Collected Updates from the Occupy Movement and More…
COMPILED BY ROGER DREW
[Note: Roger compiled this great account of the early months of the Occupy movement. Actions and analysis under the banner “Occupy” has continued to evolve in cities around the world since then. We’ve added a few updates to his list – Sara Falconer]
Some Major Victories
Occupy Our Homes
Occupy Our Homes has been preventing evictions of people who are facing foreclosure and helping families without homes move into empty buildings. “Occupy Our Homes is a movement that supports Americans who stand up to their banks and fight for their homes. We believe everyone has a right to decent, affordable housing. We stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and with community organizations who help the 99% fight for a place to call home.”
These actions have been taking place for years led by community-based organizations. Recently, more attention has been focused on the illegal and immoral actions by the banks which have led to people losing their homes. Since the Occupy Movement has begun, community orgs have partnered with Occupy, and there have been more and more victories nationwide of people being able to save their homes! (As recently as April 2nd in DC when an eviction was prevented!) [occupyourhomes.org]
Oakland has set a tone for powerful non-violent actions confronting injustice, including the West Coast port shut down. This was one of the most militant, large-scale actions since the beginning of the Occupy Movement. In December of 2011, strikes led by labor and Occupy groups shut down a number of West Coast Ports in support of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who were in contract negotiation. Dozens of occupysites participated in the action on some level, led by the militant shut down of the Oakland port by OccupyOakland and others. In February, ILWU ratified a new contract and thanked the Occupy Movement for their essential support: “This is a victory for Occupy in their involvement in forcing negotiations. Make no mistake – the solidarity and organization between the Occupy Movement and the Longshoremen won this contract,” said Jack Mulcahy, ILWU officer with Local 8. “The mobilization of the Occupy Movement across the country, particularly in Oakland, Portland, Seattle, and Longview were a critical element in bringing EGT to the bargaining table and forcing a settlement with ILWU local 21.” [westcoastportshutdown.org]
Occupy Oakland has led in other ways, including the Occupy4Prisoners National Day of Actions opposing and exposing racist policies of mass incarceration. Occupy Oakland also has been a leader nationwide in confronting brutal and violence police repression to their protests. (As well as Occupy Wall Street in NYC where they have recently joined the call for the resignation of the NYPD police chief Ray Kelly, especially following murders by NYPD members.)
Chicago recently saw two big victories with the help of Occupy Chicago. First, on February 18 the Brian Piccolo Specialty School in Humboldt Park, was Occupied by parents, teachers, and students. Occupy Chicago and other allies were outside the building in solidarity and set up an encampment. Piccolo, an elementary school with a student body that is almost entirely from low-income communities of color, is one of 16 Chicago public schools slated to be closed by Mayor Rahm’s service cuts to the poor. After less than 24 hours of occupation the Occupiers emerged from the school to thunderous applause and declared victory! The demands were met, proving that direct action and community power can be leveraged for real change! Parents will be given the opportunity to meet with the Board of Directors to submit a counter-proposal for local education. This is what real community control looks like.
Secondly, on February 24 workers facing layoffs at a Chicago window factory declared victory after occupying their plant for 11 hours. Through direct community action, including the support of Occupy Chicago, the workers and their union prevented the California-based Serious Energy company from closing the plant for another 90 days. The workers hope this will give them time to keep the plant open, possibly by purchasing it themselves and creating a worker-owned co-op. This action was led by the union United Electric Local 1110. Some people may remember in 2008, workers at the same factory occupied their plant for six days during a labor dispute with its previous owners, Republic Windows and Doors. (They won then, too!)
National Days of Action
February 29: Shut Down The Corporations and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
This national day of action included actions in over eighty cities and specifically called “on people to target corporations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The biggest corporations in America, like ExxonMobil, Bank of America, BP, Monsanto, Pfizer, and Wal-Mart use ALEC to buy off legislators and craft legislation that serves only the interests of corporations and not people. They then duplicate and spread this corporate legislation in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures across the country. The anti-labor legislation in Wisconsin and the racist bill SB 1070 in Arizona are two recent and destructive examples of what corporations use ALEC to do.”
As an overview, the actions varied from sit-ins and pickets to street theater and banner drops. There were many creative actions including a foreclosure on Citibank, a “Corporate Debutant Ball” in Salt Lake City, teach-ins in Norman, OK and Naples, FL, actions targeting Pfizer, the Koch Brothers and Bank of America in New York, and a delicious Ice Cream Bloc in Oakland. Three distribution centers of Wal-Mart were shut down in a coordinated southern California action, as well as the World Corporate Headquarters of Pfizer in Connecticut. Further ALEC corporations targeted included Monsanto in Washington D.C., AT&T in Kansas City, MO and Atlanta, an action at the BP trial in New Orleans, Bank of America in Charlotte, PNM in Alburqurque, Altria in Richmond, and Peabody Coal in St. Louis. Dozens of other cities took action as part of F29 including Denver, Minneapolis, Louisville, Winston-Salem, and many others. We are proud to say the tone of the actions remained jubilant and focused even in the face of police repression.
