Since the last issue of The Harbinger, the Occupy Wall Street movement has become a national issue. In every major metropolitan area, a “sister occupation” has taken hold in some fashion. The setup of each of the protests is roughly the same: a core group of protesters sets up a visible camp in a public space to provide a constant presence that “occupies,” or reclaims the location for the use of the majority. Larger general assemblies and demonstrations are held on weekends or after work when employed supporters have time to participate. Though there have been severe cases of police brutality in such locations as Boston, on the whole, most of the Occupations, especially those in smaller cities, have had good relations with the police. However, in recent weeks more and more occupations are coming under larger and more violent police intimidation.
At the beginning of the protests, the Occupy Wall Street crowd was made primarily of anti-capitalists, libertarians, and the usual protesters that appear at anti-establishment gatherings. However, due to the severity of the Global Recession, other citizens have joined in the protests: not just young anarchists, but middle aged union men, Democrat white collar professionals, and progressive parents. Despite the fact that this is a socialist zine that you’re reading, it is important not to think of the protesters as a bunch of maniacal, radical leftists as the corporate media often tries to portray them: there are many progressives, liberals, libertarians and even conservatives who have joined the movement, and the socialists and anarchists are but one part of a disaffected populace that wants change.
All Occupy groups are based on direct democracy, where there are as few representatives as possible and everyone has a direct say in the proceedings. These groups draw from Anarchist consensus methods created to ensure that the majority of a group could not drown out a minority, with each protest determining the rules on their own rather than from some central source. However, most protests do share a number of common characteristics, including particular hand symbols and the now famous “Human Microphone.” The use of hand symbols is so that everyone in the group can hear the current speaker but still respond or object to what they are saying. The “Human Microphone,” though, is a recent development: after the NYPD forbade megaphones at the protest, the Occupiers there developed a system in which the people closest to the speaker would repeat what they said, and would then be repeated again further out. Rather than create a ‘cult-like’ mentality, the Human Microphone allows people as a whole to fully control what is said at any meeting: you don’t repeat what the speaker is saying if you don’t like it, and it makes the listener active in the speech itself.
On the whole, there are four major issues that have given rise to the protests. Though all are interconnected and must be solved as a group, each is best understood on its own first.
1.Government is controlled by the rich (the 1% in the OWS vernacular) who use lobbyists, legal bribers, etc. to dictate US law and policy. This makes our laws favor the elite and their profits more than the vast majority.
2.Banks and corporations use these favorable laws to recklessly gamble money and give executives huge bonuses, while shunting all risk onto the populace. We see nothing of these larger profits (adjusted for inflation, average wages have remained relatively flat over the last 25 years– and not just for the working class).
3.This disconnect from both political and economic self-determination has made the USA a country where the voice of the working class and middle class does not matter to the socioeconomic elite– in effect, we have become an elective oligarchy. To prevent the people from realizing this, they use corporate media to divide people on petty social issues and partisan politics. There is a growing feeling of malaise and disconnection from society as a whole in the majority because of this.
4.Also, high unemployment fits in there somewhere.
The Occupy movement is, essentially, a rediscovery of each other as political entities outside of corporate or party-authorized social gatherings. As a whole, the majority of the country – the 99% – must find a solution to these problems not dictated to us by the ones who benefit from this status quo.
As there are several hundred Occupy demonstrations in the United States alone, a summary of the last month will inevitably be incomplete. However, we will attempt to give a list of notable events and overall trends in the various movements.
New York: On October 2, 700 people were arrested for traffic violations while marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. Many of the protesters maintain that they were deliberately redirected towards the bridge by the NYPD, while other observers say there was a communication failure on both sides of the police action. On October 15, 23 people who were closing accounts at CitiBank as a group were detained by the police. There have been unconfirmed reports that there were undercover police who acted as instigators in the incident. On October 16, appx. 6,000 demonstrators marched through Times Square.
East Coast: On October 10th, Occupy Boston was deliberately crushed by the city. In a stunning display of police action, the first to be arrested after beatings there were US Veterans. The entire camp was thrown into garbage trucks afterwards. A jar filled with toxic chemicals was thrown into the Occupy Portland (Maine) camp at 4 AM on October 23, though nobody was harmed. The thrower has not been found. On October 24, state and local police refused to do a crackdown on Occupy Albany ordered by Governor Cuomo (D) and the Mayor of Albany. Philadelphia has had one of the more peaceful relationships between the protesters and the police. On November 15th, after a week of national police crackdowns, the Occupy New York camp was raided. in the early hours of the morning police shut down the subways and Brooklyn bridge, gave the protesters 20 minutes to clear out, and then marched into the camp. Protesters have since relocated to Foley park, and remain adamant commitment to the movement.
Midwest: Despite some repression by police, Chicago was the first of the protests to successfully march in the financial district. Cincinnati’s occupation initially had major difficulties as there were no publicly owned parks to set up tents in.
West Coast: Occupy LA has had one of the most friendly police presences in the country: however, ABC news created a false alarm that clouded October 26. On October 25, Oakland was the first protest to be attacked with rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash/bang grenades. A recent veteran was severely injured in the attacks. The first general, city-wide strike in the United States since 1937 was held in Oakland in response to the police brutality, and in the evening a foreclosed community center was occupied by more radical elements of the protests. They were then attacked by the police. Another veteran was harmed in Oakland by State troopers this week as well. Oakland has been given widespread international attention too: a solidarity protest was held at the American Embassy in Egypt, among many others.
South and Southwest: Despite being in the heart of conservative territory, there have been several successful Occupation movements in Texas as well as Arizona. Occupy Atlanta, GA has had a continuous, large, presence since near the beginning of the movement, but is now under threat of expulsion. On November 6 their assembly went to neighborhoods to prevent foreclosures from happening. Occupy Nashville was attacked by SWAT teams on October 28. A curfew law was created by the state legislature that was enforced only on the protesters despite applying to all social gatherings, and judges in the State Courts of Tennessee have suspended it for now.
Police have increasingly begun to crack down on protests nationwide, claiming that the settlements are anything from dangerous to unsanitary. The real reason is all too clear, as it has grown, the occupy movement has become a credible threat to the power structure. Now we begin to see more clearly the true nature of the American state, suppressing peaceful protesters to protect the interests of an elite minority. The American government has learned nothing from the Arab spring, and think that they can simply force us back into obedience, but we know that their is no suppressing an idea who’s time has come. For every camp they destroy, let 3 more spring up; for every protester arrested let 10 stand up to take their place. Our time is now.