Occupation (protest)

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As an act of protest, occupation is the entry into and holding of a building, space or symbolic site. As such, occupations often combine some of the following elements: a challenge to ownership of the space involved, an effort to gain public attention, the practical use of the facilities occupied, and a redefinition of the occupied space. Occupations may be conducted with varying degrees of physical force to obtain and defend the place occupied. Occupations may be brief or they may extend for weeks, months or years. In some cases of long-term occupation, the term protest camp may be applied, although occupation often connotes the use of space without permission or in defiance of governmental authority.

Occupation, as a means of achieving change, emerged from worker struggles that sought everything from higher wages to the abolition of capitalism. Often called a sit-down strike, it is a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at a factory or other centralized location, take possession of the workplace by "sitting down" at their stations, effectively preventing their employers from replacing them with strikebreakers or, in some cases, moving production to other locations.

The recovered factories in Argentina is an example of workplace occupations moving beyond addressing workplace grievances, to demanding a change in ownership of the means of production.

The Industrial Workers of the World were the first American union to use it, while the United Auto Workers staged successful sit-down strikes in the 1930s, most famously in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937. Sit-down strikes were declared illegal by the US supreme court, but are still used by unions such as the UMWA in the Pittston strike, and the workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago.

Notable protest occupations