Latest

Scrambling to Cover the Occupy Movement: A Front Lines Journal


To Liberty Plaza’s Patriots: “Change the Hearts of the Oppressed

September 21, 2011

“…but far more important was the effort to change the hearts of the oppressed. They needed to become unwilling to continue accepting their oppression, and to become determined to build a better society.”
– “Tapping the Roots of Power” from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, Gene Sharp

Something important is happening at Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The encampment that began there on Saturday, September 17th, is a vocal and stark reminder of growing American youth discontent. Banks and other corporations are sitting on record profits and CEO salaries continue to climb at an unprecedented rate, while students and the average American worker face an anemic job market and growing economic disparity. The occupation in Lower Manhattan may be the start of a sea-change in so-called American democracy. But if it is a true change (and other organizing efforts in cities like Chicago and Atlanta, including an ongoing one in San Francisco suggest that it may be), certain things must change in order for this nonviolent revolution to be sustained and really have an effect. More on that in a moment.

I was fortunate enough to spend four days at the camp. In many ways, the camp is a world unto itself: very self-sustaining, with its own media center, food area, trash committees, etc. It’s a shining example of a cooperative community. The protesters are very open to pedestrians, quite willing to engage them in conversation, and often invite the homeless to eat the seemingly endless supply of pizza that continues to flow in from supporters across the country. The sense that the camp’s inhabitants are making history, and that they’re fighting for a fairer, more equitable system is palpable and infectious. The NYPD is increasingly using tactical intimidation in the form of brutal harassment to quell the spirit of the protesters, as this video below shows:

There have also been unconfirmed reports of alleged agent provocateurs (not uncommon considering increased counter-terrorism activity with the help of the CIA) and ordering tents and tarps be taken down during rain storms. The resolve and courage of the protesters only seems to strengthen, however: Immediately after a police raid, for instance, a march is organized as a show of strength. The marches to “the belly of the beast,” as many protesters call Wall Street, are dismissed by outlets like CNBC, who just this morning said that the occupation will fizzle out by week’s end. Presumptions like this come off as naive because they underestimate the passion, energy and commitment these young people have for their mission.

But this begs the question: what exactly IS the mission? What exactly are the demands that Liberty Plaza wants met?

Since getting back to Philadelphia last night, I’ve been able to catch up on media stories about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some outlets capture the youth energy and thirst for change accurately, while some seem to go out of their way to downplay the significance of what’s happening in Lower Manhattan. Almost none can really zero-in on one specific demand, however. As friends and family (many of whom share this anger towards Wall Street) have told me: “I still don’t know what they want.” And that may be the most accurate part of this story thus far. Watching news reports and reading eyewitness accounts, we see brave young people marching and facing ramped-up police intimidation, but the average American watching these reports can’t latch on to one specific message.

Photograph: John Stuttle/guardian.co.uk

Growing a movement means bringing others from different segments of society together. It quite often starts with the radical left (intellectuals and the youth), as the Egyptian revolution this year and the student-started revolution in Poland that eventually brought down the Soviet Union show us. But in order to sustain these movements, one demand or even a short list of demands must be crafted to appeal to larger segments of society. While the people in Tahrir Square had a long list of grievances, from high food prices to political oppression, eventually one solid demand emerged: oust Mubarak.

As the picture above illustrates, there are a whole host of grievances at Liberty Plaza, and nearly all of them are legitimate. There is great anger at Wall Street, hence the reason for camping out mere blocks away from the New York Stock Exchange. But the connection between grievances such as “Forgive student loan debt,” or “End the wars,” or even “End corporate personhood,” is lost because there is no coherent narrative to connect those demands. A sustained campaign of civil disobedience and highly visible public marches on Wall Street is crucial and is coalescing well at the moment. If these demonstrations get bigger, however (and there is currently great momentum) one loud and clear demand to feed to the media–and to broadcast as an invitation to Americans of all stripes to join the demonstrations–can only strengthen the movement, because when whole sections of society refuse to participate or be complicit in a corrupt system, they take away the ability of rulers to exercise their power. Hence the power of a general strike, for instance.

“The internal stability of rulers can be measured by the ratio of the strength of the social forces that they control and the strength of the social forces that oppose them.”
–”Tapping the Roots of Power” from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, Gene Sharp

So, permit me to make a suggestion: “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Getting special interest money out of politics changes the whole game, and addresses a myriad of concerns expressed by not just the Liberty Plaza occupiers, but an overwhelming majority of Americans. For example:

1) Student loan debt is astronomically high in large part because of special interest money (i.e. Wall Street banks) influencing political decisions in Washington, D.C. It’s so powerful, in fact, that chronic gamblers can discharge their debt, but graduates are unable to discharge their debt. Period.

