‘#OWS’

Rent is Too Damn High, Wages are Too Damn Low

There is not a single state where one can afford a two bedroom apartment at fair market value on minimum wage for a standard forty hour work week. Here is a chart listing how many hours you would need to work in each state.

Rent is too damn high, wages are too damn low. Something has got to give.

One Million Signatures Against GMOs

Did you know that 89% of Republicans are in favor of labeling GMOs?

An entire 93% of Democrats, and 90% of Independents are also in favor of labeling GMO products—in our country, this kind of unanimity of opinion regardless of political persuasions is rare.

On October 12, 2011, the Just Label It organization submitted a record-breaking petition of one million signatures in favor of labeling GMOs to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Today, March 27th is the day that the FDA is required to respond to the decision—though the FDA is unlikely to change its position, 20 different states are considering their own state legislation that would require GMO foods to be labeled.

To date, the entire European Union, Japan and Australia have largely banned GMO foods. Other countries, such as Brazil, Russia and even China mandate GMO foods to be labeled.

Worse yet, though when explained, most Americans are at least in favor of labeling GMO products, only 28 percent of Americans were aware that GMO food is not labeled in the United States. Another 1 percent of this 28 percent did not know that most of these GMOs are found in processed foods, rather than whole foods.

It is important to educate everyone—whether they are old, young, mothers, fathers, children, or any other kind of eater—about the realities of the changing food system, and how supporting organic food and farmers helps create a viable alternative to GMO products.

Happy Anniversary, Baby

Six months ago. I don’t really remember what life was like before six months ago. It was probably very dark and bleak and characterized by rich white men controlling politics from behind closed doors.

It still is–but this time we know who they are, and aren’t going to shut up until they are held accountable for their actions. Their actions that have constricted our mobility, made us wonder whether or not we can afford to have families, and privatized basic human rights to a point that worth and value is placed only on those who can afford to pay for every basic commodity–for those of us who don’t have that kind of money, we’re a mass of regular people trying to figure out how to navigate a world rigged for the one percent.

Six months ago we realized that we have each other. We aren’t alone.

On September 17th, I didn’t believe anything was going to actually happen–but because I’m young, hopeful, idealistic and a bit of an idiot, I still packed my flip cam and my cell phone and went to Wall Street–just to see if something would happen.

I wasn’t sure–and then I saw the tweet:

Today I told a cab driver I was here to Occupy Wall Street–he said “This ride is on me”

The rest was–and is, still in the making–history.

Happy anniversary, baby.

 

In 2011…

I feel like I need to write some epic post for 2011. Instead, I’m just awestruck, thinking about everything that happened this past year, how the world flipped inside out and turned upside down. It’s not completely to where it needs to be yet–it’s far from that, but the massive global awakening and reclaiming of power for the people, and not the government is beautiful, inspiring, and only the beginning.

Looking back, it has been an amazing year. In January, Tunisians took to the streets and overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali–nine months later, several Tunisians voted for the first time in their lives to elect a constituent assembly, making Tunisia the first democracy in the Middle East (yes, Israel, you heard that correctly). Egypt followed suit, taking the streets in millions as one woman, Asmaa Mahfouz, made a viral video that electrified the world. Libya, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and even Iran and Saudi Arabia took to the streets fearlessly, relentlessly showing that people power would persistently disrupt the status quo until the status quo changed. It electrified the world.

Europe began to take to the streets–Greece protesting heinous austerity measures–scraping the backs of the people to pay for the mistakes of the banksters. Spanish protesters took to the streets, becoming known as los indignados protesting privatization and austerity. Chileans began to protest the rising costs of education. Protesting injustice and demonstrating to imagine the possible became translated into cultures around the world…

And then there was Occupy.

Occupy Wall Street. My baby. My life. My every thought. My inspiration. My hope for change that I had been beginning to give up on…ok, I’m going to stop being emotional. For now.

Occupy Wall Street was a bunch of crazy people–a bunch of crazy, radical anarchists and organizers who came together in a fateful park (a few, actually–around the world, as a matter of fact) and repositioned “politics” as a fraudulent ponzi scheme played by banksters and CEOs of mega corporations, and together we realized that none of this was working and it was our decision to take this into our own hands, and change our future. Occupy Wall Street was reclaiming politics as for the people–uniting as the 99%, meeting new people, exchanging new ideas, and disrupting the status quo in a way that couldn’t be ignored. Occupy Wall Street was re-invigorating imaginative politics, and strategizing to make it our reality.

At the first Occupy Wall Street meeting–yes, before September 17th when I was telling random people in bars that capitalism and the system as we knew it was going down in a matter of days–we went around the circle and said why we were there, and why we were going to Occupy Wall Street. I said that I wanted this idea of economic justice–that we deserve basic social services, jobs, and a viable future without insurmountable amounts of debt–to become a mainstream demand instead of a radical notion.