Simultaneously, European trade unions have declared February 29 a European Day of Action against austerity, following massive demonstrations against budget cuts in Greece, Spain, Belgium, and elsewhere. Decentralized actions in all 27 European Union nations and beyond will be “sending a clear message to the EU leaders: this imposed austerity is going to plunge Europe into a recession!” www.shutdownthecorporations.org
March 1st National Day of Action For Education
From March 1 to 5, Occupy Education California staged a 99-mile march from Berkeley to San Francisco, CA to mark the national day. There were additional actions in dozens of other cities in defense of the right to quality, affordable education.
Meanwhile, students in Spain continued their fight against cuts in education by occupying university buildings. Solidarity protests have erupted across Europe after police violently suppressed peaceful student demonstrations in Valencia, which have seen as many as 60,000 people in the streets. Students are also taking action to support workers and other marginalized 99%ers. In the Netherlands, students along with Occupy Utretch, Occupy Rotterdam, and other local Occupy groups joined thousands of cleaners who occupied buildings at the University of Utrecht for better working conditions. Students at Harvard will be taking action to stop lay-offs of school workers. From last year’s student rebellions in the United Kingdom to the recent massive post-secondary strike in Quebec that saw 36,000 students walk out, students are rising up against austerity across the world.
March 5 saw additional large protest, under the name, ‘Occupy the Capitol’ protests are taking place in Sacramento, California, and Albany, New York, to demand full funding for education. www.occupyed.org
What else? A lot more…
This is only a small snapshot of actions associated with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. There are still occupy sites around the country and world. From Occupy Nigeria to Occupy London to numerous Occupy sites in South Africa to actions in Huntsville, AL and New Brunswick, NJ. There is Women Occupy and Occupy Patriarchy – which aims to address sexism on a systemic level as well as within the Occupy movement. There are also movements including Occupy Our Food Supply – which held a national day of action on February 27.
Increasingly, local Occupy sites support and are a part of the ongoing struggles of their communities. There are more links being formed between Occupy and long-existing community organizations, unions etc. For example, Occupy Atlanta has joined with Jobs With Justice, the Teamsters, AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of America, AFSC, the Georgia NAACP and others to work together to oppose job layoffs at AT&T and fight back against proposed anti-worker legislation.
On March 31, “just days after a General Strike against austerity in Spain, protesters are again taking to the streets in Europe. Organizers said, ¨there will be simultaneous demonstrations, rallies and assemblies in many European cities. Protests have been organized by anti-capitalist groups and libertarian grassroots unions from all over Europe. The initiative is labeled M31 – European Day of Action against Capitalism. Members of M31 want to send a clear signal against current austerity policies and authoritarian labour reforms by national governments and the Troika (European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) on the backs of wageworkers, migrants and the unemployed. NYC and other places held solidarity demonstrations as well.
The ‘99% Spring’ and May Day 2012
Many organizers and supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been building towards the ‘American Spring.’ The concept is that come Spring time in the United States – and the warmer weather, many Occupy protests will see a huge upswing in activity. The name comes from the Arab Spring – the pro-democracy movements that swept across the Arab world last Spring. Not only did the Arab Spring overthrow dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, but they were a primary inspiration for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Taking place from April 9-15, they aimed to train 100,000 people “in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets…in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country.” The website states: “History is calling; it’s time to step up.” Most exciting about this effort is that so many different organizations are coming together; anti-poverty organizations, workers’ rights orgs, anti-war, environmental and more are uniting under the banner of the ‘99% Spring.’ This is a real opportunity to build strong movements for change! the99spring.com
May Day, (May 1st-International Worker’s Day), always sees global protests, including in the United States. In the last few years there have been larger actions, including the 2006 national immigrant strike ‘A Day Without An Immigrant.’ This May Day saw some of the biggest protests in recent memory – in the U.S. and around the world.
Occupy Wall Street is proving one thing without a doubt….Another World IS Possible!
[Much of this info was pulled word-for-word from Occupy Wall Street, occupywallst.org as well as from the weekly Occupy roundup written by Jennifer Sacks and posted on Occupy Together]
Roger is an activist working for a world with economic justice and gender and racial equality. He sits on the advisory board for the WESPAC Foundation, a grassroots peace & justice action network in Westchester County, NY. As a young white man, he lives with the understanding that people with privilege must work to end inequality in society. Jaan Laaman and other political prisones have been important mentors for his activism.