An Occupy founder says the next revolution will be rural

White calls Occupy a “constructive failure.” Urban street protests, he says, only have a life cycle of about a month before their time is up. The encampments, thePeople’s Library, and the spirit of the general assemblies are all fun and games until everybody gets kicked out of the park. “It was magical thinking,” he says. For White, Occupy Wall Street challenged the core assumptions that activists have about how to achieve social change. “We believed that people’s assemblies were enough to gain political sovereignty. This turned out to not be true. To gain political sovereignty we must win elections.”

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Did Occupy Wall Street, the US original brand so to speak, effect any tangible change?

The most profound impact of #OWS is that it created a new generation of revolutionaries in America. Prior to Occupy Wall Street we in North America were in a 10-year period where we had just come out of the anti-war failure of 2003 and until Occupy Wall Street there was essentially no activism happening in North America. So Occupy Wall Street not only activated a large percentage of the youth, but it taught them about their own power and their ability to spark viral social movements. 

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“When you create an idea that’s easy for people to do themselves, it’s unstoppable.”

“I would see the disrespect that the police officers would treat their citizens with,” White says. “Because I’m brown, a lot of people thought I was Egyptian, including the police officers. At that time, if you were a brown, Egyptian-looking male, you just got treated like crap.” He recalls a trip to the national museum—supposedly the heritage of all Egyptians—when the police mistook him for a local and tried to run him off. “I remember feeling, ‘Wow, this is an unjust country.’ There were so many police officers that a revolution seemed impossible,” he says.

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