Revolution Online, October 10, 2011
Occupy Wall Street Spreads Across the U.S. and World
The ongoing Occupy Wall Street action in New York City has caught the attention of people around the world. (See "Occupy Wall Street: Showdown and Victory – This Is So Not Over!") There have been protests and occupations inspired by and in solidarity with the Wall Street occupiers in many cities in the U.S. and all around the world. (See occupytogether.org.)
Revolution newspaper distributors and Revolution Books have been out in the midst of all this, supporting and participating in the occupations—and getting out the special BAsics issue (#244, August 28, 2011), introducing people to Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution he is leading; and engaging in all kinds of discussion and debate over "what is the problem and what is the solution."
The following are brief reports Revolution has received from readers about "Occupy" actions in a number of cities in the U.S. This page will be updated as we receive new reports, with the latest at the top.
San Francisco and Oakland
Oct 16 - SF Bay Area. Thousands took to the streets in San Francisco and Oakland on Saturday, October 15, as part of an international day of protest. In San Francisco a crowd estimated by the local Pacifica station to be about 3,000 walked from the Occupy encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank to the Civic Center where a rally was held. In Oakland, the rally of several hundred at the City Hall plaza included the mayors of Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond as well as actor and activist Danny Glover.
In both places the crowds were diverse—all ages, nationalities and professions. People were excited that so many people had come out for the day. For many it seemed to be their first time at a protest or march. The emphasis on the international character of the day brought out people from other countries—France, Italy, Germany, Iran. One Iranian woman said she hears so many stories of people losing their homes through foreclosures, getting laid off after working many years, increasingly difficult situations around getting health care and mental health care. She commented that this bad picture is "not in accordance at all with what the government says this system is about—freedom and justice for all." The whole idea that there is a way out of this through revolution and there is a leader to get us there really moved her. She got a copy of BAsics to begin learning about this leader and wants to be part of the movement for revolution we are building.
Danny Glover and others said the movement needs to be bigger, that the day was good, but that it needs to grow and who knows how far it will go. What was happening Saturday, he said, was about humanity and treating people like human beings. That sentiment was echoed in a home-made sign in S.F. that said: "A new system is being born—All over the planet the people will be respected." One young man told us that "this is back to the roots. This is like the 70s again. This is cool." Others compared the day to Woodstock.
In Oakland, the encampment on the City Hall plaza is made up of about 70 tents (in S.F. tents have not been allowed). Most are young people who are wrangling day and night over what is the problem and solution. An "alternative" community is being set up there as in other Occupy sites with a library, food, first aid areas as well as their own security. Many say they are clear that capitalism is the problem but not so clear on the solution. And there is great openness to learn about what BA is saying, to engage, and BAsics was sold broadly.
On Saturday there were many new people from all walks of life who were coming to S.F. and to the Oakland encampment to check it out -- unemployed youth and workers, some professionals, City College students. It really attracted supportive curiosity from all kinds of people. October 22-NDP organizers [National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation] were there and one young man who has been part of the Oakland encampment from the beginning has been organizing people to be part of NDP on October 22. Some Occupy Oakland protesters signed a banner that said "Occupy Oakland fighters support the People from Bayview Hunters Point to Fight the Power." One comment on the banner was "stop hiding unemployed people in prison."
Many people we talked to thought the problem was the politicians being bought off by the corporations. Others thought capitalism was the problem while others said capitalism was fine but it wasn’t working well. We showed one person the BAsics quote about how there is no right to eat under capitalism and how it would fall apart if there were such a right. He didn’t agree but eagerly engaged with us. People seem to be open and excited to be talking about these topics -- as though a kind of dam burst and their thoughts and frustrations about the way things are come pouring out. One young man said the problem was that ‘we’re not organized; the banks own us; most of my friends are $20K in debt." There was a current throughout of disillusionment with Obama, and an often expressed demand to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many signs talked of revolution and thought what was happening in the streets the past month is the revolution. And many said they think this movement can continue to grow.
October 20—Five thousand people turned out on October 15 in Seattle at Westlake Park for the international day of solidarity with the Occupy movement. For three hours an amazing variety of people poured out their hearts about why this movement has spoken to them and moved them to act. There was a contagious, generous spirit passed among people as one man from the stage told everyone to look at those standing next to them and say, "I'm with you"—a little glimpse of what a cooperative world would look like. Isolation being broken down, a love for humanity and connectedness developed. A woman and her daughter came to the Revolution Books table and both were in tears. The staffer asked if they were alright, they could barely talk. The woman just held her heart and she shook her head, yes, she was just so happy.
