“Whatever happened to Occupy Wall Street?”
People ask me this sometimes when we get to talk about activism. Many of them hardly remember anything. They recall some images of folks camping out on the squares with cardboard slogans. “Wasn’t it the autumn fashion, the year before last?”
I guess it was.
“So what happened?”
For me, it used to be pretty difficult to answer that. Occupy must have ended somewhere along the way, but I can’t say exactly what happened.
Now I know.
Occupy Wall Street ended up under the Christmas tree.
“Give the gift of spiritual insurrection, posters and canvases now available, click here to purchase”
It’s kinda curious. And in some way, everything fits. Occupy Wall Street started off with a poster, and it ended with that very same poster. Under the Christmas tree.
Now get this. During the course of the French Revolution the representative body steadily decreased in size from an assembly to a directorate, to a triumvirate. Three consuls at the head of the Republic, and one of them made the rules.
Now imagine Occupy Wall Street. There is a small cabin in the woods, upstate New York. Inside, three conspirators are gathered around a laptop, writing a letter to Santa Claus. All three of them wear Santa’s red hat. Only one of them also wears a beard. He is the Leaderless Leader. On top of their wishlist, a flying reindeer sleigh. The three conspirators dream of flying around the world and scattering star dust over the roofs. Disney/Pixar wide screen 3D. Can you see it? Can you see the houses light up, the people taking the streets? It’s the 99%! They are rising up!
No. Different cabin. Same three conspirators. They have forked hooves and a tail, the Leaderless Leader also carries horns. There is a blue haired lawyer knocking on the door. He brings his client and a contract to sign. Three little souls in exchange for every dime that can be made out of the OWS brand.
No. Different cabin. Same three conspirators. They are dressed up in grand uniform. Marshals of the People’s Republic of the 99%. The Leaderless Leader wears a bicorne. They are behind a laptop, photoshopping themselves into the hall of presidents at Disneyworld, Florida.
The Leaderless Leader is the founder, theorist, and prophet of the movement. The commandments of activism that he has brought down from the mountain to the blog are, unfortunately, written in a neo-intellectualoid dialect that isn’t meant to be understood by the 99 percent, if at all. One day, during a university occupation, the Leaderless Leader had a vision of people bringing the occupation to the squares. Maybe he thought he was the first, maybe he had never heard of Tienanmen Square.
Three conspirators. Board members of the ‘Occupy Solidarity Network’, operating occupywallst.org, the biggest megaphone of the movement.
Occupywallst.org is not, and never has been, a tool of the New York City General Assembly, or of Occupy Wall Street or the Occupy Movement as a whole. It is run by a closed affinity group of self proclaimed radicals. As an anarchist collective, they used to refrain from signing their communications with names. Until recently, when the three conspirators dropped their masks and entered the limelight as ‘founders of the Occupy movement’.
The Leaderless Leader presents an interview with Adbuster’s Kalle Lasn and himself in the New Yorker as his credentials for being an Occupy founder.
Let’s go back to the French Revolution for a sec. History as a tragedy and as a farce. When Napoleon and the other two consuls grabbed power on 18 Brumaire 1799, the revolution still held sway over France and beyond her borders. When the three OSN conspirators staged their coup, Occupy Wall Street didn’t occupy a damn thing.
Were they really serious? Did they just want to make fools out of themselves? Did they really think it wouldn’t cause a stir among those people who still feel a certain link with Occupy Wall Street? Maybe they really didn’t. And indeed, on the site there is a queer absence of negative reactions to the poster sale.
A tiny minority appropriating something that belonged to all of us, in order to sell it off. Wasn’t that what made people Occupy Wall Street in the first place? There’s irony here. Read ‘Occupy Irony’, the reaction by the people from ows.net.
It gets more hilarious. The Leaderless Leader is a former editor of Adbusters. As such, he participated in the launch of the original call to occupy Wall Street. Adbusters also created the famous poster. Over a week ago, the Leaderless Leader hacked into the Adbusters Twitter account, to protest against whatever personal resentment separated him from the magazine, and to sell their own poster.
Maybe people are underestimating him. Maybe it was all meant to be a brilliant joke, Andy Kaufman style. A spoof of the spoofers. The renegate prophet hitting Adbusters in the face with their own poster and making a buck out of it. Thus, OWS entered popculture, it consumed its 15 minutes of fame, and now it’s over. Buy the poster. Also available at Wallmart. Hang it on the wall as a memorial to what has been. Tell your grandchildren about it.
