Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

Not an Ending, a Beginning: Notes on Occupy Wall Street

By Guest Contributor Manissa McCleave Maharawal, originally published at In Front and Center

In the past few weeks friends and family from around the country have asked me, with a deep urgency in their tone: “What is it like to be there? What does it feel like? How would you describe it?” These questions throw me because, like any project of describing life as it happens around you, when you are very much in it, it feels impossible sometimes. And so instead of describing what Occupy Wall Street feels like I say: “It is all happening so fast, it changes everyday, it is overwhelming, I am tired but I am also excited again, I’ve made new friends, new lovers and new enemies, I couldn’t have imagined my life would be like this a month ago.”

OWS 1

When I said this to my friend Amy last week she laughed and replied, half-jokingly: “That sounds like the start of the revolution.”

“Not yet,” I replied “but we’re trying.”

But my inability to answer this question has been nagging at me: Why is it so hard to describe what it feels like to be part of this movement that is not really a movement, this moment, this space? Maybe the fact that it is hard to describe is part of its strength? Continue reading

Carefree White Girl x Creepy Pervs at #OccupyWallStreet

by Guest Contributor Collier Meyerson, originally published at Carefree White Girl

From the creator:

“We instantly went to Tumblr and made hotchicksofoccupywallstreet.tumblr.com. Our original ideas were admittedly sophomoric: Pics of hot chicks being all protesty, videos of hot chicks beating drums in slow-mo, etc. But when we arrived at Zuccotti Park in New York City, it evolved into something more.

There was a vibrant energy in the air, a warmth of community and family, and the voices we heard were so hopeful and passionate. Pretty faces were making signs, giving speeches, organizing crowds, handing out food, singing, dancing, debating, hugging and marching.”

The Occupation of Wall Street was, plain and simple meant to be a rejection of corporate America. But the video and author’s description above are instead a sendup to the very culture the occupiers claim to be corrupting. The music sounds like a Rick Perry campaign commercial and acts as a silencer to further their agenda of objectification. Oh, right, there are those three soundbites that capture the maternal essence of ALL of those hotchicksatoccupywallstreet. Are the hotchicksatoccupywallstreet concerned with the IMF, or say, pushing for collective bargaining in the Teachers Union? No, hotchicksatoccupywallstreet only talk about children, beauty, children, Gandhi and children.

From the outset, the imagery circulating the internet of “Occupy Wall Street” is reflective of a white and young adherence. Paradoxically, this video “piece” has three people of color in it, which, sadly seems like a lot when it comes to OWS coverage. Even stranger, two of the three women of color featured in the film are given voice, whereas the white women remain objects of beauty. Peculiar, ey? Taken straight from the pages of the corporate America’s advertising handbook, the reproduction of images seen in this video play into the reinforcement of the white woman’s stand alone beauty and the black and brown woman’s strength.

I feel like I don’t even need to speak to how the creators of this piece cop to the standards of beauty so i’ll just make a list of the ways in which they did it to save time:

skinny + white + slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww music + +slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww images + no voice = carefree white girl

It is monstrosities such as this that add to my skepticism of having a movement without intentionality. If, from the beginning there was a “General Assembly” that looked more like the General Assembly at the UN, and if from the beginning there was thought put into the whole IDEA of what occupation has meant in this country (see: COLONIALISM) and how skeptical people of color are to that notion I think that we’d be seeing a much more nuanced and thoughtful process. The call for the redistribution of wealth alone does not get at the root of the problem. We have to think about this more critically and we have to be more vigilant of those (like homeboys that made this video) that are trying to keep existing power structures steadily in place.

As a woman and as a woman of color who has been down there various times since its inception, I’m not comfortable yet. Help me get there and not by doing DUMB SHIT LIKE THIS.

#OccupySanDiego Finds Some Common Ground

By Arturo R. García

As it entered its’ second week, the San Diego arm of the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken at least one crucial step: forging alliances. The group’s Oct. 15 rally and march to downtown San Diego highlighted speakers from different organizations, and a greater acknowledgment of struggles in both various communities of color and the LGBT community.

Continue reading

A Letter To The Occupy Together Movement

By Guest Contributor Harsha Walia

I wish I could start with the ritualistic “I love you” for the Occupy Movement. To be honest, it has been a space of turmoil for me. But also one of virulent optimism. What I outline below are not criticisms. I am inspired that the dynamic of the movement thus far has been organic, so that all those who choose to participate are collectively responsible for its evolution. To everyone – I offer my deepest respect.

I am writing today with Grace Lee Boggs in mind:

The coming struggle is a political struggle to take political power out of the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the many. But in order to get this power into the hands of the many, it will be necessary for the many not only to fight the powerful few but to fight and clash among themselves as well.