Thousands marched to Chase Manhattan Bank. Youth burned dollar bills and cut up their bank credit cards while others tried to withdraw their money and close accounts. That evening over 100 tents were set up in defiance of orders and previous arrests by city authorities. All that night and the next day the park was a scene—"young high school kids making their own protest signs, parents with their kids, a huge banner stretching along a main street through downtown saying "Occupy Seattle” and another saying, "War is Terrorism." Intense discussions were going on among knots of people from very different walks of life—'"a teach-in on the Tar Sands Pipeline protests, workshops on racism, revolutionaries engaging people over the Revolution special issue on the environment and struggling over the difference between Bob Avakian's new synthesis communism and Castro's or Chavez's "socialism." A young college student holding a sign saying "This is the shit Marx was talking about" was excited to learn about Revolution newspaper and got the BAsics special issue. The issue got out to many who had never heard about BA or this revolution.
On October 17, the city moved against the encampment, removing all the tents and arresting eight people. Night after night police have moved through the encampment carrying billy clubs and dangling handcuffs, shining lights in people's faces, harassing people and waking them up so they couldn't rest. Despite arrests, harassment and threats, the encampment and the spirit among people continues despite disagreements and some sharp differences. There has been growing discussion and debate about what the police's role is in society and there are many questions. Won't the police have a reason to attack us if we protest them? Yes, they do bad things but they are part of the 99%, aren't they, and so can't they be won over in time? If the police are part of the system, what does that say about what kind of change is necessary? Everyone is learning a lot. The National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality on October 22nd has been endorsed by Occupy Seattle and will start at the Occupy site.
October 13—It’s been almost two weeks since Occupy Los Angeles (OLA) began in downtown L.A. at City Hall. In some ways it has the feel of a liberated zone, with all kinds of people forging an ever-growing community with tents now filling the North & South Lawns, where strangers have quickly become close friends, bonded by the common ideal of creating a different ethos based on cooperation and peace, not competition or commodities. On the OLA website’s live feed that is giving 24-hour on-line coverage, a woman captured some of the sentiments represented here when she said, “This is not a movement of homeless and hippies; this is a movement of humanity...and homeless and hippies are part of humanity.” And a little later, she talked about an issue very near to her, “I won’t send my son to kill another mother’s son. Are you kidding??”
Committees have sprung up to meet the needs of the people and the encampment: education, food, political action, media, etc. Young people are stepping up to take responsibility for things they’ve never done before, and the genie is out of the bottle and there is great determination that it never be stuffed back in. The oppressive weight of “permanent necessity” has given way to an infectious spirit of “We can challenge and change everything.”
Though the preconceived notion of communism has at times been contentious, the aspect of From Each According to Ability, To Each According to Need, often unconsciously, is very attractive to people who have been drawn to OLA. One woman drove a distance with her massage table, offering her services to those sleeping on the ground. After a tiring day she was beaming, saying that where she lives no one’s thinking about others or the world, and she finds the atmosphere here invigorating. A man bought a BAsics button for $5 and asked that four of them be given to whoever wanted them but couldn’t pay. There has been a continuous flow of donated water, food, and other items. Two students from France stopped by to soak up the scene, and were happy to see communists here. But many who have lost faith in the system don’t see an alternative other than reform, and think communism can’t work because people are too fucked up, that it’s human nature. Others point to China as an example of how communism goes bad, and an anarchist chimed in, “I’m more anti-authoritarian than anti-capitalist!” All this has opened a wide door to introducing many people to the work of Bob Avakian and this re-envisioned communism, and there is a refreshing openness to revolution and communism. We’re trying to get more creative in spreading these politics, and one fun thing we did was rent a small generator and at night projected a powerpoint cycle of quotes from BAsics, the book’s covers, and the image of Bob Avakian on a wall of City Hall.
Debate and discussion is a constant, late into the night. One issue has been about the police: are they part of the 99% or the armed defenders of the 1%? Many in OLA pride themselves on the fact that so far, unlike nearly every other major city’s encampment, this one has not been messed with. Some of the organizers attribute this to the meetings that have been held and the agreements made with the police. But meetings and agreements have been held many times here, only to have police riots like that experienced at the immigrant rights march on May 1, 2007. Right now the behavior of the LAPD has much more to do with the in-fighting among various sectors of the state which has resulted in front-page stories of police brutality, and there is a scathing new ACLU report, “Cruel and Usual Punishment,” documenting the savage gang of sheriffs in the LA County Jails who have committed many brazen instances of abuse for decades, even worse than the notorious Ramparts Division and the beating of Rodney King seen around the world. Right now all eyes are on these armed thugs, and there is some “good cop” public opinion that they are trying to create at OLA.
