Nati at Occupy Wellington.
By Grant Brookes
October 20, 2011 -- UNITYblog
“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the
rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” -- Naomi Klein
With comments like this, campaigning journalist Naomi Klein has captured the essence of the mushrooming movement against corporate greed which began on Wall Street. The movement is expressing the feelings of a global majority denied a voice in the media and in the corridors of power.
It spread to Aotearoa on October 15, when occupations began in Auckland, Wellington, Christchuch, Dunedin, New Plymouth and elsewhere.
“I’ve been to a lot of protests for good causes”, said Dougal, on day one of the Wellington occupation. “But it’s often felt like I was part of an embattled minority. This is different”.
With their broad embrace of myriad issues, and organising democratically through general assemblies, the occupations around New Zealand have attracted supporters from all walks of life – even as they confound newshounds looking for figureheads, spokespeople and official media releases.
Around 300 people marched on the NZX Stock Exchange building on Wellington’s waterfront on October 15. The protest ended with an open microphone, where people got up and talked about why they had come.
An early childhood teacher spoke of how she suddenly found herself in poverty after being made redundant, following the National government’s decision to cut $400 million from early childhood education.
An IT consultant talked about how he and his partner have been earning up to $200,000 a year, but still can’t get ahead. He wondered aloud how those on the minimum wage could get by.
A beneficiary spoke of being unable to get a job, despite her university qualifications. “I can't even get a fucking job as a taxi driver”, she said. “I want a fucking revolution!”.
Then on October 16, Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown visited the occupation and expressed support.
The occupation has been gifted a whakatauki by local Maori, to express our acknowledgement of tangata whenua as the original occupiers of the land: “Me noho tahi, tena pea ka tika” (Come sit together, and everything will come right).
With backing from such a cross-section of society, we truly are representative of the 99%.
The occupations have shown the ability of people to come together and create cooperative communities. In Wellington, general assemblies are meeting daily at 10 am and 6 pm, with a different person facilitating each time. Notes from each assembly are being posted at: http://www.coactivate.org/projects/occupywellington/blog/.
A group has been formed to organise food and other supplies to sustain the occupation. A communications and media team has been set up (individuals have produced articles like, "Multimedia: Occupy Wellington Sets Up Camp In Civic Square" and "Occupy Aotearoa: A brief summary". A first-aid team is forming, along with a roster of people to show hospitality to newcomers, rules for noise control, and a programme of educational workshops and entertainment.
And as we come together, we have also begun to grapple with what exactly is wrong with the world ruled by, and for, the 1% – and to talk about how we can change it, so it works for everyone.
UNITYblog spoke with people occupying Civic Square in Wellington about why they were there, and what they though could be achieved by the occupation. Nati is from Spain. She followed the wave of occupations of public spaces which began in Spanish cities in May, by the movement known as “the Indignants” .
“I came down here to support the movements around the world – people that are fed up with everything, basically. I think there are a lot of people who don’t really know why they’re here, but they know that something is wrong and they want to change it.
“There are tons of things we can mention – the economic system, the way the world moves, the pyramidal structure that we have. We know that there are thousands of things wrong, so it’s more about coming together to develop a proposal.
“We need to focus on solidarity with others, on humanity, going back to the basic needs and basic values that are completely forgotten in our society, like helping each other. And solidarity with the planet, ecological resources. It’s probably going to take years.
“But it's good to stand and say, I know that there are things that are wrong, to just stand and say I am seeing this, I'm not blind. I'm coming here to stand in front of others and say, hey, look at this, let's try to change it.
“We can think about the power being held by governments, or by corporations as it is now, but the power is from the people, at the beginning. We are the consumers, and we are the workers. So we have the power. We are making the rules here.”
Sarah is a nurse and midwife. “I think the occupation is about raising awareness of the current problems in the world. We can wake a lot more ordinary people up, and get people to actually look at the system that's facing them, and start to think about that more deeply, and about ways in which we can effect change.
“And particularly, we're coming up to an election. We've got such a great divide in NZ between the rich and poor. And we know that the bigger the gap between rich and poor, the poorer the society is. There's a lot more crime, and violence, we need to find a way to merge that. There are new political parties springing up, so that's a potential way forward.
“There are those who would argue we need to completely collapse the system, and move onto something entirely different, such as a resource-based economy. The fact is we're all one humanity living on one planet with finite resources. So that's another way.
“Some people are arguing we should go back to the gold standard. So there's lots of ideas, and the more people are involved, the more that evolution can take place. Ideas can join in the giant soup of creation, and come up with something new.”
