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After raids, Occupy protesters shift tactics ‘to get strong’
NEW YORK — The overnight police raids in Philadelphia and Los Angeles that dismantled two of the nation’s biggest Occupy Wall Street encampments leave just a few major “occupations” still going on in the U.S.
But activists already are changing tactics and warning of a winter of discontent, with rallies and marches every week.
The camps may bloom again in the spring, organizers said, and next summer could bring huge demonstrations at the Republican and Democratic conventions, when the world is watching. But for now they are promoting dozens of smaller actions, such as picketing the president in New York and staging sit-ins at homes marked for foreclosure.
“We intend to use this for what it is - basically six months to get our feet underneath us, to get strong,” said Phil Striegel, a community activist in San Francisco.
On Wednesday, masked sanitation workers hauled away 25 tons of debris from the lawns around Los Angeles City Hall after police raided the protesters’ camp in the middle of the night and arrested more than 300 people. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said it would cost about $1 million to clean up the site. In Philadelphia, dozens of police patrolled a plaza outside City Hall after sweeping it of demonstrators and arresting 50.
In the past few weeks, police broke up encampments in, among other cities, Portland, Ore., Oakland, Calif., and New York, where the sit-down protests against social inequality and corporate excesses began in mid-September. Protesters are still at it in Boston and Washington, which each had camps of about 100 tents Wednesday.
While some observers wondered whether the movement would wither without ground on which to make its stand, many protesters refused to concede defeat.
Protesters in Philadelphia planned a march from the city’s well-to-do Rittenhouse Square to police headquarters Wednesday afternoon and also called for a “victory march” for Friday or Saturday.
“Occupy Philly is alive and well,” said Katonya Mosley, a member of the group’s legal collective. She said members have been communicating via list serves, text messages and email and planned to continue meeting in cafes and other spaces. Local groups have offered to donate space for the protesters to continue meeting, Ms. Mosley said.
While one faction received a permit for a scaled-down protest across the street, she said, Occupy Philadelphia as a whole hasn’t decided whether to go that route. The city has said any new permit would include a ban on camping.
The Occupy movement is beginning to follow a familiar pattern, said Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University and an authority on social movements. He noted that the 1960s anti-war movement grew gradually for years until bursting onto the world stage during the election year of 1968.
He predicted big rallies around the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Until then, “I think there will be some kinds of occupations, but I don’t think they’ll be as big and as central,” he said.
Protesters themselves were trying to draw lessons from history. On Thursday, a group of protesters from Occupy D.C. plan to set out on a march from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall to King’s grave site in Atlanta.
Thursday is the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955, an event that led to the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott.
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