Posts tagged ‘#ows’

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 17, 2011

Not an Ending, a Beginning: Notes on Occupy Wall Street

By Manissa McCleave Maharawal

In the past few weeks friends and family from around the country have asked me, with a deep urgency in their tone:  “What is it like to be there? What does it feel like? How would you describe it?” These questions throw me because, like any project of describing life as it happens around you,  when you are very much in it, it feels impossible sometimes. And so instead of describing what Occupy Wall Street feels like I say: “It is all happening so fast, it changes everyday, it is overwhelming, I am tired but I am also excited again, I’ve made new friends, new lovers and new enemies, I couldn’t have imagined my life would be like this a month ago.”

When I said this to my friend Amy last week she laughed and replied, half-jokingly: “That sounds like the start of the revolution.”

“Not yet,” I replied “but we’re trying.”

But my inability to answer this question has been nagging at me: Why is it so hard to describe what it feels like to be part of this movement that is not really a movement, this moment, this space? Maybe the fact that it is hard to describe is part of its strength?

Here is the thing: Occupy Wall Street has changed a lot over the past two weeks. It has grown tremendously, garnered more and more media attention and seems to be staying put for a while. While two weeks ago I walked away from Liberty Plaza thinking of how beautiful and inspiring it was, but also worried about how long it will be there, now the terrain of questions have shifted, it isn’t: When will the cops kick us out? but How will we grow? How do we sustain all the people that have come here? Should we occupy somewhere else too? That doesn’t mean that the cops getting rid of us isn’t still a major concern, but simply that now we feel like we are semi-established in some ways, or at least in enough ways that we can sustain something.

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October 15, 2011

Occupations, Wall Street, and Strategies

By Coya White Hat-Artichoker

I have been enthralled watching what is happening on Wall Street and has spread to other parts of the country and globe. I am fascinated because of the large numbers of people I see in the streets, and the amount of discontent.  I appreciate the clarity that they are not disorganized but rather, since we are dealing with 99% of the population with a multitude of issues, you are going to see every different kind of protest and issue.

I also appreciate the critiques brought forth by my other indigenous brothers and sisters, both within and outside the US, highlighting the use of the word “occupy”; asking folks to recognize and acknowledge the colonial legacy and history in using settler language to frame what is hopefully a mass people’s movement for liberation. The words of Audre Lorde echo for me here: “the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house”.  It’s important to acknowledge that there are communities who have been living under occupation for over 500 years.  And when we talk about occupation, why aren’t we also talking about the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Puerto Rico, or Guam?

I love that people chose Wall Street to start these protests, and I love that we are talking about the accumulation of wealth by a small percentage of people and what it looks like for the rest of the people who do not share those resources or can access resources of that type.  I also feel that we need to acknowledge the history and legacy of the mass accumulation of wealth within the United States to begin with, and therein lies the ability to talk about colonization and capitalism.  The United States became one of the richest countries in the world because they slaughtered First Nations people for land and imported slaves for labor.  It’s really easy to build the wealth of a nation, when you have stolen land and imported labor that is completely exploitable.

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October 14, 2011

Lessons from OWS

By Hena Ashraf

What I’ve learned in the last few weeks at Occupy Wall Street:

I now know how to locate friends in a crowd of thousands of people.
I now know how communication can be amplified without any equipment, via the human microphone.
I now know that we truly do not need mainstream media in order for us to get attention.
I now know how hard it is to find crucial information about the next mobilization, in a movement that is mostly leaderless.
I now know that a significant strength of a leaderless movement is that there are no immediate easy targets.
I now know to be wary of disrupters and those who cause distractions in the space.
I now know how hard it is to fight oppressions such as racism and sexism in a space that’s supposedly anti-oppressive.
I now know how solidarity with critique is at times desperately needed.
I now know how two-faced our mayor truly is.
I now know that once our movement started to connect the struggles, the authorities attempted to shut us down.
I now know what its like to leave my home in the middle of the night to join a mass mobilization.
I now know what it feels like to be in a crowd of thousands during the early hours of the day, waiting for action.
I now know the euphoric feeling of what people power feels like.
I now know that these experiences have already changed me and will stay with me.
I now know what its like to experience a little bit of the immense challenges the protesters in the Arab uprisings have been enduring for months.

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October 13, 2011

The Value of a Safe Space: One WOC’s experience with harassment at Occupy Wall Street

By Ashwini Hardikar

Is Occupy Wall Street an inclusive movement? I’ve discussed this in-depth with so many of my friends, colleagues and comrades over the past weeks. It seemed to me that while almost everyone felt inspired by the movement, many were reluctant to directly participate. I read notes from meetings and blog posts where people discussed the unsettling elements of racism, sexism and queer/transphobia that seemed to be present in so many of these “Occupy” spaces across the country.

And at Occupy Wall Street on Indigenous People’s Resistance Day, I unfortunately came face to face with some of these elements myself. Walking with my friend M, we greeted old friends, took pictures of signs, and discussed (unsuccessfully) what kind of clever slogan we could come up with as teachers. We circled back around to the entrance, and I stood there trying to read a sign someone had posted about “ground rules” for the space. I felt an arm circle me tightly around the waist, and then a hand grabbing and squeezing my hip roughly. I quickly disentangled myself, turned, and saw a white man, probably in his late 30s, looking very pleased with himself. And I went off.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You can’t just touch people without their permission. It’s not ok to be in someone’s personal space if you haven’t gotten their consent. I have no idea who you are, you can’t just touch me!” I was yelling, getting louder and louder. I wondered if anyone was listening.

“I was just giving you a hug. I’m not allowed to give people hugs?”

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