Believe It! Resistance to Corporate Power and Warmongering Is Growing All Around Us
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This week we reflect on the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse.
There are reasons to celebrate despite continued economic stagnation and growing debt: the culture of resistance in the US is here and it’s having an effect. The corporate power that has so blatantly stomped on our rights and whipped Congress to do its bidding is faltering and losing its grip. There are cracks in the pillars of power, and it’s up to us to pry them open and shine light on the lies and corruption that have been used to steal our future. We see a movement that is building momentum.
We look back over the events of the past two years and we feel cautiously optimistic. We remember wondering as we watched the Arab Spring bloom and the encampments grow in Spain and state capitals like Madison whether people in the US were ready to rise up and demand more than the crumbs we’ve been convinced to accept for decades.
A turning point for us was in December, 2010 at an action in front of the White House to protest war. Many spoke that day about the need to build a culture of resistance in the US. Following that action, as we met with allies over the next few months, there was agreement that we needed to do something different. The traditional tools used to create change weren’t working. One-day protests, usually on a weekend, are ignored. It was time for something new, time to bring an occupation to the national capital.
As we met to organize the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, there was a strong sense of suspense. Some said that Americans weren’t feeling enough pain, that we hadn’t reached the tipping point. We decided that we would only find out if we tried, and so what if it didn’t work the first time. Most mass movements don’t arise spontaneously; they come after years of organizing and multiple failed actions. A key ingredient is persistence.
Similarly, the organizers of Occupy Wall Street acted out of anticipation. They staked out a place in the heart of the monster and held it. At first there were a few hundred, not the tens of thousands that Adbusters called for. But by holding that space courageously, more people were inspired to join them. People arrived from all over the country. Excitement and wonder were in the air. Could the people really take on Wall Street?
Obviously Wall Street thought so because they ordered excessive and constant police protection. They must have seen something brewing because Wall Street firms donated an unprecedented millions to the NYPD over the previous year. It was police aggression towards peaceful protesters that grabbed public attention and sympathy. A few weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street, an amazing 43 percent of Americans supported Occupy.
By the time of the occupation of Freedom Plaza in early October, there were hundreds of encampments throughout the nation and around the world. The new language of the 99% raised class consciousness in ways that had not been heard for a long time. A spark had been lit and there was no going back.
Two years later, the physical encampments are gone, but the Occupy Movement remains. Occupying public space was a tactic, not an end in itself. It was a way to make the issues visible, a place for people to gather, a model for a new way of doing things based on respect, mutual aid and democracy and a metaphor for claiming what has been taken. The ‘public’ is disappearing, not just public space but also public services, research and resources have been privatized, expropriated for the profits of a few.