Occupy Dublin: Take back the world they have stolen from us
By Helena Sheehan
[Speech given after the October 15 march at Occupy Dublin, outside the Central Bank of Ireland, Dame Street.]
October 16, 2011 -- Irish Left Review -- When you have lived a long life, you will find that the years blur together, but some years stand out. 2011 will be a stand out year.
For some of us active on the left for many years, we have been asking what would it take for people to rise up. There has been every reason to rise up. Every form of exploitation has flourished. Redistribution from below to above has intensified beyond anything ever imagined. Transferring private debts into public ones as been an absolutely stunning move. Financial capital has attacked, not only the lives and livelihoods of the working people of the world, but even industrial capital. Industrial capital at least produces something. Hedge funds, short selling and such financial instruments produce nothing and take everything. They are parasitic upon the only real sources of wealth: natural resources and human labour. They contribute nothing.
How could people just take this? How could they allow the 1% to rob and rule the 99%? Why has such stepped-up class struggle from above not been met by class struggle from below?
2011 has been the year when vast numbers came out and said no. They have come out, we have come out, to take back the world they have stolen from us. From Tunisia to Egypt to Spain to Chile to the USA and many places in between. Now here.
Iceland and Greece, of course, were already out in front, shaming us. But not now. We are on the streets and squares of almost 1000 cities in 82 counties on six continents today. There is something happening here. Most of these are new people, people new to protest, although the old ones, waiting and working for this to happen, are part of it too.
So here we are at this international day of solidarity of this new global movement, this movement of the indignant, this occupy together movement. Here we are at Occupy Dublin/Occupy Dame Street.
The immediate impetus to this Occupy movement, which has spread like wildfire, has been Occupy Wall Street. Main Street stood up to Wall Street. They elected Obama to do that, but no sooner was he elected than he collapsed under the power of Wall Street and betrayed Main Street. I have been particularly buoyed up by Occupy Philadelphia, the place where my life of protest began. It's been quite quiescent for so long. My new left friends continued doing progressive work, as best they could, but they had no sense of a movement around them. Now they have. Now we have.
It has been so powerful to see so many people coming together and to hear them asset over and over. This is what democracy looks like. We are the 99%. We are awake now. People have awakened to the fact that there are so many more of us than there are of them and asked how they are so powerful and we are so powerless, how the few are so extravagantly wealthy while so many are so abjectly poor. People are stepping up to the G8 as the G7billion and saying it's our world and we intend to take it back now.
So here we are all over the world, occupying spaces and making demands. There has been much focus on occupations and demands. Yes, this is about occupations and demands on one level. But it is not reducible to occupations and demands. Will this occupation of itself result in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) getting out of our affairs, in the removal of private debts from public encumbrance, in refusal to pay bondholders at the expense of our health, education and welfare, in taking back our oil and gas reserves for our own purposes? If it does, great. But I don't think that it's as simple as that. It will be a more complex process, a more protracted and difficult struggle. But it's a struggle that we have begun.
These occupations have opened new spaces, literally as well as metaphorically. They have created a new dynamic in this struggle. They have transformed the terrain, physically here in Dame Street, but psychologically and politically as well.
How? Well, first of all, we've transformed ourselves. We have become the change we want to see. Those who have stepped up for the first time can never be the same again. You have discovered something new in yourselves. You have lived in a new way in these days. Food, shelter, culture, knowledge have been given and received freely in a way that was beyond the circuitry of commodification. This is participatory democracy, an experiment in the sort of society we want to create. It is building the new in the shell of the old.
Those who have been involved in other projects, even those of us who have been politically active for many years, have changed too. We have become part of something new, something bigger. We have formed new relationships and become part of the texture of each other's lives. The bonds forged in common struggle are, in my experience, the strongest bonds of all. We are part of a new movement now. We have committed to each other. We have come to feel the world is on the move again in a way that is hopeful. The years without that has been a hard test of our resolve.
We are confronting the most formidable force ever in the whole history of the world. We don't really know how to take power from the 1% for the 99%. It's not like the old days of industrial capital, where there were those who worked in the mines and lived in hovels and there was the mineowner, who organised production and lived in a big house, and the mechanisms of exploitation and expropriation were clear. How to expropriate the expropriators now? We are trying to figure that out. We don't quite know how to unravel the structures of political and economic power that exist today. They are so complex and out of control. That is why we have organised Occupy University here at Occupy Dublin. That is why progressive and thoughtful intellectual activity has stepped up all over the world. Actually it's been impossible to keep up with all the interesting and provocative writing that has been sparked off by all this.
