Stacey Vanek Smith: A year ago Monday, a group of protestors gathered in lower Manhattan, kicking off what would become the global phenomenon of Occupy Wall Street. Occupy raised a surprising pile of money.
Mark Garrison takes a look at how much they got and how they spent it.
Crowd chants “We are the 99 percent.”
Mark Garrison: As those crowds grew, something happened that nobody predicted. Occupy got rich. Donations poured in and the movement suddenly had a distinctly 1 percent level bank balance. Activist Daniele Kohn joined Occupy’s accounting team during the height of Zuccotti Park.
Daniele Kohn: It was really inspiring to have the encouragement of the world.
Occupy says giving spiked whenever strong police responses got attention and exploded after the NYPD cleared the park in November. Over the last year Occupy Wall Street took in around $800,000 in trackable donations. All that money forced Occupy to confront a huge contradiction.
Kohn: In an anti-banking, anti-capitalist, anti-money movement, there are always gonna be people who have a hard time discussing money.
Individual spending decisions were put to a community vote. Those meetings could be tense and tiring. It’s easy to build consensus around paying for basic needs like food and shelter, but scroll through Occupy spreadsheets posted online and you can imagine spirited arguments on the days when the movement spent $1400 on tea or $4,200 on T-shirts. Occupy froze spending in January.
Daniele Kohn explains why.
Kohn: People were tired of arguing about money and arguing about budgets.
Kohn: We were spending ourselves into a hole.
The loss of the park camp sent shelter and transit costs soaring. Of the hundreds of thousands that came in, there’s now only about $80,000 left.
Ravi Ahmad: We’re not touching it.
Ravi Ahmad is another member of Occupy Wall Street’s accounting group. What remains is earmarked for the movement’s considerable bail and legal fees. Occupy Wall Street has largely shifted to targeting fundraising like the Action Resource Fund, now collecting for protests planned around Monday’s anniversary.
Ahmad: All our grievances are connected, but we’re all working on different things and so we fundraise separately and sometimes we co-sponsor stuff.
So the movement that wants to endure beyond Zuccotti Park, now thinks it has the fundraising structure to do that.
In New York, I'm Mark Garrison for Marketplace.