I think it has. (Now lets make it a reality!)

Because it shouldn’t be radical to imagine a better future and try to make that happen in a country that for some unknown reason you continue to love. It should be radical not to try, and to continue driving it along its toxic, disruptive path.

So, I have many people that need to be thanked. Thank you, Asmaa Mahfouz–you are an amazing, courageous inspiration. Thank you, Wael Ghonim. Thank you, Bradley (Breanna?) Manning. Thank you, WikiLeaks. Thank you, Egypt. Thank you, independent journalism. Thank you, Wisconsin. Thank you, union members and leaders. Thank you, blogosphere and twitter. Thank you, internet. Thank you #occupy–whoever the damned hell you are, leading occupying thinking, trouble making–thank you.

Thank you, Mohammad Bouazizi. May you rest in peace knowing that you inspired a movement towards a new beginning.

~*~*~

I can’t imagine life before Occupy Wall Street in September, much less life before 2011–I hope that I say the same thing about 2012 this time next year, and that its because of unimaginably fantastic revolutionary change rather than extreme alcohol consumption.

Happy New Year!

Do It Now.

 

Anjali Appaduri, a third year student at the College of the Atlantic and the youth delegate to the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa–says it all.

 

I’m cynical about large conferences and political conventions. I’m skeptical of politics working as it is supposed to, because it seems that most political decisions are only compromises, and impact is a decision based in the capital accumulation of corporations and their lobbies, rather than the moral and human needs of a nation and planet.

However, I believe in radical people with brass balls [ovaries] who are not afraid to say that what we want shouldn’t be radical, but should be common fucking sense.

 

OWS: Phase II

Despite the enormous strength evidenced in the (multiple) police raids two weeks ago, followed by a massive day of actions on November 17th culminating in a jubilant march across the Brooklyn Bridge, it is easy to feel apprehensive, disheartened, and angry about the destruction of Liberty Plaza–and the subsequent resurrection of the far more bland Zuccotti Park–after all, there was a complete and coordinated demolition that included a heart-breaking bibliocide and a staunch reminder that though small in numbers, the top political and financial 1% is protected by hired authoritarian thugs.

Personally, I took a break–from both #OccupyWallStreet and the Internet–and spent the holiday in California with my family. It wasn’t soon after landing that I was on a BART train to go to #OccupyOakland, but–though taking to the streets, blasting homegrown music and chanting “Hella Hella Hella Hella Occupy” made it feel good to be home (and convinced me that despite appearances, #OccupyOakland is alive and well), I couldn’t help feeling eerie about the desolate Oscar Grant Plaza.

New friends told me stories about the way things were, and showed me pictures of taking the port on their smart phones. They had bought gas masks from army supply stores and were fully prepared for clamp downs from the riot police.

I came back to New York, having undeniably mixed feelings about activism, #occupy, and the importance of space. On one hand, thriving protests are happening with CUNY, the UC Campuses and the #OccupyColleges movement. On the other, occupations are being cracked down upon right and left, and occupiers are scattered, scared and forced into new places. On the other hand, these crackdowns are eliminating the pettiness that many occupied occupations were becoming–and putting an end to the frustrations of the bureaucracies of the mini tent cities. On the other hand, leaving my comfortable one mile radius from the heart of Occupy Wall Street showed me that many Americans are still asleep at the wheel, leaving Thanksgiving Dinner with their families to line up at Black Friday for a cheap flat screen TV to silence their families.

On the other hand, we have been waiting for this moment, and waiting for this moment to turn into this movement. There may be fewer and fewer tent cities–but there are more and more Google searches on “corporate greed” and “income inequality,” less and less money stored in the big banks, and more and more Americans who have realized that politics doesn’t have to be an indecipherable game of deficit reduction and inescapable budget cut negotiations by bought-out Congressmen, but is an idea that we can seize for ourselves, translating it for one another into understandable language to re-claim democracy the way that we see it, screaming until our voices are blasted throughout the media and linking arms until the corporate elite is blocked by our people power.

Occupy 2.0 is now the catchphrase of the hour. It will be fueled by more demonstrations and demands, less petty personal bureaucracy. It will be about our struggle as Americans, not our struggles amongst each other as occupiers, and we will use the lessons we learned from Chapter One: Tent Cities to mobilize Chapter Two: Who The Fuck Knows Yet, But Better Than Before to be more united, more inclusive, more directed, and more ultimately powerful than anything we have seen yet.

RT: Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests

An estimated 26 journalists have been arrested while covering #OccupyWallStreet–and the vast majority of them are with the alternative, non-corporate press. Those of us who haven’t been arrested have most likely been teargassed or caught up in other forms of police brutality, more often than not without credentials or acknowledgement of press credentials to protect ourselves and our work. For more, read Susie Cagle’s article about her arrest at #OccupyOakland here.

