I’ve been Occupying the sofa recently, having damaged my back hauling around my camera, computer, and assorted gear including three sets of headphones (one of them even works) and a pair of a dead friend’s pants (long story) in my backpack to and from OccupyVancouver for a solid week.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention. After all the whining about the cost of policing Occupy Vancouver, it seems that the police have simply stopped occupying the site: costs saved! Problem solved! If only all police were as practical and cooperative as ours!
This is what they do in Oakland: in fact, this is what they did tonight: they shot a veteran in the face.
Veterans for Peace member Scott Olsen was wounded by a less-lethal round fired by either San Francisco Sheriffs deputies or Palo Alto Police on October 25, 2011 at 14th Street and Broadway in Downtown Oakland
Somehow I have a hard time believing this is what those officers wanted to be when they grew up. But this is what they’ve become. That kind of person, and the kind that does this: tear-gassing and flash grenading a wounded woman lying on the ground and the crowd that came to rescue her.
Over on Facebook that one got me unfriended by Brooks Bayne, who maintains that the cops’s action was appropriate. He also may have been influenced in his unfriending by the fact that I said that America should be ashamed of this, and that I had higher standards for his country than he did, and my ancestors looted and burned the White House.
Well, we GAVE them a day’s warning; obviously by his “they gave them a half hour warning” rules, we were quite correct to raid that puppy and set it on fire. I can’t imagine what he’s so upset about.
So: things got ugly in Occupy. The question is, what happens now? Do things get this ugly everywhere, do they calm down, do they get worse?
The Occupy movement has diversity as a source of strength; each Occupation is slightly different, and I think this will enable things to get worse in certain places (Oakland, Detroit, LA, possibly Montreal and Ottawa) and serve as magnets for attention and outrage. In effect, the worst fascist acts will cause the rest of the world to put its metaphorical, gigantic foot down and insist that protesters not be treated this way, long before the local people are treated this way.
I could be wrong, but you can’t really describe me as optimistic. When this movement started, I was one of those people who truly believed that the ONLY way through to positive change was to put the 1% in literal fear for their lives. And I was perfectly willing to do it, too. We’ve had fifty years of peace and love and working through consensus and what the fuck has that gotten us? A world where the 99% are routinely raped by the 1%, who expect us to thank them for it and send flowers in the morning. A world where pointing out injustice causes fellow citizens to call for your arrest. A world where everyone who isn’t a victim seems to be a quisling or a rat. The Stop War coalition is nine years old, and we’ve been in Afghanistan ten, so how’s that going then? I sat through far too many meetings at Greenpeace listening to people come up with strategies for protesting lost causes while ignoring winnable, important ones because of inter-office politics. I have lost faith not only in the institutions that control us but in the institutions we created to fight that control.
But I do have faith: I have faith in the movement.
Throughout the past week of observing, occupying, participating and sharing, I’ve learned to have faith in the collective, and in the movement’s commitment to nonviolence. I’ve come to understand that not only was my way of threats and possible violence morally wrong, but it certainly wouldn’t have worked, either. It would have cut the heart out of the movement, and prevented what used to be called the Silent Majority from supporting us. And this war isn’t going to be won by the people in the tents or in the marches: it’s going to be won by the people who catch the bus down the block from the camp, the people who drive by it en route to work or shopping, the people who follow it on Twitter or Facebook or the news (whenever it gets on the news), the people to whom it occurs that they, too, have been cheated out of what once was their birthright, and that they, too, have cause to be angry. The specific forms their support will take, well, who knows? But it all depends on the movement’s continuing nonviolence and independence.
If you’d like to get involved, but don’t want your fingerprints on anything, there’s an easy way: On October 28th, Occupy Yourself. For one day, shut the system down: don’t buy anything. Don’t use electricity. Don’t consume mass media. Close accounts you don’t use, shed things you don’t need. Donate your old things to charity, or use Freecycle to put them into the secondary market.
JOIN US ON FACEBOOK! Show your support and click “I’m Attending”
ALTERNATE LANGUAGES IN THE PLAYLIST!
PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH AS MANY AS POSSIBLE…WE DO NOT HAVE MUCH TIME!
A momentum is occurring
People are uniting across the world
They are sending a message
The next step is fast approaching
On Oct 28th 2011
WE SHUT THE SYSTEM DOWN.
For one day we peacefully protest in a symbol that will be felt across the globe.
We step out of the system and step back into ourselves.
