In a sign that they have sensed their increasing irrelevance, Occupy Wall Street protesters have upped their tactics: After being evicted from Zuccotti Park, several protesters have now begun a hunger strike in order to extort a new space to occupy.
Their working group for direct action decided that a suitable spot for occupation would be a vacant lot owned by Trinity Church of Wall Street at the corner of Canal Street and Sixth Avenue. Unfortunately, Trinity has provided a variety of reasons as to why they won’t allow the occupation. According to an occupier, their refusal resembles “the actions of a billion-dollar real estate company instead of those of a church.” (Trinity is part of the “1 percent,” kind of — the church is one of the largest landowners in Manhattan, with more than 6 million square feet of commercial real estate.)
Why is a hunger strike the appropriate tactic to use in asserting their “right” to occupy private property? The OWS website explains:
For our movement to grow we need new, outdoor space. We need to hear the voices of those who for too long have been voiceless. We recognize the long history of hunger strikes as a radical action that has liberated countries, communities and individuals from repression, slavery and injustice. From colonial India to modern Turkey; from the Northern Ireland H-Block cells to Palestinian prisons; from 1970s Cuba to present-day California, hunger strikes have amplified the voices of the oppressed to declare they have been silenced for far too long.
Apparently, even as OWS atrophies, they still consider their movement to be of world-historical significance. If the injustices of Bloomberg and Blankfein were on the scale of Cromwell’s and Castro’s, of course a hunger strike would be warranted and legitimate. The problem is that — as the weak state of the movement now indicates — Americans didn’t buy the argument that a bad economy justified occupying private property in the first place.