Happy 5th Anniversary, Occupy Wall Street! Occupy 5 Year Check-In Survey
Five years ago, inspired by the Arab Spring (itself catalyzed by Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia [shocking and bringing up memories of Nhất Chi Mai’s similar act in 1967 in the mind of this baby-boomer]), the call went out: Occupy Wall Street. Bring Tents.
A ballerina balanced on a bull, asking “What is our one demand?” and the world responded, some immediately, some more gradually. The attached Occupy Directory map shows Occupy-inspired protests around the world in the Fall of 2011.
Meanwhile, on 17 September 2011, a team gathered in New York’s financial district and went scouting, and Zuccotti Park—rechristened Liberty Park, a privately owned public space (say what?)— was chosen, and the rest is history. The Occupation became a village in a single city block—with “neighborhoods” of media, medics, kitchen, library, a large sleeping area of tents, and even a newspaper (the Occupied Wall Street Journal) and an inspiring (to many) and infuriating (to others) drum circle.
The Occupy community had daily general assemblies (GAs) modeled on those of the Spanish Indignados’ anti-austerity protests, keeping discussion over the People’s Microphone moving through the use of visible but silent hand signals (including “twinkles” of approval and “down twinkles” of disagreement) derived from those of various past groups. Working groups (security, sanitation, medics, etc.) often met in surrounding locations such as 60 Wall Street’s public atrium to discuss issues, make work plans, and prepare presentations for the GAs.
Within just 2 weeks, on 29 September, the NYCGA published the Declaration of the Occupation, which was given an outstandingly beautiful pamphlet production by Sparrow Press. Modelled on the U.S. Declaration of Independence, it laid out grievances of “the 99%”, welcomed participation by all, and was later set to music by Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Choir.
Soon, a weekly conference call (3 p.m. Thursday!) was created as a press briefing; each week, journalists could call in to talk with activists in Liberty Park and around the world to get the latest news on what Occupy Wall Street had on the agenda. That call, which in 2015 morphed into the Democracy Watch News International Press Briefing, is still happening as a working newsroom, still hosted by InterOccupy. Some of the original conference call crew, and of the OWS Media Group, will be hosting a special OWS Weekly National Press Briefing call @ 1 PM ET on S17, speaking with folks live from Zucotti Park. There are 5 year anniversary events in NYC, and Merced, California; Occupy Kalamazoo is Re-Occupying City Hall in a fight against emergency management.
InterOccupy, which came out of the Movement Building working group in the Tech-ops section of the Liberty Park Occupation, continues to offer assistance to the grassroots with conference calls, training to assist calls, wordpress training; in exchange, groups are asked to learn to facilitate their own calls and to “pay it forward” to other groups as they are able.
OWS Tech Operations
This is the digital age and Occupy wouldn’t be where it was without the work of a handful of strangers who came together to develop websites, social media and technology solutions to help let the world know ‘the beginning is near’.
Big props to the tech-ops wgs, the record keepers, the history recorders. Still here, maintained and available, these sites are an invaluable resource. We’ve gone there hundreds of times.
The Occupy Wall St.org Info Tent
Principles of Solidarity
We took the occasion of the fifth anniversary to reach out to folks on our mailing list and social media, asking what they are doing currently. We’ve received over a hundred responses from across the country and from Isle of Man, Copenhagen, Peru, and France. Most continue to fight against social, economic, and racial inequality.
We are pleased and proud to see that there are many active Occupys; most are on social media only, but Occupys are still meeting and working actively under the Occupy name. Kudos to Occupy Danbury, Occupy Duluth, Occupy Naperville, Occupy Providence, Occupy Sacramento, Occupy Sonoma County, and Occupy Tucson.
Occupy Sonoma County has been primarily focused on our GMO Campaign as well as other issues such as anti-oppression and other social justice issues. Recently we expanded our campaign and changed the name to Earth Action Campaign to include GMOs, climate change, Standing Rock, toxic chemicals, and other related issues.
Occupy Sonoma County has been meeting weekly for four years. One of our greatest strengths is in media publicity, issuing educational press releases and public service announcements regularly. We also share these resources with activist groups in our community, and lend our publicity skills widely.
Our website is now bilingual in Spanish, and some of our teach-ins are bilingual. Most of our press releases and PSAs are bilingual as well.
We are a small group of about 6 people who get along, work well together, and accomplish a lot!
Find us on Twitter and Facebook as well as Youtube through our website at http://occupysonomacounty.org or call 707-877-6650.
Occupy Sonoma County presents 6 events per year.
Topics planned for 2017 include: January.: Israel/Palestine teach-in, March: Climate Change teach-in, May: March Against Monsanto event, July: TBD, September: bilingual urban farming & backyard sustainability teach-in, November: TBD.
2016 events: January: internal group-building teach-in, March: know your rights teach-in, May: March Against Monsanto march & rally, July: internal teach-in on enhancing media skills, September: impact of music on social change movements teach-in, November: gender non-confirming awareness teach-in.
