Walkupy the U.S. – Occupy protesters find alternate ways to spread the message

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Since the Occupy Wall Street movement has been disabled at its core in New York City, rumors have been flying that the movement is a lost cause.

Occupiers beg to differ – and they’re proving their point by walking across America.

On November 9, a group of Occupiers made the decision to march to Washington D.C. once Zuccotti Park was shut down. The group, which became “Walkupy – the walking occupation,” then continued their march down to Atlanta. They successfully concluded the 750 mile walk from New York to Atlanta on January 9.

 

Atlanta, home of the Martin Luther Kind Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, seemed like a perfect place for Walkupy to take roost. “There’s a parallel between the civil rights movement and occupy, which is a human rights movement,” Bo Han, one of the Walkupiers, said. “What we’re looking for, more than anything, is for change to happen. That’s the basis of the Occupy movement. Several movements have happened before and they’ve gone violent – Occupy hasn’t.”

Han feels that since the protest has taken afoot, people’s reactions to the movement has changed.

“The walking is a very time-honored condition,” he said. “We follow in the footsteps of Ghandi, who made a 240 mile march to the sea. We heard when we were in the camps that we were hurting local businesses – but now we’re only walking. How are we being obtrusive? What are you going to arrest us for?”

As they walk, camp, and stay in host housing, they speak to people they meet about their cause. While a few buy $20 worth of food in a grocery store, others receive a $40 donation outside from followers. While they used to be called dirty hippies, their new form of protest seems to be changing the game.

The Walkupiers cross the Georgia state line from Tennessee.

“Everyone in our group grew up in a middle class family,” Han said. “Everyone quit their job to march. Everyone went to college and took a semester off … We got us into this mess and we’re getting us out of it.”

“Critics melt after they have a conversation with us,” Han said. “When we walk, it produces a relationship. It makes a community. It spreads a message about the Occupy movement. Activists – listening, with smiles on their faces? People understand that.”

Soon after Walkupy arrived in Atlanta, Adbusters magazine posted a callout to Occupiers nationwide, similar to the message that was posted last July that sparked the beginning of the movement. The message called for a revival of the Occupy movement in Chicago in May.

“Now that Occupy Wall Street, Oakland, Texas – all these Occupations shut down, what’s the next step?” Han said. “We thought it had to be a large demonstration.”

Walkupy isn’t the only movement that has taken on this new form of protest, either. There are several other walking movements – some traveling as far as 4,000 miles – and occupations that take place in RVs.

Han believes these movements share a unifying factor. “We can go to any occupation and all speak the same language,” Han said. “The General Assembly process is the common denomination between all the different occupations.”

Beyond that, the Occupations have similar goals: to influence future generations to make a difference.

“There are people who are standing up for high school students right now who are carrying the torch,” Han said. “We’re all 20 and 30 something-year-olds. We’re doing it now, but we understand that the end game is not so much for us, but for the kids. We’re passing the torch.

“There are people who are made to do certain tasks,” he said. “There are some of us who are made to stay out in the cold and bear it. There are some who are meant to stay in school, in an Occupy mindset, to get a degree and join a corporation. We can knock on the door all day long, but unless we change something on the inside out, nothing is going to happen.

“If I had any advice for high school students, it would be to pay attention to what’s going on right now,” Han said. “Be ready. Look beyond CNN, FOX, and ABC for your news. There are things that are happening right now that are revolutionary. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but what I do know is that we can’t do this alone.”

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