Posts tagged ‘economic justice’

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.

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October 6, 2011

Wall Street Sikhs, Corporate Tyranny, and the 99%

By Sonny Singh

Originally published on The Langar Hall

By now I imagine most of you have heard about Occupy Wall Street in New York City and the growing “Occupy” movement all over the country.  Inspired by the mass uprisings of the Arab Spring, the movement is uniting under the banner, “We are the 99%”, in its protest of unprecedented economic inequality and Wall Street and corporate power and influence in the United States.

The official declaration of #OccupyWallStreet, released last week (as a working document), states:

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

The mainstream media coverage of the protest, now in its 18th consecutive day, has largely downplayed its significance or remained silent all together.  Some in the movement, thus, raised $12,000 on Kickstarter in 3 days (now over $40K) and published 50,000 copies of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal,” grassroots media at its best.  This says a lot about what is going on at Liberty Square (what protesters call the park they are occupying).  People, many with little background in activism, are taking matters into their own hands, and building a democratic movement against corporate tyranny.

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