Occupy Sonoma County embraces the egalitarian, deep democracy principles of the Occupy Movement with a regional strategy for effectively organizing county-wide social justice campaigns that are globally relevant. (Occupy Sonoma County)
Occupy Tucson still holds weekly General Assemblies every Saturday morning, 10-noon. We rent office space and have numerous working groups: Fight for $15; Bus Riders; Houseless; Shadow City Government; FaceBook; Stop the TPP; Food Empowerment; Office; Adopt-A-Street; Black Lives Matter; Stop G4S; Nuclear Resisters; Solar/Environmental; Occupy the Elections; SOAWatch; Migrant Issues; Occupy the Movies; etc. We have a small street theatre group who videotape satirical skits. We have a group who maintain an online news site and who publish a print newspaper, Occupied Tucson Citizen. Members of Occupy Tucson cross-fertilize efforts with numerous local, national, & international non-profits. (Occupy Tucson)
We have remained active since the beginning. We do homeless outreach, hold our mtgs during spring, summer and fall in public space where most homeless peeps hang out, provide food and a small, legal and safe campfire. Work with Idle No More Duluth MN Redux, Black Lives Matter, Hildegarde House for trafficked women, 350.org, Honor the Earth, Standing Rock and others. www.occupyduluth.org (Occupy Duluth)
This has been a busy year for Occupy Sacramento. We have been hard at work feeding the homeless illegally since December 2014, every Tuesday afternoon on the sidewalk in front of City Hall (there is an ordinance forbidding feeding the homeless without an expensive permit.) We then encourage the homeless to attend the City Council meeting and speak up on how not being allowed to sleep on the ground is impacting their lives.
We then began a Right2Rest occupation of City Hall in December of 2015. This occupation lasted three months and many homeless braved the police raids and abuse. Many were ticketed and arrested. The police would come through at different times of the night and arrest anyone they caught lying down and sleeping. We bought and put up tents, the police would confiscate them. We handed out sleeping bags, and the police would confiscate them. At times they would take all of a homeless person’s possessions. When it rained, the police would make us sit in the rain after 11:00 pm, when it was illegal to be in the breezeway.
We consider this occupation a success. Changes are currently happening.
We are also affiliated with other groups and actions:
- Fight for Fifteen
- CrunchNestles Alliance against water theft.
- Black Lives Matter
In July, we were at the Capitol to support Antifa and other groups standing up against White Nationalists. Five people protesting the fascists were stabbed.
We are currently hosting Friday night homeless sleepovers at City Hall.
We peacefully assemble every Saturday and stand in solidarity with Occupy groups across the globe. See our website for location. All voices are welcome, all voices are heard.
Every Saturday 10AM –12 PM Locations may change the week before 10:00 am Protest Meet at the corner of Naperville Road and Diehl/Lacey 11:00 am General Assembly Occupiers will gather in the Unitarian Church for the General Assembly. The Unitarian Church is at 1828 Old Naperville Road All are welcome. http://www.occupynaperville.org/ (Occupy Naperville, Naperville, IL)
Occupy Providence holds monthly meetings but is smaller now, and focuses mainly on supporting other groups as well as online discussion. In particular, it supports a number of groups which have been founded or are co-organized by those who took part in the occupation: Fighting Against Natural Gas (which among other things organized protests against Textron’s cluster-bomb business before the company decided to shut down that line of business), Mama Dreads’ Mission of Love (homeless advocacy), and Rhode Island Coalition to Defend Human & Civil Rights (lobbying for human rights and against surveillance). Occupy Providence supports these as well as the proposed Providence Community Safety Act law for police accountability. (Occupy Providence)
We still have regular meetings in Danbury—although it is difficult to draw people at this time. We have allied with state labor groups (especially hospital worker organizing), environmental groups(especially pipeline and natural gas issues), and heavily with the state anti-TPP group. It has become hard to organize street actions but the residual network results in combined actions with other state groups and serves as a discriminator of activist info. The mere ‘projection’ of an active occupy chapter, also, most likely, has ripple effects. We occasionally have films showings and drew over thirty people recently through cooperation with the state Bernie movement. (Occupy Danbury)
And these, as well as many others who did not respond to the survey, still hold an online presence:
Occupy Orlando per se’ no longer is a physical entity as they no longer hold GAs, and many have moved away. The OO page promotes all local and some events elsewhere; not limited to but including: March against Monsanto, Million Mask March, Black Lives Matters, Food Not bombs, – or any known event that fall under the Occupy umbrella https://www.facebook.com/groups/337396979640134/ (Occupy Orlando)
Online presence mainly. Bernie Sanders now Green Party and Our Revolution, 350Merced.org, Journey4Justice. S17 Event: http://interoccupy.net/events/mic-check-om5-ows5-call-to-action/ posted on OM page (Occupy Merced)
Occupy Bergen County is currently a Facebook page, Twitter account (@OccupyBergenC), and e-mail list. Various members are working on various issues, inside and outside of politics, but mainly as individuals. Through OBC, I connected to Trade Justice Metro N.Y. and am still involved with that group—as I am with a variety of groups and people whom I met through Occupy. Although few groups are still active under the Occupy umbrella, the network clearly lives on in many forms, physical and virtual.(Occupy Bergen County, InterOccupy, NatGat teams, and [limited] Occu-Evolve, Occupy Alternative Banking)
Occupy Helena’s fb page is still up and running with 2 administrators and is still active. We haven’t had official meetings or events for some time but the page has postings and a small following. Our offshoot of Strike Debt MT fb page is still up too but not actively posting. In this small Montana community, most of the Occupy activists here had lately moved into the Montanan’s for Bernie group and many of the actions and activities occurred there. Now they/we are moving on. If you are a Montana activist, with our low spread-out population, you wear many hats and participate in many progressive, and direction action groups in the areas of environment, economic and social/political justice. There are not a whole lot of anarchist thinkers here but we do exist. (Occupy Helena in support of OWS)
The full list of Short Bios, followed by (Occupy Affiliation), can be found here: Mic Check!
Happy Anniversary, Occupy Wall Street!
Ed. note: Occupy 5 Year Survey will stay open for about a month, as other Occupys roll out their anniversaries.