Posts tagged ‘#ows’

February 1, 2012

Occupying Process, Processing Occupy: Spokes Council Musings by One POC

By Sonny Singh

(What follows does not reflect or represent the views of the People of Color Caucus at Occupy Wall Street but only the views of the author himself.)

At the notorious Occupy Wall Street spokes council meetings, the People of Color (POC) Caucus, of which I am a member, often finds itself in the role of whistle-blowing and bringing a critical perspective to the discussion. I have gotten the sense that most people at spokes — sometimes including the facilitators — just want to “get through” the agenda with little to no drama or disruptions.  While I can relate, given that these meetings are long and often frustrating, this approach doesn’t create a culture that fosters critical thinking or the voicing of dissent.  So, often when the POC Caucus voices concerns about a proposal being made or something happening in the room, I sense a lot of hostility towards us.

Last week, the issue of banning “violent people” from Occupy Wall Street came up at a spokes council meeting I attended.  Those of us in the POC spoke shared the deep concern of the majority in the room that certain individuals have made others feel unsafe by committing physically aggressive or violent acts towards others.  Many at the meeting were getting understandably worked up about it and insisted on a zero-tolerance type policy when it comes to violence and thus banning so-called violent people for life from OWS.

When it was finally our turn to speak on stack, I raised a question about the meaning of the word violent and how we wanted to make sure people are specific about the actions of a person being deemed “violent.”  Violence means different things to different people.  Violence can be verbal, physical, sexual, institutional, or state-sanctioned.  Pushing someone could be seen as violent. Yelling could be seen as violent.  Damaging property could be seen as violent.  Raising your voice and calling out racism or sexism in a meeting could be seen as violent (no, this is not a hypothetical scenario).

So, we were concerned about three “violent” people (all who happened to be people of color themselves) being permanently banned from OWS and kicked out of the church they were living in without being clear and on the same page about what constitutes violence.  We have not had this conversation at Occupy.  Many assumptions are made when people talk about someone being violent, and to raise the question is apparently taboo.

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.

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.

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.

October 19, 2011

Statement in Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street

Editor’s note: We received this statement of solidarity from the Pakistan Solidarity Network and are grateful for their support. We are re-printing their statement as the organization’s anti-imperialist analysis is crucial for this movement to heed and acknowledge.