Anastasia Churkina of Russia Today (RT) put together a great little video of alternative journalists talking about this problematic situation.

In the words of Amy Goodman, when you handcuff the press you handcuff democracy. Please support independent journalists’ work!

Egypt, Occupy Wall Street and Solidarity

It is reported that over 35 have died (and 1,750 injured) in Egypt this weekend–in fresh clashes in Tahrir Square. However, as the police brutally spray teargas, beat protestors with abandon and literally throw the dead into dumpsters on the side of the street, the actual numbers are much higher.

In January, Egypt was inspired when the Egyptian army joined the protests in solidarity, ultimately toppling Hosni Mubarak and re-instating themselves as a temporary governing force–the Supreme Council of Armed Forces– before democratic elections slated for November 30th. However, over the past nine months, they have become an authoritarian political force of their own, deploying the brutal police forces that have made peaceful marches become violent, deadly crack downs that show that despite a people united, Mubarak’s Egypt is institutionally alive and well.

Inspired by both the global occupy movement and the threat of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) writing themselves into the constitution, several groups in Egypt decided to reignite and continue their revolution, demanding an end to authoritarian military rule in order to proceed with the planned, peaceful democratic elections.

It quickly became violent. Tents inspired by the #Occupy movement were burned in the square. An endless stream of teargas was sprayed, and the riot cops have both lethal and “non lethal” weapons that they have used in full force.

Hundreds have been wounded, overcome with teargas, blinded, and struck in the face with rubber bullets. Still, they vow to resolutely remain in Tahrir Square until a resolution is reached.

 

Here we are at #OccupyWallStreet–we say that we are inspired by Tahrir Square, and that we are all a part of a global movement fighting for economic and social justice to replace our respective corrupt, powerfully entrenched systems of governance. However–silly as this way of making sense of information, and mentally mapping solidarity may seem–my Twitter feed is currently divided between those who are tweeting about Occupy Wall Street, and those who are tweeting the horrors in Tahrir Square. As of right now, Occupy Wall Street’s official Twitter and Facebook feeds have not mentioned Egypt, and there are no plans for even so much as a march, vigil, or moment of silence for those in Tahrir Square.

It is as if we want to remember an Egypt that is glorious, revolutionary, and free–the Egypt that Asmaa Mahfouz inspired and millions of Egyptians fought for, and is the apex of revolutionary uprisings as our modern world knows it. It is as if we refuse to acknowledge that lasting revolutions don’t happen in eighteen days, and that it is a long, exhaustive process of literally fighting, constant regrouping, and giving one another strength to continue to overthrow each and every occupying force. We could seriously learn from this, but would it thwart our idealism?

If we say that we are in global solidarity, we need to be in global solidarity. We need to acknowledge that the news is not always about us–though we have been empowered by our movement to no longer be in silence about our actual struggles that lurk under the facade of America. We need to send them all of the pizza–or shwarma and falafel or whatever else their hearts desire–that it is possible to send, as they have done to us. We need to discuss their struggle, reach across the world and show our endless admiration and solidarity.

We need to look at their protests with new eyes–after all, we live in a police state too, and though their violence far outstrips ours, the videos and photos of teargas and riot gear hit far too close to home for comfort. We need to take notes. We need to send our love. We need to resist–en masse.

 

A few months ago–long before #OccupyWallStreet–I went to a talk about the Egyptian Revolution with Ahmed Maher. One of the patronizing white men in the crowd (it’s my blog, and I can say what I want to) asked him, in an academic tone, “So, in Egypt are you looking to make a democracy as seen in America?”

Ahmed speaks scattered English, but he knew enough to laugh, knowingly smile, and say, “No, we would like to make one like in Egypt.”

Now we are all occupying, protesting, screaming at authorities demanding changes to our systems. So, let’s create democracy–something of and by both the Egyptian people and the American people, for our respective countries (horizontally organized, and based on consensus rather than imperial notions of what is and is not democracy), and let’s help each other as much as is humanly possible be in solidarity as we do it.

 

 

Occupations and Preoccupations

There have been times this week where I haven’t had words–I’ve just had feelings. In this abyss of feelings, mostly of fear, outrage, and complete shock, I’ve rarely had language to give a voice to these feelings, which has a way of leaving us writers feeling very confused, lost, and annoyed with ourselves.

Then we write things, and it has a way of fixing itself. Or at least making us feel more justified.

So, here goes..

I was at the eviction of Occupy Wall Street, but I did not know that the park was being raided.

I knew that the park was blocked off, and I knew that the police were teargassing us en masse, violently pushing us down Cortland Street, shoving us up against each other and up against walls all the while screaming at us to, “keep it moving.” I knew that people were trying to rally around our solidarity and strength in numbers, but that this is hard to believe when one side has weapons and the other side simply doesn’t.

