In January, Nathan Kleinman, a member of the Occupy Philadelphia movement, became what is believed to be the first person from the Occupy movement to run for Congress. Kleinman told Politico when he filed for his candidacy, “You need 1,000 signatures and a hundred dollars. It’s a pretty low bar.” He has taken to Twitter and Facebook to promote what will likely be an uphill fight against Democratic incumbent Allyson Schwartz.
Then, just this week, John Paul Thornton of Decatur, Ala., filed paperwork to create the Occupy Wall Street Political Action Committee. The filing created some buzz on Occupy’s message boards, with many questioning whether it’s possible to fight corruption by partaking in tools that many feel allow for the corruption in the first place.
(PHOTOS: Occupy Wall Street Begins in Manhattan)
So do these developments signal a shift in Occupy’s focus from demonstrations to political engagement? The short answer is no. “Occupy erupted because the political system is corroded and corrupted, many would say completely broken,” says William Dobbs, a press liaison from Occupy Wall Street’s New York base. “There are lots of approaches, but you can’t fix a legislature with a person or a PAC.”
From the beginning, Occupy Wall Street has been a diffuse movement with no single leader, centered on the message that the political and financial systems have catered only to the country’s elite. Throughout the fall, when I asked Occupiers about political engagement, the answers were as diverse as the people demonstrating. Many wanted to jump in and change the system; just as many, if not more, wanted to steer clear of politics completely and focus on removing greed and corruption. “We want to be a squeaky wheel for economic justice outside of the system to get the attention of those in power.” Dobbs says.
(VIDEO: The Media Messenger of Zuccotti Park)
“Those we elect to stand between the people and the powerful have sold their souls,” Kleinman wrote on his Facebook page. “We need champions of the people… to win our democracy back.” While he may garner the support of many in the Occupy movement, he shouldn’t expect an official endorsement, even if his platform closely parallels the movement’s. “Occupy doesn’t endorse candidates or parties,” Dobbs says. “The pressure is on, no matter who’s in power because last generation has left the 99 percent behind.”
(PHOTOS: Marchers Arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge)
While the official word from Occupy’s New York headquarters is that the movement will not become political, Occupy Wall Street has come to mean many different things to many people. A leaderless movement from the beginning, Occupy never had a singular agenda other than drawing attention to inequality and corporate greed. Beyond that, Occupy encampments were free to chart their own courses.
Over the past few months, Occupy protesters have taken on AT&T’s corporate layoffs in Atlanta, school privatization in Chicago and prison policies in California. As protests continue in different parts of the country, Occupy organizers have been planning large demonstrations at both the Republican and Democratic conventions this summer. So for Occupy Wall Street, it appears that the action will continue to take place in the streets — and we’re unlikely to see any high-profile political wrangling in the near future.