Turn off all lights
Unplug all electrical devices
Abstain from using TV, radio and internet or phone.
Abstain from making any purchase of any kind
Choose that morning to cancel any services you feel you no longer need
That morning call in sick to work
Do NOTHING that generates money into THE SYSTEM.
We will send a message
We will unite
Most importantly, for one day…
We live without distraction
Read a book
Frolic in nature
On Oct 28th 2011
Step out of the system and get back to yourself
Spread the word!
SHUT IT ALL DOWN!
Look for Versions of this video IN YOUR LANGUAGE in the occupy youself playlist and…SPREAD THE WORD!
If that’s a bit intense for you, the CBC has an anonymous poll (yeah, they’re probably pipping your IP, but big deal; if you’re worried, you should use TOR!) on What Should Be Done About the Occupy Movement and at this moment over 80% of respondents say “nothing; they’re doing nothing wrong.” Whatever your point of view, vote.
Like to mess around with Cornify in your lighter moments? Well, now you can Occupy any website with the Occupy app.
And if you’re still not inspired enough, how about a message of solidarity from the (successful) rebels of Tahrir Square?
To all those in the United States currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it’s our turn to pass on some advice.
Indeed, we are now in many ways involved in the same struggle. What most pundits call “The Arab Spring” has its roots in the demonstrations, riots, strikes and occupations taking place all around the world, its foundations lie in years-long struggles by people and popular movements. The moment that we find ourselves in is nothing new, as we in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a System that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants. As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme.
An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organizations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the “free market” pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the South found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.
The current crisis in America and Western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity. Not content with carving out the remnants of the public sphere and the welfare state, capitalism and the austerity-state now even attack the private realm and people’s right to decent dwelling as thousands of foreclosed-upon homeowners find themselves both homeless and indebted to the banks who have forced them on to the streets.
So we stand with you not just in your attempts to bring down the old but to experiment with the new. We are not protesting. Who is there to protest to? What could we ask them for that they could grant? We are occupying. We are reclaiming those same spaces of public practice that have been commodified, privatized and locked into the hands of faceless bureaucracy , real estate portfolios, and police ‘protection’. Hold on to these spaces, nurture them, and let the boundaries of your occupations grow. After all, who built these parks, these plazas, these buildings? Whose labor made them real and livable? Why should it seem so natural that they should be withheld from us, policed and disciplined? Reclaiming these spaces and managing them justly and collectively is proof enough of our legitimacy.
In our own occupations of Tahrir, we encountered people entering the Square every day in tears because it was the first time they had walked through those streets and spaces without being harassed by police; it is not just the ideas that are important, these spaces are fundamental to the possibility of a new world. These are public spaces. Spaces forgathering, leisure, meeting, and interacting – these spaces should be the reason we live in cities. Where the state and the interests of owners have made them inaccessible, exclusive or dangerous, it is up to us to make sure that they are safe, inclusive and just. We have and must continue to open them to anyone that wants to build a better world, particularly for the marginalized, excluded and for those groups who have suffered the worst .
What you do in these spaces is neither as grandiose and abstract nor as quotidian as “real democracy”; the nascent forms of praxis and social engagement being made in the occupations avoid the empty ideals and stale parliamentarianism that the term democracy has come to represent. And so the occupations must continue, because there is no one left to ask for reform. They must continue because we are creating what we can no longer wait for.
But the ideologies of property and propriety will manifest themselves again. Whether through the overt opposition of property owners or municipalities to your encampments or the more subtle attempts to control space through traffic regulations, anti-camping laws or health and safety rules. There is a direct conflict between what we seek to make of our cities and our spaces and what the law and the systems of policing standing behind it would have us do.
We faced such direct and indirect violence , and continue to face it . Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces: by the government’s own admission; 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed, and all of the ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected, officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on the 28 th of January they retreated, and we had won our cities.
It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point”, we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious.
By way of concluding then, our only real advice to you is to continue, keep going and do not stop. Occupy more, find each other, build larger and larger networks and keep discovering new ways to experiment with social life, consensus, and democracy. Discover new ways to use these spaces, discover new ways to hold on to them and never givethem up again. Resist fiercely when you are under attack, but otherwise take pleasure in what you are doing, let it be easy, fun even. We are all watching one another now, and from Cairo we want to say that we are in solidarity with you, and we love you all for what you are doing.
Comrades from Cairo.
24th of October, 2011.
And Vancouver, you stay crazy. Don’t. Ever. Change.