No, I fear this whole farce was serious. And even that I can understand. I have played revolution as well the last few years, whenever it was appropriate. It’s a fun game, it’s addictive, you can get carried away by it. You may start to think that what you’re doing is really important. Well, it isn’t. Nobody can predict the moment of revolution. Nobody can ‘make it happen’. Every once in a while there’s a revolutionary moment. Just like that. It won’t last long, maybe a few weeks, at most a couple of months. Then there’s pressure from the outside, struggle from the inside. The harmony breaks down, the bubble bursts, and the rest is vanity.
Vanity, my dear comrades. Give me a pulpit, give me a wooden country church, give me a gospel choir singing ‘Hallelujah!’, and I will preach! Yes I will. Sing it again. Hallelujah!
No really. I have a feeling Santa isn’t coming to town this Christmas. He’ll skip another year. Nobody will notice. Hardly anyone would even recognize Santa, without that silly beard, the red coat, the reindeer/sleigh accessories. The fact of the matter is that Santa comes to town whenever he pleases, and that’s rarely at Christmas.
I met him a couple of times, old Santa. Mostly in summer and spring. This year I saw him pouring coffee and tea for the people at Gezi Park. I have also seen him dance this year, linking together Turks and Kurds, and gay and straight and left and right and everything in between. Santa is jolly and kind. He is also a brave man. I saw him again, in clouds of gas, patiently delivering relief to people’s eyes with a spray of antidote. The last time I saw him, he was sitting in the sun, on guard of a barricade.
Outside pressure. Inside struggle. Vanity. Santa went back to the North Pole.
Will Santa still make it to town? Will the revolution be back next year? Will you give the gift of spiritual insurrection?
Posters and canvasas now available. Hallelujah! Order today, and have yourself a Merry Christmas, ho ho ho!
Last September 17, the newspapers unanimously wrote their obituaries of Occupy Wall Street in occasion of the movement’s first anniversary. Six weeks later New York was hit by hurricane Sandy, the worst natural disaster in its history. In the wake of the tragedy, neither the government, nor the Red Cross, showed the same reflexes as OWS.
All over the five boroughs of New York, Occupy Wall Street activists organised a grassroots relief effort which collected food and supplies, and distributed them to those who needed it most. Not only is OWS alive and kicking, but the movement also gave a superb demonstration of the fact that spontaneous self organisation can beat any hierarchical system if needed.
In Queens, two days after the disaster, desperate residents came close to rioting when representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) failed to show up as promised.
On Staten Island, the president of the borough, disgusted with the organisation’s inadequate response, urged citizens to stop making donations to the Red Cross.
At the same time, OWS was setting up shelters, establishing communications between the boroughs with bikes, serving meals, distributing blankets, etc. The operation is hashtagged #OccupySandy and #SandyRelief. It’s ongoing and coordinated through the InterOccupy website, which features lists of what is needed, where it can be dropped off in which part of which borough, and how people can plug in.
By now, five days on, the government is still having trouble restoring power to the city. After the hurricane passed, the skyline of Manhattan was all blackened out, except for one building. Goldman Sachs.
A curious story was developing in the immediate aftermath of Sandy. There were fears that some people would take advantage of the situation to go looting. Those fears seemed to materialise when #SandyLootCrew went trending on Twitter and people began posting pictures of flatscreen tv’s, playstations, subwoofers and other stuff said to have been taken from abandoned houses and shops.
At the end of the day, the hurricane showed the power of people as opposed to the weakness of institutions. It also highlighted the devastating effects that may or may not be attributed to climate change. It doesn’t matter if it’s one or the other. We lost thirty years in this discussion already. It’s time for ‘change’. Four years ago, as it turned out, it was only a slogan. It wasn’t the first black president who proved that it can really happen.
It was Occupy Wall Street.
In 1620 the Mayflower docked at Cape Cod. It would become the defining moment in American mythology… the arrival in the New World of a handful of enlightened Christians who had defied the hardships of the ocean, yearning to be free.
Myth and reality are two very different things of course. So the myth doesn’t say that the Pilgrim Fathers on board the Mayflower were in fact religious fundamentalists which by modern standards can only be compared to the Taliban. Neither does the myth say that the Pilgrim Fathers formed only a minority of the 102 passengers on board the ship. The rest were adventurers, outcasts, criminals, peasants, etc. It were they who founded the United States.
