Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reflections on #OccupyWallStreet

If yall havent noticed, theres an interesting situation going on in New York City's financial sector. Since September 17th, a group of folks has been camped out in Zuccoti Park a couple of blocks away from Wall St, protesting everything from corporate greed, foreclosed homes and the bailout. Organized via social media and the internet, #OccupyWallStreet has caught the attention of the world. The world is watching mainly because last Thursday, about 100 folks were arrested and many more brutalized. Numerous videos of NYPD's brutality have gone viral, especially one of peaceful female protestors being maced by a ranking NYPD official. Thursdays protests happened after a Troy Davis memorial march met up with Wall Street Occupiers who had marched and met up in solidarity. The result was the NYPD once again brutalizing peaceful people with batons, mace, and unnecessary violence. Since then, the movement has picked up strength and received mainstream media coverage, along with visits from celebrities like Cornel West, Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon. Out of curiosity we visited with the RDACBX team after a meeting and the result wasnt the greatest. Besides being stared at and looked at as if we were invading their space, the predominantly young, white and liberal Occupiers sent over one of the few African American men over to talk to us. When we asked them why they didnt approach us themselves and build with us, they replied that "they thought we would get mad because they were white." The situation was pretty bizarre as a woman started ranting incoherently about Nazi symbols being seen over the skies of California, and another man from the Media Team repeatedly offering us the chance to perform if we spoke to the Arts and Culture team. He didnt seem to get that we werent there to perform, rather we were there just to build. After being mean mugged for taking a free slice of Pizza, we decided it was time to leave the hippie fest.
Our intention is not to dismiss it as just this, but the gut feeling was that there is a serious disconnect down there. We left with mad questions! Where was the hood? Where was the poorest congressional district in the USA, from The South Bronx at? Like we say in Hip Hop, where Brooklyn at? Could it be that perhaps the working class couldnt afford to just leave work and the responsibility of bills and family survival to camp out in a city park? Did folks from our communities not know about this? If people of color were occupying Wall St would we have lasted this long? All in all the questions remain, yet with time and reflection , we refuse to just dismiss it. Its a historic time in the world in which general assemblies are starting to happen all over, as cities across the US are also now having "occupations".
Our analysis on whats going in Wall Street is that its very similar to the Syntagma Square uprisings in Greece, and other city squares like the ones in Madrid. In these movements, there is no central leadership, its about something, but then again not really, because the demands arent clear. What is clear is the identification of the common enemy : the greedy banks. The Occupiers are organized thru new means of communication; the internet, social media like Facebook,Twitter and U Stream. We can now see the occupation live 24 hrs a day, folks are tuning in directly from all over the world. There is an obvious access to some privilege as the MacBook Pros and coffee seem to be part of the growing everyday scenery. The revolution attempt here has made sure to hash tag itself just as #Jan25th did in Egypt. #OccupyWallStreet seems to be a new phenomenon in that we are witnessing a first generation in which massive numbers of young white people are no longer experiencing the economic benefits of the capitalist system. Their working class parents have had their homes foreclosed, their school loans cant be paid because they too now are unemployed or underpaid in the shrinking job market. Their reality has gotten closer to what black and brown folks have lived for many many years. There is a blatant economic inequality in this country and it is a result of corporate Wall St greed. The middle class is almost extinct as most people nowadays are working merely to survive and pay bills. We encourage folks to support the occupations and see them for themselves. Perhaps the topless nude activists, or the drum circle may not be for you, but the idea of having a national dialogue sparked about these greedy bankers and their abuse of the people is important and needed. We plan on going back with more people!!
All Power to the People!!

RodStarz of Rebel Diaz


  1. I'm def glad you had time to reflect and see the potential behind that movement. It's a start of a new class of uprising, the young white college students/working class are scared and finally see that they might be joining us in our day to day struggle.

  2. Great Commentary. I'm going to pass this around and hope people start *thinking*. #occupytheBX

  3. Happy you posted this. I stopped by the park twice and felt similar; however, compared to the anti-war movement in 2001 I felt a much more diverse crowd even though I didn’t hear much about race and communities of color, until today! I heard some things today that made me smile during the declaration presented at the General Assembly (GA). I was also happy to see People’s Justice there announcing the upcoming Know Your Rights Workshop.
    Overall, I’m not convinced but open enough to see the opportunity for communities of color to demand a space, create some leadership, and develop relationships, alliances and definitely a clearer statement.
    I would encourage folks to go out and use this opportunity to make a statement of solidarity. I would hope people will see the bigger picture of this movement and what it means for our communities like education, jobs, the next election, redistricting, global solidarity, the environment etc etc. If all fails we got two things out of this for sure, experience and having the conversation within our communities.
    Staying positive but can’t promise I’ll feel the same next week.

  4. please come and build with us. we don't know what we are doing yet. we need your input and ideas to help craft the future. Part of the reason this movement seems disorganized is because we are still trying to build a consensus among the people, and we can not do that with you. Or if inspired, start a meeting where you are and invite me. Ideally I personally would want to see meetings in every neighborhood, where all of us work together to build and strengthen our communities. The leaders of the past have no answers for our generation besides endless wars, prisons, debt, poverty, and austerity. It is going to take all of us to right the wrongs of the world, but we can not do it without everyones voices being heard.
    Tonight specifically I thought was a little weird, especially with how the food station was operated. But some days are better than others, and we are learning on the fly how to conduct a real democracy. There are new people everyday, and we are all learning. please come out again. We are not all like that. When we stand together we are strong. When we build together we can have a just future.