2) Our country is in a perpetual state of war due largely to the military-industrial complex (Wall Street) occupying the halls of power.

3) Corporations are allowed to pour unaccountable and unlimited amounts of money into elections because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Clarence Thomas and the Koch Brothers, anybody?

4) The state-by-state campaign to break the backs of public sector workers’ right to collectively bargain, or to disenfranchise Democratic voters? Big-moneyed (Wall Street) interests under ALEC have literally been crafting legislation in every state to perpetuate such injustices.

Monsanto at the FDA. Oil companies and climate change legislation. The list goes on and on.

“One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” It’s a demand that speaks to all Americans. My libertarian father, myself (a democratic socialist) and my Republican friends firmly agree on the need to get money out of politics. Special interest corruption of our democratic processes IS our Mubarak. And Wall Street is a clear-cut example of the power of special interests. It’s a perfect focal point for popular rage and misery at our broken economy.

It’s time to start organizing nonviolent civil disobedience, petitions, and other efforts in order to galvanize our country into a concerted effort to make “One citizen, one dollar, one vote” not just a slogan, but a mainstay of our democracy. Some suggest legislation. Some suggest a Constitutional amendment. Whatever the solution, we need to start that conversation. Liberty Plaza, with the world watching them and support growing, is in a perfect position to push the national conversation on corruption in our government into the spotlight. I hope they do so. To learn more about how to organize this campaign in your community, visit US Day of Rage.

If you want to help those at Liberty Plaza, you can donate here.

For the latest news and analysis on what’s happening with the protests and life at the camp, visit the excellent Waging Nonviolence.

The Project is Returning to Occupy Wall Street

 September 25, 2011

This weekend’s brutal and unacceptable repression of free speech and the right to peaceable assembly, including the targeted detention of citizen journalists by the NYPD, has inspired me to return to Liberty Plaza. Journalists, filmmakers and others must join the occupiers.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all Americans to be direct participants in changing the course of a historical outcome that has been dictated by the criminal financial class for far, far too long. Thousands have already begun this struggle at the doorstep of America’s financial nerve center. Many more have already started their own occupation movements in numerous American cities.

Whether you can make the trip to Lower Manhattan, join an occupation in your city, or make reasonable, sustained donations, now it’s time to help your fellow Americans carry this forward, whatever may come.

Please subscribe to the Project for on the ground updates as news from the occupation unfolds. Thank you.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist and Author, Chris Hedges, Visits Liberty Plaza, NYC

September 26, 2011

Chris Hedges sits down with New York City Revolution Media via Livestream to discuss the need for American nonviolent radicalism, capitalism in its death throes, the challenges that lie ahead, and essential titles to read.

“Acts of violence are exactly how The State wants us to react, they know what to do with that. They don’t really know what to do with this.”

Day 10 of the occupation.

 

Faces of the Occupation: Nicki Angelo

September 28, 2011

Nicki Angelo is running the public outreach table at the Broadway Street entrance to Liberty Plaza on this overcast, humid day. Outreach is but one of 12 “working groups,” ranging from sanitation and media, to direct action and legal. She speaks with a quiet intensity when I ask her what brought her to the camp last week.

She is one of many other young people saddled with massive student loan debt–in her case, over $50,000. And like many other Americans lumped into the 9.1% unemployment rate, she hasn’t been able to find a job for two years.

I ask her what her experience has been like dealing with a public who has likely never seen anything quite like the encampment at Liberty Plaza.

“At first, we had some people walk by and say ‘Get a job, hippie.’ They called us communists.”

Yet as time went on, she tells me, and New Yorkers saw these young people’s commitment through bad weather and NYPD intimidation, remarks grew more and more encouraging. In front of her sits a sizable stack of signatures in support of the camp’s presence and of the protesters right to be there. As of last night, the camp won the neighborhood council’s endorsement also.

I ask her how long she intends to stay. She grins.

“As long as it takes.”

For more pieces from the Project on Occupy Wall Street, please subscribe to the David and Goliath Project. Stay up to date on profiles like this one, to commentary and special reports.

 Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

September 30, 2011

Last night, the Occupy Wall Street movement released what is presumably their stated aim for a continuing occupation of Manhattan’s financial district. The action is now entering it’s 14th day, and is showing no signs of slowing.

The statement in full:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.

