Little by little, the surging national movement known as Occupy Wall Street is gaining momentum and adherents in Memphis, as a was indicated by an animated gathering Wednesday night of a hundred or so liberal and left-leaning activists in the gazebo area of Overton Park.
This was the third organizational meeting for the Memphis group, a technically leaderless assembly who haven’t made up their minds what exactly they should be occupying, acknowledged Jacob Flowers of the Memphis Peace and Justice Center, one of the group’s spokespersons.
“This is a purely organic, self-organized movement,” said Flowers, one that came to pass “in solidarity with what is happening in New York,” one actually based on a “template” created in several of the international liberation movements that have sprouted up in the last year.
“If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention,” Flowers said.
As for the group’s local aims, these were in the process of being created, he said, mentioning grievances ranging from the frustrations of trying to arrange a grocery store in Midtown to what he regards as local government’s financial “giveaway” to the Electrrolux Corporation, whose plant on President’s Island experienced a gala groundbreaking earlier Wednesday, one attended by numerous local political figures and dignitaries.
As Flowers spoke with reporters, several “working groups” were clustered nearby, consulting on such different topics as mobilization, media, non-violent education, outreach, web issues, and flyers.
Jennifer Allen, a member of the media group, was more expansive in her vision for the local organization than Flowers had been. “It is my personal wish that all of this peaceful revolution lead to something on the scale of the French Revolution.”
And, while a statement like that, in cold print, might look somewhat ambitious, there was an undeniable energy on display Wednesday night.
Later, as the group gathered in the gazebo for a plenary session before adjourning for the night, there was no dearth of hands raised when organizers of the meeting asked who planned to attend the convening of the next assembly, this one scheduled for Court Square as soon as Thursday morning.
Indeed, it was clear that many more people were likely to be on hand than 25, the maximum number that could legally gather without acquiring a meeting permit. As for the likelihood of police control measures, the organizers, making a point of espousing non-violence, weren’t concerned.
Someone suggested that members of the Memphis Police Association, who are having their own problems with the local political establishment these days and are continuing to protest the pay and benefit cuts in the current city budget, should be asked to participate in the meeting.
That might be a stretch, or it could be a logical outreach for a movement which shows every sign of developing further. What comes of it all remains to be seen, but things seem to be moving fast.
At this point, the Occupy Memphis people may well be acquiring the same kind of momentum that was achieved, a couple of seasons back, by their political opposite numbers in the Tea Party, a heterogeneous right-wing group that skeptics scoffed at back then but which has since become a formidable force, both locally and in the nation at large.