Q&A With Mike Andrews, Occupy Organizer: What Happens After May 1?

05/09/2012 4:00 AM |

The L: Since then, what stands out in your mind as your proudest moments—the successes of Occupy?
MA: Well, I think the Brooklyn Bridge. On October 1, when the mass of people was crossing the street, some people stopped and started chanting “Take The Bridge, Take the bridge!” And other people joined in, and a bunch of people, me included, started marching the bridge. And that was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. It was just so amazing to be where you weren’t supposed to be with 700 of your friends on a beautiful bridge.

I remember turning to a friend as we were walking across the bridge and saying, “There’s no way they’re going to keep us on this bridge, there’s no way they’re going to arrest us on this bridge. At least we’ll make it to the other side.” That brought a lot of attention with the headline “700 Arrested on The Bridge.”

The L: How long have you been organizing for May Day?
MA: Since January. There was Thanksgiving and then the Christmas break, which sort of just became public consensus became that this is the time for Occupy to reflect and reevaluate.

The L: Or end, right?
MA: Or end, maybe that, or think about long-term strategy. And even though nobody in OWS consciously decided, we didn’t collectively say ‘Okay, let’s reflect.’ That just sort of had its effect on us too. So we did do that. And as soon I got back from California after visiting my folks, the idea in the forefront of my mind was we had to do something big for May 1.

The L: For May 1? Because of the traditional labor demonstrations?
MA: It’s a big day in Europe, usually. And also I thought that we had all of this momentum, here was this emerging social movement, and all sorts of constituencies on The Left—labor, progressives—felt like a part of it and also were looking to partner with us. Sort of set the tone in a way. And so I thought, “Okay, we’ve got a window of opportunity here. There’s no telling if we’ll still be around next May 1. Let’s really be ambitious, like crazy ambitious.” And I was delighted to learn that some of my other closest friends in OWS were thinking the exact same thing. It was like we showed up after Christmas break and said, “Okay. May 1st, right?”

The L: I think after the eviction, you got a lot of average, non-radical New Yorkers on your side. I think a lot of people absorbed that the point was awareness—just to draw attention to problems was, in some ways, enough. But now that Occupy’s become a household name, after May 1, what will change?
MA: I mean the funny thing is, is commentators, journalists, progressive writers write about this issue of OWS not having any demands or stated aspirations, as if all of OWS came to consensus not to issue demands. And that’s not true. It’s simply that there’s so much disagreement about it that OWS will never agree on issuing demands. It’s more of something that’s the result of a deadline.

Some people are opposed to demands on principle. Other people want to transform the system but believe that issuing demands still has a certain strategic advantage. I do identify as an anti-authoritarian, but I’m not vigorously opposed to any kind of demand. I think there are such things as demands in the service of revolution.