On Saturday, September 29, Occupy Our Homes DC shut down every Bank of America location in Washington DC in protest of their foreclosure of Reverend Vanzant - pastor of the first church in DC to specifically serve LGBT people of color.
With hindsight gained by googling “MoveOn” and “co-opt” after the fact, I can’t claim that nobody tried to warn me. Many websites with left and even liberal politics had said in so many words, “Be wary of this organization called The 99% Spring. It is a Trojan horse for the Democrats.” I just didn’t read that anywhere in a timely fashion. I’ve had a lot of stuff on my plate lately. That’s my excuse. And in my ignorance, I responded to some spam about “nonviolent direct action training” organized by MoveOn and got invited to this 99% Spring thing on April 10 at the Goddard Riverside Community Center in Manhattan. Somebody even called me all the way from San Francisco to make sure I was a sincere seeker on the left and would be attending, along with 120,000 others in training sessions around the country.
Which I did. The meeting was a few blocks from where I live. The spam said it was “inspired by Occupy Wall Street.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was vaguely hoping that whatever The 99% Spring was, it would start a chapter of Occupy Wall Street on the Upper West Side, conveniently near my abode, and agitate for the Democrats and MoveOn to move left.
The first clue that my evening might go otherwise was the sign-up table, where there were a bunch of Obama buttons for sale and one sign-up sheet for the oddly named Community Free Democrats (are they free of community?), which is the local Democratic clubhouse. That killed the “inspired by Occupy Wall Street” vibe right there. No piles of literature from a zillion different groups, as there had been in Zuccotti Park. No animated arguments among Marxists, anarchists, progressives, punks, engaged Buddhists, anti-war libertarians and what have you. Just Obama buttons, which didn’t appear to be selling. [++]
Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi — he who coined the immortal phrase about Goldman Sachs being a “bloodsucking vampire” — spoke at an Occupy Wall Street rally today. Via Taibbi’s blog:Occupy Wall Street is kicking off a new series of actions today, and as part of the campaign, I’m going to be speaking at Bryant Park at 11 a.m., through about noon, when a march will begin.
The topic is Too-Big-To-Fail banks, and Bank of America in particular.
The Twitters were abuzz with reports from his speech. We’re going to post a few of Taibbi’s thoughts about Bank of America via Twitter.
Occupy SF Broke Up With Bank of America This Valentines Day. Activists Ellen and David perform ‘relationship drama’ street theater educating BoA customers about the bank’s financing of dirty coal and hydro-fracking companies.
Photos from the ongoing police-protester standoff in Oakland right now. All of the photos were taken by Intifada Tent, a Twitter user currently live-tweeting from Oakland. The tear gas canister pictured above is, according to @IntifadaTent, the same brand used by the Israeli military.
The Saving American Democracy Amendment states that:
- Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people.
- Corporations are subject to regulation by the people.
- Corporations may not make campaign contributions or any election expenditures.
- Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.
155,272 signatures so far.
“We Are Farmers, We Grow Food for the People”
This video by Anthony Lappe offers an inspiring glimpse into this new “Occupy Food” movement. Check it out and then go to Food Democracy Now, a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system, to find out how you can help.
There are those who said early on that one of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET’s weaknesses was it’s decentralized structure. The idea of #OWS was initially to bring large groups of people from all over the country to New York, to Wall Street, as the largest possible singular demonstration would logically have the largest possible impact. Centralization was thought to be necessary if the media was to take the movement seriously and to get their message out. While this was the initial focus, eventually people began to create Occupations in their own home cities across the country. And this decentralized model proved to be a great success: once there was an occupation in almost every town in the country, a resurgence of political awareness and meaningful communication began. We, the people, had truly found our voice.
Occupy started as a political movement, an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo imposed constantly in the bourgeois political sphere. In the days following the initial push to reclaim public space, however, the movement transformed into a very fight for survival. Occupy had the attention of the people in whatever city it was gathering in, but this means nothing if the movement cannot sustain itself. Soon, kitchens opened up, bringing food and drink to Occupiers in the public squares. Libraries were started with donated books, bringing literacy, entertainment, and the spark of new ideas to the embryonic communes. Media centres, art production, and other forms of community sustenance began to take root in these reborn public spaces. In this, people began to rediscover - on a personal level - their connection to themselves, the work of their hands, and their fellow citizens. No longer were they alienated through the structures of capitalist society.
Though this light of hope burned brightly in most Occupations for several weeks, the time soon came for the institutional reaction. Occupations across the country were raided, pepper-sprayed, and generally harassed into oblivion. Due to a combination of severe repression and the onset of winter, #OWS has entered the twilight of its first phase. Only a handful of camps remain, and their numbers are light. However, the aims of the new Occupiers have shifted in an important way: from creating a media spectacle to capture the public interest, to concrete and meaningful direct actions. An example lies in the “Occupy Our Homes” movement, helping homeowners stay in their homes when facing foreclosure by a faceless financial institution. Another great case is in the reclamation of private space to serve the needs of the community in cities like London, Oakland, and Chapel Hill, NC. Along with the cold air of winter descending across North America and Europe, the passion of direct action is slowly reappearing in our communities. With the burst of awareness and the excitement therein now passed, the focus of our new-found consciousness will develop itself.
A popular meme in the early days of the protests was “They don’t even know why they are protesting. What are their demands?” It is time to provide solid alternatives and to lead by the example of direct action in our own communities. The resounding message of Occupy is clear: we cannot afford to rely on the will of others in order to make the society we want. We must “take the bull by the horns” and propose our own alternative to the sterile capitalist vision. We can build our new societies on the praxis we are currently developing in these new communities.
This blog is aimed at providing local alternatives to the globally-connected capitalist exploitative system. With a focus on individual actions, community projects, and creating local, sustainable systems of self-reliance, we will try to share items that inspire people to look forward. What is the best vision for society? There will not be a spectacular revolution as long as the masses are alienated from their fellow citizen, so how can we begin to achieve this vision of a more compassionate, more equitable, more ecological society? How can we break this alienation on a personal level, without needing to rely on the very systems that alienate us? We will try to answer those questions here, all the while focusing on providing concrete actions and ideas people can take on to enrich their own communities.
Up to 50,000 people braved the cold and snow on Saturday to turn out for the largest ever protest against the rule of prime minister Vladimir Putin.
Bolotnaya Square, across the river from the Kremlin in central Moscow, was filled to overflowing with thousands standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the bridges and along the riverfront leading to the site. Tens of thousands of police and interior troops were deployed around the area, but protesters had been allowed by officials to gather in an unprecedented show of discontent.
Shouts of “Russia without Putin!” and “Freedom!” were mixed with demands that the Kremlin annul a disputed parliamentary election that saw Putin’s United Russia party gain nearly 50% of the vote despite widespread accusations of fraud.
“I demand new elections,” said Maxim, 26, an economist. “If they don’t agree, we will continue to come out. The people have woken up – they see there’s a point to going out into the streets and expressing what they don’t agree with.”
Opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said a further protest would be held on Christmas eve if the Kremlin refused to cancel the election results. The overwhelmingly young crowd organised via social networking sites and exceeded early estimates of 30,000.