The status of the Occupy Wall Street movement depends on who you talk to. Some in the Ventura County Occupy groups suggest that the movement has hit the doldrums, while others say the movement is steamrolling into broader, more radical actions beyond camping and protesting.
“Camps served the purpose to bring attention to the movement,” said Theresa Glover, 50, an Occupy Ventura member. Now, Glover explained, the idea coming forth in general assembly meetings is to use the international exposure garnered by the Occupy encampments and network movements that bring specific attention to areas of systemic failure.
Having hailed the Move Your Money project a success, with Ventura County credit unions and small banks reporting a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in new customers in the last month, a working committee within the Ventura County Occupy group is in the planning phase of occupying foreclosures during the upcoming months.
“A passion of mine is doing a countywide occupation of select homes in the county that are being foreclosed on and sheriffs are about to show up,” said Eileen MacEnery, 61, a Newbury Park resident who has formed a working committee within the county’s Occupy network to take on such a task. Banks like Bank of America, MacEnery said, are “foreclosing on someone’s house who may have never missed a payment, but refinancing never happened even though it was promised.” MacEnery said the effort will be a “function of the network” and in solidarity with other Occupy groups around the nation.
Police in full riot gear and hazmat suits have disbanded the major Occupy encampments in Oakland and New York with arrests and, most recently, in Los Angeles and Philadelphia as of Wednesday morning. Though the motive remains the same — a demonstration by the 99 percent who feel that they’ve footed the bail-out bill, resulting in unemployment, decreased wages and exploitation by the 1 percent who have benefited from the current financial system — the Occupy people know the movement is going through a metamorphosis.
“I see this as not about occupying space, but the hearts and minds of the 99 percent, which is bigger than Wall Street, bigger than Los Angeles and bigger than [Ventura’s] Mission Park,” MacEnery said.
Though working committees are being formed with gusto under the Occupy banner, people have to understand that the movement is only two and half months old and still in its infancy, said Jay Leiderman, an attorney who has been a spokesman for Occupy Ventura.
Nearly every city in the county has formed an Occupy group. Leiderman said he hopes the groups can join under one moniker. “The idea is making it an Occupy 805 movement to have more global impact,” he said. “The problem is that things get bogged down in process, which is OK. It’s a brand-new movement, and there has been amazing progress. We’ve been able to change national discussion and are warmly received locally, and people are really interested in what we’re doing.”
But some local residents like Stephen DeBaun, who participated in Occupy Ventura and spent time at Occupy Los Angeles, calling it a “beautiful, peaceful and organized” demonstration, suggested the local Occupy groups have lost sight of the essence of the movement.
“This is about direct democracy,” DeBaun said. “What Occupy has shown us is to take the tools of direct democracy and use them to take on the big demons in the country. Use these tools to solve your own problems. Occupy Ventura should be taking on issues in Ventura that are hurting us, taking these tools and using it, and not just being cheerleaders.”
While the Occupy movement remains nonpartisan, critics originally tried labeling the movement as a leftist branch of the Tea Party, a notion that local Tea Party members resent.
“It is pitiful,” said Susan Kline, a Conejo Valley Tea Party member, about the Occupy movement. “It’s sad because when it first started I almost saw it as a platform to voice frustrations. But the people I have talked to don’t understand what their movement is. It seems phony . . . I just wish we could have got to them sooner. They would have been more satisfied with us if they are fighting for liberty.”
According to a Field Poll released on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 46 percent of registered California voters said they identify with the Occupy movement, while 49 percent said they do not. Fifty-eight percent said they agree with the reasons that are fueling it; 32 percent disagreed.
When the Field Poll asked registered state voters in January of 2010 if they identified with the emerging Tea Party, 28 percent of registered voters in the state said they identified with the party’s intent.