  • We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them. They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, October 5, 2011 Keith Olbermann read the entire statement by the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street Liberty Square on his show “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on Current TV

 

No Time for Sound Bytes Now: #OccupyWallStreet is its Own Message

 October 3, 2011

A formidable NYPD presence holds one side of the exit ramp while an equally large throng of soaked, defiant youth face them on the other side. I’m heading back towards the ramp after witnessing a white-shirted police supervisor commandeer a public bus, ordering the passengers off and instructing the driver to turn around and head back to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has been shut down for over an hour now. When the bus arrives, hundreds upon hundreds will be arrested and boarded onto the bus, as well as police vans. Meanwhile, the protesters on the street begin chanting to the police: “We pay YOU! We pay YOU!” and “It’s OUR bridge. It’s OUR bridge!” as a cold, driving rain fails to dampen their spirits.

Police square off against protesters. Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Arriving four days earlier, I had hoped for, and was greatly disappointed when, a short list of demands never materialized from the occupation’s General Assembly. Repeal corporate personhood. Remove special interest money from elections. Something. Yet by the fourth day, standing at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge with this standoff, it was clear to me that the Occupy Wall Street movement had evolved.

The occupation at Liberty Plaza may outwardly appear to be just a large encampment of hundreds of tired, exuberant, unwashed people. But it’s an incredibly subversive idea. What the occupation has managed to do thus far is set up a center for agitation on Wall Street’s doorstep, while simultaneously stand up to the most militarized police force in America. In that brave act of defiance, they’ve begun the process of recapturing public space to assemble and foment resistance against a corrupt system, a public space lost to us after 9/11 (with the introduction of “free speech zones”) and just as importantly, begin to remedy the fear and cynicism so many Americans have been feeling for well over a decade now under the hand of a police state and a domestic intelligence apparatus unparalleled in American history. The Founders clearly understood that the right to assemble was of key importance to those who wanted to correct wrongs done by their government. If they could not assemble, they could not achieve their goals. Liberty Plaza is a long-overdue civics lesson.

The protesters have collectively said, simply by holding the plaza: This is OUR square, the PEOPLE’S square, and we have a right to assemble and organize a campaign against the economic and civil injustices perpetrated by the plutocrats and their tax payer-funded security service, the NYPD.

They’ve managed to pull back the curtain and expose the police state which works to protect the ruling elite’s interests at the expense of the citizens they originally took an oath to serve: CIA-trained NYPD counterintelligence squads; videotaping the faces of peaceful protesters to feed into a facial recognition database; commandeering public buses for mass arrests; entrapment; kettling and pepper spray. And perhaps the most audacious: A $4.6 million bribe, ostensibly for new laptops, given by JP Morgan to the NYPD. All of this against peaceful citizens who are the living embodiment of a wildly popular sentiment in America since 2008: the rich and powerful in this country have gotten away with too much. When Americans demand fundamental change and refuse to rely on or even trust a thoroughly corrupt system to achieve that change, they must begin at the root of their oppression, and it’s as simple an idea as occupying public space in the face of police intimidation.

This movement is only getting started, with many, many cities developing their own occupations. Maybe I’m wrong, but perhaps it’s time to just let this people-powered movement grow on its own, because you can’t package an idea whose time has come into one or two pithy sound bytes. As one protester told me: “It’s bigger than one or two issues because it’s not about reforming the hopelessly corrupt system we have. This is about creating a new system entirely.”

If you would like to donate to #OccupyWallStreet, visit the New York City General Assembly website.

The Project is leaving Wall Street to report on the Boston occupation, and then to Washington D.C. for the major October 6th occupation in our nation’s capital, but we can’t do it without your help. If you enjoy my work and would like to help me cover expenses such as travel, food and gear, please consider donating to the David and Goliath Project’s #Occupy Media Fund.

The #Occupy Movement is Exploding, and I’m Scrambling to Cover it–for You

October 6, 2011

What started as a trip up to Lower Manhattan to cover #OccupyWallStreet has now turned into a frenetic attempt at capturing the birth of something historic: a purely people-powered democratic movement focused on not just reforms, but potentially creating a new system.

The Project was there at the Brooklyn Bridge when one of the largest arrests in recent memory occurred–700 to be exact, by a police force bent on protecting the wealthy elite at the expense of the average American, people like you and me. The Project was also on Wall Street when things got ugly last night. And so this journey continues–through live-tweeting and editorials you’ve been receiving in your Inbox. Next will be a glimpse of the Boston occupation, and following that, the major event in Washington D.C., where the #October6 movement kicks off today, and with them, #OccupyDC and #OccupyKStreet. And after D.C., I return home to spend time with the peaceful, brave citizens of #OccupyPhilly.

