Mic check! Dispatch from Occupy Wall Street

| October 12, 2011
At general assemblies, like this one in Washington Square Park on  Oct. 8, protesters use hand gestures to express agreement with  proposed ideas. Photo: Darren Ell

On the streets in New York City, popular protests are on the move, speaking to the dreams and demands of so many across the world.

Today, the Occupy Wall Street movement is on fire, from the thousands marching down Manhattan's boulevards demanding economic justice, to the inspiring voices practicing direct democracy in popular assemblies at Liberty Plaza.

Nightly open air general assemblies at the Occupy Wall Street camp in downtown New York are beautiful to witness, collectively facilitated illustrations of direct democracy and popular rebellion at a time of global crisis. Individuals amplified via the human mic, hundreds repeating status updates and presentations in rolling unison across the convergence zone, popular assemblies echoing off the concrete towers rising into the sky over New York's financial district.

In innumerable ways Occupy Wall Street represents an antithesis to policies of economic austerity. As conservative politicians respond to financial turmoil by pressuring governments to adopt fundamentalist free-market policies, placing heightened economic burden on public institutions and the working poor, popular protests in New York City and beyond are calling for a revolutionary re-visioning of the global financial system.

In Canada, as corporate taxes continue to drop funding for public institutions is hacked, the Conservative government aims to ensure the lowest tax rate for corporations in G7 economies, reducing annual government revenues by an estimated $14-billion, as financing for public healthcare and education remains tight while the working majority face the storm of economic recession.

Demands for economic justice at Occupy Wall Street stretch towards a wider vision of peace and social justice, "if only the war on poverty was a real war, then we would actually be putting money into it," read a handwritten sign by celebrated public intellectual Cornel West at the Liberty Plaza protest.

Ideals of horizontal process, direct action and solidarity clearly inspire the ongoing protest camp in downtown Manhattan, an expression of real alternatives to traditional party politics that is making Democratic politicians in the U.S. nervous, as they now move to express awkward overtures to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Certainly, the 24-hour-a-day protest ignites a critical discussion on the roots to current economic chaos, as billions in bank bailout funds fail to trickle down to benefit the 99%, protests move challenge the ideological bedrock to free-market capitalism.

For this magic moment Liberty Plaza in New York City has become a liberated zone, certainly a revolutionary spirit is at play on the ground. Thousands participating with an organic organizational structure and little funding have placed high-ranking
politicians on the defensive
, illustrating the power of social movements to rapidly change the course of history.

At the protest camp free food distribution systems work around the clock, nourishing the thousands that join the Occupy Wall Street protests every day. A tech core rests at the heart of the plaza, countless laptop screens buzzing with action proposals and status updates posted in real time, only feet away hundreds of sleeping bags sprawl out over the square.

Art is playing a key role in the convergence, placard signs are beautiful, diverse and creative, as a constant music jam in one corner of the plaza resonates in the air across the entire city district. Celebrated New York City artists, like hip-hop icons Talib Kweli and Kanye West, have moved in recent days to visit the activist protest camp now attracting global media attention.

Media workers are also on the ground at Liberty Plaza describing and amplifying voices from the movement, the Occupy Wall Street Journal project is now publishing regularly, distributing thousands of copies in the protest zone but also across New York City. Journalist Arun Gupta, via the Indypendent newspaper, worked to launch the protest journal to reflect voices from a historic action that Gupta describes as having "liberated peoples' imaginations."

Recent police repression targeting Occupy Wall Street protests on the Brooklyn Bridge echoed by a constant police presence surrounding Liberty Plaza create a tense ring around the social justice encampment, now quickly approaching the one-month birthday mark.

Global hype surrounding this revolutionary protest throws a symbolic shield over the plaza for the next weeks, while the basic call for economic justice in a time of financial crisis for the global majority continues to resonate and inspire actions across a country trillions of dollars in debt, operated by politicians locked into a deadly waltz with corporate power.

As thousands continue to converge blocks away from Wall Street, below a massive red metal sculptor called Joix de Vivre, curiously resembling a direct action tripod, people in Canada are moving to transfer both the spirit and the public protests in New
York to the streets. Over the weekend in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal hundreds attended open air assemblies and meetings to plan inspired protests, transferring energy from this incredible process in New York toward our communities in Canada.

In Canada as we face a Conservative government moving to undercut the dignity and survival of people and the environment, in our communities and all around the world, let us act urgently to ensure that inspiring Occupy Wall Street protests build toward sustained popular action to confront Canada's Conservative nightmare.

Stefan Christoff is a journalist, community organizer and musician in Montreal who contributes to rabble.ca Stefan is on Twitter




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