THE OCCUPY movement’s most powerful unifying factor has been its clear and simple identification of the key problem in American society: the divide between the vast majority of the population—the 99 percent—and the richest and most powerful 1 percent.
This 99 percent/1 percent formulation isn’t just a statement about income inequality in the U.S. today. It’s also an acknowledgement that the 1 percent largely controls the government and is therefore able to rig laws, taxes and regulations in its favor.
If you look at opinion polls on questions like taxing the rich, regulating Wall Street, spending money on jobs, prioritizing economic growth over cutting the deficit or preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare, you’ll find popular, often lopsided, majorities opposed to austerity and in favor of “redistributionist” policies.
Yet the dysfunctional government seems incapable—and not even much interested—in doing much of anything to meet these popular demands. By contrast, Congress acted with tremendous speed—and with little regard for the deficit—to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars for the banks and other corporations when the financial crisis struck in 2008.
In theory, we’re all equal at the ballot box, and so popular majorities should be able to force politicians to address their concerns. But the Occupy movement has caught fire because millions of Americans realize that the way Washington works in reality bears no resemblance to the political science textbook explanations.
So how does the 1 percent get away with it?
From last night’s press release from the Oakland Police Department:
Q. Did the Police deploy rubber bullets, flash-bag grenades?
A. No, the loud noises that were heard originated from M-80 explosives thrown at Police by protesters.
The San Francisco Chronicle begs to differ:
Protesters scattered in both directions on Broadway as the tear gas canisters and several flash-bang grenades went off. Regrouping, protesters tried to help one another and offered each other eye drops.
Q. Did the Police use tear gas?
A. Yes, the Police used a limited amount of tear gas for a small areas as a defense against protesters who were throwing various objects at Police Officers as they approached the area.
California police resorted to tear gas as many as five times Tuesday, attempting to force hundreds of Occupy Oakland protesters to disperse.
So was it used to make them disperse, or was it used in self-defense? Were flash-bangs used, or were they not used? The videos certainly seem to show that they were used in copious amounts.
This is nonsense. Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan must resign.
Posted Oct. 25, 2011, 2:39 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
To all those in the United States currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it’s our turn to pass on some advice.
Indeed, we are now in many ways involved in the same struggle. What most pundits call “The Arab Spring” has its roots in the demonstrations, riots, strikes and occupations taking place all around the world, its foundations lie in years-long struggles by people and popular movements. The moment that we find ourselves in is nothing new, as we in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a System that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants. As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme.
An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organizations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the “free market” pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the South found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.
The current crisis in America and Western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity. Not content with carving out the remnants of the public sphere and the welfare state, capitalism and the austerity-state now even attack the private realm and people’s right to decent dwelling as thousands of foreclosed-upon homeowners find themselves both homeless and indebted to the banks who have forced them on to the streets.
So we stand with you not just in your attempts to bring down the old but to experiment with the new. We are not protesting. Who is there to protest to? What could we ask them for that they could grant? We are occupying. We are reclaiming those same spaces of public practice that have been commodified, privatized and locked into the hands of faceless bureaucracy , real estate portfolios, and police ‘protection’. Hold on to these spaces, nurture them, and let the boundaries of your occupations grow. After all, who built these parks, these plazas, these buildings? Whose labor made them real and livable? Why should it seem so natural that they should be withheld from us, policed and disciplined? Reclaiming these spaces and managing them justly and collectively is proof enough of our legitimacy.
In our own occupations of Tahrir, we encountered people entering the Square every day in tears because it was the first time they had walked through those streets and spaces without being harassed by police; it is not just the ideas that are important, these spaces are fundamental to the possibility of a new world. These are public spaces. Spaces forgathering, leisure, meeting, and interacting – these spaces should be the reason we live in cities. Where the state and the interests of owners have made them inaccessible, exclusive or dangerous, it is up to us to make sure that they are safe, inclusive and just. We have and must continue to open them to anyone that wants to build a better world, particularly for the marginalized, excluded and for those groups who have suffered the worst .
What you do in these spaces is neither as grandiose and abstract nor as quotidian as “real democracy”; the nascent forms of praxis and social engagement being made in the occupations avoid the empty ideals and stale parliamentarianism that the term democracy has come to represent. And so the occupations must continue, because there is no one left to ask for reform. They must continue because we are creating what we can no longer wait for.
But the ideologies of property and propriety will manifest themselves again. Whether through the overt opposition of property owners or municipalities to your encampments or the more subtle attempts to control space through traffic regulations, anti-camping laws or health and safety rules. There is a direct conflict between what we seek to make of our cities and our spaces and what the law and the systems of policing standing behind it would have us do.
We faced such direct and indirect violence , and continue to face it . Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces: by the government’s own admission; 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed, and all of the ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected, officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on the 28 th of January they retreated, and we had won our cities.
It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point”, we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious.
By way of concluding then, our only real advice to you is to continue, keep going and do not stop. Occupy more, find each other, build larger and larger networks and keep discovering new ways to experiment with social life, consensus, and democracy. Discover new ways to use these spaces, discover new ways to hold on to them and never givethem up again. Resist fiercely when you are under attack, but otherwise take pleasure in what you are doing, let it be easy, fun even. We are all watching one another now, and from Cairo we want to say that we are in solidarity with you, and we love you all for what you are doing.
Comrades from Cairo.
24th of October, 2011.