All over the world we have created a new sense of possibility, a new energy, to address power and to act upon it. Occupations alone will not do it, but they can be the impetus to do what needs to be done to take back the world they have stolen from us.
We are the 99%.
[Helena Sheehan is a professor at Dublin City University.]
Occupy Calgary (Canada)
By Alheli Picazo
October 17, 2011 -- Rabble.ca (excerpt) -- Although the #OccupyCalgary demonstrators voiced their solidarity
with the American [US] people, the Calgary "occupiers" were generally more
concerned about the issues here at home.
Among the issues discussed were an income gap widening faster than
even in the US, a government whose "austerity" measures conveniently
overlook corporate welfare while slashing key governmental agencies, and
an electoral system that awards a "majority" to a party which garnered
just 40 per cent of the vote.
It seemed more an #OccupyParliamentHill movement than an #OccupyCalgary one.
Nearly all in attendance were content Calgarians who were happily
employed, representing, among others, the financial and oil sectors,
health care and education industries, and student body. Even the police
in attendance were happy to count themselves as the 99 per cent...
What impressed me most about the #OccupyCalgary demonstration was the
overall friendliness, politeness and respect displayed by all in
attendance. There were no instances of vandalism or violence; no abuse
or disrespect shown to the authorities present.
Following the events at Bankers Hall, the protesters marched down
Stephen Avenue toward Olympic Plaza, where they held a general assembly
and set up camp, vowing to remain as long as they're permitted.
To see a collection of images I took over the course of the day, see my Midnight Politico blog.
For more on Occupy actions in Canada, see the Rabble.ca Occupy Canada page.
Occupy Seattle: Mass occupation defeats mayor and police
By Patrick Ayers, Seattle
October 17, 2011 -- Socialist Alternative
(excerpt) -- This morning 75 Seattle police moved in to seize 150
Occupy Seattle tents in Westlake Park and arrested nine people. While
this is a setback, it is not unexpected. Nor does it take away at all
from Saturday’s huge victory described below when hundreds of people
defied the police and the mayor to re-assert our right to occupy
Westlake and protest Wall Street.
The key lesson is that we can
win if we mobilise large enough numbers of workers and youth with
well-organised mass direct action. In order to continue to defend our
occupation from police repression we need a larger, more organised,
determined movement. The Occupy Seattle movement needs to rapidly
discuss this latest setback and work out plans for how to respond.
Socialist Alternative will post our ideas as soon as possible.
* * *
Washington state -- On October 15, the Occupy Seattle movement surged
forward. Between 3000 and 5000 took part in the largest protest here
since the protests started a couple weeks ago. This was followed by the
largest general assembly yet, with more than 600 people in attendance.
Then, hundreds stayed for an action called “the night of 500 tents” -- a
mass overnight occupation of Westlake Park, the symbolic heart of
This successful mass direct action marked a huge
victory for our right to protest and to build a powerful voice against
Wall Street. For weeks the city government had chipped away at our
ability to protest at Westlake in Seattle's notorious wet weather, and
the occupation was edging toward the brink of collapse.
city took away our tents. Then they told us we couldn't sleep under the
awnings. Then they said we couldn't have umbrellas or tarps”, explained
Kshama Sawant, an Occupy Seattle activist and member of Socialist
Alternative. “We fought back by mobilising a mass occupation with
hundreds of people, and the City has backed down for now. So, we are
staying. Westlake is occupied.”
Early in the day it was clear that
the overnight occupation could succeed. Hundreds of people sat down in
the middle of Fourth Ave during an afternoon march to a local Chase bank
in downtown Seattle. Protesters made impromptu speeches using the
“people’s microphone” where the crowd loudly repeats speeches made by
activists so the entire crowd can hear what is being said.
crowd cheered loudly when speakers called on people to continue the
movement and to spread it, occupying schools, banks and workplaces. But,
the loudest cheers were in support of the mass overnight occupation of
At 5 pm, tents were rapidly set up – in defiance of
the Democratic Party Mayor Mike McGinn's ban on tents. McGin had warned
protesters they would be arrested if they stayed at the park past 10
pm. Despite this intimidation, one activist counted 167 tents by
Forty protesters had been arrested at Westlake in the
preceding days. But on Saturday, just a handful of police stayed through
the night in an unsuccessful effort to harass and intimidate
protesters, with nobody being arrested.
