6 months later, what has Occupy protest achieved?

By Meghan Barr

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 16 2012 5:43 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2011 file photo, a protestor participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests screams while marching towards Wall Street in New York. The Occupy movement has lain largely dormant over the winter. But as the weather warms and it marks six months since the first camp was set up in New York City, protesters are thinking big for spring and reflecting on achievements they credit themselves with, from rescuing homeowners from foreclosure to the spirit of Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

Andrew Burton, File, Associated Press

NEW YORK — As spring approaches, Occupy Wall Street protesters who mostly hibernated all winter are beginning to stir with plans for renewed demonstrations six months after the movement was born.

The global protests against corporate excess and economic inequality are generally thought to have begun Sept. 17 when tents sprang up in a small granite plaza in lower Manhattan. The movement has lost steam in recent months, with media attention and donations dropping off as Occupy encampments across the country were dismantled, some by force.

On March 7, the finance accounting group in New York City reported that just about $119,000 remained in Occupy's bank account — the equivalent of about two weeks' worth of expenses.

The Occupy movement has influenced the national dialogue about economic equality, with the word "occupy" itself becoming part of the public lexicon. In his third State of the Union address, President Barack Obama issued a populist call for income equality that echoed the movement's message. But has anything really changed in the past six months?

Some achievements that can be connected to the efforts of the Occupy movement, and some plans for the near future:

WHAT GOT DONE

In Albany, N.Y., Occupy protesters dubbed Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo "Gov. 1 Percent" for his refusal since the 2010 campaign to agree to a millionaire tax, and because his major campaign financial support comes from corporate executives.

Cuomo tried to evict Occupy Albany from the park co-owned by the city and the state. But the Democratic mayor, Gerald Jennings, agreed to allow Occupy Albany to stay on the city-owned side. Local Democratic District Attorney David Soares also announced he wouldn't prosecute anyone for disorderly conduct at Occupy Albany who might be arrested by state police — who answer to Cuomo.

In a surprise, Cuomo reversed his position on the millionaire tax in December to avoid further cuts to schools and health care. Part of the $2 billion in revenue went to a modest but rare income tax cut of $200 to $400 for most middle class families. Cuomo refers to the millionaire tax as the biggest tax cut for the middle class in decades.

Democratic lawmakers attributed Cuomo's move in part to the Occupy protesters who had targeted him across the street from the Capitol for months and had begun demonstrating just outside his office.

An Atlanta pastor, whose church struggled to pay its bills after its building was struck by a 2008 tornado, credits Occupy Atlanta with helping it to avoid foreclosure. The Rev. Dexter Johnson's church, the Higher Ground Empowerment Center, took out a loan to rebuild and has struggled to pay its mortgage in recent months.

Johnson said the bank had agreed to work with the church to help pay its mortgage after demonstrations by Occupy members. Demonstrators had set up a camp at the church in Atlanta's Vine City neighborhood, just west of downtown.

In January, Johnson learned his congregation would be allowed to stay in the building.

In Rhode Island, Occupy Providence pushed for — and won — a temporary day center to serve the homeless during the winter. Protesters made the center's opening a condition of their departure from a public park downtown, where they had camped against the city's wishes for more than three months.

While the city didn't fund the center, officials pledged to help its operator, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, find money for it.

"It shows that with pressure from people, a government can be made to move," protester Robert Malin said at the time of the center's opening.

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