But there are many others at OLA who are well aware of the daily and systematic criminalization that especially targets Black and Latino youth, and they are waiting for the LAPD’s real colors to shine through at any time. One young Black man we met has been a part of OLA from Day One mainly because of his outrage at the legal lynching of Troy Davis, and knowing that revolution is no game, asked who’s going to be on the side of the revolutionaries when they inevitably get vamped on. He jumped at the chance to spread the word about a discussion on the Strategy for Revolution essay in BAsics, and told us how to include it on the line-up of topics that are advertised on the bulletin board at the camp. We chose a time, made flyers with the Strategy statement to distribute throughout the encampment, and made some human-amplified “mic check” announcements (when a person speaks, others shout the message phrase-by-phrase to enable many more to hear it). We met with a small group of people who wanted to dig into it. The discussion was very lively, and there was a lot of debate. What kind of revolution are you talking about? Does it have to be violent? How do you stop the reversals of revolutions, like what happened in the Soviet Union and China? What’s the deal with leaders—do you need them, and if so, what kind of leadership? What do we do now if we want to make revolution?
These are times that give a glimpse of Lenin’s point, that during a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a week more than they do in a year of normal life. We can’t stand aside of that!
And in the midst of all this wrangling around politics and ideology, people are seeking to act, especially with marches through the nearby financial district. Recently, with the consensus (after some back and forth) of the several hundred strong General Assembly, there was a very moving speak-out and vigil in support of the prisoners hunger strike on the steps of City Hall. Several hundred people listened to 20-30 speakers, including some who have family members in prison. One woman’s son called from prison and with the cell phone pressed to the microphone he told the crowd how heartening it was to know that this support is out here. Wayne Kramer, co-founder of Jail Guitar Doors USA, said, “What we do is simple. We find people who work in prisons who are willing to use music as rehabilitation and we provide them with guitars. We also work for justice reform and prison reform. And that is why I am here today. I am known mainly as a guitarist, but for a couple of years, I was known as 00180-190. I am also an ex-prisoner. I can speak for all of the musicians, actors, artists and activists we know, when I say that we stand behind this historic hunger strike and we support the prisoners' courageous efforts.” He brought his friend, singer/songwriter Jill Sobule, who sang a defiant song for the crowd.
Some passers-by stepped up to speak about their own experiences in jail; one white man said his jaw was broken because he refused to join the Nazi group in prison. Another former prisoner told the crowd not to believe the lies on the TV shows, like Cops, which portrays prisoners as less than human. A woman spoke about how even animals aren’t caged like her brother is in the SHU. One of the letters in Revolution newspaper was read from a prisoner who answered Bob Avakian's "An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off." A candlelight vigil ended the transformative event, and family members spoke emotionally about how much it means to link up with others because they have felt very isolated.
On a very related note, there was consensus at the General Assembly to join the Oct. 22 march against police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation, and a contingent will leave from OLA to the assembly point on that day. A participant at the speak-out called on people at OLA to go out to high schools in the coming week to build for a very strong Oct. 22 march. Imagine the power and significance of young people from neighborhoods which face police brutality on a daily basis marching together with some of these energized OLA’ers!
October 16—Approximately 250 people were arrested by the Chicago police in the early hours of Sunday morning as they attempted to establish a new Occupy Chicago encampment. They had marched to the new site from their previous set-up at the Federal Reserve Bank in the heart of Chicago's financial district, where they had been forced to move every few hours and sleep in their cars.
Hours earlier on Saturday evening, about 2000 people marched shoulder to shoulder with Occupy Chicago from their location at the Federal Reserve, taking the streets and chanting “We are the 99%” and "People over Profits." The crowd then converged at a spot on the edge of Grant Park, right off of Michigan Avenue. Many groups and organizations took the mic, including the Chicago Teachers Union and other local unions, immigrant’s rights movement, Anti-Eviction Campaign, World Can't Wait, the Ad Hoc Committee for October 22, and Revolution Books. In the midst of the speeches and this roaring crowd, tents began popping, hidden under an American flag and surrounded by people, so that there was little the police could do to stop the brave encampment at that point.