And not just them. A year before the arrival of the Mayflower, the first black slaves were brought to Virginia by Dutch buccaneers. They were booty from a Spanish ship that the Dutch had raided. Now, according to Spanish custom, all slaves were usually baptised. And according to English custom, a baptised Christian could not be sold into slavery.
Therefore the first 19 slaves were not actually sold as slaves. They were sold as ‘indentured servants’.
Indentured servitude is an important phenomenon in the history of the United States. It means temporary slavery, and it applied to many of the poor white immigrants from Europe. During the age of sail, these immigrants would wage the long and risky voyage across the ocean without having money to pay for their ticket. If they made it to America alive, they were put on auction. A rich investor – like a tobacco planter – would buy them, and the poor immigrants would spend the next five to ten years working as slaves to pay for their trip to the New World.
After that, the indentured servant would be free.
Today, indentured servitude does not exist any more, or not in the way it used to. It has taken on a different shape.
In the United States, student debt is being accurately described as the modern form of indentured servitude. You can avoid it, but then you will have little chance to succeed in American society. To be successful you need a good job, and to get a good job you need to study. In most of the western world, education is a basic human right, and the governments facilitate the access of their citizens to higher education. Not so in the U.S. In the U.S. it’s just another investment opportunity.
Going to university is like crossing the ocean to get to the land of the free. At the end of your trip, you find yourself indebted. Not just for five or ten years, but in many cases for the rest of your life.
During the last two decades, tuition fees of both public and private universities have skyrocketed. When they obtain their degree, many people have debts which can exceed a hundred thousand dollars. They need a hell of a good job, not just a middle class one, to pay it all back. Especially if they also want to pay for a house and for health insurance, and if they want to raise a family.
The total amount of student debt in the United States has topped one trillion dollars, and keeps growing fast. It’s a special kind of debt. You can’t lose it, even if you file for bankruptcy. If you default, you won’t be able to get a loan for a car of for a house. And you will have a hard time to find a job, any job. In short, either you spend your life paying off your debts, or you are definitely screwed. You can’t even die on your debt, because it could be transferred to your parents.
Debt is a peculiar thing. Up to a certain point, it will weigh you down. Only when the debt becomes really astronomic, it ceases to be a problem. In such a case, you don’t need to worry any more about paying it back. You just have it paid by someone else. It’s what happened to the banks. They were saved with trillions of dollars of public money. And guess who’s going to pay for that?
It’s not the banks. It’s you. And your children. And your children’s children.
The Student Debt working group of Occupy Wall Street has been addressing this issue for over a year. Their goal is to organise a collective default, together with the demand of free education. Unfortunately, many students in the U.S. are fearsome to adhere to this. Indentured servitude has been part of American culture ever since the nation was founded. It’s time to change all this, it’s time to rise up. A nation can only be truly free if all its citizens have free access to higher education.
Check out the the Occupy Student Debt Campaign
Check also ‘Default’, the Student Loan Documentary.
At this moment, New York City is celebrating a year of revolution, and it looks like an old-fashioned stand off with the NYPD, ‘Bloomberg’s private army’.
On the European side of the Atlantic things are gearing up in Spain. Last Saturday there was a massive demonstration in Madrid against the cutbacks. Firefighters, nurses, teachers, etc. All of them wore their own distinct colours as they marched through the city by the thousands.
The week before, Barcelona had witnessed an even more massive demonstration for Catalan independence. The number of people in the streets supposedly added up to seven figures.
This impressive separatist outcry comes just weeks after Catalonia had to be bailed out by Madrid. The region is practically bankrupt, so the money was most needed. But when the central government tried to force the Catalans to balance their budget as a condition for the bailout, the nationalist backlash against intervention from the central government was devastating.
Someone pointed out to me that this attitude of give-me-your-money-but-don’t-tell-me-what-to-do-with-it is strikingly similar to the way the southern European countries themselves respond to Brussels.
But let’s get one thing straight. It’s not the countries or the regions who are being bailed out where necessary. It’s their creditors. The money goes straight to the ailing banks, the debts are being taken over by the EU, and debt is an effective weapon of centralised political control.
Popular resistance against all this is growing. More than a hundred thousand people besieged parliament in Lisbon the day before last. And next week the Spanish will do the same in Madrid.