What made the biggest
difference on Saturday was our numbers. Before Saturday, the Occupy
Seattle movement had only achieved relatively small but important
numbers of overnight protesters. Activists learned from the success of
the mass occupation in Portland, Oregon, where hundreds have camped
every night since October 6, and we made a huge effort to mobilise large
numbers of people to force the city authorities to back down.
also could count on the support and sympathy of wide layers of the
public. While the protests in Seattle have involved no more than a few
thousand people, thousands more have been following the occupation
online in support.
A diverse group of supporters that could not
stay overnight donated supplies, tarps, and tents to those that could. A
local pizza shop arranged a deal so supporters could donate pizzas to
the occupiers and have them delivered.
Solidarity members report from across the USA
[Reposted from Solidarity.]
By Martin Stainthorp
I got arrested for the first time in my life in the early morning hours
on Sunday, October 16. I had come close in the past, most memorably as
a high school student on the first day of the Iraq War in March 2003,
when thousands of Chicagoans took over Lake Shore Drive in a mass civil
When I arrived at the Occupy Chicago site in front of the Chicago Board
of Trade on Saturday evening, there were already a couple thousand
people packed onto the sidewalks. I knew that the group was planning to
move to a new location that night where they could more formally occupy a
space but I didn't know where. Around 7 pm, we started marching down
Jackson Boulevard and then turned south on Michigan Avenue. I was in the
middle of a long and densely packed march, and by time I turned the
corner there were already many folks assembled in a park called Congress
Plaza at Congress and Michigan. Incidentally, the new occupation site
is almost directly across the street from the Congress Hotel, where
hotel workers from my union, Unite Here Local 1, have been on strike
Photo credit: Chicago Sun-Times.
By time I arrived in the plaza, people were already setting up tents. A
rally began, with speakers from different organisations and some unions
urging people to stay the night and help support the new occupation. My
good friend and fellow Solidarity member Nick got on the mic a little
later and talked about some of the police abuse towards protestors in
Police began assembling shortly after, and everyone prepared for a
possible confrontation around 11 pm, when park rules dictate that we were
supposed to leave. I was feeling inspired by the tremendous energy of
the night, by hearing about all the occupation movements happening
around this country and so many parts of the world and all the
revolutionary movements that have emerged in this past year. I don't how
it all fits together and what's going to come out of it, but I wanted
to do what I could to assert our power in Chicago. So I decided to stay
and risk arrest.
The police didn't move in to arrest people until about 1:30am. By that
point, hundreds of protesters who did not want to risk arrest had gone
across the street to continue chanting. Several hundred remained in the
occupied space and sat down and linked arms. Hundreds of police moved in
and began approaching people one-by-one, asking if they wanted to leave
or be arrested. I was one of the first to be taken in. I heard later
that police didn't finish the arrests until almost 4 am.
I was handcuffed and put in the back of a police wagon. Twenty of us
were piled in there and we were in good spirits, singing union songs as
we were taken to a nearby police station. Once inside the station we
were put in a holding cell for several hours. Despite the long overnight
wait and crowded conditions, we kept spirits high by cheering loudly
for every new protestor that was brought in. And there many. The
official count of those arrested was 175, although it may actually have
been more than 200. It was a long night, but I finally emerged from the
police station around 6 am and was greeted by many fellow occupiers on
the street. We all ended up with relatively minor citations that carry a
$120 fine. A small price to pay, I think, for making a very loud and
forceful statement. I'm not sure what happens next, but I'm very proud
to be part of this growing global movement demanding justice and
Providence, Rhode Island
By Derek S.
Occupy Providence kicked off Saturday, October 15 evening with an energetic,
sprawling march through downtown that was attended by some 1200 people.
Stopping at various points throughout, including at the headquarters of
Textron and the entrance to the Providence Place Mall, demonstrators
heard speeches from representatives of groups such as Todos Somos
Arizona, Jobs with Justice, the Painters’ Union and the Tenant and
The crowd was composed of a diverse
cross-section of Rhode Island’s 99% -- a “wide-ranging group”, said the
Providence Journal, of “children and parents, college students, union
workers, teachers, nurses and activists”. After the march, demonstrators
returned to Burnside Park, located next to the city’s key public
transportation hub, to finish off the action with a festive general assembly and the official opening of the Occupy Providence camp out.
The Occupy movement is catching steam throughout Rhode Island. At Brown University, a teach-in last week drew 600 students,
and activists at Brown have initiated an Occupy College Hill group.
Nearly a hundred Brown professors signed a statement in solidarity with
the Occupy movement. A teach-in is planned at Rhode Island College this
week. Meanwhile, unions throughout Rhode Island have declared their
support for the Occupy movement.
