In this post, I hope to provide a short primer on the Occupy Wall Street movement and how Canadians can get plugged in. I'm not here to tell you how to think or what do you, just empower you with the information you need to help you participate. So this post is chock-full of useful information and links.
Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing series of demonstrations in New York City. The demonstration was originally called by the Canadian (yay, us!) activist/publishing group Adbusters who took their inspiration from the Arab Spring movement and the Spanish Indignants protests which started on May 15, 2011 throughout Spain.
It started with Adbusters:
Adbusters announced on July 13, 2011, its Occupy Wall Street Campaign.
The call-out stated:
Alright you 90,000 redeemers, rebels and radicals out there,
A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future. The spirit of this fresh tactic, a fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas of Spain, is captured in this quote by Raimundo Viejo: "The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people."
The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people's assemblies ... we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future ... and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.
The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.
On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.
Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum - that Mubarak must go - over and over again until they won. Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?
The most exciting candidate that we've heard so far is one that gets at the core of why the American political establishment is currently unworthy of being called a democracy: we demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we're doomed without it.
This demand seems to capture the current national mood because cleaning up corruption in Washington is something all Americans, right and left, yearn for and can stand behind. If we hang in there, 20,000-strong, week after week against every police and National Guard effort to expel us from Wall Street, it would be impossible for Obama to ignore us. Our government would be forced to choose publicly between the will of the people and the lucre of the corporations.
This could be the beginning of a whole new social dynamic in America, a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want whether it be the dismantling of half the 1,000 military bases America has around the world to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or a three strikes and you're out law for corporate criminals. Beginning from one simple demand - a presidential commission to separate money from politics - we start setting the agenda for a new America.
Post a comment and help each other zero in on what our one demand will be. And then let's screw up our courage, pack our tents and head to Wall Street with a vengeance September 17.
for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ
Occupy Wall Street: In a solidarity response to the Adbuster call out, Occupy Wall Street was born. And it has spread across North America and Europe.
The Occupation on Wall Street began on September 17, 2011 which was Constitution Day in the United States and is currently ongoing -- it is now on its 19th day (as of Wednesday October 5, 2011). On September 17, 2011, 1,500 people rallied and attempted to set up their HQ right on Wall Street to start the occupation, though the NYPD kyboshed that plan. The HQ eventually settled down at Zuccoti Park, which is now called Liberty Park.
A lot of people have asked me if the Occupy Toronto action is going to be like the G20 protests last June. To be honest, I don't know. The privilege we sit with in Toronto (Toronto being on stolen Indigenous land) as the financial hub of Canada does put us in the belly of the capitalist beast.
While at first the Occupy Toronto demonstrations may look different than the G20 summit protests since the anger was directed at an international organization, the multinational banks in our financial district have both domestic and international reach. Irregardless, I will be following up with you on rabble.ca with some basic activist information and how-tos to make sure everyone stays safe.
A timeline of events for Occupy Wall Street can be found here.
You can view the first official release by Occupy Wall Street here.
Here is the (working list) of demands for the U.S. Congress.
While some mainstream media outlets -- and more status-tendency activists -- have criticized the movement for what they consider are "vague" or "numerous" demands and a "lack of leadership," these points have actually been embraced by the movement on the street (as opposed to those commenting from their armchair general perspective).
When the mainstream media and political pundits start to criticize you on how to run a movement, you know you're doing it right!
I was part of the same experience with the anti-globalization movement in 2000-2001, so there is no reason to get anxious -- complaints about a lack of focus/crowded issues and a lack of formal, codified leadership. The movement will find itself if all the ego-activists just step out of the way. Trust me, the leaderless kids are going to be alright. For a general idea on this non-hierarchical leadership movement, please see this link: Anarchist Organizing Manual
Of course you don't have to be an anarchist to be part of the movement -- the Occupy Wall Street movement has everything from U.S. Marines (in full dress uniforms) and the Airline Pilots Union to university students and you know, "ordinary" people.
I'm just letting you know about the organization and decision making structure so you don't show up and start to freak out and think you need to step in and fill that assumed void of hierarchical power. Just sit back and go with the flow.
The Occupy Toronto action is modelled around the Occupy Wall Street action in that decisions are made "spokescouncil" style. The first big General Assembly will be this Friday from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Berczy Park. This is exactly the hot seat for criticism regarding the Occupy Movement; that decisions are not status-based by a small cabal or vanguard of individuals, but the decision-making is open to all who attend.
So if you do want to be a part of and shape the Occupy Toronto movement, then head on down to the first general assembly and make your voice heard. Sure, it's going to be a dirty consensus model, but it sure beats being treated like an activist drone. You can also check this site to see what needs have already been flagged for the Toronto action.
Remember that this movement needs people committed to actually camp out and occupy downtown Toronto and committed to perform important roles like marching, child care, food, logistics, outreach, free hugs, legal support, mad rhymes. Just like Jello, there is room enough for everyone!
Of course Canada is not America -- differing economic situation, a lack of a Constitution -- so it is critical for the Occupy Canada movement to stake out its own unique ground regarding issues that matter most to Canadians regarding economic and political accountability and ...
For a place to forward ideas online, please see the Facebook sites Occupy Canada and Occupy: Canadian Provinces and Territories Unite. I've also started a babble thread on the topic so you can post your suggestions and I'll pass them along.
Another major issue that has been flagged is the lack of recognition and context that North America is already -- for 400 years, long before these actions began -- occupied land; occupied by settlers with land taken from the Indigenous nations who were already living on Turtle Island. I'm not sure if that makes this a double-occupation, I'm still working that part out, to be honest.
For more discussion about this, please check out this Facebook page: Occupy(ed) Canada (I'm a mod so come say Hello/Aaniin.)
I will quickly point out that IT IS NOT DIVISIVE to discuss diversity within the movement. From my 15 years of activism, I have learned that it is harmony and not unity that makes a movement work in a good way. So don't be afraid to speak up, you're opinion matters too. You count. You are a part of that 99 per cent and you're awesome and have great ideas and perspectives to share. People who might complain that you are being divisive are actually afraid of difference. That is their issue, not yours. Cuz you're awesome!
The Occupy Movement marches on:
The #Occupy Movement has spread well beyond New York.
For American info, please see Occupy Together for updates.
Canadians can check out this resource on rabble.ca that I am constantly updating: Activist Communique: The Occupy Canada movement