Tag Archives: occupy

Protest marches aren’t what they used to be: What does size mean?

27 Jan

A protest does not have power just because many people get together in one place. Rather, a protest has power insofar as it signals the underlying capacity of the forces it represents.

Consider an analogy from the natural world: A gazelle will sometimes jump high in the air while grazing, apparently to no end — but it is actually signaling strength. “If I can jump this high,” it communicates to would-be predators, “I can also run very fast. Don’t bother with the chase.”

Protesters are saying, in effect, “If we can pull this off, imagine what else we can do.”

But it is much easier to pull off a large protest than it used to be. In the past, a big demonstration required months, if not years, of preparation. The planning for the March on Washington in August 1963, for example, started nine months earlier, in December 1962. The march drew a quarter of a million people, but it represented much more effort, commitment and preparation than would a protest of similar size today. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without email, without cellphones, without crowdfunding, the ability to organize such a march was a fair proxy for the strength and sophistication of the civil rights movement.

Tufekci goes on to point out that, sure, organizing the Women’s march took a lot of work, “However, as with all protests today, the march required fewer resources and less time spent on coordination than a comparable protest once did.” She goes on to mention the anti-war protests of February 2003, “at that point, likely the largest global protest in history”, and the Occupy protests of 2011, “held in about 1,000 cities in more than 80 countries”. Both of these protests, and others, have had relatively little practical impact.

This doesn’t mean that protests no longer matter — they do. Nowadays, however, protests should be seen not as the culmination of an organizing effort, but as a first, potential step. A large protest today is less like the March on Washington in 1963 and more like Rosa Parks’s refusal to move to the back of the bus. What used to be an endpoint is now an initial spark.

She then goes on to mention the Tea Party protests of 2009, noting:

But the Tea Party protesters then got to work on a ferociously focused agenda: identifying and supporting primary candidates to challenge Republicans who did not agree with their demands, keeping close tabs on legislation and pressuring politicians who deviated from a Tea Party platform.

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Occupy Offshoot Aims to Erase People’s Debts – NYTimes.com

14 Nov

The group, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement called Strike Debt, is trying to buy some of the debts that people have accrued — which lenders often sell for pennies on the dollar to third parties who either try to collect on it or bundle it up for resale. Strike Debt, however, is not looking to collect on them; instead it plans to give some debtors the surprise of a lifetime.

“Basically what we’re going to do is exactly the same as what a regular debt buyer would do, with one big difference,” said Thomas Gokey, an artist and teacher. “Rather than collect the debt, we’re just going to abolish it.”

via Occupy Offshoot Aims to Erase People’s Debts – NYTimes.com.

Where FEMA Fell Short, Occupy Sandy Was There – NYTimes.com

10 Nov

On Wednesday morning, as the winds picked up and FEMA closed its office “due to weather,” an enclave of Occupiers was huddled in a storefront amid the devastation, handing out supplies and trying to make sure that those bombarded by last month’s storm stayed safe and warm and dry this time.

“Candles?” asked a dull-eyed woman arriving at the door.

“I’m sorry, but we’re out,” said Sofia Gallisa, a field coordinator who had been there for a week. Ms. Gallisa escorted the woman in, and someone gave her batteries for her flashlight. As she walked away, word arrived that a firehouse nearby was closing for the night; the firefighters there were hurrying their rigs to higher ground.

“It’s crazy,” Ms. Gallisa later said of the official response. “For a long time, we were the only people out here doing relief work.”

After its encampment in Zuccotti Park, which changed the public discourse about economic inequality and introduced the nation to the trope of the 1 percent, the Occupy movement has wandered in a desert of more intellectual, less visible projects, like farming, fighting debt and theorizing on banking. While several nouns have been occupied — from summer camp to health care — it is only with Hurricane Sandy that the times have conspired to deliver an event that fully calls upon the movement’s talents and caters to its strengths.

via Where FEMA Fell Short, Occupy Sandy Was There – NYTimes.com.

Occupy Our Homes Saves Another Family From Foreclosure | The Nation

13 Jun

Occupy Our Homes, a movement to protect families from foreclosures and evictions, has enjoyed a recent string of successes. In February, the group helped Helen Bailey, the 78-year-old former civil rights activist who was threatened with foreclosure by J.P. Morgan Chase while the company trumpeted its efforts to uphold Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, to stay in her home following a successful campaign by Occupy Nashville.

The group also aided a Detroit husband and wife who spent months worrying they could be evicted from their home of twenty-two years. The couple received news they would be permitted to stay after an aggressive campaign that was led by members of Moratorium Now, Occupy Detroit and Homes Before Banks and included the family’s supporters blocking the contractor from placing a dumpster.

Additionally, Occupy Atlanta prevented the eviction of a family when two dozen protesters encamped on the family’s lawn, and Occupy Our Homes delayed another foreclosure in Rochester, as did Occupy Cleveland in November.

And more.

via Occupy Our Homes Saves Another Family From Foreclosure | The Nation.

Arrests on Lower East Side as May Day Protests Spread – NYTimes.com

1 May

And that’s not all. Action in California too:

The May Day demonstrations took place across the country and in countries across the globe.

