Activists from "Occupy Detroit" marching on Woodward Avenue through the financial district to Bank of America demanding a moratorium on foreclosures. Demonstrations have been held since October 14, 2011. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
OWS spreads through U.S., makes space for struggle
By LeiLani Dowell
Published Oct 26, 2011 4:17 PM
Throughout the country, the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to defy the cops, make demands for social and economic justice, and provide spaces for solidarity and anti-capitalist momentum. The following is a snapshot of people’s occupations taking place:
In Chicago, police arrested 130 people who defied police orders to clear out of Occupy Chicago in Grant Park. The weekend before, 175 arrests had been made at the same location. Eleven members of Occupy Cincinnati were arrested and charged with criminal trespass on Oct. 23.
In New York City, Occupy Wall Street has spread from Manhattan to Harlem and the borough of Queens. On Oct. 21, dozens were arrested, including a large contingent from OWS, after a march from the Harlem State Office Building to Harlem’s 28th Police Precinct to protest the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, more than 85 percent of those harassed by police under the program are Black or Latino/a. A solidarity march to the 33rd Precinct, where those arrested were said to be held, ensued. The day’s events were organized in solidarity with Occupy Harlem, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 28. (occupywallst.org)
That same day, members of the Muslim communities held Jumma Prayer at Zucotti Park, the location of OWS.
If not for the helicopter overhead and the lineup of police and their vans outside of the Symphony Space concert venue on the evening of Oct. 21, most Upper West Side residents strolling down Broadway would not have known their neighborhood was about to be “occupied.” At about 10:30 p.m., a crowd emerged from the theatre following a concert by Pete Seeger, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, David Amram, Arlo Guthrie and others. Like Pan Pipers, they led a lively OWS march down Broadway, picking up parents with strollers and others who eagerly came out of shops and restaurants and down from their apartments to join the march or raise their fists in support. Accompanied by guitars, a flute, an accordion and various other instruments, they sang union solidarity songs and traditional Seeger and Guthrie favorites. According to the Associated Press, 1,000 people ultimately converged on Columbus Circle, where the 92-year-old Seeger led them in song.
In a show of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Socialist Unity Center of India (Communist) has organized street meetings and rallies in a number of Indian metropolitan areas and cities. In Kolkata on Oct. 19, protesters marched more than two miles to the “American Center” at the U.S. Consulate General. As police blocked the road, a protest meeting was held and an effigy of an octopus was burned to signify the destruction of the grip of capital over society. Protest leaders urged people to rise up against Indian capitalism.
After immigrant and workers’ rights organizations gathered for the founding event of the International Migrants Alliance in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Oct. 23, they then marched to the Manuel Unanue Park for a symbolic Occupy Queens, featuring speakers and cultural performances. Organizers of the event stated that the march was dedicated to supporting and standing in solidarity with the OWS movement. “IMA and the other groups … recognize that the economic crisis devastating so many workers’ lives is in essence what is behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. … The special onerous conditions for immigrants will be emphasized Sunday at Occupy Queens,” a press statement reads.
In a mobilization in support of public education, OWS members plan to occupy a meeting of the Department of Education on Oct. 25. According to organizers, the meeting is being hosted by the Panel for Educational Policy, an unelected, 13-member body that makes all decisions for the DOE.
The Jobless Avengers Working Group is meeting on Oct. 28. That same day, protesters at OWS will wear kaffiyehs, a symbol of Palestinian resistance, in support of Palestinian political prisoners and in solidarity with the people of Palestine in general.
A People’s Video Network video, “Voices of Occupy Wall Street,” can be seen at tinyurl.com/6k5kg93.
Occupy Philadelphia entered day 18 on Oct. 23. A well-organized community has sprung up around City Hall complete with a medical tent, legal tent, library, food tent, security, housing and general information, and a wide range of outlets for political and economic struggles.
On Oct. 17, hundreds of Service Employees Local 32BJ members gathered at Occupy Philly for a march and press conference that issued a clear statement of solidarity with the OWS movement.
On Oct. 21, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor abruptly cancelled his planned speech at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business when he learned that Occupy Philly participants might be in the audience. Just in case Cantor missed the message that they would no longer put up with Wall Street’s greed, more than 500 demonstrators marched more than two miles from City Hall to the campus. Chants of “Stand up, get down! Revolution has come to town!” were greeted with applause, raised fists and people grabbing fliers all along the route. Once there, nearly 200 protesters jammed Wharton’s lobby to push demands for income equality, chanting, “Occupy Philly! Occupy Penn! Occupy Wharton!” They promised to return.
The first arrests at Occupy Philly occurred at noon on Oct. 23, after dozens had taken over the streets outside Philadelphia’s police headquarters the night before to protest police brutality. In a clear statement condemning the role police play in protecting, supporting and enforcing the interests of the CEOs, superrich and politicians, 14 demonstrators willing to risk arrest sat in, in solidarity with those who have been silenced and terrorized by police brutality in Philadelphia. Among the demands was one to reopen the case of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Protesters called out by Occupy Detroit descended on the Bank of America branch in downtown Detroit on Oct. 18 and again on Oct. 21 to demand an immediate moratorium on home foreclosures. The People Before Banks Coalition and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs helped bring out hundreds of community, religious, union and social justice activists. People’s anti-foreclosure attorney Vanessa Fluker told Workers World that the actions at BofA were crucial in helping to save her client’s home. Occupy Detroit has held an ongoing encampment in Grand Circus Park since Oct. 14.
