So when MoveOn and affiliated outfits announced that they were spearheading the "99% Spring" in late February — under the guidance of former Obama adviser Van Jones, among others — claims of co-option raged across the political spectrum. The right saw proof that rank-and-file Dems were in bed with anarchists. The far left, meanwhile, was outraged at the prospect of anarchists getting seduced by nefarious limousine liberals.
"I wouldn't say there's hostility, but on the local level we're definitely trying to maintain a relationship with Occupy that was never solidified in the first place," says Darrin Howell, a Boston-based operative with the MoveOn-affiliated group MassUniting. In March, Howell joined a Greater Boston delegation traveling to Washington, DC, to become "99% Spring" facilitators. There, they learned how to teach non-violent direct-action workshops on protest organizing and safety measures such as arrest preparation. Like hundreds more nationwide, Howell then brought his lessons to affiliated leaders in his region, who in turn trained others to raise heck with a week of workshops earlier this month.
Howell continues: "To me, the '99% Spring' was an attempt to get progressives everywhere sharing the same language. In Boston and in other places, there were a lot of people from Occupy who were in that loop, and who want that dialogue; the question is, though, 'Who do they speak for?' We don't understand [Occupy's] structural agenda, and they don't all approve of ours. But the views of Occupiers and these progressive parties run parallel, so the issue now is going to be over who's taking the lead. We're not exactly sure what's next, but there are a lot of people who are trained for whatever's coming."
With or without questionable left- wing groups and labor unions riding along, Occupy is in motion. They've already turned out big protests from coast to coast, resulting in more than 300 arrests since March alone (bringing the national total to nearly 7000 since the movement began, according to occupyarrests.com). In New York, on Super Tuesday, thousands of Occupiers covered a three-mile stretch of Broadway, hoisting signs that were critical of unemployment rates. In Chicago, community-based actions in 13 neighborhoods began on April 7 — one group, for example, is joining local mental-health-care advocates in protesting plans to close, de-fund, or privatize city clinics — while more streamlined efforts are underway for upcoming NATO actions.
Dan Massoglia, a member of Occupy Chicago's media working group, says police there are already removing trash cans and other potential projectiles from the streets, in preparation for this year's NATO summit on May 19 and 20. (In response to the threat of extraordinary unrest, the Obama administration already moved a May G8 meeting from Chicago to the secluded Camp David, in off-limits suburban Maryland.) Still, rebels from around the world plan to rally at the NATO conference.
"We take a measure of pride and success in the G8 being moved, even though it will be out of public view now," says Massoglia, who's also a law student and volunteer with the National Lawyers Guild. According to Massoglia, Occupy Chicago proactively communicated with police about its spring kickoff rallies on April 7, but efforts around NATO will be another beast altogether. Indeed, Chicago's overall dealings with Occupy so far have shown that the city's cops are no more tolerant now than they were during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when they famously brutalized protesters on national news. Massoglia continues: "We were anticipating both [summits], but at least we still have NATO, which is essentially the military wing of the G8."