Posts tagged ‘anarchism’

January 25, 2012

From Building Tents to Building Movements: Reflections from Occupy DC

By Vasudha Desikan and Drew Franklin

WELCOME TO D.C.

“Occupy is not a panacea, but an opening. It will help us clear the way to a more mature political landscape. It has begun to breathe in the many currents of dissatisfaction and breathe out a new radical imagination.” Vijay Prashad

The question of what the “Occupy” movement is has concerned us ever since it spread to Washington D.C. in October of last year. After witnessing Occupy Wall Street’s tremendous growth in New York, we were inspired to see for ourselves the potential for radical mobilization in our city, where the corporate and state arms of global capital meet. The seat of power in the United States, D.C. has a long history as a center for protest, frequently drawing in activists from all over the country. It is also home to 600,000 legislatively and electorally disenfranchised residents, who have been engaged in their own unique struggles. Occupy D.C. had (and in some respects still has) exciting potential to work in solidarity with these community struggles and catalyze radical growth here and around the country.

From day one, we spent considerable time at Occupy D.C.’s chosen encampment, McPherson Square, a quiet park situated two blocks from the White House on K St. (this location was strategic and symbolic, as downtown K St. is recognized for its concentration of corporate headquarters and lobbying firms.) As anarchists committed to direct democracy, we helped build up the Facilitation committee and worked to implement consensus building processes at general assemblies, spokescouncils, and working groups. We watched the occupation grow quickly from a small group of no more than fifty people making and holding signs, to a “tent city” practicing mutual aid, with free medical care, a free kitchen, and its own library, among other things. Marches grew from ten or twenty people with poorly coordinated chants to hundreds of marchers taking the streets, blocking traffic, and barricading or taking over targeted buildings.

Occupy represented an exciting, transformative moment that saw rage and disillusion fuse with direct action tactics in a strike against oppressive institutions. It brought together hundreds of strangers who might have never worked together, deeply inspired and reinvigorated many burned-out activists, and fostered the development of leadership among a new generation of young radicals—all while helping change the national discourse around inequality. But the movement also has flaws, some quite serious, and they merit further examination.

It was many of these shortcomings that resulted in our very intentional abstention from Occupy D.C. Having stepped back from McPherson, we want to critically reflect on these past few months. 2012 will be a crucial year for popular uprising, as revolutions continue around the world, and as the U.S. gears up for the most expensive presidential election in history. We can learn a lot from the Occupy movement—its successes and failures—and use that experience to keep building momentum and guide popular discontent toward revolutionary struggle.

"DC activists lead an anti-oppression workshop at McPherson Square in October." Photo credit: Rooj Alwazir

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.

October 19, 2011

Sites Speak Louder Than Words: The Symbolic Language of Our Targets

By Samuel Stein

Occupy Wall Street is growing.  What started on September 17th as an encampment of hundreds in one small park has turned global.  On October 15th, demonstrations were held in 1,500 cities in 82 countries.  In New York City, our numbers are growing, and momentum is building to expand to more sites around the city.  As a formally leaderless movement without explicit demands, we are defined primarily by the spaces we create.  What do our choices of venues say about our politics, our critique and our vision?  The choice of our next sites will communicate more to the world than any simple list of demands ever could.

We began our movement in Liberty Plaza, a “Privately Owned Public Space.”  The park was created through a mechanism added to the New York City zoning code in 1961.  The 1961 revisions were full of new ways to shape development in the city, prefaced on the idea that zoning could be used to shape the city’s social as well as spatial patterns.  One of these planning innovations, the “density bonus,” allows developers to build higher than would otherwise be permitted if they create an open space for public use.  The spaces could be inside a building’s lobby, or outside on land owned by the developer.  While some of these plazas supported active street life, many were poorly designed and underutilized, and became empty caverns among skyscrapers.  Left urbanists have largely written off the program as a giveaway to developers and a retrenchment of the state as planner and provider of open spaces.

Occupy Wall Street’s reclamation of Liberty Plaza turns this logic on its head.  What was once seen as a boon to real estate capital is now a thorn in its side.  Our presence signals to the city and to real estate capital that social movements will use any and all spaces available to the public, regardless of its formal ownership.  Claiming a privately owned public space as our initial home base created a posture for the movement that was critical of both capital and the state, and especially hostile to its collusion.

October 8, 2011

On the Occupying of the World’s Wall Streets: Reflections from The Bay Area

By H.S. Gill

Despair has come over me in the last few years.  Normally this manifests itself as exhaustion and frustration.  To understand it this time, though, you’d have to understand that the last few years haven’t been so good to my family.

My dad lost his job a few years ago, and from there, we lost our house on Christmas of 2009. We had an emotional conversation about what it means to lose a home, the place where we played soccer in the hallways, and the windows, the ones we snuck into after staying out too late before mom could catch us. This loss of home and income, class, and most importantly to some, status, all led to some pretty serious depressive symptoms that have lasting impacts on a family. Some would de-politicize the moment and say ‘life is about more than politics,’ or some vague sentence about how this is ‘real life not politics.’ But that can’t be further from the truth. These moments are the key reminder that capitalism exists in our daily lives and isn’t just beyond the walls of our homes or in our theory texts. It’s in our workplaces, our schools, and unfortunately, our social relationships. That is to say, capitalism has a way of not just stealing your labor as Marx taught us, but also stealing your spirit and meaning, and teaching us to treat each other in these ways as well; as my good friend and fellow anarchist Cindy Milstein reminds me.

This may seem a bit too personal for some,  but context is necessary to explain why the #occupywallstreet movement is so important, or, as Naomi Klein said from Liberty Plaza last night,“it’s the most important thing in the world right now.” You see, for a family of 6 with me as the only working member, we live in hopes of increased social spending. We live in fear of cuts to medicare and Medicaid, which our family utilizes. We are terrified of cuts to disability entitlements, to the rising cost of “public” colleges my siblings attend, and the never-ending nickel and diming of working class people. And personally, I’m terrified of the look of despair on my own mother’s face and the tears that accompany her prayers as I continue to wish I could do more to help.

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