Long before mainstream media outlets demanded a coherent message from Occupy Wall Street, the movement’s organizers were demanding it from themselves. When Adbusters, a Canadian anti-corporate magazine, first proposed the protests on July 13, 2011, they drew inspiration from the Egyptian revolutionaries’ simple message: oust Mubarak.
“Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?” they wrote in the seminal post – before backing off two days before the occupation was set to begin, on September 15. “What if, try as we might, we just can’t come up with only one demand?” Adbusters asked.
Those words seem eerily prescient now, as the movement marks its three-month anniversary. One demand never crystallized above all others, and Occupy Wall Street (and the various occupations it inspired) became notorious for having a message that was “vague” (The Washington Post), “impossible to decipher” (The New York Times), even “schizophrenic” (The Boston Globe).
It’s not hard to discern the movement’s major themes while looking through photographs from Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots around the country, however. Critiquing corporate influence in politics clearly outranks environmentalist concerns on the list of Occupy protesters’ priorities, for example.
But there’s more in these photographs – all gleaned from Flickr users – than signs and slogans: The anger and enthusiasm for change that animates protesters is unmistakeable. Viewed together, the photos from Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Oakland and Occupy DC – which can be sorted by city, date or theme – give a sense of the multifaceted scope of a movement that is, by any standard, still young and finding its voice(s).