Occupy Wall Street: Where We At

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious–makes you so sick at heart–that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” – Mario Savio, 1964

I wish I could start with the ritual “I love you” which the Occupy Movement is supposed to inspire. To be honest, it has been a space of turmoil. But also, virulent optimism. – Harsha Walia


Readers, this week I wanted to do things a little differently. Instead of giving my regular round up, I wanted to highlight things that have caught my attention in one way or another, things that left on their own, I feel best explain the many things that like Walia describes, are a source of optimism, yet also exist as spaces of turmoil. Please enjoy.

24 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were locked inside the La Guardia Place Citibank branch and arrested for criminal trespassing. They were attempting to close their bank account at the time. Footage captured at the scene shows a woman being arrested by a plainclothes cop while shouting, “I’m a customer, I’m a customer.” – The Daily What

“It has now been reported that one of the protestors that had initially gone in with the 24 others, had actually turned out to be an undercover cop… But what was unknown to us and to a lot of people that day, including those in Times Square, was that there were undercover cops already there, paid to be disruptive and to be loud. One undercover cop present [at Citi] was louder than the entire group. He arrested one of the protestors outside, and slammed her into the wall, and pushed her back into the bank. We all saw him at the precinct with us. He was laughing with the fellow white shirt cops, telling them about what we’d been saying, basically. It was a bit startling how inside their information was ““ how they were being paid to go to these protests and put us in situations where we’d be arrested and not be able to leave.” – Marshall Garrett / The New York Observer

“Understand that the police and laws are part of a system that is anti-poor, anti-women, anti-people of colour, anti-queer, and anti-people with disabilities. Understand that to truly be free, to truly do what you are trying to do, which is resisting the laws that allow some to be rich and powerful and for the rest to live at their mercy, you must resist racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and disableism. You must resist the very structure every one of these laws is based on – you must resist colonialism. Understand that to truly be free, to truly include the entire 99 per cent, you have to say today, and say every day: We will leave no one behind. We will leave no one in jail. We will leave no one in the clutches of immigration enforcement. We will leave no one when they are strong. We will leave no one when they are weak. We will support the decisions people make, to do whatever they feel necessary to survive and to resist. We will support those that fight in the courts, and we will support those that fight in the streets.” – Syed Hussan in #OccupyTogether in the age of conspiracy |

“The Wall Street protests makes me want to scream in some sense. There’s two things I’m tired of. I feel like in these mostly white left-led mobilizations, there’s always a reference to slaves. “We’re slaves to bankers!” I’m tired of people haphazardly throwing around what they think chattel slavery is and similarly you often hear people equate oppression with rape. Physical, sexual assault capitulated in that way to describe other kinds of oppression is not okay. It’s always these rape narratives or comparisons to slavery I find both really politically shortsighted and also politically dangerous. What’s the difference between saying these young white kids are slaves to banks and Michelle Bachmann saying slavery wasn’t so bad for black families? Ideologically, the leaps are not that different and it’s a real problem.” – Kenyon Farrow

” A 19 year-old student in Cleveland is telling police that she was raped in a tent at an Occupy Cleveland rally in Public Square by a man known as “Leland.” The accuser alleges that she attended the Occupy Cleveland protest on Oct. 15 and was directed by organizers to sleep in Leland’s tent. Rally organizer Rebecca Hawkins questioned the report, telling FOX 8 that Occupy Cleveland is a leaderless movement and, ‘your assignment would be your own choice of what you want to do.'”  – Nando di Fino

“I am, in other words, part of what could be called the Clueless Generation. The Clueless Generation is made up of middle-aged, professionally successful people, who grew up in a nation that featured a mostly thriving economy, low-cost higher education, and some minimal commitment to economic justice. As a consequence, we graduated from school with little or no debt, got good jobs that featured real possibilities for advancement, and have on the whole ended up doing very well for ourselves. A lot of us have also become insufferably smug and complacent.”  – Paul Campos, The Daily Beast

“But creating a blog and a video dedicated to showing women at a protest with the sole purpose of reminding dudes that women at the protest are hot? That does reduce women to objects of male attention. It’s another reminder, for women, that how seriously we’re taken and how valuable we are depends on how sexually attractive we’re deemed. That it’s ok to use us as bait because hey, it’ll attract more dudes to the protest! Frankly, the kinds of dudes who would come to the OWS protests because they heard there are hot chicks there? Are not the kinds of dudes I want to be protesting with. I would hope they’re not the kinds of dudes that most progressives would want to be protesting with – but judging by the lefty-dude reaction to Steven Greenstreet (hi Matt Zoller Seitz, looking at you!), that’s not the case. It’s disappointing. It’s pretty shitty to know that some progressive men are a-ok with female protestors being portrayed as boner-bait, because boys will be boys and it’s all in good fun. It’s also worth noting here that actual sexual assaults have happened at OWS. ” Jill Filopvic

U.S. Marine Sergeant Shamar Thomas, confronting New York Police Department officers during Saturday night’s protests to ask them why they’ve been arresting Occupy Wall Streeters instead of defending the right to protest. A valid question! “How do you sleep at night?” he asks them. “There is no honor in this.”