The call to besiege parliament starting on September 25 has continued to gain support over all the country. The platform ¡En Piè! that launched the call has responded to all the doubts about secrecy and lack of horizontally by ceding the organisation of the event to the appropriate working groups of the 15M.
At the beginning of the month, the General Assembly of Sol has repeated it will not endorse the siege. But I have a feeling Sol is becoming somewhat isolated. The entire 15M is buzzing with expectation in these final days leading up to the siege.
The call is very similar to last year’s #17S call to occupy Wall Street. It has similar revolutionary ambitions. Resignation of the government and the creation of a constituent assembly.
Many people still have doubts about it. I don’t really understand why. If you want to make revolution, you have to take the streets, the squares, the barricades. And you have to keep coming back for as long as necessary.
Authorities are nervous. During last Saturday’s demonstration police seized a banner announcing the siege. Like the rest of us, they don’t know what to expect. It could be epic, it could be long and exhausting, it could fall apart like cardboard.
Whatever happens, dear people, I will be there. So stay tuned, and… happy anniversary #OWS!
On October 15 almost every major city in the world was the scene of protests against the global financial system. I have been trying to put an image together of how the movement has been developing in these first few weeks that followed.
I started by making a comparison between the first wave of occupations, this spring, and the current one.
One has led to the other, both were inspired by the Arab spring, and fuelled by the financial crisis and the way politics has dealt with it. Both protests have a global resonance, but with different centres of gravity. The spring wave was more of a Latino-Mediterranean thing, centred on Spain and in particular Madrid. The autumn wave came from Wall Street, it enjoyed much wider media coverage and was picked up mainly but not exclusively by the English speaking world. At this moment, sustained occupations are going on in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Canada, and most of all the United States of America.
I will give you some brief flashes from around the world. I will follow the sun.
On Global Revolution Day a crowd of police and journalists accompanied dozens of demonstrators to the financial district in Tokyo. The turnout might not have been very high in a city of about twenty million inhabitants, but it was significant because protesting is not a common thing in Japanese culture. Many of the protesters’ grievances were directed at the use of nuclear power, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
In New Zealand and Australia there are occupations in every major city. From Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. The Melbourne occupation was evicted over a week ago. I wonder if it had anything to do with the [visit] of the queen to the city a couple of days later. Occupy Melbourne has now been re-established on a different site.
Occupy Singapore failed. Hong Kong is supposedly the only place in China where actions took place on October 15. And in much of India and South East Asia the occupation initiatives don’t seem to go any further than the Facebook pages. On the other hand, the India Against Corruption movement is gaining strength on the subcontinent since last spring.
I will leave the situation in the Middle East and North Africa out of the equation. For abundance of dramatic content it has already been extensively covered by mainstream media. What has been receiving less attention is the fact that massive demonstrations for social justice have been going on in Israel for months.
In South Africa, there are small occupy movements in Cape Town, and in the financial heart of the continent, Johannesburg. A few days ago a demonstration was held there, staged by the youth league of the governing ANC. It called for radical redistribution of wealth, and of white farmland among blacks. The racial dimension in the protest against the one percent is probably unavoidable in a country like South Africa. On the social media voices hosted the suspicion that youth leader Julius Malema wants to turn the country in another Zimbabwe.
In Europe there is a clear distinction between the southern countries that have already lived through a wave of occupations this spring and currently have more pressing matters to attend to, and the northern countries, where camping has only just become fashionable.
The occupation of Brussels withered away after a few days. But surprisingly, the movement rooted just north of the border, in the Netherlands. Amsterdam has been a flourishing camp ever since the start, and to date dozens of Dutch cities and villages are being occupied, or about to be occupied. Even my little home town of Dordrecht. I’m deeply touched.
There are people camping in Germany and the UK, there are rumours of people camping at La Défense in Paris. On the 15th the peaceful gathering in front of the Reichstag in Berlin was charged by the police. Protesters have returned to the spot since then, but the most prominent German occupation has been in Frankfurt, home of the ECB. On various occasions, Occupy Frankfurt has staged demonstrations in front of the bank, numbering in the thousands.
In London, the camp has been installed outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Due do the overwhelming presence of all the tents the church closed its doors for the first time since WW2. The dean has resigned in protest against a possible forced eviction. By now the church has reopened her doors. She was losing the revenue generated by the tourists.