I didn’t know that almost every subway in Manhattan had been closed. I didn’t know that the Brooklyn Bridge had been closed to all traffic. I didn’t know that there was a no fly zone over Liberty Plaza. I didn’t know that all of this was so that journalists–people like me–would be unable to reach the scene, take in the images, and report what was actually happening.

I still don’t know how what is effectively a “first amendment free” zone can possibly be packaged as constitutional.

I didn’t know that the park was being raided. In my naïvité, or early-morning inability to process practical translations of words like “eviction” or “police raid” I thought that those who were in the park would doubtlessly be able to resist in numbers, and eventually the police would go away. I didn’t know that anything had happened until I saw a picture on Twitter of a completely cleared, decimated park that looked far more like Zuccotti Park than Liberty Plaza.

I was horrified. And I really, really hated the police.

Because they weren’t police that night; they were the hired paramilitary thugs of the top one percent. They had weapons and protection, and we had none. They fired teargas without warning and chopped down trees that had people chained to them. They had shields, batons, and helmets and descended upon us without warning in the middle of the night because they knew that what they were doing was completely wrong and unfounded.

That’s why they blocked the roads to journalists–so that they could proceed with their jobs without accountability. (They picked that one up from the big bankers.)

In times like these, the class war becomes a little bit more of a war-war.

It has been a few days now. Two days after the raid was November 17th–a beautiful day, filled with actions of solidarity that culminated in occupiers, students, labor unions, and supporters marching across the Brooklyn Bridge as lights shined on the courthouse that said, “We are the 99%. Occupy!”

The crowd chanted, “Bloomberg, beware. Zuccotti Park is everywhere.”

Oh, and it is.

Though Liberty Plaza–I much prefer that language to “Zuccotti Park”–had once been an inviting space, filled with solidarity, conversation, and the beginnings of infrastructure modeled after an ideal society that had freed itself from capitalism and greed, it had started to become its own problematic bureaucracy. It was difficult to find meetings, or know how to negotiate the space if you weren’t intimately familiar with its political structure. I left a meeting one night because it was so preoccupied with its own internal operations that it barely touched on how to generate change.

This was happening at Liberty Plaza; it was so concerned with its internal operations–the tents, the infrastructure, the meetings, the general assembly structure–that consensus building became about drum circles and hot tea rather than making the fight for economic justice culminate in a victory.

Bloomberg–and his paramilitary hired thugs clad in riot gear (your tax dollars at work!)–destroyed the pettiness of Liberty Plaza, leaving the only thing we had left uniting us: our ideas.

Our physical occupation may have been destroyed, but our ideological preoccupation is taking to the streets, occupying our hearts and minds with an obsessive force that is resistant to riot police, batons, and teargas. It is demanding that we wake up in the morning, that we use the dialogues we started in Liberty Plaza–the contentions that arose with racial and gender justice, our knowledge of the paramilitary extent of our cities police force, and most importantly, our own and each others stories that we have exchanged that put a human face on our collective struggle, to continue to occupy–just this time, it’s everywhere.

Midnight Raid of Mayor Bloomberg

So, Tuesday was a little bit crazy–long story short, I got the eviction text around 1 AM, got downtown around 1:30 AM, was teargassed by riot police, shoved against a wall with a police shield while live-tweeting, took to the streets with many others, and saw the pictures of a decimated Liberty Plaza.

I wrote in my journal, wondered home like a lost drunk, wrote a blog post, slept for thirty minutes and then did Thom Hartmann’s radio show, wrote an article for Global Comment and ended with doing Thom Hartmann’s TV show with two of my favorite occupier-journalists, Sarah Jaffe and J.A. Myerson.

Here is the round up!

Dispatch: Teargassed While Tweeting

You don’t need a metaphor to describe the horrors that just happened–but if 5,000 wonderful, radical donated books being destroyed by the NYPD and thrown into the back of a garbage truck to be ground into landfill isn’t a metaphor, I don’t know what is

Thom Hartmann Radio: The Media Blackout at Zuccotti Park (scroll down!)

Teargas and Hope: An Eyewitness Account of the Police Raid on Occupy Wall Street

Because that’s the thing about Occupy—even if the police were physically able evict everyone from lower Manhattan, which would have been physically impossible, it is impossible to bulldoze or brutalize this idea that has consumed our minds, hearts, and souls with the radical—and sometimes palpable—hope of liberation. Occupy Wall Street is not about tents—it is not about infrastructure, it is not about a park, and it is not about hand signals—it is about what all of these things come together and stand for. It is about coming together and learning from each other. It is about imagining the radical, and then criticizing our imaginings for not being radical enough

 

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann: The Midnight Raid of Mayor Bloomberg

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