So you want to #occupywallstreet (Occupy Wall Street)
I've been watching the project to Occupy Wall Street.
How To Occupy - collection of resources
National list of occupation efforts:OccupyTogether.org
List of all the feeds: Occupy Stream
NYC: Global Revolution
Please upload resources (leaflets, posters, tactic suggestions, how to run a general assembly, etc) to www.CampusActivism.org.
General Assemblies - a Guide to Group Dynamics - by Take The Square.
Occupation: A Do It Yourself Guide - for building or office occupations.
Sit-in: A Tactical Analysis - by me.
Tent State Organizing Model - Tent cities setup at universities. Very similar to the occupation model.
SEAC Organizing Guide - read the section on choosing an issue and campaign strategy.
Guide pour organizer une occupation en Francais - Par l'Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Etudiante.
--------------------My Original Post-------------------------------
By the numbers, they have apparently only mobilized 1000-5000 people (on the first day). They currently are occupying a small park near the World Trade Center (a park that is paradoxically privately owned!). They might have 200-300 people staying in the park overnight. Unfortunately the park appears to be entirely made of concrete (hard for sleeping! and harder if it rains or gets cold and the police enforce a ban on tents).
The one positive thing I could see happening is that encampments or sit-ins tend to grow. I found this in my research of student anti-sweatshop sit-ins (you can see the shorter version or my full master's thesis). They showed x^2 type momentum and were typically 2-3 times bigger at the end than when they started. They also involved people who had never before participated in activism - the longer they lasted.
If they form lots of small affinity groups and take on many new projects, the movement can be very productive. They might want to move to an affinity group and spokes council model (where each group sends a rep to the spokes council) - to make the meetings more participatory.
It might have worked better in the spring. If Americans would have been motivated by the Tahrir Square movement (and it hadn't been too cold). I know I was super inspired in March, and much less so now that the revolutions are faltering.
I see several possible downsides.
Unlike Tahrir Square, there is no Muslim Brotherhood or April 6th Youth Movement (not to mention the many other Egyptian civic organizations) behind these protests. Instead we have Anonymous - a loose movement of liberal minded vigilante hackers and hacker wannabes. I'd trust their ideas on civil liberties, but not on democracy or anything else. They are more like nonviolent terrorists than grassroots democrats. And they might be less democratic than some violent terrorist (aka liberation) groups. Adbusters is far more legitimate but more of an arts project than a traditional social movement organization.
V for Vendetta is a fun movie, but a horrible method of doing activism.
I like some of the live video feed for the Occupy Wall Street, but don't like the music track and its conspiratorial leanings on Sept 11 and other issues. It makes me question the organizers' understanding of history and social forces. (I'm listening to the video feed and just heard someone recommend reading Sun Tzu's Art of War - I've read it and don't recommend it. I recommend reading a book on community organizing.) By contrast the people running the general public assemblies seem much more reasonable.
Another problem is that NYC and DC have perhaps the best trained and largest anti-protest police forces. If you want to takeover public space and build a base you are more likely to succeed in cities with more tolerant policing rules. For instance in Philadelphia protesters can get away with a lot. By contrast NYC has rules against two or more people wearing masks (masks or bandannas are useful if you expect to get tear gassed) - and if you are protesting several blocks from the Sept 11 attacks you aren't going to get lenient policing.
I don't think it is possible to organize a mass movement in the US with weird antics and without any major activist organizations involved. I think the organizers are semi-aware of this and if they can build something larger it could work.
An interesting counter-example is the movement to occupy Freedom Plaza in DC in October which is being organized by the more mainstream activist movement, especially the peace movement. Several years ago I went to a protest where a couple hundred people were surrounded and mass-arrested for doing a drum circle on that plaza.