Posts tagged ‘general assembly’

January 20, 2012

OWS and Immigration

Editor’s Note: Thanu Yakupitiyage was interviewed by The Real News to discuss how OWS is handling immigration issues; take a look.

December 7, 2011

A Therapist Talks About the Occupy Wall Street Events

By Lane Arye

Last night I was talking with a group of activists/organizers from around the country about their impressions of the OWS movement. They were curious how the insights of a therapist and conflict facilitator schooled in Worldwork (which was developed by Arnold Mindell) might be useful to folks in the movement. After our teleconference, the activists encouraged me to write this.

First off, OWS is surrounded by a host of critics, from long-time social change organizers to mainstream media.  (Much of the media criticism has been debriefed, so I’m focusing on internal criticisms I have heard.)

We can learn from critics in at least two ways. They can help us improve by pointing out what we genuinely need to change. Paradoxically, they may be criticizing us for something we actually need to do more congruently. Seen from this angle, critics may be highlighting strengths we don’t yet know we have.

Take one criticism: The General Assemblies lead to a kind of individualism of people wanting to be heard and contribute, unaware of the impact on the thousand people listening.  In one recent GA, a small group of frustrated men hijacked the meeting, cursing and physically threatening the entire assembly.  Even in less dramatic situations, most GA’s are filled with judgment, fracturing statements, and individuals repeating each other just so they can get themselves heard.

From one point of view, the criticism is valid. Yes, Western individualism can be very problematic and it is always a good time to learn to become communitarian.  But perhaps there is also something beautiful about this individualism. People have the sense that they can finally speak up about the economy, that their voice is important, that they do not have to shut up and listen to talking heads who supposedly know better.

November 28, 2011

Inside the Student Movement: Undeterred by Crackdown, Activists Around the Country Gear Up for Bigger Actions

originally published on AlterNet

by Manissa McCleave Maharawal

Today, Monday, is not only a day of action against university budget cuts in New York City but also around the country, at places like UC-Davis, where last week students were violently pepper sprayed during a peaceful protest. Here these same students are courageously calling for a student strike that will shut down the campus and in which rallies and teach-ins about budget cuts, police brutality and non-violent action will replace normal campus activities. At UCLA there are planned protests at the Board of Regents meeting in order to force that body to change their agenda to better reflect student concerns like increasing tuition and decreased funding for the entire UC system. These actions will be done with the solidarity and support of students around the country, from Tufts University in Massachusetts to the rural Kentucky-based Owensboro Community and Technical College. These actions also occur in the context of a global student movement: for weeks in Chile protesters, spearheaded by students demanding more affordable education, have been expressing dissent against President Pinera’s capital market reforms. In solidarity with these protests students around Latin America, in Argentina, Columbia, and Peru have come together to demand education reforms and stand in support of the Chilian students. Earlier this month, students in Ireland, Italy and the Phillipines staged massive protests and walk-outs over increased tuition.

Let me start by being very clear about who I am and what I do: I am a graduate student at the City University of New York in the Anthropology Department and I teach Anthropology 101 at Baruch College twice a week on Monday and Wednesday evenings. My students are younger than me and older than me. They are impressively diverse, they are mostly women of color, they work all day long and then come to class in the evening. They are tired by the time they sit down in my class and I respect this tiredness, I respect and understand that many of them have to leave early or get there late because of their job or their family and because I, just like them, am a student and a worker in a public university system.

The public university system that we are in is the third largest in the country and one that has had  values of free education, accessibility and inclusivity in its inception and embedded in its history. I want to be very clear about this because in many ways our histories create our visions for the future and the history of CUNY is a history of struggle that gets to the core of what we think higher education is as well as who we think higher education should be for. Founded in 1847 as the Free Academy, the City University of New York was explicitly created to educate the poor and working class of New York City. Students fought for open admissions in 1969, a struggle that was about forcing the University to accept more non-white students and create Black and Puerto Rican Studies Departments. This struggle was won. In 1976 the University, amid years of student protests against it, imposed tuition for the first time since its foundation. Since then almost every year has been punctuated by protests over increasing tuition and proposed budget cuts. This year is the same.

