It’s shaping up to be a busy spring for Occupy. The movement born last year in a New York City park has come roaring back to life this week after a period of hibernation. It promises to be even livelier in weeks and months to come.
On Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee, a crowd numbering in the thousands, including Occupy protesters, converged on California’s capital to denounce soaring college tuition costs. Chanting “You’ll hear us out, or we’ll vote you out,” they tried to occupy the capitol rotunda. Some succeeded. In what the Bee called “a massive show of force,” 100 California Highway Patrol officers arrested 68.
Occupy is taking credit for the White House’s recent decision to move a May meeting G-8 leaders from Chicago, where Occupy and other groups had threatened protests, to safer and more remote Camp David. “We scored a victory, forcing them to retreat to the back woods of Maryland,” Andy Thayer, Occupier and spokesperson for the Coalition Against NATO/G-8, tells ABC News.
Protests still will be mounted, he says, against NATO, which has chosen not to flee Chicago and will meet there as planned. “There’ll be a mass march on the NATO summit,” says Thayer, “not only a march, but any number of other activities. It’s unclear whether it will be on the 19th or 20th. We will decide in the next few days.”
Occupy Our Homes: protesters bid to move families into foreclosed houses
[The above move] was part of a national day of action targeting the issue of foreclosures and marking the beginning of Occupy Wall Street’s Occupy Our Homes campaign. Various demonstrations were carried out in over 25 cities, including Seattle, Washington, Atlanta, Georgia and Riverside, California.
New York City’s action kicked off with a brief tour of East New York, which last year had the highest foreclosure rate of all the neighbourhoods in the city. Nationwide, an estimated 4m homes have been seized by banks since 2006, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based real estate data firm. Roughly 300 marchers made stops at several foreclosed homes along the route. Filling the stoops of dilapidated Brooklyn houses, members of the community joined with local lawmakers and religious figures to denounce widespread foreclosures.
The march ended at two-storey house with a large yellow sign mounted above the front door. In all capital letters it read: “FORECLOSE ON BANKS NOT ON PEOPLE.”
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.
Occupy Wall Street and their far-flung allies might as well give up on addressing their demands to the government, at least for the time being. The slogan ought to be something like “We’re tired of being pawned off on the help; from now on, we insist on dealing directly with the masters.”
And the plan should be to spend the next several months developing, articulating, and organizing toward a major national mortgage and student-loan strike. Such a loan strike would begin—provided enough people sign on in advance (and I’m talking hundreds of thousands), and unless a concrete set of intervening demands is squarely met in the meantime—on, say, October 1, 2012, right in the middle of the next presidential campaign…
The Occupy movement could enlist the advice of sympathetic economists and loan experts to craft the precise terms of the demand. In addition to the alleviation of tremendous amounts of individual and family anxiety and suffering, the more generalized goal of the reset—and incidentally, why is it that up till now in this crisis only the improvident banks and investment houses have been allowed to reset the terms of their deals, without any penalty, whereas none of the rest of us have been accorded similarly revivifying largesse?—would be to free up all sorts of spending money at the lower reaches of the economy where it might actually do some good.
Police arrested at least 16 people, including journalist Chris Hedges and performance artist Reverend Billy Talen, during a rally Thursday outside the headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in lower Manhattan.
The rally was held after a mock trial at the nearby Occupy Wall Street encampment, in which Goldman’s alleged misdeeds were weighed in a “people’s hearing.” The event, led by author and activist Cornell West, was broadcast live on a radio station and drew hundreds of protesters and spectators, many of whom then marched down Trinity Place towards Goldman’s skyscraper.
“The banking system has been shot through with greed,” said West, a professor at Princeton University. He marched arm in arm with several protesters, whom he referred to as his “brothers and sisters.” Some protesters held signs that read “Out of Your Ivory Tower” and “Don’t Feed the Bull.”
Reverend Billy, dressed in his signature white suit, called the Occupy movement “real, physical, actual hope,” and he blamed President Barack Obama for “drain[ing] all meaning from the word ‘hope.’” Talen added: “He’s no less corrupt than George Bush. He’s been unable to regulate these people,” referring to financial institutions.
At the entrance to Goldman’s headquarters on West Street, protesters read their verdict aloud: “Guilty of felony fraud, violating security laws, perjury before a Senate commission and the theft of $78 billion in taxpayer money.”
Several people then sat down in front with the building with their arms linked. As police handcuffed each person one at a time, some used nonviolent resistance tactics such curling up on the ground. The final protester to be arrested made her body limp and was carried away by several police officers.