The Occupy Chicago protestors linked arms and refused to leave their new encampment despite pronouncements from the Chicago Police Department. Their exuberant spirit inspired people on sidewalks across the street to join their chanting, and events at the new encampment were live streamed and twittered widely. The fact that this was part of a global day of protest added tremendous strength and determination to the crowd. One popular chant came via cell phone from friends protesting in Times Square New York: "We are unstoppable, a better world is possible." Another rallying cry was "One: We are the people. Two: We are united. Three: The occupation is not leaving." Both were set to conga drums. People who hadn't known each other a few hours earlier were assessing the situation together, debating moves and views, and sharing fears and dreams.
The police invoked a vagrancy ordinance and claimed that a large apron of concrete adjacent to the sidewalk was part of the park proper. After hours of deliberations and preparations, they surrounded the two dozen or so tents, cut some of them with large blades they had ready for the purpose, and carted the occupiers off to jail one by one, where they were held overnight and charged with ordinance violations.
Through the course of the march and rally, over 1000 of Revolution newspaper’s Special Edition on BAsics were distributed through the crowd of mainly young people that also included families, veterans, and older activists inspired by this young movement. Many of the people in Occupy Chicago are very new to political struggle; for most it is their first involvement in protests.
People from the Ad Hoc Committee for October 22 held a banner with photos of people killed by the Chicago police that people were constantly taking pictures of. They distributed over 2000 fliers for the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation and got many new contacts.
The Chicago Tribune reported that as people were arrested, some chanted that the police are the instruments for the 1%, while others urged the police to join them as part of the 99%. This was one of the most controversial issues among occupiers. As they were released from jail Sunday morning, the protesters said their civil disobedience marked a new stage in the movement and they would definitely be back.
October 16—The big news was the arrest of 141 people, which took place around 1:30 in the am Tuesday as hundreds expanded their encampment to a nearby park in downtown Boston. This came in the wake of a major march involving thousands of college students during the day which ended up at the encampment with a surge of new energy and supporters. People set up tents in the new area and hundreds rallied around the perimeter of the park anticipating that the authorities might try to evict them. More supporters came over as the night set in, including a contingent of Veterans for Peace. When the police made their move after closing off adjoining streets they immediately went at the Veterans contingent and pushed them to the ground and then went through the crowd arresting 141, including a legal observer, and later scooping up all the tents and gear and trashing it. People were held for hours and most were given the option of paying a $50 ticket or getting a court date, and a number of cases are pending. Adding insult to injury, Mayor Menino told the media “civil disobedience will not be tolerated in Boston,” and blamed “a minority of troublemakers” for causing the problem.
Following the arrests people are angry. ( The sign “Boston cops are cool” no longer greets you at the entrance to the main encampment.) There is concern that the mayor will next try to evict the original camp and people are upset about the police taking videos of activists. (Thursday, a cop was seen walking by a workshop on civil disobedience training and panning the crowd with a video camera.) Many youth have taken to wearing bandanas over their faces. Thursday saw a support rally with a hundred union members, many from the Verizon group currently working without a contract, as well as Vets for Peace. Saturday saw an even larger rally and march of 3,000-4,000 people around opposing the wars which ended up at the plaza by the camp and involved many Occupy activists. Saturday evening at the general assembly facilitators called for a moment of silence for the 20 people killed in Yemen for standing up for freedom there. There is a growing determination to stay strong and people are working to strengthen the camp itself to stand up to the rain and cold, and a lot of support is coming in the form of blankets, ponchos, etc., as well as food. Efforts are being made to get the occupation to join in with October 22 day of protest, and people are very open to this initiative.
October 16—Occupy Houston continues; an encampment has been ongoing in Tranquility Park for the last week, and on October 15 several hundred people marched through downtown Houston. More activities are scheduled for this week. Central Houston is the home of many oil and energy companies, and they along with city officials had earlier arranged to hold an “Energy Day Festival” on the 15th. The Occupy Houston demonstration marched around the festival several times; some of them with home made signs with statements denouncing large corporations but upholding capitalism; others focused on the environment. Many of the protestors had put bandanas or dollar bills over their mouths, symbolizing the 99% of people with no voice in the political system. A banner carried by a team of revolutionaries saying “capitalism has no future for the youth, but the revolution does,” was very popular. The demonstration was predominantly youth, but included professional people and a small number of basic masses.
