Posts tagged ‘liberty square’

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.

read more »

November 15, 2011

A Day in the Movement: November 15th, 2011

By Zoltán Glück and Manissa McCleave Maharawal

Scene 1: Manissa

The text came at 1:05am just as I was just getting out of the shower:

OccupyNYC:URGENT:Hundreds of police mobilizing around Zucotti. Eviction in progress.

I both could and could not believe it. But it didn’t matter right then, what mattered right then was that I get on my bike and get there as soon as I could. I threw on the first clothes I found and started texting everyone I knew. It wasn’t even a thought if I would or wouldn’t go: of course I was going. I somehow remembered to fill my water bottle.

Half an hour later with my friend David, I locked my bike a few blocks from Zucotti Park. We started up the street towards Broadway when, out of nowhere I was body checked by three cops in riot gear and thrown against the side of a van, pinned there by a baton. I looked over and David was surrounded and being shoved. I start to scream, threw my arms up and simple thoughts started going through my head: there is no one here to see this, what did I do, how do I get out of this safe? Suddenly it is all over and we are being pushed down the block, being told we can’t go this way. I’m shaking. I grab David’s hand. He holds it tightly and I start crying silently.

Scene 2: Zoltan

By the time I arrived at the scene it was 1:30am, a mere half hour after the emergency text message had gone out. Already the park was fenced in and we could only get within a one-block radius of the square. People were arriving from all over the city, our numbers were growing quickly, and the police decided to push us back before more supporters arrived. There was spontaneous solidarity: along side many faces I recognized from the long weeks of occupation and many that I did not, we linked arms, we tried to stand our ground, we chanted that this was a peaceful protest and we were met with wanton violence. The police had hardly started to move and already to my right three people were pepper-sprayed, a man to my left was being repeatedly gouged in the stomach with a police baton. A few minutes later we were penned in and the police were grabbing people at random from the crowd and arresting them. They made a small opening and now were throwing people violently through it. One man had fallen to the ground, and the cops did not step in to help him up, but rather kept throwing more people out towards him, tripping and stepping on him as he was down. When we tried to help him up we were met with batons, shoved and cursed at.

read more »

November 14, 2011

Comrades from Cairo respond to OWS Egypt delegation

Editor’s Note:  On November 10th, the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street passed a proposal (see the minutes here) allocating $29,000 to send an OWS solidarity delegation to Egypt on November 25th to monitor the upcoming elections.  Each working group was then contacted and asked to nominate two representatives to go on this trip.  Many urgent and important questions and concerns have since been raised.  We are re-publishing a letter from activists in Cairo expressing their deep concern with this decision the GA made.

To our kindred occupiers in Zuccotti park,

When we called out to you, requesting you join us on 12 November in defending our revolution and in our campaign against the military trial of civilians in Egypt, your solidarity—pictures from marches, videos, and statements of support—added to our strength.

However, we recently received news that your General Assembly passed a proposal authorizing $29,000 dollars to send twenty of your number to Egypt as election monitors. Truth be told, the news rather shocked us; we spent the better part of the day simply trying to figure out who could have asked for such assistance on our behalf.

We have some concerns with the idea, and we wanted to join your conversation.

read more »

November 11, 2011

OWS Must Resist Cis-Supremacy and Trans-Misogyny

Editor’s Note:  We received this statement from a trans friend in the Occupy Wall Street movement and are publishing it here to highlight the importance of inclusiveness in our movement.  We denounce transphobia in all its forms and stand in solidarity with our transgender comrades. 

As feminists, we enthusiastically support women’s groups and women designated safer spaces, but as trans women and allies, we oppose (and will categorically block) any group or space that excludes trans women[1], as well as any standard that functionally asserts authority over our self-determined gender identities[2].  Most immediately, all of us—transgender and cisgender alike—must stand together to block the trans-excluding affinity groups “Women Occupying Nations” and “Strong Women” from Spokes Council participation.

By denying the existence of cisgender privilege and furthering the disempowerment of trans women, trans-excluding groups and spaces violate both the letter and spirit of our Principles of Solidarity[3].  The elimination of systemic oppression against marginalized people is a core goal of the Occupy movement, but self-identified “womyn-born-womyn”[4] do not constitute a marginalized group relative to other types of women. Throughout the world, trans women are among the people most marginalized by systemic oppression. In the U.S., trans women face extreme violence (a 1-in-12 chance of dying from a violent crime), poverty (fifty percent unemployment rate) and criminalization (trans women, especially trans women of color, are routinely subject to police profiling).[5]

To fight this systemic oppression—including transphobia, cis-centrism, cis-supremacy, and trans-misogyny—it is essential we support the self determination of all people oppressed by coercive, non-consensual gender assignments.
Allowing any group or space to define gender by cis-centric standards is intrinsically at odds with gender liberation and trans people’s right to autonomous self-determination. It is a fundamental affront to solidarity.

read more »

November 4, 2011

Transforming Harm & Building Safety: Confronting Sexual Violence At Occupy Wall Street & Beyond

Editors’ Note: We are re-printing and posting this statement from the Safer Spaces Working Group at Occupy Wall Street. We admire the work that this working group has been doing to make Occupy Wall Street an anti-oppressive space for everyone and in particular the hard work they have been doing in terms of survivor support around this incident of sexual assault at OWS.

Originally published on the website of the New York General Assembly

New York, November 4, 2011: We are writing this statement to inform our fellow occupiers about an incident of sexual assault at Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the response to it. We are also writing this statement to respond to media accounts that blame the survivor, and that attempt to use this horrific incident to attack OWS. We write this statement as supporters of OWS, as fellow survivors, and as allies.

On the morning of October 29, a woman participating in OWS was sexually assaulted at Liberty Plaza. The person who she identified as having assaulted her was arrested on November 1 for a previous assault. He has since been released on bail.

On the morning of the assault, the survivor was accompanied to the hospital by a group of women from OWS, including a social worker, to support her and act as advocates. From the moment the incident was discovered to the present time, the survivor has been surrounded by a network of allies and trained advocates offering resources to provide emotional, medical, and legal support. At every step of the process, and in line with the core principles of survivor support, her wishes as to how she wanted to proceed have been honored, and information from a range of sources has been provided to her about her options. The survivor knew immediately that she wanted to make sure that the person who assaulted her did not harm anyone else at OWS. Community members honored this demand by asking that this person stay off site, and, when he refused, monitored his activity, ejected him from the space and escorted him to police custody.

read more »