Saturday, November 19, 2011

In The Face Of Oppression, The Occupy Movement Grows

As expected, the Obama-administration coordinated evictions at Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country earlier this week did nothing but make the movement grow larger.

Screen grab from CNN at

The most obvious sign of this was the massive attendance at "National Day of Action" events in every part of the country on Thursday, the day after the evictions.
No caption needed

Most had been planned before the evictions, with groups around the country planning their own "actions", i.e., demonstrations, marches, various kinds of protests such as acts of civil disobedience of the type the civil rights movement pioneered, such as blocking traffic or access to a business, like a bank, but as an example of how the evictions galvanized support for the movement, confirmations to attend the action planned by the New York City Occupy Wall Street group, an "invitation to attend" that had been posted on its Facebook page, tripled after the eviction.

On the Day of Action, in New York, protesters caused early morning gridlock in the heart of the Wall Street district. Then, throughout the day, actions took place at other locations in the city, including a gathering of more than 30,000 in Union Square and a march across the Brooklyn Bridge that evening that even police estimates put at 23,000.

As Alternet put it: "New York City showed its billionaire mayor and the rest of the 1 percent that the fight is far from over..."

Map of cities where OWS actions took place
It's interesting. Because of the way Google aggregates news stories, with weight given to the number of articles that appear on the internet about a given topic, but with weight also given to the readership of the web sites where the articles are posted, on the day following the evictions there were many stories on Google's news pages wherein mainstream news reporters, and mainstream commentators, solemnly intoned about an uncertain future for the Occupy Movement. Those kinds of stories and commentaries are gone now.

And in the halls of power, in corporate board rooms, they are left wondering what to do next, and in mayor's offices and in the White House, where elected officials meet with law enforcement and try to figure out how they will protect the powerful now, the uncertain future is their own.

Note: What is it all about, anyway? On the Occupy Wall Street movement's lack of goals and lack of leadership, and photos of actions around the country.

Even in the few mainstream news stories that pointed out how the movement has dramatically changed the terms of the debate in the US, headline writers, i.e., editorial staff, i.e., management, continue to cast the movement in a negative light, as in the oddly incongruous headline on this story at ABC news.

Some in the Democratic Party, such as radio talk show host and Democratic party shill Randi Rhodes, as I pointed out in my last post, joined the Obama administration when it turned on the OWS movement and began to attack it.

They always talk about the movement's lack of leadership and the absence of stated goals, but those are among the primary reasons for the movement's success.

As it stands now, any goals would have to be realized through the electoral process, which is corrupted by money and will only continue to be more so as the recent Supreme Court decision allowing the rich to make unlimited, anonymous donations to politicians fully kicks in.

The movement does not seek to amass power and then attempt to  express it through the current system. It seeks to get people to realize the inherent power they have in their sheer numbers, hence labeling themselves as the 99 percent, which we have seen on signs and placards from the very beginning. The movement's members have faith that people are capable of deciding what needs to be done themselves. It grants people that respect. This is in direct opposition to the way people in government and in positions of power view the masses. They view them with fear, distrust, and disdain. Notice, as just one example, how as the Republican Party has made it harder for working class people to vote in state after state, Democrats have stood silent.

Finally, whether it was intended that way or not, by not stating any specific goals the movement has denied ammunition to its detractors. Those who speak on behalf of the power elite in the media, that is, most of the media, could easily reduce the movement to its goals, by singling out goals and then writing about why they are not attainable, why they are naive goals, and so on.

As for being leaderless, everyone in the OWS movement is a leader. Think of any meeting you have ever attended. One person or at the most a few people did all the talking. At the back of the room were many people who never said a word. The way we conceive of organizations, of government, of politics, that's where most people are left, at the back of the room. The mass of people at the meeting are left with going along with those at the front table, and in elections voting for the person who most closely represents their values and goals, and as we see routinely, their campaign promises, and actions once in office, are two different things.

In the general assembly meetings held daily in the Wall Street groups, everyone can speak, everyone's concerns become part of the final decision. If a list is voted on, it includes everyone's goals. This represents a different way of doing democracy, a way of conceiving of how to live together that is more equitable and fair than how we do it now.

It is recognized by many who think about such things that American Individualism, how that is conceived of and how it plays out, makes it impossible for us to make collective decisions.

Individualism, in the US and in Europe, has been a byproduct of the Enlightenment, which is sometimes called The Age of the Individual. Capitalism, and Conservatism, with their emphasis on being the agents of our own success or failure, has caused individualism to develop such that we have lost the ability to think and act collectively, and for the common good. These people are trying to regain that ability, by practicing democracy as it was first practiced in the West, in ancient Greece.

Also, being leaderless has a strategic advantage. The government, and its coercive arm, law enforcement, in this case, the FBI, Homeland Security, and local police, in trying to stop any movement that threatens power, first attempts to decapitate the movement. Think of the Black Panthers, whose leadership was assassinated by members of the FBI's COINTELPRO unit and Chicago police. Go back to the beginnings of the labor movement in the early 20th century in the mining camps of the west and to Big Bill Hayward and Joe Hill. Think of Martin Luther King. As soon as he turned his attention from the civil rights struggle toward the Vietnam war and poverty, that is, when he began to see civil rights in the broader context of Capitalism and the violence with which is sustains itself, he, too, was assassinated.

In the case of Occupy Wall Street, all the power structure could think of was to go after the encampments, which they saw as symbols of the Occupy movement. But as we are beginning to understand now, since the power is disbursed through the entire movement, the movement is each one of us. The power is ours, to do with what we will.

Following are some pictures from actions around the country on Thursday.

Dave Johnson, on the blog, pulled these pics off twitter feeds.

On Wall Street, two counter protesters, who refused to give their names and companies, complained they were having trouble getting to work

In Portland, where downtown straddles a river, police begin arresting protesters blocking the "Steel Bridge." Some actions were initiated by unions, who occupied bridges in need of repair and asked why government can fund the military and bailouts but can't create jobs by repairing infrastructure 

In LosAngeles, an 82-year old woman is about to be arrested for the first time (The counter-protesters above say she should get a job)

The OWS movement is often described in the media as young unwashed hippies who should, as the counter-protesters said, get a job. These women in Iowa City are SEIU members, meaning they have jobs or had them until they were eliminated under draconian austerity measures being imposed on the public sector by both parties, while the rich enjoy tax cuts.


Duluth, Minnesota protesters also gathered at the city's bridges (The man on the far right could be a hippie. He could be an undercover FBI agent, too. Violence at some of the protests has been attributed to agents provocateurs, agents posing as protesters, an old law enforcement tactic.)

As more than 23,000 marched across the Brooklyn Bridge's pedestrian walkway, where police violence and the arrest of more than 700 gave the movement it's first big boost in September, someone projected images onto the headquarters of the Verizon Company, which is one of hundreds of corporations recently revealed to have paid negative taxes last year (federal income taxes, and in Verizon's case, also state taxes), that is, tax credits they qualified for exceeded the taxes they owed.

These are screen grabs from an interesting video posted on the web site

More on the actions in New York and around the country and the world.


No comments:

Post a Comment