  5. I've been going every day (I happen to work nearby), the mix of people is very interesting, it is >absolutely< changing from day to day. There is the fallen out crusty unnecessarily antagonistic anarchist crowd but I have seen the hood out more and more and more. Folk from Facebook I know well through interactions online but have never met. This movement is scattered and disorganized and unfocused, but it is just and genuine. The single most important thing is that people are networking: meeting each other, linking up and talking. We can bring hip-hop to Zucotti Park, I believe that.

  6. I apologize on behalf of the food working group for people being nasty to you. I am from Philly and was up for a few days, and I worked in the food crew. They are all super stressed out and not getting any sleep. We were trying to make it more sanitary, because we were afraid lots of people would get sick or that the city would use the food station as an excuse to evict everyone. That's why the rule about not serving yourself. I actually got sick on my way home, just a cold, probably from sleeping/being unable to sleep on concrete.

    Thank you so much for writing this! I agree with everything you say here. It must have been a pretty alienating experience. It's amazing that you would go back. Hopefully you will get a friendlier reception next time, and people will be able to grow from hearing your insights and politics.

    Big hugs, Suzy Subways

  7. i remember recently asking a friend, who'd posted a pic of the #occupywallst, where there was only one poc spotted in the predominately young and white crowd, where were all the colored folk? i so much appreciate this critique that was written not to downplay the occupation, but to address the concerns that people of color (poc)have around who gets to participate in these movements that often fail to include us--not always intentionally...
    this critique was necessary...i particularly appreciated the responses from some of the organizers who, not only apologize for the oversight and the behavior of some of their comrades, but who understand that this struggle cannot take off without the participation and solidarity of poc's...right on...i, too, am glad that you all plan to go back...remember the love in revolution.

  8. thanks to everyone for the comments and feedback...we will be going back tomorrow and looking forward to building with folks.

  9. I appreciate this post. Let's all keep in mind that the nation we live in was designed to divide us. Let's keep in mind that racial barriers, class barriers, and social barriers are high in this country. The people in power are counting on our differences to drive us apart, but not anymore. This is a place to unite and break down the walls that the 1% have created for us. That means being uncomfortable sometimes. That means dealing with stuff we don't wanna deal with. That means checking you privilege at the door and bonding with all our brothers and sisters in this struggle. We don't all have the same experience, but we all share the same struggle. Rise up. Realize.

  10. Is anyone else amused that the Occupiers are mostly white?

    Hee hee...

  11. compaƱeroas,

    Saludos solidarios from Texas. Thanks for posting this. Here we are trying to nip this one in the bud...Will be working as a revolutionary collective on organizing some race and class informed anti-oppression training and some around defining true solidarity for starters.

    Heads up on the Egypt hype...the middle class "youth" who supposedly had started the Tahir Square occupation, jumped ship as soon as the military junta took over and left the more radicalized comrades hanging by themselves at the square where they were beaten brutally and arrested in mass...I wrote extensively about this and also had folks on the ground there struggling to democratize the process of the assemblies. Egypt did not succeed...the middle class got the concession they wanted, ie access to compete for power in a neoliberal capitalist economy...the workers, and peasants are still where they were before and the upcoming election will be won by some variant of the status quo.



  12. Hi everyone,

    I'm a freelance journalist currently writing a piece about the questions of race and class inclusion (or exclusion) at Occupy Wall Street.

    If you have been to the protests and have felt that Black, Latino, or other minorities and/or the working class were largely excluded (or if you felt the opposite) please get in touch with me. Or if you feel that the protests have been largely white and middle-class dominated so far (or if you disagree with that), also get in touch. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you,

  13. The post and the conversation are really great. I didn't know about RDC before, thanks for being online. I do trainings in online organizing; I suspect we could learn from each other. Maybe we could be friends?

  14. I'm white, middle class, male, heterosexual, "normal" height/weight, and Christian. I'm about as privileged as they come. I acknowledge this and I try to be conscious of it from moment to moment. Many people at OWS are not yet at this place. Then there's a whole nother level of "dismantling" privilege... I'm not even sure what that means and certainly don't know how to go about doing it!

    So I want to thank you for staying in the game with us. We need a lot of help with this. Community is not easy and as mostly autonomous and suburbanized white people, it's NOT our strong suit! There is much that we stand to learn from "other" communities and we hope that you'll stick it out with us, so that we'll ALL see fruit from our labor - a world of true peace, justice, and equal opportunity.

  15. Thank you for posting this. You are right on about all of it! I share both your concerns and your hope.
    I am working in my local area (Occupy Portland)to come up with some concrete demands that will actually make a difference for poor people on the local level, such as a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, etc. I'd be interested in networking with others nationally who want to bring this kind of agenda to the Occupy movement. I want to know what you think a few key demands might look like that could really shift things for us. (Us, meaning the poor and marginalized. We are the bottom of the 99%. I'm afraid we'll be lost in the shuffle, like that stampede at Walmart last Christmas...)
    Please contact me if you have thoughts, or updates on what's going on with that kind of thing in NY. I will continue following the blog.
    Thanks again and God bless.

  16. Good article. You make some very wise observations! Kudos! Sadly, OWS is, in fact, another USG/NGO run fake "democracy" revolution, which is designed (like Egypt) to increase the power of the military-security state. The last thing we need is well-meaning young people falling for this bullshit. What we need is the real change you are speaking of. Please check out the movement we are now organizing, which is in the tradition of Dr King and not the USG/NGO (Otpor/CANVAS) style nonviolence. Our intention is to seek justice for all, to close down the military-security state, and to make Dr King's dream a reality. Please Google: "Summer of Justice - 2012 - DC" for more information and please do whatever you can to organize a similar action of support in NYC and publicize the action if you chose to support it, which we hope you will. See especially our "Philosophy and Plan of Action - Summer of Justice - 2012 - DC". Again, thanks for the great article! Very wise words!

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