A range of political/ideological viewpoints are getting thrashed out – and solutions are being sought – by participants. There has been a lot of receptivity to revolution, and to October 22. People came up to the revolutionaries asking for Revolution and O22 flyers to get out. Some youth said they had just been talking about why police brutality and incarceration has been getting so bad. Several of them took up distributing flyers for O22 on the spot and took more to get out to their friends and in their neighborhoods. For them it was like, the problem is the economy and more – the repression, the environment, and the wars. There was also discussion and debate around whether capitalism would work without corporations, and can capitalism be “democratized.”
A couple of other things that stood out: several people bought the special issue on the environment and said that they were surprised that communists have a solution to the environmental crisis. They said they wanted to read about how socialism can solve the environmental crisis, and they want to be a part of something that challenges the whole system. The other was that some people were very interested in the issue on the strategy for revolution, and how is it possible to make revolution, particularly communist revolution.
Eight people associated with Occupy Houston had been arrested earlier in the week, for “criminal trespass,” during a demonstration at the Mickey Leland Federal Building. But the youth and others are undeterred. More events for Occupy Houston are planned for this week, including a talent show for October 16 (“One Rule: Thou shalt not bore – make it political, make it ‘apolitical,’ just don’t make it boring”), and an art show for the 17th.
October 6: Report from Occupy NOLA
Revolution received the following report from Elizabeth Cook in New Orleans, who gave us permission to post this at revcom.us:
Over 100 folks turned out at the beginning of the march at Tulane and Broad, to protest the prison planet that New Orleans, and Louisiana, has become. New Orleans, with double the national average of incarceration, and Louisiana with the highest incarceration rate in the nation, made Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) an excellent starting point to expose the underbelly of the capitalist system. Sheriff's department staff were out and watching with curiosity. I shouted to one group of staff as I walked to the march that Sheriff Gusman allowed people to drown in OPP after Katrina. This is a cover-up that has never been exposed adequately. In the course of my activism after Katrina, I ran into many former OPP prisoners who witnessed drownings during the chaos of Katrina in OPP.
Some chants revolved around shutting down our school-to-prison pipeline system. Many more chants called for the rich to pay, and abolish the Federal Reserve. Personally speaking, the abolish the Federal Reserve folks, out in full force, got a bit annoying. More on that later.
Several African-American activists helped lead the chants in a spirited manner, including Malcolm Suber, Sharon Jasper and her two daughters, Kawana and Shannon, Reverend Brown, Leon, and Sam Jackson. Suddenly Sam and Reverend Brown led the marchers onto the street, and it began. I followed in my truck so that I could ride folks who couldn't march. As we turned onto Basin Street from Tulane Ave., I noticed that it took several minutes for the marchers to make that turn. The crowd had swelled impressively. I later estimated the crowd to be around 500 folks.
Once in Lafayette Square, marchers occupied the statue of Lafayette there and began handing around a bullhorn for folks to speak. A couple of folks who want to abolish the Fed tried to hog the bullhorn a bit but got shouted down eventually. Some of them declared themselves as Ron Paul supporters, and behaved as expected, with a bit of fanaticism evident. They got roundly booed when Ron Paul's name was brought up. In my view, abolishing the Federal Reserve as an antidote to our nation's ills just isn't enough. One of those same protesters tried to shut Sharon Jasper down at OPP when she tried to bring up affordable housing issues. New Orleans has the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the nation, since Katrina. Sharon brushed her off, of course. Ron Paul's shrinking government message is not the answer to our problems, and this country's problems, btw, didn't start with the creation of the Federal Reserve. Once you abolish the Reserve, you still have a cadre of politicians in Washington, D.C. sold out to corporate interests.
Students spoke about mounting debt, which prompted a great deal of cheering from these young protesters. I would say the average ages of the protesters favored the youth. Many spoke of corruption in the financial industry, and the need to keep this movement rolling. Spirited debates in the crowd broke out here and there. I happened to be standing at the base of the monument to Lafayette, near some of the old guard who obviously were advocating reform of the capitalist system, and near a crowd of young anarchists who successfully shouted down and led a chant against the message of "voting" as a form of protest. Their point was that the electoral system is completely compromised by capitalism, and voting is not going to solve our problems at this point. I have to say I completely agree with them.
One older man began chanting, "tax the rich, tax the rich," at which time I started chanting "eat the rich, eat the rich," and then a young woman joined in and chanted "snatch the rich, snatch the rich." It was a bit playful that way. An older woman standing near me preached about the need to vote, that if you don't vote, you won't be seen or heard. I interjected, vote for whom, which sold-out party or politician do we vote for? The young anarchists were in complete agreement.
