Two-Month Anniversary of Occupy Wall StreetResistance Up Against Nationwide Attacks
Two days before the two-month anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street, in the dead of night, Mayor Bloomberg cleared OWS from Zuccotti Park, in what mainstream media called a military operation with secret training and massive force. Encampments in Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; University of California Berkeley; University of California Davis; Columbia, South Carolina; San Diego, California; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Albany, New York; Salt Lake City, Utah; St. Louis, Missouri; and Denver, Colorado were assaulted and demolished in what has become increasingly clear were coordinated raids and an emerging ruling class consensus to stop the movement by shutting down its very essence--occupying public space in the face of the symbols of government, finance, and authority, spaces where people have left their "normal lives" behind and are putting their lives on the line every day to oppose and expose the brutal inequities of 21st century USA and in so doing enabling people to imagine, to think, and dream of new possibility.
On the November 17th two month anniversary, tens of thousands protested in cities around the country and the world. They were inspired by the defiant stand of the Occupy movement against the deep suffering the economic crisis has wrought, the enormous inequalities in the U.S., and a broad feeling that the political system works against the people's interest. They were propelled as well by outrage at the massive police attacks that evicted Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park as well as several other occupations nationally. The day ended in New York City with many thousands jubilantly marching over the Brooklyn Bridge.
We sat packed around a table in a famous pizza parlor under the Brooklyn Bridge late Thursday night, November 17, Wall Street Occupiers and revolutionaries--hungry and cold, really half frozen. Looking around the table there was a sense of accomplishment mixed with a battle-hardened determination reflected in our faces. We had just been through a day of struggle declaring that OWS was not over, defiant in the face of the police clearing of Zuccotti Park, joyous in learning about the protests around the country and the world. We spoke about the long day, the young Occupiers telling of having turned a corner in their lives and not wanting to go back. Sixteen hours ago, as dawn broke, these new comrades in struggle were part of surrounding the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)--facing an army of cops, the young woman with us had been hit hard in the chest by a pig billy club and was still short of breath, one of the guys had been grabbed by the neck and a third beaten several times by rabid police who beat so often and freely that it was clearly the orders of the day. Somehow no one in this group got arrested in this morning.
As they told of the day, recounting the miles they marched, their tales wove with stories of their lives: a midwestern tale of watching a mother die of cancer because the family had no money or insurance; of a young Black man working without any prospects of a meaningful future in Cleveland; and a Black veteran from Brooklyn telling of walking into stores and watching shoppers clutch their bags tight while security kept an eye as if he were a criminal or alien. People spoke of lives of not being treated like a thinking human being and then in two short months being part of changing the world, standing up against all that is wrong--from getting arrested twice for doing nonviolent civil disobedience to STOP "Stop and Frisk," to living outdoors in the shadow of Wall Street, claiming a patch of land for humanity and thereby exposing the venality and the huge injustices of this system.
The stories of their lives are echoed as you travel through the Occupy movement--by those living in the encampments and the tens of thousands more who visit and support. Students crushed by debt with no job prospects. From the long-term homeless to the recently foreclosed, from a young woman in the media tent in San Francisco volunteering while dying of cancer because she couldn't get insurance, to young doctors outraged and frustrated with how the system prevents them from really providing care for their patients, the Occupations have become magnets and poles of people saying Enough! This must change.
On the evening of November 17, as we marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, there was a giant projection on the Verizon Building that flashed messages of the 99% that were marching in 30 other cities. In New York the attempt to shut down the NYSE met an army of cops who effectively turned Wall Street into a totally locked down militarized zone with barricades, checkpoints, helicopters, and special vehicles. Police wantonly beat protesters with fists and billy clubs--with 170 arrested in the morning, and another 70+ throughout the day.
By mid-afternoon, thousands of college and high school students had walked out of school. Led by a banner that said "Revolution Generation," students marching past the New School [university] looked up to see more banners hanging from upper floor windows saying, "Occupied." This has begun spreading to campuses around the country from Ivy League to community colleges. University of California Berkeley became a flash point as a YouTube of police beating protesting students went viral. Students walked out at Harvard University and a tent city sprang up. Video can be seen online of police viciously pepper-spraying students directly in the face who are sitting in at UC Davis, as hundreds of others watch in shock.
Swelling the ranks of the thousands who gathered at dusk to march over the Brooklyn Bridge were several unions, with a couple of City Council members and the local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leaders getting arrested in a nonviolent civil disobedience at the beginning of the march.
The massive turnouts and determined protests in many other cities underscored that the Occupy movement has captured the imagination and aspirations for change of large numbers of people.
It has forced the enormous inequity and brutal injustice of life for millions, from the bottom of society that reaches up deep into the crushed middle class, into the consciousness of and discussion throughout society broadly. Every night for weeks now, local and national news has reported on economic and political inequality; in the actions of OWS, the defenders as well as those who would reform capitalism have argued their cases in op-eds while in the streets and the encampments, protesters were debating and imagining many different ways the world could be.
Revolution, once far from people's lips and minds, is now being discussed. Communist revolutionaries have been in the swirl--a Revolution Working Group was formed at OWS, hundreds of copies of Bob Avakian's BAsics and dozens of Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) have been sold, and revolutionary communists have spoken at large mic-check gatherings and in small groups. On Thursday morning, very close to the New York Stock Exchange, a banner was hoisted on the side of a building that said: "For a Future Without Wall Streets--We Are Building a Movement for Revolution--revcom.us" in defiance of police orders and to the cheers of the crowd.
All of this has been forced into the air because people put their lives on hold, occupied space in the eye of the empire, and set about each day to work together in new ways while taking to the streets to expose and fight against what this capitalist system is doing to humanity and the planet.
Zuccotti Park is one city block of inhospitable corporate marble, yet for two months it came alive with hundreds and thousands debating and acting for something new every day--the library, the collective empowerment of mic check, the communal kitchen, the continual dialogue, the hard yet exhilarating work of discussing the course of action for the day, the tents, and the beat of the drums with all of their rogue spirit and all the controversy, with efforts by the City Council to restrict their constant rhythm that served as yet another way to attempt to stifle this movement.
All of this has captured the imagination of millions. It has stood in defiance and opposition to the dog-eat-dog of so-called normalcy of life in this most parasitically perverse of cities and cultures. Tour buses came to OWS from around the world. Teachers brought their classes, and one of the young revolutionaries told of how he always made a conscious effort to ask the kids what they thought of OWS.