Editor’s Note: Thanu Yakupitiyage was interviewed by The Real News to discuss how OWS is handling immigration issues; take a look.
By Hena Ashraf
A piece written by Ayesha Kazmi, aka AmericanPaki, called “Why I am Not Protesting at Occupy”, has been making the rounds amongst my circle of friends and with people involved and curious about the Occupy movement. In her blog post Ayesha explains why she is not protesting at Occupy because she is at risk of being targeted by law enforcement agencies, because she is Muslim.
I want to first acknowledge that I genuinely appreciate what Ayesha wrote and that she made her concerns public, because stories like Ayesha’s need to be told and heard. She has experienced questioning by the FBI, discrimination in her personal and professional life post 9/11, and raises very real points about how Muslims are targeted in this country at the hands of federal and local law enforcement.
As for me, I am a visible Muslim woman of color. By visible, I mean that I wear hijab. I’ve been politically engaged and involved with various causes and groups since I was a teenager, around issues such as militarization, Islamophobia, and Palestine solidarity. Growing up during the Bush administration, I felt that my faith community was under attack by the mainstream media and the government, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the passage and practice of oppressive domestic policies. There is war abroad and at home. Attacking and occupying Muslim countries had a boomerang effect of defaming and targeting Muslims here domestically, and these practices are still in place today. Under Obama’s watch, the United States is militarily aggressive in six Muslim countries (and Iran might be next, making it seven) and now openly assassinates American Muslims, and has just passed the terrifying National Defense Authorization Act.
So, I understand where Ayesha is coming from. Though my own personal experiences of Islamophobia do not mirror hers, I understand the sentiment of a need to be careful because there are real risks for Muslims who are politically involved – or honestly, in just being Muslim, as we have seen with the NYPD infiltrating mosques, Muslim student associations, and even local restaurants. Muslims are monitored, followed, screened, tracked, defamed, entrapped, incarcerated, abused. These horrible realities are facing Muslims, and have affected many oppressed communities before us.
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.
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.
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, as well as any standard that functionally asserts authority over our self-determined gender identities. 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. The elimination of systemic oppression against marginalized people is a core goal of the Occupy movement, but self-identiﬁed “womyn-born-womyn” 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).
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.