Occupy Wall Street, Oakland, Chicago

March 22, 2012

Oakland–In the past I have been involved in a lot of struggles: workers’ and immigrants rights, animal rights, etc. They were all single issues, isolated by their demands. The Occupy Movement brings them all together and addresses the cause of the problems, the whole system.

What was most important during the encampment of Occupy Oakland was getting together to figure out how to do it. How will we deal with garbage, provide healthcare, etc.? The solution has to start with people getting together and making their own decisions.

People have to start thinking for themselves and take back their own power. If a revolution is to succeed it will have to succeed before the revolution, during and after.

Too often, when a system is replaced by another system, the new system becomes equally oppressive. I don’t see how a system can work on a big–national or international–scale.

A part of the revolution has to be how to do things for ourselves without a global economy that spits out mass-produced things. Most of the things we use we don’t really need. Everything seems to be disposable, including workers. We are destroying the planet. We have to have a change or we won’t last much longer. And where are the human beings? Human beings are just parts of the machine to produce stuff we don’t need. Being a part of Occupy is different from having a job, though it’s more than full time. It is doing things for your community.

The encampment brought together various folks, some of whom were not used to living in such a huge group so close together. Some were not used to sleeping in tents, some had been sleeping in the plaza before the encampment started. We had to figure out how to live together, how to resolve bad experiences, how to improve good ones, how we have each other’s backs. How do we deal with people with mental health issues, or disabilities (an area that still needs to be improved)?

But the idea was not to keep the encampment for its own sake. It was a spot for organizing. The capitalist system makes you wrapped up in ahistorical individuality. It’s all about “me,” my profits, etc. We have to re-learn to live together.

We proved that we can get people out for a day of action. It is fun, especially when the weather is nice. But we are not going to change the world by having an action here and there. Actions are important to get people together, to get people thinking and listening and talking to each other. But at the same time, the work that needs to be done is right here, right now, starting locally from the real basics. We’re done trying to change laws. It’s fruitless.

Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago was the first successful occupation I had seen. It took five days to show that an action like that occupation is possible and successful. It got media attention from all over the world.

I was camping out in the lobby the whole time making a documentary. Everyone was really excited to take over the plant and run it themselves. It transformed a lot of workers. For example, those who had kids and both parents worked, had to plan and share the childcare. We also got a lot of support from other workers.

After the occupation was the best time ever at the Worker Rights Center. Whenever other workers brought their grievances to us, it was enough to just threaten the managers with an occupation, and they wanted to talk. It showed we can get our rights back, but not through the legal system.

It showed that occupation can be successful, that you can achieve specific goals. Occupy Oakland is different, because we don’t have specific goals. Our goal is to transform the whole society. It’s the first step to a more conscious society, to get people to work together instead of relying on the powers to tell us how to live.


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Occupy Chicago
Aaron Cynic, diatribemedia.com

Chicago-About 100 people came out for the Feb. 28 rally to STOP the Suppression of the Occupy Movement! Protests were held nationwide, including in New York, where hundreds marched and ten were arrested for reoccupying Liberty Plaza. Occupy Chicago has been supporting occupations at City Hall over mental health center closings, at Piccolo School, and by workers at the Serious Energy factory, formerly Republic Windows and Doors. OC has held actions against the mayor’s “Sit down and shut up” ordinance and protested on the nationwide Day in Support of Prisoners. Occupy’s “Chicago Spring,” starting in April, will lead up to the NATO/G8 protest in May.

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New York City–The Jan. 28 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Environmental Solidarity Working Group meeting, with 100-plus participants, was just one of many gatherings all over the city, reporting each evening to OWS General Assemblies in or near Liberty Plaza.

Several dozen spokespeople for environmental action organizations gave five-minute presentations, always taking questions. The young facilitator kept emphasizing the importance of coordination and discussion. The idea was to hear from all who wanted to present and then have time for individual dialogues and smaller break-out sessions.

Some of the groups who spoke included:

  • Occupy the Earth (occupytheearth.net)–said they go beyond Occupy Rio in not relying on the UN but want to create a global platform to consolidate world ideas: (1) open source system, (2) global knowledge base, (3) global resource management.
  • Shut Down Indian Point Now!
  • Occupy Farms, working with others, including Food Justice.
  • Times Up, a 22-year-old environmental direct action group that did a lot of work during the encampment, including composting food wastes and pedaling the energy bikes (www.times-up.org andtimesupvolunteer@gmail.com).
  • Ted Shultz of Tech Ops talked both of reinventing how enterprises of all types work out a horizontal model of relations, and of technology that can facilitate organizing collectively. Seehttp://collaborate.occupy.net/, software called www.Bettermeans.org and www.bettermeans.com.
  • Todos Somos Japon–planning an activity for March 11, at Union Square.
  • March 23 Occupy the Business of Pollution, the Politics of Energy, to be followed March 24 by a Global Mass Rally for a Livable Planet, with actions continuing through Earth Day, April 22 (99forearth@gmail.com).
  • An anti-fracking group is working with United for Action (http://www.350.org), Food and Water Watch and opposing the Spectra Pipeline into lower Manhattan (see also Sane Energy Project). There will be call-in days and mass visits to Obama campaign offices to oppose fracking.

OWS Occupy Education has energized and coalesced Black and Latino organizing to save and humanize public education in New York City. As elsewhere, public education is fighting against corporate interests for which charter school operations are cash cows.

We need to understand the organizing in this new movement. There are genuine widespread attempts to practice new human relations. We want to help all this new thought and activity realize its potential towards a new, human society.

–Susan Van Gelder and Tom Siracuse

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