Mobilizing to End Suppression of the Occupy Movement
Actions are planned throughout the country this evening. Members of the Occupy movement and supporters from various organizations are taking a stand to declare that there should be no tolerance for the suppression of the Occupy movement, which has occurred over the past months.
Each of the actions signed on to a call to action put out, “Don’t Suppress OWS.” The call begins:
These past several months have witnessed something very different in the U.S. People from many different walks of life came together to occupy public space in nearly 1,000 cities in the U.S. They stood up to vicious police violence, they broke through the confines of “protest as usual,” and in the middle of all that, they built community. Even in the face of media attempts to ridicule, distort, and demonize these protests, their basic message began to get through. People throughout the U.S.—and even the world—took notice of and took heart from these brave and creative protesters.
The call notes because of Occupy the “political terms of discourse began to shift.” Those in power began to see what was happening and they “reacted accordingly.” Police used pepper spray, beat occupiers with clubs and shot tear gas canisters. Mayors around the country conspired in secret and discussed how to properly handle the camps. It was not long after these secret conversations that many cities’ camps were raided (e.g. Portland, Oakland, etc).
To put the matter bluntly, but truly: the state planned and unleashed naked and systematic violence and repression against people attempting to exercise rights that are supposed to be legally guaranteed. This response by those who wield power in this society is utterly shameful from a moral standpoint, and thoroughly illegitimate from a legal and political one.
Now this movement faces a true crossroads. Will it be dispersed, driven into the margins, or co-opted? Or will it come back stronger? This question now poses itself, extremely sharply.
The entire thrust of the call to action is that society will worsen if the powers that be are able to get away with extinguishing the Occupy movement. And so, actions have been organized in New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Hollywood, Houston, Lincoln, NE, and San Francisco.
Michael Moore currently has this call to stand with Occupy up at the top of his website. Noam Chomsky recorded this video message to show his support. He said one of Occupy’s successes is that it has “created communities of mutual support and solidarity, something extremely important in an atomized society.”
A list of noteworthy people signed the call:
Rev. Stephen Phelps, Senior Minister, Riverside Church; Michael Ratner; Chris Hedges; Boots Riley, The Coup & Street Sweepers Social Club; Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report; Robert Hass, Professor of English, UC Berkeley & former poet laureate of the United States; Scott Olsen, Occupy Oakland; Alexa O’Brien, US Day of Rage; Colonel Ann Wright, Cornel West; Rebecca Solnit; Cindy Sheehan; Aaron Black; Rev. Rich Lang, Seattle; David Graeber
Scroll down the list and you will see that I signed on in support of this call to action too.
The actions may not be as large as one might have hoped they would be. Nonetheless, it is important for citizens in this society to oppose political maneuverings and law enforcement operations aimed at repressing grassroots movements.
Beyond the police brutality in New York, Oakland, etc, city and state governments have had a low tolerance for the presence of Occupy camps, which are assemblies that should be protected under the First Amendment because they are expressive and symbolic protest. If they did not have the proper mechanisms available to shut down local Occupy groups, political leaders went ahead and crafted new laws and advanced new interpretations of laws to squash Occupy. Or they hyped up the threat to public health and safety.
Arun Gupta and Michelle Fawcett examined this development and wrote:
The inevitable counteroffensive was launched in November. Using the mass media, politicians hyped the movements as imminent threats to public health and safety, justifying aggressive evictions of prominent occupations in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and New York City. Within weeks other major encampments in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston and New Orleans were scattered with hundreds of arrests. A third wave of closures has been underway since late January with occupations shut down from Hawaii to Miami and Austin, Texas, to Buffalo, N.Y…
…[A] new strategy is being deployed to yank the rug from under occupations in four cities: legal power. Politicians have recently passed laws in Honolulu and Charlotte, N.C., that with a stroke of the pen made the occupations illegal, enabling police to sweep them away. Two more occupations, in Boise, Idaho, and Nashville, may be nearing the end as their respective state legislatures are on the verge of outlawing the democratic villages that for months have been thriving next to edifices of power. Critics charge that the anti-Occupy laws reveal how the law is not an objective code that treats everyone equally, but an arbitrary weapon wielded by the powerful.
What made the Occupy movement powerful in its first couple months were the physical presences in cities established by people from all over that wanted to not only oppose the corruption and crimes of Wall Street but also begin to develop an alternative to the broken systems of power in America that are uninterested or incapable of responding to the needs of 99% of the population. The encampments were attractions that led people who were not mobilizing as a part of Occupy to come in contact with the message. It was an opportunity for parks and public squares to become hubs of community action and cultural, social and political conversation, which is what these spaces should be used for each and every day.
There was something novel about the Occupy movement. It did not function like a liberal issues-based NGO. It wasn’t timid, gutless or spineless. It didn’t back down when a Democrat went to the press and said something about what they might not get about politics in this country. It took risks and the people organizing were not interested in short term fixes. They committed themselves to developing a long term vision that could produce solutions to the biggest problems this country faces.
This campaign to fight back against the suppression of Occupy is just beginning. There is a wave of demonstrations today, but there will undoubtedly be more in the future.
Now, consider sharing a comment on why you think Occupy should not be suppressed in the comments thread of the post. I will tweet out some of the comments to my followers on Twitter.
LIVE STREAMS OF ACTION IN NEW YORK (via OWS HDTV):
And, here’s a Storify on the “Don’t Suppress OWS” actions that I have put together. I am updating it as the actions unfold this evening.