The Young Democratic Socialists endorse the Occupy Wall Street movement and its demand for justice. We join the demonstrators in taking a stand against corporate power and neoliberal politicians. These protests have been condemned in the press as class warfare, but in the words of a protestor on Wall Street, “they only call it class warfare when we fight back.”
We must draw on the great traditions of resistance in our history – the Patriots, the Abolitionists, the Suffragettes, Industrial Unionism, the Civil Rights Movement, and the feminist and LGBT movements – and engage our creative imagination in forming a movement for the 2010s. We must bear witness, but we must moreover build power that can challenge the commanding heights of capitalism, and succeed in changing laws in the people’s favor. We must make demands on the state, and we must win. In the spirit of solidarity, we encourage the movement to demand:
- A public jobs program
- The nationalization of failed banks
- Medicare for all
- The forgiveness of student debt
- An end to foreclosures
- Substantial investment in clean energy
We can fund these vital public policies if we reverse the Bush and Reagan tax cuts for the top two per cent, restore effective corporate taxation, and end wasteful military spending. And we can only reverse the decline in working people’s standard of living if we restore the democratic right of working people to unionize.
A Moral Focus for Occupy Wall Street
I think it is a good thing that the occupation movement is not making specific policy demands. If it did, the movement would become about those demands. If the demands were not met, the movement would be seen as having failed. […]
Publicize the Public
Tell the truth about The Public, that nobody makes it purely on their own without The Public, that is, without public infrastructure, the justice system, health, education, scientific research, protections of all sorts, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, That is a truth to be told day after day. It is an idea that must take hold in public discourse. It must go beyond what I and others have written about it and beyond what Elizabeth Warren has said in her famous video. The Public is not opposed to The Private. The Public is what makes The Private possible. And it is what makes freedom possible. Wall Street exists only through public support. It has a moral obligation to direct itself to public needs.
All OWS approaches to policy follow from such a moral focus. Here are a handful examples. […]
This movement could be destroyed by negativity, by calls for revenge, by chaos, or by having nothing positive to say. Be positive about all things and state the moral basis of all suggestions. Positive and moral in calling for debt relief. Positive and moral in upholding laws, as they apply to finances. Positive and moral in calling for fairness in acquiring needed revenue. Positive and moral in calling for clean elections. To be effective, your movement must be seen by all of the 99% as positive and moral. To get positive press, you must stress the positive and the moral.
Remember: The Tea Party sees itself as stressing only individual responsibility. The Occupation Movement is stressing both individual and social responsibility.
The memory of struggles from before the global economic crash has allowed people to move beyond a simple kneejerk response to the present crisis and instead formulate a deeper critique of the system responsible for their woes. In practice, this has meant a popular shift from complaints about specific laws or specific features of the banking system that might serve as scapegoats for the crisis, to a radical critique of government and capitalism. While the movement is heterogeneous and by no means consistent, on multiple occasions it has popularly defined itself as anticapitalist, thus drawing on a strong tradition of struggle that goes back more than a century throughout Europe.
The United States is also a country with inspiring histories of popular struggle. But it is a country with a case of social amnesia like no other. It seems that to a certain extent, the Occupy Wall Street actions exist more as a trend than anything else. The slight extent to which they draw on, or even make reference to, earlier struggles, even struggles from the past twenty years, is worrying. The fact that a present awareness of US history would shatter certain cornerstones of the new movement’s identity, for example this idea of the 99% that includes everyone but the bankers in one big, happy family, is not a sufficient excuse to avoid this task. The historical amnesia of American society must be overcome for a struggle to gain the perspective it needs.
Thanks #OccupyWallStreet, for successfully refocusing media attention.
This is addressed to everyone who says the movement will be useless and not yield any real change: we’ve already started. Just by defining the arguments on the people’s terms.
Let me spell this out for you.
If an anti-Semite thinks #OCCUPYWALLSTREET is a good idea, that doesn’t mean that we think anti-Semitism is a good idea. Endorsements don’t go both ways. The same is true when it comes to the support we have received from unions and politicians.
In the same way, many white supremacists consider themselves to be Christians. But most of you would agree that Christians don’t endorse white supremacy, by any means.
I understand you are mostly being paid to spout illogical nonsense, so this will likely go through one ear and out the other. But to the rest: I would ask you to see this for what it really is, an institutional reaction to a legitimate threat to wealthy privilege. It’s a smear campaign from those who already know they are on the losing side of the argument — so they have nothing of substance to come back with.
After all, there is a vast amount of support within the movement for things like this — I think if Jewish people felt so threatened by our allegedly “anti-Semitic” movement, they wouldn’t be saying things like this about #OCCUPYWALLSTREET.
We have been clear from the beginning: we do not condone violence. Towards anyone. This movement is about equality and social justice, not the division and hatred that the elites and the media are paid to encourage.
(Note: this is the only post I intend to make on the subject. Things like this are intended to distract, and we have too many problems to face to be subjected to the reactionaries’ games. As always, my opinions are my own and this is not intended to be an “official statement” of any kind. — carton-rouge)
Watch #OCCUPYWALLSTREET on Livestream!
A group of occupiers have made their way to the Citibank branch at 555 Laguardia, where they attempted to close their accounts with the bank. They were promptly locked in the branch and are currently being arrested by NYPD.
VIDEO 4: NYPD officer runs over observer for the National Lawyer’s Guild with a scooter, and leaves it on him, before another officer lunges in with a baton. They later “brutally dragged the injured man away, flipped him over, and kneed him full force in the small of the back as they handcuffed and arrested him.”