A UC Riverside researcher says the Occupy Wall Street movement has expanded to
nearly 30 percent of the state's municipalities in the past few months, based
on a survey of Facebook pages.
Sociology professor Christopher Chase-Dunn said he and graduate student Michaela Curran-Strange reviewed Occupy pages on Facebook between Dec. 1 and 8 and found that out of the state's 482 municipalities, 143 had such pages affiliated with them, including Occupy organizations in Riverside, San Bernardino, Redlands and other Inland cities.
Chase-Dunn, who has studied other sociological issues in the state and the dynamic between its northern and southern sections, said he was most intrigued by how evenly split interest in the Occupy movement seemed to be. Since the northern part of the state is often perceived as more progressive, he anticipated greater activity there.
"For this movement, that doesn't seem to be the case," Chase-Dunn said. "It was about the same number (70 in the north, 73 in the south), which surprised me."
What also caught his attention was the rapidity with which the movement spread and the places in which it grabbed a foothold.
"This thing is in places you would never expect, quite frankly," he said, noting that Coachella Valley established an Occupy page on Oct. 2, a little more than two weeks after the Wall Street organizers began camping out in Zuccotti Park in New York.
Of course, some Occupy groups were more significant than others. Occupy Yreka consisted of a single individual.
The groups often evolved, and Chase-Dunn said he hopes to examine more.
"What we don't have is a change over time," he said. "That would be interesting. The only time element we (looked at) was when was the thing established and how much traffic there was on the Facebook site and how many 'likes' there are."
He did notice that, while many sites shared the primary concern of economic inequality when they were established, they often began incorporating other local issues onto their pages.
He also noted changes in attitudes toward the groups, particularly Occupy Riverside, in which he participated for awhile.
"There's been a lot of support for this movement," he said. "But people get tired of their downtown being disrupted and the pressure is on to do something about it. In Riverside, the City Council was originally friendly to it and relations with the police were good. Later, when (the police) got orders from above to move everybody out, it got nasty."
Chase-Dunn sees the Occupy movement as an outgrowth of the Arab Spring.
"It has its own unique qualities but some of those qualities were taken from what happened this summer in Greece and Spain. The European summer got it from the Arab Spring. The causes are a little different but they're also similar. It's basically (concerned with) growing inequality and austerity measures."
But he thinks the movement is relevant.
"It's changed the discourse in American politics," he said. In the coming presidential election, he added, "this could make a big difference."
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