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.”
Anyone who is involved with the #OCCUPYWALLSTREET movement is strongly encouraged to read the linked article. Fighting for justice and defending the marginalized is about amplifying their own voice, not interjecting your own. It is frankly quite shocking to me that anyone could be so clueless and hurtful.
White people, recognize your privilege and accept that you aren’t always the fucking
centre of attention ringleaders.
As marginalized people in this country rise, new forms of oppression are at work – those who have not experienced systemic oppression are claiming it anyway, turning social justice on its head and diluting the messages and movements that have been our hearts and souls. I think this quote from the New Jim Crow sheds a lot of light on why OWS emerged the way that it did: “Following the collapse of each system of control, there has been a period of confusion—transition—in which those who are most committed to racial hierarchy search for new means to achieve their goals within the rules of the game as currently defined. It is during this period of uncertainty that the backlash intensifies and a new form of racialized social control begins to take hold.”
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.
To ensure our society is sustainable over the long term, we have to attend not just to environmental issues and climate change, but to the economic crisis, and the depletion of natural resources. Responses that deal with all three aspects of our sustainability predicament will not only be more effective than those that don’t, but they can be framed in terms of whichever aspect can gain broader public support.
The powerful corporate elites who profit from our continued addiction to fossil fuels have misled the public and blocked climate change response. On the other hand, the Occupy Wall Street movement is successfully raising public attention to economic injustice and the financial crisis, also caused by those elites. Both campaigns are missing crucial parts of the story, but each can supply what the other lacks: a message that has traction with the public, and a clearer strategic focus[…]
Personal changes are necessary but insufficient. Government action is needed, but is often blocked by political and cultural factors. By organizing at the community level, wherever we can get traction, we can eventually involve enough citizens to trigger the wider government responses needed.
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.
Occupy Seattle: Octogenarian activist Dorli Rainey on being pepper-sprayed by Seattle police, importance of activism
Eighty-four-year-old activist Dorli Rainey tells Keith about her experience getting pepper-sprayed by the police during an Occupy Seattle demonstration and the need to take action and spread the word of the Occupy movement. She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to “take one more step out of your comfort zone” as an inspiration, saying, “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.”
84-year-old Occupy Seattle participant Dorli Rainey, pictured above after being pepper sprayed by Seattle Police on November 15th.
She later wrote about the incident:
“Something funny happened on my way to a transportation meeting in Northgate. As I got off the bus at 3rd and Pine I heard helicopters above. Knowing that the problems of New York would certainly precipitate action by Occupy Seattle, I thought I better check it out. Especially since only yesterday the City Government made a grandiose gesture to protect free speech. Well free speech does have its limits as I found out as the cops shoved their bicycles into the crowd and simultaneously pepper sprayed the so captured protesters. If it had not been for my Hero (Iraq Vet Caleb) I would have been down on the ground and trampled. This is what democracy looks like. It certainly left an impression on the people who rode the No. 1 bus home with me. In the women’s movement there were signs which said: “Screw us and we multiply.’”
As New York City police cleared the Occupy Wall Street campsite in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing protesters. Some called it a “media blackout” and said in interviews that they believed that the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation.
The city blog Gothamist put it this way: “The NYPD Didn’t Want You To See Occupy Wall Street Get Evicted.”
As a result, much of the early video of the police operation was from the vantage point of the protesters. Videos that were live-streamed on the Web and uploaded to YouTube were picked up by television networks and broadcast on Tuesday morning.
At a news conference after the park was cleared Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media was kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”
Some members of the media said they were shoved by the police. As the police approached the park they did not distinguish between protesters and members of the press, said Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. “Those 20 minutes were some of the scariest of my life,” she said.
Ms. Christ said that police officers took a New York Post reporter standing near her and “threw him in a choke-hold.”
That reporter and two photographers with him declined to speak on the record because they are freelance workers and lack some of the job protections of full-time employees. But as they sipped coffee on Tuesday morning in Foley Square, where some of the protesters had regrouped, they expressed surprise at the extent of what they described as police suppression of the press.
What are your limits, America? You’ve largely looked the other way while peaceful protesters are cleared out across the country under the guise of “order” and “cleanliness,” even when those who come in to “keep the peace” end up creating a huge mess and violation of civil order.
Will you now look the other way as freedom of the press is done away with? Will you now ignore the fact that, in even trying to report on the suppression of civil liberties, you will be targeted by the police state?
What will it take?
More swiftly than we ever believed possible, the occupation at Zuccotti Park has opened up a political conversation and shifted the terrain. A recent poll revealed that 67 percent of New Yorkers agree with the views of Occupy Wall Street protesters and that almost three-quarters of them favor a tax on millionaires. People who have not been to demonstrations in years—or perhaps ever—have taken to the streets across the country. Instead of being ashamed about unemployment and personal debt, people are indignant. Instead of blaming a few “bad apples,” fingers are pointing to the economic system at large. The ultimate sign of early success is that politicians who initially scoffed at the outliers at Zuccotti Park have had to proclaim their allegiance to the 99 percent. Look at Republican hopeful Mitt Romney who first sounded the alarm about “dangerous … class warfare” and now says he doesn’t “worry about the top 1 percent” and that, when he looks at Wall Street, he “understands how those people [the protesters] feel.”
When high-profile Democrats like Bill Clinton embrace the Wall Street demonstrations on David Letterman (then advise the movement to throw its weight behind Obama), and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor goes from calling occupiers “mobs” to “justifiably frustrated,” the left needs to adjust and push the envelope accordingly. When influential conservatives are fretting on their blogs that OWS is stealing their thunder (“These people are open to listen to anyone who is willing to take on Wall Street,” wrote blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, “We shouldn’t let unwashed hippies be the only people they hear speaking to their concerns”) we need to recognize, if nothing else, that the Occupy movement has already tilted the playing field and move our goal posts accordingly— further left so we keep dragging the political conversation with us.