoffs occupied squares all over the world. The meetings shared some degree of dissatisfaction with present systems, but clear aims were not really formulated, nor were there any clear leaders.

Now, we are more than a year further, and the question is: has anything changed? Apart from initiating limited debate on the financial system and related issues (for example, it triggered me to move part of my savings to an ethical credit union), has the Occupy movement had any lasting political influence?

For example, from this Huffington Post article: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said:

"[W]e have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy," he warned. "I'm taking this seriously in that I'm old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy," he said. "We can't allow that to happen."

Indeed, the civil rights movement in the 1960's did influence policy. Is there any evidence that Occupy Wall Street has shaped any policy?

  • You should probably define "tangible achievements" more specifically.
    – user4012
    Dec 16, 2012 at 21:58
  • 1
    <comments removed> Please keep comments focused on improving the post and try to not to turn comment threads into miniature chat rooms. Thanks. Dec 18, 2012 at 19:06
  • Examine the premise of your question. Was Peter King's statement a rejection of the Civil Rights Movement, or was he referring to the anarchist counter culture hippies radical communists, etc.? By framing the question with the supposition that the Republican Peter King's statements are a rejection of the Civil Rights Movement without evidence, the Question colors the possible answers. May 16, 2016 at 14:50
  • @DrunkCynic The civil rights movement ended up shaping policy. I'm not sure if radical communists did so (unless it is by triggering McCathryist repression).
    – gerrit
    May 16, 2016 at 16:25
  • My comment is not an assertion that the civil rights movement did not shape policy. It is an attempt to highlight the movements that Peter King was likely pointing towards. In the Sixties, the New Left movement gave rise to the Third Wave Feminists, Environmentalist movements, Students for a Democratic Society, and others. Each of these movements was incorporated in some fashion into what is now the Democratic party platform. May 16, 2016 at 16:40

2 Answers 2


In a purely subjective way, based on my impressions from several visits to the NYC site, I do not think the various OWS happenings changed the minds of a significant number of people. In most instances, there were more curious onlookers and gawkers than actual occupiers. The occupiers did not seem to have coherent agendas. They seemed more to be gathering places for barely connected islands of opinion.

People who were already inclined to think that somehow, somewhere, someone owes them some money did not change their opinion. People who did not think that a sociology major with a concentration of revolutionary organizing was going to pay for $200K in student loans were not impressed.

They did form useful props for politicians who already espoused or supported similar views in the first place.

  • OWS was not really about money, though. Your link seems to show that. But I agree with your point about gathering places.
    – gerrit
    Dec 18, 2012 at 9:43
  • 3
    @gerrit - a large portion of OWS demands were about "gimme this for free". College loans, college education, loan forgiveness...
    – user4012
    Dec 18, 2012 at 18:38
  • 2
    To me the only coherent message seemed to be "We like protesting and are trying to relive the 60's"
    – JohnFx
    Dec 19, 2012 at 2:48
  • 1
    @Sinan - The URL is broken and also not archived
    – Alexei
    Jul 15, 2022 at 9:09

The unifying idea behind Occupy Wall Street was the "99%" movement, which claimed to consist of absolute majority of population in its demands to the top 1%.

I did not research this so I'm not able to provide references, but it looks that policy changes involved giving green light to various left-wing movements unified based on racial and sexual identity; and to a smaller extent to right-wing movements unified by far-right ideology and ressentiment. Such political movements has fragmented the political landscape and as such removed the focus from the existing political establishment:

When you discuss (and violently fight for) the distribution of opportunities based on race, you are no longer tackling the 99% vs. 1% question - instead, you are only discussing the distribution of much less lucrative amount of power between factions of 99%, all of which only have limited around of relevance across the political landscape - all while excluding the most powerful 1% from the debate entirely.

I've seen some claims (whose validity I can't check) that FBI is actively involved with radical left-wing actionism, such as preventing persecution of activists for crimes or harassing people who try to put a check on left-wing actionism: it is a puzzling development but it may be well explained by the 1% successfully trying to divert attention from itself.

This would also imply that left-wing movements based on racial and sexual identity have much wider bipartisan support than usually assumed, since both of American duopoly parties consist mainly of 1% socio-economic group members.

  • You did not research. Do you have any evidence? Emancipatory movements are much older than Occupy Wall Street, and your FBI claims seem to be backwards; the FBI has a long history of infiltrating left-wing movements to destroy them, and the police are well-known to be much more sympathetic to (far-)right than to left-wing movements.
    – gerrit
    Aug 11, 2022 at 7:21
  • Emancipatory movements has clearly got a new breath in the 2010s and even more so in 2020s and I wonder if there's any commonly accepted explanation for that.
    – alamar
    Aug 11, 2022 at 8:23
  • I have not observed that those emancipatory movements have got a new breath, but even if, I am sceptical of any link to Occupy Wall Street, which was inherently about financial issues. It's not Wall Street promoting anti-gay laws in places like Russia, Hungary, or Florida. And reading your answer again, I don't understand your line about the FBI. Are you saying the FBI is preventing persecution of people who "put a check on left-wing actionism" (IOW, the FBI is reluctant to persecute nazis), then that's in line with what I observe in Germany, where nazis in the police are a serious problem.
    – gerrit
    Aug 11, 2022 at 10:03
  • @gerrit It's quite obvious that "FBI" and "police" are two different things. Police in red states is also quite red. FBI may hold whatever policy.
    – alamar
    Aug 11, 2022 at 11:11
  • AFAIK FBI is federal police. I have no idea about differences in political attitudes between police on different levels in the USA, but in Germany I can say the problem with nazi sympathies exists on all levels. COINTELPRO was an FBI project to discredit legal leftist organisations and arm domestic extreme-right terrorist groups. Whether sympathies have shifted, I have no idea. By "some claims", do you mean the FBI are still arming domestic extreme-right terrorist groups to commit violent acts against leftists, or do you mean something else?
    – gerrit
    Aug 11, 2022 at 11:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .