Occupy! Occupy! Occupy!
Comedian and social activist Dick Gregory had a “bulletin” for the protesters at the kickoff of the occupation of Freedom Plaza, in Washington, DC, last week: “President Obama endorsed what you all are doing here!” The crowd was skeptical, to put it mildly. October2011 organizer Dennis Trainor set the record straight. “We will endorse Barack Obama when he disproves Martin Luther King’s assertion that the United States of America ‘is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, today,’ when he brings home all the troops, and when he redirects all those resources to human and environmental needs,” said Trainor, who is also an accomplished political comic and satirist. “A whole generation of Gordon Gekkos has hijacked control of the three branches of government away from We The People.”
People of Color Come Forward
People of color are prepared to bring “our platform, our agenda” to the proliferating centers of protest, says Kanane Holder, a spokesperson for the People of Color Working Group at the Occupy Wall Street nexus, in Liberty Park. Some African Americans hesitated to join what began as an overwhelmingly white initiative for fear that “we are going to be the first ones to be brutalized by police” and “so many of us are already in ‘the system’ because of stop-and-frisk” and other targeting of Blacks, said Holder, a writer and performing artist. People of color will bring a perspective that “includes the prison industrial complex, racial profiling,” and other facts of Black life in the United States.
Right Place, Right Time, to Stop Stop-and-Frisk
The young white activists in Liberty Park are getting an education on the real nature of the police. “They don’t have the day-to-day experience with cops being on top of them 24-7,” said Carl Dix, of Stop Stop-and-Frisk. “You guys are in the right place,” he tells the demonstrators, “because Wall Street is a symbol of capitalism, and it is capitalism that is responsible for all these problems you’ve identified and for the horrors in the world.” However, the protesters must disabuse themselves of the idea that police brutality is a fault of “a few bad cops. It is a system that you are dealing with.” The Stop Stop-and-Frisk disobedience campaign kicks off on October 21 at “the worst” police precinct in Harlem, said Dix.
Getting Ready for a Winter of Struggle
“No one can speak for the movement at this time,” said David DeGraw, editor of Amped Status online magazine, who was part of the relatively small group that set the stage for the Occupy Wall Street project. The “central theme” of protest is “breaking up the concentration of power” in the U.S., which is experiencing “the highest level of inequality ever.” Most people “don’t understand derivatives and CDOs, yet,” but they know that “the system does not work for 99% of the population,” said DeGraw. “Everyone that’s here is not planning on going anywhere. There are extensive plans go get us through the winter” in New York City. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
Haitians Join the Occupation
“We think that what is happening to Haiti is an amazing example of the beast that is destroying this country, destroying people of color, destroying working people,” said Ray LaForest, one of the organizers of a contingent of Haitians that marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to make common cause with the Wall Street protest. Capitalists “are willing to use any means to achieve what they want, including imposing wretched conditions on the Haitian people, incredible violence, malnutrition, denial of rights, and denial of education and health care,” said LaForest. “We think these kids are pretty brave. We have to seize the moment, we have to find the way to make the connection.”
Have African Americans Turned Their Backs on Haiti?
Black Americans seem no longer to be dependable allies of Haitians and other oppressed people, laments Dr. Jemima Pierre, an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. Since Obama became president, Haitians have been forced to endure the “selection” of “Sweet Micky” Martelly as their president, the return of former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, U.S. efforts to bar the return of ousted elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide, and the total takeover of the country by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, among other insults to their sovereignty. “I’m wondering where the outrage is,” said Dr. Pierre, who sees “a shift from the African American response to Haiti” in the past. “There’s less focus on international politics within the Black community. Look at Libya, look at what’s happening in Somalia. Back in the day, we used to think of all those struggles as linked.”
A “Manufactured” Postal Crisis
“It’s almost like they took a page right out of that book,” The Shock Doctrine, said Michael Paskon, executive vice president of the letter carriers union local, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Congress five years ago forced the Postal Service to make $5 billion in upfront yearly payments to pension funds – a hurdle union officials say has never been imposed on any company, public or private. Management now wants to “fix” the phony crisis by firing 100,000 employees – a classic case of what Naomi Klein dubbed “disaster capitalism,” said Paskon. “It bothers a lot of the free market ideologues that there is a potential to make a lot of money in what we do, and they can’t get their hands on it” – except through privatization.