‘Americans are tired of political dynasties’
RT: What changes has OWS brought to the US politics and to the society?
Jeannie Dean: I can see a bunch of changes that have happened since the seeds of Occupy [Wall Street.] I would start with Bernie Sanders – we’re seeing an incredible surge in popularity. He is using the terminology of Occupy: 99 percent versus the 1 percent. The numbers that are coming out for him is very encouraging and I don’t believe that would be happening if it weren’t for the Occupy movement.
Another thing I would say in terms of the benefits, we changed the narrative ‘wealth and equality,’ as we see in some of the fights for things like SEIU’s [Service Employees International Union] ‘fight for 15;’ the minimum wage has been increased all over the country. And even though that was SEIU and not Occupy, I do believe that the momentum for that was instigated by the Occupy movement. Another thing that I’ve seen changed is Occupied fights foreclosures may be one of my most favorite things that came from the Occupied movement, especially in California where a fellow by the name of Carlos Marroquin, a friend of mine who was occupying with me in ‘Occupy LA’ has done some amazing work. He is saving families who have been illegally foreclosed upon. So that has been a huge change.
Also we’re seeing this sort of internationally now with the mayor of Barcelona a former occupier who was also fighting foreclosures. Her name is Ada Colau. She went from being handcuffed and detained by police for fighting the foreclosures in Spain to becoming mayor. So we’re seeing Occupy sort of moving to the political spectrum in a way we could not, because we were a social-political movement, not a political movement. And now we see the political seeds taking root.
RT: Four years after, we see that many of the OWS protesters are campaigning for the Presidential Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Some OWS members say that Sanders' support was significantly boosted by the network. How much has the support of the movement influenced Sanders' popularity?
JD: I think in a huge way. The kind of numbers we’re seeing for his appearance is 28,000 in Los Angeles. I’m no longer living in LA, but I lived in LA while Occupy was happening and that is an extraordinary number for people… and we’re talking about a socialist candidate. I think what we’re seeing is that people are tired of the two-party system; we’re seeing that all over the world. You saw that in London with the recent election. So it is very encouraging. I think that is also a part of [Donald] Trump’s popularity here. There is a lot of momentum behind a third party candidate. That could change the game, and that comes directly, I believe, from Occupy.
RT: Why does OWS support him?
JD: I wouldn’t say that they do. Occupy was never a political organization – a lot of occupiers are supporting Bernie Sanders. I wouldn’t say that Occupy has given him their endorsements. The language that he is using resonates with us. He is talking our language: he is talking about wealth and equality; he is talking about accountability for the financial and banking institutions that failed us; he is talking about the military industrial complex. These were all issues that Occupy was discussing. Although we were always criticized for not having enough demands. But that is the heart of Occupy. So Bernie Sanders is resonating with many occupiers for that reason.
RT: What do you think Sanders' chances as a candidate are?
JD: One of the things you hear when you talk to voters is that: “Well, I would vote for Bernie Sanders, but I don’t think he has a chance, so it is throwing away my vote.” What I tell them is: “You don’t know that!” Especially with the kind of numbers and momentum he has. He is really challenging Hilary Clinton, which is going to change the game. I think most Americans are tired of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. We are tired of these political dynasties. I think to see Bernie Sanders - what are his chances? - it is hard to say, because our electoral system is a little screwy. We’ve got gerrymandering; we have got front end restrictions; we’ve got voter ID laws. So it makes it very difficult. But I think that he is going to have more people who are sectioned and working towards making sure that he has got a clean vote, and I think he has got enough momentum to really have a shot at it. It is going to be interesting to see, but people like me, and I bet occupiers like me, are going to be making sure that every vote of his is counted, at least to the best to our ability.
RT: What will be the future of the movement?
JD: The movement was fractured after our rates have become hyper-local. It managed to sort of seed up local movements in a way that we didn’t really foresee – we thought it was going to be a national movement… But fighting for climate change, fighting for a scientific research in terms of global climate change, fighting GMO and making sure we know what is in the food we are eating, still trying to hold accountable the people who collapsed our economy, wealth and equality, jobs for the working class and the disappearing middle class – these are still going to be at the forefront of the people who were formally Occupiers and there were hundreds of thousands of this. It is going to be really interesting to see. I mean four years in I couldn’t have anticipated some of the social change we’ve seen. I was a little more skeptical four years ago than I am even now. Even though, it hasn’t been an easy road, social change never is. So I’m hopeful about where Occupy will be four years from now. It has managed a lot, even though it’s been fractured and in many ways dysfunctional, it has had an impact.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.