As of last night, scores of mostly young people remained in Burnside
Park. Tents lined the grass; free food was being distributed by
volunteers; activists mingled while other played a game of Capture the
Flag. As with elsewhere, it’s vital that it endures and expands while it
also develops vision and strategy that can keep moving things forward.
By Keith M.
Around 3000 people marched Saturday morning, October 15, from Zeidler Park to
Chase Bank, then on to M&I bank. Perhaps inspired by Michael Moore’s
film Capitalism: A Love Story, activists wrapped Chase bank in yellow
crime scene tape. At M&I most of the marchers sat down in the middle
of the street on this chilly day for about 10 minutes. A much smaller
group headed back to the park hoping to begin an occupation.
did not issue a permit for overnight occupation. A group of about 150
stayed in the park and debated until deciding not to risk arrest and
leave before 10 pm. Police vans were waiting in case the protesters
remained after the curfew. Nobody was arrested. No right-wing or
libertarian groups or individuals seemed to be at the planning meetings,
but a small contingent of Ron Paul supporters with "Down with the Fed"
banners were present on the fringes of the demonstration.
Two comrades each attended one of the three planning meetings held over
the last week. The planning meetings were largely run by several young
white women and a young black man. Present were activists from their 20s
to seniors. The meetings and Saturday demonstration were mostly white,
but a few African Americans, Asians and Latinos were present. The
leaders seemed to be particularly concerned that the planning and action
be as democratic and inclusive as possible. The “St Paul Principles”
were read and the body endorsed them. Some of that seemed to reflect
fear of anarchist violence. This informal leadership seems to be very
much on the same page as the New York activists.
For my part, I got embroiled in a debate on the Occupy Milwaukee list
serve over whether or not to mention the labour endorsements for the
action in the press release. There was a feeling that this could
alienate some folks! Several AFL-CIO bodies as well as the USW, SEIU,
AFT local 212 (Milwaukee Area Technical College) and the Amalgamated
Teacher’s Union (ATU) endorsed the call. Bob Peterson, president of the
MTEA (teacher’s union and founder of Rethinking Schools), spoke at the
rally on front of M&I bank. There was a modest union presence at the
action itself consisting of several union contingents marching behind
union banners, although there didn’t seem to be a very energetic effort
to mobilise large numbers of union members. Voces de la Frontera
attended with banners and a modest delegation. Voces also lent its phone
bank to the movement earlier in the week.
The centre-right Journal Sentinel reported favourably on the
demonstration and accurately portrayed the variety of demands expressed
on homemade signs on a variety of social and political issues, including
the emerging campaign to recall Governor Scott Walker, who’s
reactionary, union busting legislative proposal provoked the huge mass
demonstrations last February and March. A core group of protesters
returned on Sunday to hold a general assembly. They still hope to find a legal and
attractive occupation site.
In sum, in spite of the difficulty in
finding an around-the clock-occupation site, the Milwaukee movement
seems to be off to a very good start. There is a lot of good, healthy
By Dan La Botz
750 people marched through Cincinnati to a rally in Fountain Square on
Saturday, October 8. The march and rally were 95 per cent white in a
half black city, but highly age diverse and mostly working class in
character. The rally lasted a couple of hours with good music and
excellent speeches. The occupation at Fountain Square that night,
successfully carried out in violation of the law for a day, was moved to
Piatt (Garfield) Park on the edge of the downtown area opposite the
public library. The general assemblies have had less than 100 people,
mostly young white men. They discussed platforms but then postponed
decisions about it and focused on the occupation and logistics.
One of the big problems is that we have only a few people spending the
night in Piatt Park and those that stay are being cited every night to
the tune of $105; lawyers are representing them and attempting to
combine their cases. Since that Saturday, there have been several
marches ranging from 50 to 200 in support of the Homeless Coalition and
against the Fifth Third Bank and other banks.
The mood is good, a sense of being part of a rising movement, of having
won small victories in contributing to the buoyancy of the movement. As
one of our young members said after succeeding in occupying the
square, "This is the first time I have ever had a victory in a
movement." He was involved for years in the anti-war and Palestinian
We are facing pressure from Republicans on the city council and the
Democrats are trying to be all things to all people. The labour unions
have not supported the movement, though the UFCW recently appeared to
attempt to use Occupy to do their political work. Cincinnati also has
the distinct privilege of being the first occupation to file a federal
lawsuit on first amendment grounds.