It's the final day of the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia, and few people outside of the progressive bubble give a shit. There are about 300 Occupy allies making noise in Franklin Square, three blocks from the city's mid-week Fourth of July parade. But while the activists made headlines days earlier, after 28 protesters were arrested, they've been ignored by most media and locals since Sunday.
Looking for attention, Bay Area anti-war hero Medea Benjamin marches toward the sanctioned parade. With about two dozen cohorts from her group Code Pink — most decked in their namesake color — she hatches plans on the fly for an impromptu demonstration. Benjamin turns to a young man who, despite the sub-Saharan heat, has his upper body coated in fuchsia latex body paint. She places him in charge of the bullhorn, and they're off to Independence Mall.
On the scene, a handful of onlookers snicker at the gallivanting Code Pink brigade. But most people just stare the opposite way down Market Street, waiting for the planned floats and festivities en route from City Hall. The group starts up a pacifist rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In," but it's drowned out when two fighter jets scream overhead. Reacting to the interruption, Benjamin rails against the human and financial cost of warfare, while her legionnaires collapse to the concrete as if they've been bombed. But pedestrians are too doe-eyed to consider death or taxes, as adults and kids alike point at the sky in sheer amazement. A few minutes pass by, and the pastel-dipped objectors scatter off without having so much as slightly dulled the patriotic bliss.
In terms of impact and public response, all of today's actions around the National Gathering will prove equally underwhelming. That's a big change from even May Day, when pro-labor protests attracted tens of thousands of people to New York. Occupy has graduated from its initial sprint phase, but has also hemorrhaged a number of its mainstream supporters. It's a similar story with the Tea Party on the other side of the divide; even the dreaded upholding of Obamacare has failed to spur the flag-clad rebels to revolt in droves.
Critics of both the Tea Party and Occupy blame each movement's declining numbers on the alienating extremism of the remaining fringes — anarchists on the far left, fact-deniers on the extreme right. But apathy is also to blame as protest-fatigue catches up to the rank and file. The bulk of the 99 percent, it seems, have no time for movement building — they're too embroiled in real-time happenings like Supreme Court rulings and Mitt Romney's banking exploits.
Occupy has a problem of attrition, and it's not just a result of losing moderates to Obamamania. There are blatant internal rifts, some of which were on full display this Independence Day. In addition to the National Gathering — a loose assembly that was attended by Occupiers from more than 100 cities nationwide — last week Philadelphia also hosted two unrelated groups that formerly placed themselves under the Occupy umbrella.