The Project will continue to bring you updates via live-Tweeting (@DavGolProject and @DustinSlaughter) information as it happens, as well as profiles and editorials. I’m also putting together a short documentary about the movement. But I can’t do it without your help.

Please consider donating just $10 to the Project’s Occupy Media Fund. Your help will enable me to continue my work as I literally live on-site, sleeping in plazas and tent cities as the American Autumn unfolds before our eyes.

Thank you so much for your interest in the Project, and don’t hesitate to contact me with comments, criticisms and questions.

To donate: https://www.wepay.com/donate/116187

Sincerely and in Solidarity,
Dustin M. Slaughter

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

 

Reimagining a Revolution in Boston: Three Days with #OccupyBoston

October 8, 2011

“I’ve lost faith in the country. I don’t think the politicians represent the people, and they certainly don’t represent me.” –Sean, age 22, #OccupyBoston

Boston’s General Assembly is in full swing when I arrive from Lower Manhattan. They’re discussing full inclusion, in this case Tea Party members. I had heard talk of a letter circulating on the Internet–allegedly from a Tea Party supporter–warning the #Occupy movement not to be co-opted like the “original” Tea Party was by powerful special interests like the Koch Brothers.

The notion of a letter like this isn’t far fetched. I’ve personally talked to a number of Tea Party members who, like many in the #Occupy movement, oppose bailing-out major banks, shutting down the fed, and corporate tax loopholes, ones like Bank of America exploits (which allow them to actually receive hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds, while they introduce $5 debit card fees and lay off many thousands of people.)

“We can’t let racists into the movement!” àrgues one woman opposed to Tea Party inclusion.

It appears, though, that she is in the minority. This, I think, speaks to the remarkably inclusive spirit of the #Occupy movement. The Tea Party, like the #Occupy movement, are part of what these activists call “The 99%”–meaning not members of the 1%, who, it is estimated by most economists, control 40% of America’s wealth.

#OccupyBoston, I learn as I sit in on their lively General Assembly meetings, overall hold a very strong belief that the political polarization that has “infected” American politics should be left out of this direct democratic process. It is these two aspects–inclusion and civility–that stand out among the Boston and New York assemblies. I suspect that any overtly racist or anti-Semitic elements would summarily be expunged if they became too much of a problem moving forward, as these assemblies continue hammering out a list of demands through the often slow, and sometimes frustrating path to consensus. Real democracy is a very laborious process.

The Boston occupation’s relaxed, almost party-like atmosphere is a far cry from the frenetic, adrenaline-filled one blocks from Wall Street, where marchers never know when the next NYPD crackdown will happen. Not that Wall Street doesn’t have its wonderful music and celebration, but the amazing cooperation and support the Boston police have shown the protesters certainly takes the edge off here. There are no barricades surrounding the perimeter, no counter-terrorism units looking down at you from their command trucks when you awake in your sleeping bag, and certainly no night sticks and pepper-spray. In fact, with just a few minutes notice, the police here will shut down whole streets for the protesters to march down. The Boston police force, so far at least, seem to understand that it is their duty to protect the rights of citizens and not harass them by tearing down tarps in the rain or arresting an occupation’s media team.

During my three days in Boston, I noticed how rapidly their membership was growing. GA members are in talks, reportedly, to acquire a larger space. By my third day there were no longer room for tents, and Nurses United had announced an alliance with the occupation, as well as a few student unions, who were planning walk-outs of area colleges in solidarity with the movement.

As I caught an afternoon bus from South Station to head back to #OccupyWallStreet, I couldn’t help but feel a sense that a major milestone was unfolding before my eyes, due in no small part to this tent city across from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, in the cradle of American revolution.

I’m now in Washington D.C spending time with #OccupyKSt/#OccupyBoston. I’ll leave next for #OccupyPhilly.

The Project will continue to bring you updates via live-Tweeting (@DavGolProject and @DustinSlaughter) as events unfold on the ground, as well as profiles and editorials. I’m also putting together a short documentary about the movement. But I can’t do it without your help.

Please consider donating just $10 to the Project’s Occupy Media Fund. Your help will enable me to continue my work as I literally live on-site, sleeping in plazas and tent cities as the American Autumn unfolds before our eyes.

Thank you so much for your interest in the Project, and don’t hesitate to contact me with comments, criticisms and questions.

To donate: https://www.wepay.com/donate/116187

 __________

Dustin M. Slaughter is the Founder of The David and Goliath Project and is a regular contributor to Raging Chicken Press.

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Occupy October Issue of Raging Chicken Press is Out! | Raging Chicken Press
  2. October Issue of Raging Chicken Press is Here! « APSCUF-KU xchange

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

*



UA-29281300-1