In the Bay Area in California, marches and protests snarled traffic and caused road closures. Hundreds marched through Oakland, temporarily closing streets and bank branches and clashes with officers in riot gear, who deployed tear gas on crowds.

Service to the Golden Gate Ferry service, used by many commuters from Marin County, Calif. to San Francisco, was shut down after workers in bitter contract negotiations over health insurance coverage went on strike and picketed ferry terminals.

via Arrests on Lower East Side as May Day Protests Spread – NYTimes.com.

Five Ways to Support Re-Occupation | The Nation

17 Apr

Empowered by a federal court ruling that allows protesters to legally sleep on public sidewalks, as long as they don’t block building entrances or take up more than half of the available space, #SleepfulProtest is proving to be an effective new tactic helping speed Occupy Wall Street’s re-emergence into the streets and public spaces of the US. (My colleague Allison Kilkenny recently explained and explored this new strategy.)

It’s been so effective, in fact, that this morning at 6:00 am the NYPD, in direct defiance of the 2000 decision Metropolitan Council Inc. v. Safir, which held “public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression” to be constitutionally protected speech, raided the corner across from the New York Stock Exchange where Occupiers have been sleeping. A motion for an emergency injunction against NYPD disruption of the sidewalk protests was filed this morning.

In the meantime, here are five ways you can help support the Re-Occupation of America:

1. Go to Wall Street to join the Occupiers if you can….

2. Spread the word.  …

3. Donate to Occupy Wall Street through its website. …

4. Get ready for the May 1 actions. This is expected to be a major day of resistance on many fronts and of many forms. Do something!

5. Help save Chicago’s Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic.

via Five Ways to Support Re-Occupation | The Nation.

Scores Arrested as the Police Clear Zuccotti Park – NYTimes.com

18 Mar

Scores were arrested Saturday night when protesters marked the 6month anniversary of the initial encampment in Zuccotti Park.

The movement was mainly quiet during the winter, but organizers said they were aiming for a springtime resurgence.

“It’s just a reminder that we’re here,” Brendan Burke said, as the crowd marched past the New York Stock Exchange. “It’s an opportunity to remind Wall Street that we aren’t going anywhere.”

In several respects, Saturday’s march was similar to the inaugural one. The crowd was small but spirited and marched past the bronze sculpture of a bull at Bowling Green, which had served as a mustering spot for the first march. Marchers were accompanied by police officers on foot and on scooters who at one point blocked access to Wall Street, just as they did on Sept. 17.

via Scores Arrested as the Police Clear Zuccotti Park – NYTimes.com.

The Purpose of Occupy Wall Street Is to Occupy Wall Street | The Nation

15 Mar

Occupy Wall Street. What other political movement in modern times has won the sympathy and/or support of the majority of the American public—in less than two months? How did this happen? I think it was a revolt that has been percolating across the country since Reagan fired the first air traffic controller. Then, on September 17, 2011, a group of (mostly) young adults decided to take direct action. And this action struck a raw nerve, sending a shock wave throughout the United States, because what these kids were doing was what tens of millions of people wished they could do. The people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their “American dream”—they cathartically cheered on this ragtag bunch who got right in the face of Wall Street and said, “We’re not leaving until you give us our country back!”

By purposely not creating a formal, hierarchical organization with rules and dues and structure and charismatic leaders and spokespeople—all the things their parents told them they would need in order to get anything done—this new way allowed people from all over the country to feel like they were part of the rebellion by simply deciding that they were part of the rebellion. You want to occupy your local bank—do it! You want to occupy your college board of trustees—done! You want to occupy Oakland or Cincinnati or Grass Valley—be our guest! This is your movement, and you can make it what you want it to be.

via The Purpose of Occupy Wall Street Is to Occupy Wall Street | The Nation.

The unlikely oracle of Occupy – Occupy Wall Street – Salon.com

1 Mar

Concerning nonviolence, the Arab Spring, and Occupy:

It’s as though below the visible landscape of politics, whose permanence and strength we characteristically overestimate, there’s this other landscape we rather pallidly call the world of opinion.

And somewhere in this landscape of popular will, in these changes in hearts and minds — a phrase that has become a cliché but still expresses a deep truth — lie hidden powers that, when they erupt, can overmatch and bring down existing structures. That’s what John Adams said about the American Revolution: the revolution was in the hearts of the people, the minds of the people. It was amazing to find that very Vietnam-era phrase in Adams’ eighteenth century writings. What John Adams was saying you find over and over again in the history of revolutions, once you look for it.

via The unlikely oracle of Occupy – Occupy Wall Street – Salon.com.

Shut Down the Corporations!: Occupy Groups Target ALEC | Common Dreams

29 Feb

Over 70 cities are participating today in a national day of action called by Occupy Portland to “Shut Down the Corporations.” The group calls for non-violent direct action to “target corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council which is a prime example of the way corporations buy off legislators and craft legislation that serves the interests of corporations and not people.”

via Shut Down the Corporations!: Occupy Groups Target ALEC | Common Dreams.