“One of the things I find very interesting in our current debates is this concept of ‘who creates wealth?’ That wealth is only created when it’s owned privately. What would you call clean water, fresh air, a safe environment? Are they not a form of wealth? And why does it only become wealth when some entity puts a fence around it and declares it private property? Well, you know, that’s not wealth creation, that’s wealth usurpation.” Elaine Bernard – Executive Director, Trade Union Program, Harvard University

“When people like my mama have asked to be compensated for the building of a nation that these young, White hipsters demand justice and assistance from, they have been not only denied, but ridiculed. There is a certain amount of volcanic rage that I feel coursing through my veins when I consider what that says. I am angry that they have a voice. I am angry that they have a choice. I am angry that an entire nation of citizens, obviously unlike myself, have told me and continue to tell me that I should stop whining. I am sick to fucking death of my struggle being mocked while the struggles of others are given sympathy and accolades.” – Jo Nubian, “Pinto Beans, Wall Street and Me”

“Those of us who are not white have had to deal with this ‘occupation’ in one form or another since 1492 when Columbus ‘discovered’ America for himself. That discovery opened the door for other European nations hell-bent, fighting and tripping over themselves to colonize, rape, plunder and enrich themselves at the expense of indigenous peoples. From the genocide of the native populations in the Caribbean, North, Central and South America that this ‘occupation’ brought to us over 500 years ago, to the holocaust of the trans-Atlantic African slave trade and subsequent rampant colonization of Africa. The story of the occupation of indigenous lands doesn’t just end with wholesale murder but continues today in new forms of violence. The eradication of native peoples’ language, culture and history is the new “occupation.” With the success of the forced occupation of native peoples’ land, the only thing left to occupy is the minds of those who managed to survive”¦ The greatest misconception that white people have is that only non-whites have to deal with racism. What whites have failed to realize is that racism is only the frosting on the cake of class warfare. What is done to non-whites under the guise of racism is a test run for what they will eventually do to you. The irony of the situation is that we non-whites who have been dealing with this “occupation” for over five centuries were the canary in the coal mine. But you refused to see the graffiti on the wall. Now that you have lost your homes to banks and your livelihoods to unemployment and your once bright white futures have been painted black, (pun intended) and you are beginning to feel what we have lived with for more than half an eon.” ““ To Occupy and unoccupy, Nothing to be Gained here

“Finally, over time it would be wise to stop articulating that this is a leaderless movement; it might be more honest to suggest that We Are All Leaders. Denying that leadership exists deflects accountability, obscures potential hierarchies, and absolves us of actively creating structures within which to build collective leadership. Many of the models currently being used such as the General Assembly and Consensus are rooted in the practice of anti-authoritarians and community organizers. There are many other critical skills to share to empower and embolden this movement. As much as we wish we can radically transform unjust economic, political, and social systems overnight through this movement, the reality is that this is a long-term struggle. And there is always the danger of co-optation.” Harsha Walia 

2 replies on “Occupy Wall Street: Where We At”

“One of the things I find very interesting in our current debates is this concept of ‘who creates wealth?’

People who work and produce something that other people want enough to trade the product of their own labor for.

“What would you call clean water, fresh air, a safe environment? Are they not a form of wealth?”

No.  I wouldn’t call them wealth.  I call them something desirable, certainly.  But people can die in poverty and starvation in the midst of clean water and fresh air.  The U.S. is in a position to both create wealth and then spend some of it to ensure that the air stays fresh and the water stays clean, but the wealth that is spent to do this was created by private action, not public.

U.S. Marine Sergeant Shamar Thomas, confronting New York Police Department officers during Saturday night’s protests to ask them why they’ve been arresting Occupy Wall Streeters instead of defending the right to protest. A valid question! “How do you sleep at night?” he asks them. “There is no honor in this.”

Simple.  Their right to protest is not in danger and thus needs no defense.  You have every right to protest and no one is challenging it.  You can protest by writing letters to public officials, make postings on Facebook, convince people to move their bank accounts from banks to credit unions, hire a hall and hold a rally, write letters to newspapers, take out ads, spend an hour in a public park speaking your mind to whoever will listen, hold a press conference and invite the media, print flyers and circulate them, show up at town hall meetings and tell officials what’s on your mind when they ask, convince a property owner to let you use his or her property for a protest, lease a piece of property for that purpose, put up a billboard, etc., etc.  The police are in the business of defending people’s rights.  If those rights are not endangered then they don’t have to do anything.

What the protestors do NOT have the right to do is to comandeer public property for indefinite periods of time.  You do NOT have the right to camp out on public property when camping out is illegal.  You do NOT have the right to damage property.  You do NOT have the right to interfere with other people’s access to public property to use as they see fit (within the law).  You do NOT have the right to block streets.  The permitting process for use of public property exists so that everyone gets to share public property – no one group has the right to use public property outside that system and keep others from using it simply because they are convinced that their cause is righteous.

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