This may sound counter-productive, but I find it a poignant reminder that, in our state of elation, we cannot under-estimate the difficult terrain ahead. I look forward to the processes that will further these conversations.
Continue reading

Decolonization and Occupy Wall Street

by Guest Contributor Robert Desjarlait

Decolonize Oakland

The Occupy Wall Street protest has become a matter of debate in Indian Country. Some have chosen to be included under the slogan – “We Are The 99%; others, like me, have chosen to be excluded from the 99%. Many of those who support it have come up with their own slogan – DECOLONIZE WALL STREET. I simply don’t believe that the indigenous nations on Turtle Island are a part of that 99% equation, let alone that the Occupy Wall Street movement is about decolonization.

One protester, Brendan Burke, said: “Everyone has this problem. White, black. Rich or poor. Where you live. Everyone has a financial inequity oppressing them.”

I assume from his statement that Burke only sees things in white and black. Apparently he is color blind when it comes to red and the brown. As far as financial inequity is concerned, we, the red and the brown peoples of the Americas, have suffered financial inequity ever since the oppressors first invaded our shores. Financial inequity – perhaps better termed as socio-economic inequity – began with the subjugation of our lands through treaties. Annuity payments were often late and were never the amount negotiated under the treaty. Supplies and food rations that were part of annuity payments were often appropriated by Indian agents and resold for higher prices.

The tragedy at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag (Sandy Lake) exemplifies the socio-economic inequity of annuity payments. In the fall of 1850, nineteen Anishinaabeg bands from Wisconsin journeyed to Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag for annual annuity payments and supplies. The annuity payments and supplies were late and the people had to wait until early December before they received limited sums of money and available supplies. Trying to survive on spoiled and inadequate government rations while waiting for the annuities, 150 Anishinaabeg people died from dysentery and measles at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag. Two-hundred and fifty more, mostly women children and elders, died on their way back home to Wisconsin. This is but one example of the economic inequity that has been part of the indigenous experience in the United States.

One of the things that the Occupy Wall Street organizers have repeatedly stated is that the inspiration for their protest is the Arab Spring movement. If this is the case, one may ask how did the indigenous peoples of the Middle East fare from the Arab Spring?

On September, Daniel Gabriel, the SUA Human Rights and UN NGO Director, stated: “While the media focuses all its energy on the Palestinian search for Statehood and the ‘Arab Spring’, it is the reduced indigenous populations of the Middle East who continue to lose out. Time and time again, the world demands justice, democracy and freedom in the Middle East, but it fails in its obligation to demand the same for the minority groups like the Arameans. Today we barely survive in our homeland. But tomorrow we may silently vanish from existence. The SUA pleads with the global bodies such as the United Nations and the world community and media to prevent this imminent tragedy from happening.”

If the Arab Spring didn’t flourish for indigenous peoples in the Middle East, how can we expect it to flourish here? Continue reading

Call Out to People of Color [#OccupyWallStreet]

by Guest Contributors the #OccupyWallStreet People of Color Working Group

Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St.) from Alex Mallis on Vimeo.

To those who want to support the Occupation of Wall Street, who want to struggle for a more just and equitable society, but who feel excluded from the campaign, this is a message for you.

To those who do not feel as though their voices are being heard, who have felt unable or uncomfortable participating in the campaign, or who feel as though they have been silenced, this is a message for you.

To those who haven’t thought about #OccupyWallStreet but know that radical social change is needed, and to those who have thought about joining the protest but do not know where or how to begin, this is a message for you.

You are not alone. The individuals who make up the People of Color Working Group have come together because we share precisely these feelings and believe that the opportunity for consciousness-raising presented by #OccupyWallStreet is one that cannot be missed. It is time to push for the expansion and diversification of #OccupyWallStreet. If this is truly to be a movement of the 99%, it will need the rest of the city and the rest of the country.

Let’s be real. The economic crisis did not begin with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008. Indeed, people of color and poor people have been in a state of crisis since the founding of this country, and for indigenous communities, since before the founding of the nation. We have long known that capitalism serves only the interests of a tiny, mostly white, minority.

Black and brown folks have long known that whenever economic troubles ‘necessitate’ austerity measures and the people are asked to tighten their belts, we are the first to lose our jobs, our children’s schools are the first to lose funding, and our bodies are the first to be brutalized and caged. Only we can speak this truth to power. We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.

The People of Color Working Group was formed to build a racially conscious and inclusive movement. We are reaching out to communities of color, including immigrant, undocumented, and low-wage workers, prisoners, LGTBQ people of color, marginalized religious communities such as Muslims, and indigenous peoples, for whom this occupation ironically comes on top of another one and therefore must be decolonized. We know that many individuals have responsibilities that do not allow them to participate in the occupation and that the heavy police presence at Liberty Park undoubtedly deters many. We know because we are some of these individuals. But this movement is not confined to Liberty Park: with your help, the movement will be made accessible to all.

