Posts tagged ‘99%’

February 2, 2012

The New Normal: This militarized empty lot called home

By Puck Lo

From the diffuse clouded sunlight, which looks and feels the same in January as it does in June, to the broken glass glinting on the sidewalks, downtown Oakland is as usual. The city barely skips a beat anymore during and after the now-normal political riots that clog otherwise empty, wide downtown thoroughfares, drawing relatively little attention from non-political passers-by beyond perfunctory updates on Twitter decrying the lack of parking due to #oo or contemplating the sometimes nearly monolithic young whiteness of these latest exhilarated, raging masses.

Since the diverted building takeover on Saturday and the police riot, kettling and violent mass-arrest of marchers outside the YMCA, interest in denouncing and trying once again to co-opt and control the unruly Occupy has returned with a vengeance. Recently dormant factions of the Bay Area’s Leftish communities and political intelligentsia, often genuinely well-intentioned, are issuing statements condemning so-called violence against buildings and other inanimate objects or taking issue with the insurrectionist strategy of facing off with police and antagonizing city officials. This unnamed Occupy strategy, coupled with the hyper-militarized state of Oakland’s police force, culminated on Saturday with some 400 arrests and hundreds of thousands in city dollars spent to terrorize the populace of our fiscally gutted, deeply unequal and gentrifying city.

Not surprisingly, every faction involved is staying on-message.

The cops blame the protesters. The Mayor blames the “fringe” protesters who are out of touch with and beyond the control of the non-profits who claim to represent authentic communities. Within activist communities, pacifists blame the rioters. Non-profits blame outside agitators.

And though I agree with their overall analysis, many of the same Occupy-ers and insurrectionists who seem to value above all else militant confrontation with the police (as much as someone unarmed can actually “confront” a heavily armed force who have state-sanctioned powers to kill) now act shocked that cops don’t follow the letter of the law, white kids can get arrested for walking down a street, and jail is not a good place.

Such “politicizing” experiences of spending a weekend in jail – celebrated in the manarchist culture of back-slapping camaraderie shared by those for whom jail is a rebellious and exotic adventure – only highlight some of the many ways that privilege and punishment land unequally on the differently raced, gendered and classed bodies who get swept up in mass arrests of the 99% movement.

Let’s be clear: I can’t think of any social movement that has overthrown dictators, ousted exploitative corporations, or catalyzed its populace to build alternatives to a corrupt system that hasn’t engaged in one or more of the following militant tactics: building and land expropriations, illegality, and strategic confrontation against police forces.

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January 23, 2012

Defending the People’s Mic

By Pham Binh

The People’s Mic.  Created by occupiers in Liberty Park after the New York Police Department (NYPD) prevented us from using bullhorns, used on Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic President Barack Obama, it’s one of the most effective means we’ve devised to give voice to the 99%.

We don’t own media empires or have expensive sound systems, but we will be heard!

However, the powerful people’s mic is not invincible, especially at smaller rallies, protests, flashmobs, and speakouts.

On January 3, the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority’s police force (yes, they have one of their own) arrested two people leading the people’s mic.

Lauren DiGioia (seen above), the hard-working member of the sanitation group and one of the womensexually assaulted at the Liberty encampment, was mobbed by cops, dragged away, and issued a summons as she spoke out against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows the government to detain accused terrorists indefinitely without trial. Obama signed NDAA into law, giving Bush’s attacks on civil liberties after 9/11 the “change we can believe in” seal of approval.

This type of action by the cops is going to become common as we continue to make our voices heard. They are adapting their tactics in response to us adapting our tactics. It’s a continual battle between us and them and now it’s our move.

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January 16, 2012

Learning from our Elders

By Prita Lal

On Sunday, November 20, 2011, a group of veteran civil rights activists from the “Council of Elders” Organizing Committee hosted Intergenerational Days at Occupy Wall Street and in other Occupy cities around the country. In NYC, the day included an interfaith worship service at Liberty Square followed by a panel discussion at Judson Memorial Church. The event was organized and hosted by the People of Color Caucus and the Anti-racism Allies working groups.

The Council of Elders is an independent group of leaders from the farm worker, sanctuary, civil and human rights movements that shook the nation’s conscience with public protests during the 20th century. This intergenerational dialogue brought together hundreds of activists, organizers, educators, and community members to discuss questions, challenges, and lessons that can be gained from the civil rights era to the current Occupy movements happening worldwide. As an excerpt from the statement of solidarity by the Council of Elders states:

“We see Occupy Wall Street as a continuation, a deepening and expansion of the determination of the diverse peoples of our nation to transform our country into a more democratic, equitable, just, and compassionate society.”

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January 5, 2012

Why Occupy Wall Street Matters to Me and How It Can Continue to Matter

by Manissa McCleave Maharawal

(In some ways this is a response to Esther Choi’s piece, and in some ways it isn’t…)

I spent yesterday evening as I spend many of my evenings: in the Financial District, at Occupy Wall Street, attending a Direct Action meeting, eating dinner, going to the General Assembly, and going to a POC-DA affinity meeting. As I was standing in the food line, waiting for my portion of beets, greens, cole slaw and bread, the conversation turned to Esther Choi’s article, “Private Danny Chen, and why I will never again reach out to OWS about something that matters to me.” Yesterday when I read this article it nearly made me cry: both because of how right she is, but also because I, somehow, felt personally responsible for the injustices and unjust and oppressive behavior that she had experienced at OWS. As someone who both identifies with the movement and as someone who has worked from the very beginning of my involvement at OWS to confront issues of racism and oppression within OWS, while still standing in solidarity with it, reading Choi’s article I suddenly felt very, very tired, sad, and angry.

To be honest, I was angry at both OWS and at her. I think OWS is strong enough and mainstream enough now to withstand serious critiques, and I think whether weak or strong, every movement should be self-critical. I’m tired of hearing that we can’t take on issues of racism and oppression because it would be “divisive.” I’m tired of hearing people call People of Color (POC) Caucus at OWS divisive because we bring up uncomfortable truths.

A friend of mine who is visibly Muslim (she wears hijab) said the other day, after recounting an incident where she was told that she had made people in a meeting “more uncomfortable than they had ever been” by telling them that she had been triggered by a racist sign: “If this is the most uncomfortable you have ever been, then please realize how lucky you are.” I laughed and agreed with her, but her comment stuck with me. In fact, this is exactly what some people everywhere, including at OWS, don’t want to have to realize–that they have a certain set of privileges in not feeling uncomfortable and that these privileges impact them and everyone around them.

So in these ways I completely understood what Choi meant and why her article feels and is so very viscerally and justly angry.

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November 3, 2011

Financing the world’s most enormous war machine

By Prachi Patankar

As Obama has announced the plans for US withdrawal from Iraq, the anti-war movement can perhaps claim a small victory. The future of Iraq still remains to be seen but there is hope in the growing Iraqi protest movement inspired by the Arab Spring. The Afghanistan war still continues into its 11th year. However, this decade of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan has not only cost us countless human lives, of both Iraqi and Afghan civilians and of US/NATO troops but also trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.

“Tax Dollars At War,” directed & animated by Chris Fontaine is a great accessible video that breaks down the lopsided budget priorities of the US government that has funded decades US wars abroad at the cost of public services for the American people. It is clear that more than 50% of the yearly federal discretionary spending on the wars combined with the tax cuts to the rich and the corporations has greatly affected the recent budget deficit. As the Occupy Wall Street movement gains momentum with more diverse racial and economic justice groups joining all over the country, there is a need to strategically link military spending and domestic economic justice targets.

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