The General Assembly of Occupy Rochester has decided to physically occupy Washington Square Park in downtown Rochester, located two and a half blocks from daily protests at the Liberty Pole. The Band of Rebels demonstrates in front of the Bank of America, located across the street from the Liberty Pole, every Monday at noon.
On Oct. 18, union leaders and workers from the Rochester Central Labor Council joined Occupy Rochester for a demonstration and press conference supporting the extension of the millionaire’s tax in New York state. About 200 people attended.
On Oct. 20, protesters from Occupy Rochester marched from the Liberty Pole to City Hall, where they protested the police’s killing of Hayden Blackman only days before. From the doorway of his apartment, Police officer Randy Book shot Blackman three times. Blackman’s family and supporters joined the other protesters. They then packed a meeting of the newly formed Police Commission, which is supposed to investigate police abuse. Several witnesses gave vivid and moving personal testimony of police brutality. Both the witnesses and those attending strongly urged the formation of a truly independent, civilian review board controlled by the community, not the police.
OWS actions are growing across Wisconsin. On Oct. 22, Occupy Appleton, Wis., protesters marched on the main Chase bank in downtown, chanting, “Bail out the people, not the banks!” That same day, the Occupy Eau Claire, Wis., group sponsored a demonstration at Owen Park.
Occupy Milwaukee, which is now operating from Garden Park in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, sponsored a protest at M&I Bank on Oct. 20. Austin Thompson, an African-American organizer, was arrested for disorderly conduct and put in the Milwaukee County Jail for the night. Occupy Milwaukee mobilized to win his release the next day. Supporters are now calling the district attorney to have Thompson’s disorderly conduct charge dropped and working to pack the court for his scheduled appearance.
Occupy Milwaukee is now mobilizing for an Oct. 29 march beginning at 12 noon at Lincoln Park. Occupy The Hood-Milwaukee, a group focused on issues of people of color, is mobilizing for a Nov. 12 event in Milwaukee.
Occupy Green Bay, Wis., continues to meet at the County Courthouse on various days, and Occupy Sheboygan, Wis., began its weekly General Assembly meetings, which will take place every Friday at 4 p.m. at Fountain Park. Occupy Madison, Wis., is ongoing and sponsoring various events.
All of the OWS groups in Wisconsin have Facebook pages and are mobilizing speak-outs, leafleting days at banks and more. For more information and frequent updates visit www.wibailoutpeople.org.
The Labor Video Project reports that hundreds of Occupy Oakland, Calif., supporters attended an Oct. 22 rally in defense of the occupation. ILWU Local 10 Executive Board member Clarence Thomas called on the entire labor movement to defend the occupation against threats by Mayor Jean Quan and the city of Oakland to shut it down. Other speakers included members of the California Nurses Association and the Industrial Workers of the World.
Occupy San Francisco is calling for an Occupy Education day on Nov. 16, when the University of California Board of Regents will meet to discuss and possibly vote on a proposal to raise student fees by up to 81 percent over the next four years.
A statement by Occupy San Francisco reads: “They say cuts are inevitable because there are no funds — but we know that if we really taxed the corporations, ended the wars, or took back the bailout funds, there would be no budget shortfall. They say we have to accept— but we know that if we take mass collective action, we can defeat these attacks.”
A rally of close to 1,000 people marched to the Civic Center, the site of Occupy San Diego, on Oct. 15. A few days later on Oct. 20, walkouts under the banner of “Occupy Higher Education” were held on the campuses of California State University San Marcos, Grossmont College, Palomar Community College, San Diego State University, UC San Diego and the University of San Diego.
It was a day of huge, loud and militant marches with chants targeting the corporate elite, the banks and government bailouts to them in Los Angeles. A march that began at Pershing Square ended at the site of Occupy Los Angeles, which by then had grown to almost 700 people.
The character of the occupation at City Hall, in downtown Los Angeles, resumed with its usual hustle and bustle of varied activities — from educational talks on various subjects, spanning politics and spirituality to constant drumming, music, food distribution and more. But, there was an added element that evening after the long march. At 6:30 p.m. on a big screen provided by the Occupy L.A. General Assembly, Workers World Party sponsored a film showing of “Cuba: In Defense of Socialism — Fighting Imperialism.” As soon as the film began, a large crowd formed a half shell around the screen, seemingly in awe of Cuba’s contributions to building the kind of society many of them are discussing at these occupations nationwide.
After the film, Aracely Espinosa and Mike Martinez answered questions about Cuba and countered one individual’s parroting of the State Department lies regarding Cuba’s “lack of democracy.” Regardless of that incident, the film and comments made one thing absolutely clear to 99 percent of those who consider themselves “the 99 Percent” — they were being lied to about Cuba and socialism is a system worthy of further study.
Lydia Bayoneta, Kris Hamel, Janet Mayes, John Parker, Bryan G. Pfeifer, Betsey Piette and Gloria Verdieu contributed to this report.
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