But this year is also not the same. In the context of the Occupy movement, the student movement has taken off. Our movements are connected and stronger because of these connections. They are connected because they are fighting to articulate the same disconnect between power and people and to show the same connections between where our money is spent and where we want it to be spent, they show the connections between dissent and the way this dissent is violently repressed around the country and the world. In New York City and the United States Occupy Wall Street has provided the student movement with inspiration and supportIn this way Occupy Wall Street has, as Zoltan Gluck writes here:  “already begun to shift the very terrain of other struggles. For student organizing it has provided a whole new framework through which to organize collectively and horizontally.”

November 27, 2011

Dear New York, Welcome to the Student Movement

Editor’s note: We are posting this article about the student movement because we believe that the connections between student struggles around debt, tuition increases and budget cuts are integrally connected to what OWS has been about.

By Zoltan Gluck

We could hear the hundreds of students outside, students who had come from across the city to show support, cheering for us as CUNY campus security surged forward and began to shove us with their clubs. There were only about sixty of us assembled inside the lobby on the ground floor of Baruch College where, fourteen floors above us, the Board of Trustees were convening to discuss the latest round of widely unpopular tuition hikes. Again these hikes will likely pass and, again, when they do, higher education will become even less accessible to the poor and traditionally marginalized communities of New York City. Last Monday night we stood non-violently in the lobby of this school where an undemocratic process with direct bearing on our future and the future of our city was taking place. We stood and spoke and we were met with violence. When the police tried to disperse the crowd students were jabbed and struck with batons, four were arrested, fifteen students were detained and charged with disorderly conduct and “trespassing” on their own campus. We left bruised and battered but far from demoralized. As one of my friends aptly observed: “This is just the beginning.”

A student movement is blossoming in New York City. While police violence against peaceful protesters still loudly dominates public attention, a silent revolution is afoot in the universities. Spurned and inspired by Occupy Wall Street, General Assemblies are now meeting at most major university campuses in the city, active working groups are building for future events, and an All-City Student Assembly has begun to facilitate dialogue and coordination between the campuses. It seems that the era of students struggling in relative isolation, fighting losing battles against insulated and invisible trustees who run their schools like hedge funds, is beginning to give way to something new.

For the past seven weeks students from across the CUNY system, NYU, Columbia, the New School, Rutgers, Pratt and Juilliard have been meeting and organizing. One fruit of their collective efforts has been the “Student Week of Action in Defense of Education.” By November 14th the calendar was full with over sixty events happening on campuses around the city. Corporate walking tours elucidated the connections between university campuses and Wall Street. A faculty speak out at the CUNY Graduate Center linked the struggles of the previous generations to those the present. A group of students occupied a New School Study Center on 5thavenue and 14th street declaring the space open to all and proceeded to run a series of high-octane lectures, teach-ins, workshops and general assemblies that filled the weekend with a sense of collective struggle. An ambitious Student Debt Refusal Pledge was launched at Zuccotti Park. And then last Monday night hundreds of students from across the city joined together to protest CUNY tuition hikes, the gutting of public education and to rebuke the Board of Trustees that hid behind a wall of armed police.

November 1, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is Transforming its Participants, Our Country, and Democracy

By Manissa McCleave Maharawal

Originally published on AlterNet

Monday night at a bar in Brooklyn my friend Alex and I looked through pictures on his phone of the “early days” of Occupy Wall Street. He had pictures of the General Assembly from Day 5 and we laughed together about how empty it looked, how ramshackle and tenuous almost, how we could still see the pavement and there was still space between the people. We had just biked back from Occupy Wall Street and we were commenting, again, on how different the space seems every time we are down there. This time I had been surprised to see tents everywhere, something I hadn’t seen before and honestly between the tents, the problems with the drumming in the past week and the debate about moving to a spokes-council structure it felt like the movement was in a moment in which it was trying to deal with its own internal dynamics. Growing pains almost.

It makes sense for a movement like Occupy Wall Street to be having growing pains right now. It is still a surprise to most people, those inside the movement and those observing, whether in solidarity or not, that it is still there and that it is growing. It is still a surprise that in places like Occupy Oakland, where their tents were torn down in the middle of the night and they were tear gassed the next evening, they came back the next day in even stronger numbers and called for a general strike. It has become clear in the past month that the political discourse has shifted and it has become clear in the past month that this thing isn’t going away. But some mornings I still wake up surprised about it all.