To add to the religious dimension, the occupiers received an official note of support by various rabbis, who affirmed that the demand for a more just world was perfectly compliant with their faith. They signed under the name of ‘Occupy Judaism’.
There has been a little scandal as well, in London, when press used heat sensitive equipment at night to prove that 90 % of the tents were empty. Protesters countered the claim, by demonstrating that heat sensitive equipment doesn’t register all the presences. However it be, they admitted that not all the occupiers could resist the comfort of their own warm houses.
In the South of Europe, the revolution is at a different stage. I met comrade Ariadne in Brussels. She had just left Greece. She said that September had probably been the worst month in half a century. And she knows, she’s a historian. What is happening to the country is a national trauma. “Syntagma is dead”, I heard her say. It’s the great season of general strikes now, not of a peaceful assemblary movement, and it probably will not be for quite a while. “You cannot build a movement on a trauma.”
In Italy, strangely, the movement hasn’t really caught on, while there is every reason in the world that it should. This spring there has been some activity centred around the traditionally ‘red’ city of Bologna, but an Italian friend of mine described the history of the movement in Italy as the transition of ‘Take the square to take a beer’. In fall, the assemblies centered around Rome. It was the only place in the world where there have been serious disturbances on October 15. The people who shattered windows and burned cars or engaged in any other act of violence are, by definition, not a part of this movement. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they were infiltrators. The Italian prime minister or the right wing mayor of Rome wouldn’t have any ethical problems with resorting to this tactic.
In Spain the assembly attendances have been down a bit in the last couple of months, but on October 15 the movement showed that it is very much alive and growing, and that Spain is still the epicenter of this revolution. Reports have come in of more than ten thousand people protesting in the tiniest villages of Asturias, more than in Brussels. In Madrid there were half a million people, in Barcelona 400.000.
The country is bracing for general elections on November 20, when the socialists will be voted out of office to be replaced by the dark side of the same medal, the Popular Party. Up until now, the movement in Spain has had relatively little trouble with authorities. All that can change when the PP comes to power.
In Latin America occupations are reported in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. There are revolutionary cells all over the continent. In Chile, the students movement for accessible public education has been active for months and is currently in a stalemate with the government.
In North America the movement has exploded on an unprecedented scale. Since the occupation of Wall Street began on September 17, the protest spread over every part of the U.S. and the inhabited zones of Canada.
In cities in the northeast like Boston, Montreal, and New York itself the campers are forcefully preparing for winter. Special winterisation working groups have been formed to coordinate this, first of all by getting the tents on pallets off the ground. Lists of needs have been drawn up urgently to meet with conditions after the first snow hit New York by surprise.
On the Pacific coast Occupy San Diego has been evicted last week, live on the internet. The site has since then been reoccupied by a multitude of citizens. From San Diego up north, the coast has been occupied up to Alaska. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Seattle, Vancouver. In most cities there don’t seem to have been many troubles with authorities yet. Except for Oakland. The camp has been violently evicted this weekend. Projectiles were fired, tear gas was used. Protesters have reacted by throwing objects themselves. There were people injured. One of them is still in critical condition. He turned out to be an Iraq veteran. He came back from the war alive and he was hit in the head with a tear gas grenade for camping out in Oakland. The site has been firmly reoccupied.
The General Assembly of Occupy Oakland has called for a General Strike on wednesday November 2. Demonstrations of solidarity with Scott Olsen, the injured veteran, have been held all over the country and the world.
As the sun sets over the occupations of Honolulu and Maui in the Pacific Ocean, it has already risen again in Australia and the Far East. I imagine it must be a great place to camp for a better world, out there on the islands of Hawaii.
During this week at Revolutionary HQ I have gradually moved my sleeping space up the building. From the skybox over the aula magna, to a corner in the library, and finally, on the last night, to the ‘Comisión Me la pela / Me la suda’, home of the Meseta hard core.
The commission had recently transfered its quarters from the third floor to the fifth, because of shit invading the hallway. Comrade Brina called it a ‘problem of convivencia’, people who continue to use the toilets even when they’re out of order. They have been shoveling crap every day, but in the end they gave up and moved away from the center of gravity.
“This building is killing us. You hardly know any of the people you encounter. This is not a community, it’s bloody chaos.”
