The success of Occupy Spring depends on the number of people who show up. And of all the upcoming Occupy battlegrounds — from NATO in Chicago to the Republican National Convention in Tampa — none will be more telling than the coordinated nationwide uprising planned for May 1.
In Massachusetts, Occupy groups in Chelsea, Everett, Worcester, Lowell, Boston, and other cities will lead their own May Day block parties and marches. In Seattle, as in other college areas, student Occupy groups are pushing walkouts and arranging to unite with union workers downtown. In California, Los Angeles organizers are calling for a car-and-bike caravan to clog the city's vast commercial arteries, while Bay Area provocateurs are shooting for above-the-fold coverage, with Oakland and San Francisco Occupiers set to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge during the morning commute.
The general strike and bridge offensive in the Bay will be coordinated between the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, Occupy, and other participating groups. Likewise, May Day festivities in New York — expected to be the biggest in the country — are very much a unified front between Occupiers and their more mainstream affiliates. Due to concerns about arrests by some participating groups, OWS organizers even broke their pattern of sidestepping city ordinances, and pulled a permit for their march from Union Square to Battery Park (just one of more than a dozen events scheduled for May Day). Some Occupy purists resent the decision, and will be carrying out autonomous actions. To the public, though, the aerial shot may look like one big benevolent mob stretched like an octopus across Manhattan.
"Organized labor has been down at Wall Street since the first day," says Sandra Nurse, a member of the Occupy Wall Street direct-action working group that began strategizing for May Day in January. Nurse says her team has worked closely with unions for months now. "The whole process has basically been this giant spokescouncil-of-all-spokescouncils to coordinate with all of the groups that are involved. Like I said — labor has been around, and they've been a great ally."
Legions of progressive groups are scheduling public disruptions throughout the spring and summer, from occupations of congressional offices in Washington, DC, to the picketing of tax-dodgers like General Electric at their shareholders meetings. Some will be carried out exclusively by Occupy; others will strictly involve unions and groups like MoveOn; most will lure elements of both. Between now and when activists swarm Philly on July 4 for separate congresses — one Occupy-endorsed, the other not so much — the lines currently dividing left-wing forces are likely to have blurred further out of sight.
As for whether Occupy, the "99% Spring," or any other forces have been co-opted by the Democratic Party . . . that question will be best answered in the streets of Charlotte during DNC week, and in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be torn between his old boss, and the throngs that want to stop NATO in its tracks and throw Obama from the train.
The NYC release bash for Chris Faraone's Occupy book, 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, goes down April 30 (the night before May Day) at the Irish American near Zuccotti Park. Follow him on Twitter @fara1.