I think that debate hinted at a broader division in the Occupy Wall Street movement that is flying below radar, which is probably a good thing at this point. The utilization of consensus building in the occupation gatherings gives folks of disparate views an opportunity to work together on projects. Clearly though, there is the camp of we can reform capitalism, and there is the camp of we need to oust capitalism and create a different form of self-governing system that isn't necessarily a representative form of government, but more related to direct democracy. These disparate groups have largely stayed clear of each other, but are now coming together realizing of course, that we can't ignore each other any longer. These encampments give the groups a chance to learn to work together on common goals, leaving aside differences for the moment. The differences aren't going to go away though.
Anarchists, college students, middle age activists like myself, mostly young though, attended an assembly at Duncan Plaza next to City Hall at 6 pm. Duncan Plaza was the scene of a homeless occupation for several months in 2007, before being disbanded by police on the day the New Orleans City Council voted to demolish public housing, after violent rejections and abuse of protesters in and outside of that meeting. We are returning to our contemporary activist roots by setting up in Duncan Plaza. I heard a news report this morning that stated the NOPD will allow protesters to camp there, for now.
About 150 people were in attendance; it was an impressive turnout. I spoke to a couple of women who had already moved out there with the intention of encamping. I also spoke to a college student from LSU who intended to sleep out there the first night. The meeting utilized the techniques developed in New York for running meetings without a bullhorn, mic checks, hard blocks, etc. The meeting kind of got bogged down with disagreements over process, consensus, the definition of nonviolence, etc. One young man suggested that rule by majority vote actually allowed for a platform that tolerated more forms of dissent within the group, which I found to be a fascinating analysis. Frustration at the slowness of the meeting and coming to consensus agreement was expressed, and one wonders how long the consensus model will last. Nevertheless, these discussions offer an opportunity for folks to get to know each other, exercise their own thought processes within a group, and learn what it means to function in a community such as this. I think the difficulties in communication have an opportunity to bond people, if they stick it out to work it out. There will be growing pains, and hopefully folks won't be discouraged by this. As one young woman said, the Arab Spring is changing into America's Fall. It's about time.
I couldn't stay for the entire meeting, but I suspect there will be a meeting each night at Duncan Plaza, probably at 6 pm, as long as the encampment remains.
Reports below were posted October 10, 2011.
San Francisco Bay Area
Occupy S.F. has been going on since September 17. The initial call for the encampment stated, "We are a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. The idea of protesting and camping in the square: 1) As a way of demonstrating against a dominant and oppressive system, lead by a political class working for banks and big corporations; 2) As a way to promote new initiatives of political, social, economical, artistic and cultural organization."
On Wednesday, October 5, there was a march that drew some 800 people. In the evening on Thursday, October 6, the SF Bay Guardian reported that the police distributed flyers to the 200 or so people: "The fliers stated that we were in 'violation of one or more of the following local ordinances or state laws,' and then listed six laws, including open flames on a city street without a permit, lodging in a public place, preparing or serving food without a permit, and violating the city's sit/lie ordinance."
Around midnight 60 riot cops descended on the camp, cordoned off the tents and supplies and proceeded to steal everything: from donated food and water to cooking supplies and equipment. But the people stayed, regrouped and more donations started coming in.
The numbers fluctuate. That Thursday (October 6), at the bottom of Market Street, we found about 50 people encamped and maybe 20 more hanging out (mostly ages 16-26) with tents, tables, music, picketing and in excited political conversations and debates. Some of the youth were "travelers" (young people who go from town to town) who have now become part of the core. On Friday, October 7, the antiwar rally protesting the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan—with many older people—marched to the encampment.
All of the people protesting seem to feel that the economic crisis is extreme, and the disparity between the 1% and the 99% is not only wrong but intolerable.
Thousands of people gathered at Los Angeles City Hall Saturday, October 8, as Occupy LA entered its second week. Hundreds of tents and other shelters crowded the lawns around City Hall. Debates, meetings, workshops, and the random exchange of thoughts and ideas start in the morning and continue after midnight, including nightly General Assembly (GA) meetings involving hundreds. There are groups making signs and stenciling T-shirts, and other artists just creating beautiful works of art. Every day, there are marches, rallies and protests. Many occupiers participated in an October 6 march on the downtown banking district, blocking traffic. Eleven people from Make Banks Pay were arrested sitting in at a Bank of America. More actions in the financial district are planned.