I too moved up because of the invasion. Graffiti has been appearing since a couple of days. The problem with the drain was never fixed and people finally had to use dry bathrooms in the garden, accessable through the window. In the first few days, much of the electronical equipment had been plundered and interpersonal theft became a common practice.
It’s the other side of the ‘free space’ where no one decides and where no one bears responsability.
The first rumour I heard this morning was that police were going to close the university while everyone would be in the demonstration. As a precaution, many campers picked up their bags and left.
I was a bit disappointed that nobody wanted to defend the free space. But it also meant that all of us were decided to take the streets. We can occupy another headquarters whenever we want to.
The people from the hard core don’t shed a tear for Revolutionary HQ. Faces are flourishing when we walk to Media Center to drop off our bags. We take our time to reunite, and by tradition we’re late. When we walk up to Gare du Nord it seems that no one is there. For a moment, in between the skyscrapers, it appears to me that all this revolution thing has only been a silly dream.
Then we hear the drums.
It’s going on. This is what we have come here for, marching all the way from Spain. Global Revolution Day, October 15. Today we are Brussels, we have to play our part on the world stage.
The vibe of the crowd is good. There are many people. All types, all ages, and many different languages. I see slogans in French, English, Spanish, Dutch, German. These people are citizens of Europe, demonstrating joyfully against the lack of European democracy, right here in the capital of the empire. The sun is giving us a glorious late summer salute.
We go to the Stock Exchange, our first stop. It’s an excellent photographic venue, but this particular place doesn’t count in the world of 21st century capitalism. The real power is down the road, in an anonymous skyscraper near our departure point. It is the headquarters of Euroclear, the ‘bank of the banksters’.
You probably have never heard of this enterprise. That’s because you are part of the 99%. You are not eligible to have an account there. You don’t need to know that they exist and that they shift billions of dollars per day in obscure financial transactions. We circle the skyscrapers, holding hands. One of our comrades had prepared a dossier on Euroclear, which was presented to the press, and flyers to inform the public. This anonymous institution probably knows a lot more about the causes of the crisis than we do.
The crowd moves east, towards the European Quarter. At one of the Dexia offices riot police protects the building after sporadic acts of vandalism. There’s a bit of tension, but soon the march goes peacefully and happily forth.
Police don’t let us pass by the Wetstraat, the Street of the Law, which leads straight to the European roundabout. We are led around the institutions, and at sunset we enter the Jubelpark, right under the triumphant arch of the Belgian military museum. This is public space now. Park regulations are overruled by the people. We make fire, we make music, and we camp.
“Esta noche acampamos! Esta noche acampamos!” It’s the Meseta hard core. Many of us had brought tents, and those are the first to go up. In the meantime sound and internet are being installed near the Media Center van, and food is being prepared on camp fires. We made it. It has become a success. “Abrazo colectivo! Abrazo colectivo!”
“Well over two thousand people,” a police officer reports into his walkie talkie. He and his collegue retreat to the exit. The burgomaster of Brussels had ordered a complete camping ban in the whole city. But police give in, they won’t interfere with us camping tonight.
I walk down to Media Center. The rooms over there are full of people receiving and distributing the news. This is the Brussels information hub of the movement. I see pictures from Japan this morning, from Corea, from India. I see pictures from Puerta del Sol. There are half million people occupying the center of Madrid, my revolutionary home.
I take my tent and my bagpack and I walk back, passing by the red zone for a change. To my right there is the European Council, the legislative. To my left there is the European Commission, the executive. I walk on, past barbed wire barricades, into the park. We camp here in the heart of Europe, in this theatrical scenario. We have achieved something. But only when the live connection starts, I know what it is.
Pictures from someone streaming in Berlin. A group of people is sitting down in front of the Reichstag. The police is trying to arrest them, but they are ignored. This is not television, this is us, broadcasting ourselves. I feel a shiver. History is happening everywhere, right now. We hear that 8000 demonstrators have gathered in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. People are camping.
We switch to New York. There are crowds in Wall Street, there are crowds uptown. Images of Time Square, taken over by the people. “Whose streets?! Our streets!! Whose streets?! Our streets!!”.
I join a group of comrades around a fire. It’s one of those gratifying tribal pleasures. And while we’re there, looking into the flames together we hear the rhythmic sound of the crowd in Times Square chanting, live, “This is what democracy looks like!”
I look up from the fire and I see the arches, and the moon rising. It’s an amazing feeling. We have become citizens of the world.
