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Two Years After the Eviction of OWS, Here's 5 People Keeping the Movement Alive

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The national movement has launched over 350 housing campaigns, he says, and the growing Atlanta group has won over 20 campaigns locally--with many more ongoing. "These are people who need a place to eat and sleep, and if we can fight the financial institutions that treat our communities like ATMs, then it's a worthwhile fight--even if it's not the pure revolution we're hoping for."

Grace Davie Occupy Faith

Grace Davie met Rev. Michael Ellick of New York's Judson Memorial Church--one of the founders of Occupy Faith--at a spring awakening in Central Park in 2012. "He said they were talking about creating a Truth Commission on the 2008 financial crisis," she recalls. She was impressed, and after she joined the group "one of the first things I did was go to Albany with a number of faith leaders to call for a moral budget."

She also got very involved in the ongoing planning for the Truth Commission project, which is partly modeled on the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the killing of anti-Ku Klux Klan protesters in 1979. Davies says she feels a similar process could be applied to the 2008 financial collapse.

"So many people were harmed by the foreclosure crisis--and about 14 million Americans are still facing foreclosure." She says the group is hoping to create a space--like in Zuccotti--where people can come together to talk about what happened to them, explore the root causes, learn from one another, and come up with a plan of action.

Moral Mondays is another idea the group has been interested in. She says the event started in North Carolina, organized by faith leaders and their allies. "Every Monday people go to the state house and engage in civil disobedience to protest cuts to the social service budget," Davie says. "We need new ways for people to meet and become involved. And it may be that Moral Mondays could provide that."

Right now she senses a new energy in Occupy Faith, and new actions on the horizon. "When the social safety net is shredded," she notes, "it's the churches and faith communities that see the effects and are asked to help." Communities of faith also have a special language to express the ideas of love and nonviolence she sees at the heart of Occupy. "I feel the actions I went to were motivated not by hatred or anger, but by love. And if people misunderstood or ridiculed them, that was something [we] were ready to take."

Cathy O'Neil Alternative Banking

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Cathy O'Neil had a Ph.D. from Harvard and taught mathematics at Barnard before a segue into finance in 2007 took her to a hedge fund where she worked with former Harvard University president and World Bank chief economist Larry Summers.

But he and others "clearly didn't understand the shadow banking system--credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations and mortgage-backed securities " the whole thing to do with the housing bubble," she says. From her position at the center of the crisis, she began to suspect that these supposedly brilliant experts had no idea what they were doing.


The AIG card from '52 Shades of Greed.'
(image by Steve Simpson)
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O'Neill also saw the "too-big-to-fail banks" had little incentive to change their way of doing business "because the taxpayers were backing them up in case they got into trouble." So about a month after Occupy started, she helped to organize an Alternative Banking group to try to improve the financial system. They've been meeting weekly ever since, dedicated to "agitating for reform" by "educating the public about the current dysfunction." The group's first big project was a deck of cards--"52 Shades of Greed"--to celebrate their one-year anniversary. The idea started when a member of the Alternative Banking group brought in a deck of cards printed by the United States military that showed the most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein's government. "Somebody said 'We should do this for bankers,'" O'Neill explains.

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In September 2013 they launched their second major project, publishing their handbook Occupy Finance in hard copies and on the web. It details how and why our financial system is failing, and proposes strategies for giving the 99 percent a representative voice in the political and regulatory processes. The group has started a book club to publicize it, and members are thinking about launching a public access TV show or organizing a conference or speaker series.

Meanwhile, they continue to work on what they see as key financial reform issues. "Right now we're focusing on too-big-to-fail and too-big-to-jail as separate but related problems. We're especially targeting HSBC this year--they were responsible for outrageous money laundering for drug lords and terrorists but only got slapped on the wrist."

Nick Mirzoeff  Occupy Theory

London-born Nick Mirzoeff studied history at Oxford and at the University of Warwick, where he got involved with British cultural studies--"understanding contemporary culture from a political perspective." After moving to the U.S. he started teaching at New York University, and in his 2011 book The Right to Look observed that "we face a choice between continuing to authorize authority or democratizing democracy."

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