People have come to participate from Riverside, Orange County, Whittier, Palm Springs, Rancho Cucamonga and other communities throughout southern California. People supporting the occupation drive by and drop off tents, tarps, bungee cords, donations of food and money. Ron Kovic, Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, Roseanne Arquette and Danny Glover have come to the encampment and spoken at rallies. Tom Morello, The Nightwatchman, played an energetic set Saturday.
"Occupy Chicago" started two weeks ago after people coming from the gathering of outrage at the murder of Troy Davis set up camp at the Federal Exchange Bank. The police stopped people from sleeping overnight on the sidewalk and the compromise was to let people sleep in their cars nearby. The number of people has varied, from a few dozen to a couple of hundred.
All of the originators had been following the Occupy Wall Street protest in NYC and felt they had to do something. This was expressed: "No one is happy out here but they don't know where to go to do something. We are giving people a place to go." A number of them said that they felt that they were starting a revolution right then—some thought it would be happening very soon, but there were a lot of different ideas about what that revolution meant.
We have heard quite a few people say, "Capitalism is the problem" and condemning the profit motive in the economy. "People over Profits! Occupy Chicago" is a major slogan of the encampment—along with "We are the 99%". [Windows in the nearby Board of Trade arrogantly displayed signs "We are the 1%."] One couple in their 30s welcomed the fact that finally one could criticize and condemn capitalism without being considered certifiably insane.
The overwhelming number of people at the Occupy Chicago are young and new to political action. Many are students from the University of Chicago, Columbia College, School of the Art Institute, DePaul, Loyola, and law students. There are also working artists, young professionals, and unemployed youths with at least some college background. A number of people have come from outlying areas in ones and twos; several said that they had felt they were all alone until they heard about this. One college student said he had just quit going to class because this was so important.
There is an attitude of solidarity with anyone struggling against the way things are. There is a lot of support for the prisoner hunger strike in California and many people joined a rally and demonstration on September 30 in support of the prisoners' demands. Occupy Chicago protesters also brought new vitality into the protest against the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war on October 8 when 100 of them formed up a contingent in the march.
Occupy Seattle is going strong despite dozens of arrests for camping by Seattle police and other harassment. The arrests caused all kinds of new people from different backgrounds to come down to join the occupation and created debate and interest in the action much more broadly. Hundreds continue to occupy the center square in downtown Seattle at Westlake Park. The mayor outrageously tried to claim he supported "free speech" and then sought to justify moving against the occupation by claiming it would infringe on the rights of other protest groups who had upcoming protests! In response, World Can't Wait and ANSWER, who were holding a protest October 7 on the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war, spoke to the press in support of the occupation and linking up the opposition to the U.S. wars of aggression to people standing up in the occupy movement. Hundreds from the occupation joined the antiwar marches on the 7th. One thousand people marched through downtown October 8. An "all city walkout" has been called for October 12 and Occupy Seattle has listed October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality on its calendar.
All kinds of people are coming out to stay for a while or stay overnight and people who you don't normally see talking to each other are having serious conversations about big questions facing humanity. People are determined to see this through to some kind of change, even as their ideas of what kinds of change are needed and possible are transforming. A fresh wind is blowing indeed and people don't want to go back!
A sentiment we're hearing often, especially from young people, is a yearning for real human connection, where people come together to solve the problems they're facing as opposed to a society where people are walking around in their own isolated bubbles, sitting in coffee shops tuned into their iPods and smart phones and not even making eye contact, let alone talking with the people sitting beside them. The occupation is striving to relate to each other and the surrounding community in a way that is the opposite of all that. People are grappling with big questions: Is the solution to grow this occupation larger as an alternative society? Can capitalism be reformed or not? What's the relation of the corporations to the government? What's the role of the police? What will it take to have a totally different world? There is much concern over the environment, and the lack of a future for themselves in terms of jobs, their children, the planet.
Occupy Houston began in late September with a small assembly in a downtown square. A group of young people inspired by the Occupy Wall Street actions in New York called for people to reassemble on October 6 in the square. They spread the word via Facebook and Twitter—and on the 6th, hundreds of people, mainly youth but including people of very diverse backgrounds and all ages rallied in the square. They marched and rallied in front of skyscrapers housing the headquarters of various oil corporations and banks, and set up an encampment in a park at the end of the night. Similar events were held in several other Texas cities that day—Austin, Dallas, El Paso, McAllen, and San Antonio. The Houston encampment has continued despite heat and rain—holding assemblies nightly, dividing up responsibilities, planning further activities, and discussing issues they are confronting. People come in and out of the events, but the overall number of participants seems to be growing.