Day 55 of the March on Brussels. Paris.
Our attempt to camp in Paris has failed. After our retreat from the Bastille we have settled along the Marne in a suburban sports facility. And today we lost the occasion to make a rebound.
The rain was a serious blow to morale. We are disoriented and divided. We had long been planning actions and thematical assemblies for today, the French had been preparing something as well, supposedly. But the march got up late, and spent the greater part of the afternoon in the metro, surrounded by police after they had been passing the gates of the station without paying. In the end, they took the gates, and police let them go. It’s a positive point in an otherwise disappointing weekend. If we all stick together we can be civily disobedient, and get away with it. Even in Paris.
I went off on my own, to upload information, and to meet my mum, who has come over here as a proud mother to see her revolutionary son arrive at the Bastille. We walk the streets of Paris, and it’s not a pleasant experience. The people here have the air of being suspicous, unfriendly and snob. No wonder our arrival here can hardly be called a triumph.
It could have been though. The same day we were parading through the streets, there was also a Tecno Parade which attracted many more people than our march, and there was the “Fête de l’Humanité”, organised by France’s major communist newspaper. More than enough occasion to join up into one big manifestation and exchange of ideas.
I don’t think there’s any reason why we couldn’t have coordinated something. The lack of this happening can be accounted to the Paris indignados and the people from our march who have spent weeks in Paris to organise things that never materialised.
But this doesn’t mean that the 17S Day against the Banks has not become a succes. It only goes to show that Paris is no longer a revolutionary capital.
After we had walked straight into the trap of the Bastille and were shivering away under the rain, some news dripped through of tens of thousands of people protesting in New York and hundreds of people camping near Wall Street. There was a report that even in Amsterdam there was an acampada in front of the stock exchange. In Barcelona people were camping in Paseo de la Gracia out of solidarity with us.
Worldwide, things are moving. Encouraging news comes from all over the West. Massive demonstrations in Italy, renewed actions and initiatives in Greece, oceanic protests of Arabs and Jews together, all over Israel.
Our march is an inspiration to many, but we are not the spearhead of the revolution any more. The seeds have already spread over the continents. It’s everywhere. Paris used to be the avanguarde, but now, in 2011, she missed out on what is going to be the Big One. If there is any revolutionary spirit left in this city, it must have emigrated to the suburbs.
I leave you today without photos, but with a message from the General Assembly of New York City, dated 11 September 2011.
We are the citizens and non-citizens of the General Assembly of New York City. We come from every walk of life, a variety of cultural, political, and religious backgrounds. Yet we share the same indignation for the common wealth that has been pillaged by the global institutions of finance with the complacency of the world’s governments — a looting that has led to massive unemployment, generalized cuts to public services, despair and resignation.
It is the same indignation that has prompted the people of Greece and Spain to occupy streets and squares on a permanent basis, the people of Egypt and Tunisia to overthrow their governments, the people of Iceland to nationalize their bank system and rewrite the constitution.
Over the past few weeks we have begun to share this indignation and listen to each other in a series of public meetings open to everyone. Freely inspired by the general assemblies that are mushrooming in every corner of the planet we have begun to bring our differences together through a consensual decision-making process. Such process does not aim at erasing differences. On the contrary it wants to multiply them so that we may begin to rebuild this nation and this world anew.
One of the first concrete steps we have decided to take is to participate in a global day of action against financial capital on September 17, 2011. We invite you to join us in this action by peacefully occupying the streets and squares surrounding the Wall Street area in New York City beginning on September 17. At the moment we do not have a specific list of demands. However, the Assembly initiated a conversation through which a number of proposals and perspectives unfolded.
Some of us think that the imposition of a Robin Hood Tax on all financial transactions, tax increases on capital gains, and the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act are three essential measures to reestablish a minimum of fiscal sanity in the United States and abroad.
Some of us think that true autonomy and independence cannot be achieved through fiscal reform.
Some of us believe that we ought to reboot the system, rewrite the constitution, recuse a system of government employed by the rich for the
Many of us think that what truly matters at this stage is to create a shared framework which may enable everyone to speak out, be heard, co-evolve and advance with others. If you look through this framework you may not see one defined picture. If you walk through it you will be amazed at the strange world on the other side. It is time to take back our lives. We ask you to join us now in New York City or to start your own General Assembly in your own town.
In solidarity and struggle,
The General Assembly of New York City