If it is not made so, it will not succeed. By ignoring the dynamics of power and privilege, this monumental social movement risks replicating the very structures of injustice it seeks to eliminate. And so we are actively working to unite the diverse voices of all communities, in order to understand exactly what is at stake, and to demand that a movement to end economic injustice must have at its core an honest struggle to end racism.

The People of Color working group is not meant to divide, but to unite, all peoples. Our hope is that we, the 99%, can move forward together, with a critical understanding of how the greed, corruption, and inequality inherent to capitalism threatens the lives of all peoples and the Earth.

The People of Color working group was launched on October 1, 2011. Join us at http://groups.google.com/group/POC-working-group?hl=en. For inquiries, we can be reached by email at unified.ows@gmail.com. We can also be found online at http://pococcupywallstreet.tumblr.com. We meet Sundays @ 3 PM and Wednesdays @ 6:30 PM under the large red structure in Liberty Square.

Police mistreatment of transgender man during #OccupyWallStreet arrests

by Guest Contributor justin adkins, originally published at justin adkins

My name is justin adkins.

I am a transgender man who was arrested at the Occupy Wall Street Protest October 1st on theBrooklyn Bridge. This was my first arrest. This was the second weekend I participated in the Occupy Wall Street protest. I have been coming down on the weekends because I work 2 full-time jobs to make ends meet. One of those jobs is as Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center at Williams College in Massachusetts. The other is as a website developer.

I was toward the front of the march and after being trapped by the police on the bridge; I was able to watch as they arrested people one-by-one. I went peacefully when it was clear that it was my turn. My arresting officer, Officer Creer, found out I was born female when I yelled that information to the legal observer on the bridge. My arresting officer asked what I meant when I told the legal observer that I was “transgender” so I told him that I was born female. He asked what “I had down there”. Since it is a rude and embarrassing question to ask someone about his/her genitals no matter what the situation, I simply told him again “I was born female”. He asked, appropriately, if I wanted a male or female officer to pat me down. I told him it was fine if he patted me down. He then turned and asked a female officer, I believe her name is Officer Verga, to pat me down explaining to her that I am transgender. She patted me down and then preceded to refer to me as “she” even though I kept correcting her that my preferred pronoun is “he”. Luckily she disappeared after about 40 minutes, as I sat cuffed at the apex of the Brooklyn Bridge with hundreds of others.

Once we arrived at Precinct 90 in Brooklyn, the male officer taking everyone’s belongings asked if it was ok to search me. I said. “yes” and he proceeded to respectfully empty my pockets. I was arrested with a group of 5 other guys, and once they got us to the precinct, they initially put me in a cell with those same men. They asked if that was ok with me and I said yes. About 5 minutes after they took the cuffs off and shut the cell door an officer came back to the cell to move me. When he opened the door and looked my way, I was aware of what was happening. I knew that my transgender status would potentially be an issue once at the jail, which is why I told the legal observer that I was transgender. The officer glanced at me motioning to come out of the cell and then told me to put my hands behind my back as my fellow protestors looked on in bewilderment.

As we walked out past the other protestors waiting to have their pockets emptied, one woman looked at me with a puzzled look, we had connected on the long drive around Brooklyn as they tried to figure out where to take us. I told her that it looked like transgender people got “special treatment”. Within the first 15 minutes of being at precinct 90 I was being segregated and treated differently from the rest of the protestors arrested.
Continue reading

An Open Letter From Two White Men to #OCCUPYWALLSTREET

by Anonymous Guest Contributors

Occupy Wall Street

We—two white men—write this letter conscious of the fact that the color of our skin means we will likely be taken more seriously. We write this knowing that because people of color are thought to be too biased to speak objectively on issues of race, our perspective in this context will be privileged. We write this aware of the history of colonization, genocide, and slavery upon which this country stands, which has created this oppressive reality.

We write this letter to the organizers and participants (ourselves included) of #OccupyWallStreet out of great love for humanity and for the collective struggles being waged to save it. We write this letter because of our support for this nascent movement, in the hopes that with some self-reflection and adjustment, it may come to truly represent “the 99%” and realize its full potential.

#OccupyWallStreet has shown itself to be a potent force. The movement—which we consider ourselves part of—has already won great victories. New occupations spring up across the continent every day, and the movement for true democracy and radical social change is gathering steam worldwide.

According to the main websites associated with #OccupyWallStreet, it is “one people, united,” a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions,” and an “open, participatory and horizontally organized process.” In other words, it professes to be the universal protest against the greed and corruption rampant in our society, open for anyone to join and shape.

But a quick survey of the movement so far shows that that the good intentions outlined do not reflect the reality of the situation. Continue reading