Many, probably most, of the people had never been involved in any type of protest before. A team of Revolution distributors reported "a real sense of openness and a welcoming atmosphere ... a real desire to work collectively, and to engage different ideas without the typical antagonisms that go along with this in U.S. society." A common theme among the protesters is "We are the 99%," and Revolution distributors reported that people "really loved" BAsics 1:5. Occupy Houston participants have been confronting and wrestling with a number of big questions—the wholesale destruction of the environment in pursuit of profit, the execution of Troy Davis, the undermining and under-funding of the public education system. Some topics that occupiers and the revolutionaries engaged included: the reality and lessons of the first wave of communist revolution, both its great achievements and its shortcomings, and how Bob Avakian's new synthesis can take humanity to a whole other place; how science and education will be different under socialism; is there a human nature that makes it impossible to eliminate the horrors of capitalism; and is there a system that is at the root of all this, or can we reform capitalism, or develop some mix of socialism and capitalism.
Occupy Houston continues as we go to press.
On Friday, October 7, in the wake of an all day antiwar presence marking the 10th anniversary of the war on Afghanistan staged by peace and justice groups in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the start of Occupy Atlanta attracted an excited and diverse crowd of up to 700 participants. Two signs among the many homemade placards grabbed our attention: one from a hip-hop group declared "Lock up the Wall Street Criminals," another from a middle-aged white woman declared "Know your real enemies, Know your history, It's past time for revolution." After several hours of speak-outs, tents were pitched in defiance of the gathering of police who normally clear all city parks at 11 pm, and the park was "officially" re-named Troy Davis Park!
During the speak-out, Democratic Congressman John Lewis wanted to speak, but a collective decision was made not to allow him to speak. An organizer explained the decision—that it was motivated in part by the movement wanting to distance itself from the Democratic Party and to reinforce the idea that everyone is equal. Their General Assembly formalized this when they passed out their draft of 11 demands and read their preamble: "We hold this truth to be self-evident: that the 99% deserve equal rights, equal protections, equal access and equal opportunity as the 1% who benefit disproportionately from the current system. We therefore freely assemble to assert our rights and demands." The last demand was that "we denounce a criminal justice and for-profit prison system that relies on mass incarceration, especially when it reinforces the marginalization and disenfranchisement of people."
Occupy Cleveland started on October 6, with up to 300 people gathering downtown. There have been rallies and marches ever since. We asked people why they were moved to hook up with this new movement. One young guy said that he's against all the greed in society. He works with Food Not Bombs, which brought food and beverages for the people. He also said that he had heard about the California Prison Hunger Strike from his minister, who did a whole sermon about it. Another young woman said that she never graduated from college and has a low level job with the county, and is very afraid she will lose her job. She added that a lot of her friends did graduate from college, and now they're sleeping on her couch since they can't find jobs. Two young women came all the way from Akron to share in this sense of community, against consumerism and waste. An older unemployed Black man who had been in prison twice came to see what the message of this protest was all about. An economics professor from a college an hour away took a day off from work to come observe and try to understand this in the context of a response to the economic crisis. There were many people who traveled a long distance to be part of this, including from some more rural areas. And a number of college students from Case Western Reserve University joined the protest, some helping to lead it. Overall, especially among younger people, there was a real sense of people hating the consumerism, the mean-spiritedness of society, and wanting to live in a world where we help each other. There was also a broad sentiment against war for empire.
Some people really connected with Revolution #247, "Voice of those cast off by the system"—with responses to the 3:16 BAsics quote from Bob Avakian.And people were very moved by the California Prison Hunger Strike, and saw this as being of common cause with them.
Hundreds of college-aged youth began their encampment in the heart of the Boston financial district last Friday (September 30) and are now in week two. Opening night began with a gathering of 1,000 on the site itself, with honk bands playing, drum circles, a number of groups talking politics and strategy, and a lot of electricity in the air. Around 100 camped out in the drenching rain and more have joined since. Each day marches take off from the site to the Federal Reserve Bank, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America offices, where hundreds have staged sit-ins and off and on blockades outside the main doors. So far there have not been any arrests. Wednesday a hundred youth sat down in the street for a bit before getting chased off by the police. Wednesday afternoon 100 Northeastern University students walked out and marched down to the encampment and a contingent from the Massachusetts Nurses Association. also joined in for a support rally that was addressed by Cornel West. A motion was passed to rename October 10 "Indigenous Peoples Day."
Check back at revcom.us for ongoing coverage of the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.