by Nellie Hester Bailey
Pro-Obama media claimed that last week’s highly successful protest in Harlem was a “white” affair, that “Blacks are incapable of critical thinking and analysis regarding Obama’s presidency,” says one of the organizers. The demonstration outside the Apollo Theater “was called by Occupy Harlem and lead by Occupy Harlem....”
Occupy Harlem Sets Record Straight on Apollo Theater Protest
by Nellie Hester Bailey
This article originally appeared on the web site of Occupy Harlem.
“It is our right and responsibility to hold those in power accountable, not to serve as foot soldiers for the Democratic Party.”
A few articles on Democratic Party-friendly blog sites. Specifically Daily Kos and In These Times, have attempted to discredit Occupy Harlem's January 19th protest against Barack Obama as a tone-deaf invasion of Harlem by white Occupy Wall Street protesters. In fact, the demonstration was called and lead by Occupy Harlem, launched on October 22nd in the Central Harlem community, home of the Apollo Theater. (Visit @occupyharlemnow twitter site for media coverage). The writers of these stories reveal their ignorance or have selectively ignored a number of relevant facts.
Co-convener of Occupy Harlem Nellie Bailey organized a protest against Obama in March of 2011 when the President appeared at the upscale Red Rooster Restaurant for a $38,000 plate dinner fundraiser. The demonstration was covered by the Amsterdam News, the oldest Black newspaper in the city. Bailey was also the organizer of “Obama, Race, Class & Politics,” three critical thinking community forums, in 2008. The Harlem series was described as: “Obammania: Post Racial America, Neo-liberalism, War and the Democratic Party Candidates Safeguarding the Strategic Interests of a Crumbling and Broken Empire. What are Our Alternative?” These events occurred long before the existence of Occupy Wall Street!
Furthermore, in an interview that appeared in the Huffington Post in November of 2011, Occupy Harlem took on the “divide and conquer” strategy of the establishment to prevent the coalescing of a unified movement.
“The inference that Occupy Harlem and protesting Blacks are misguided dupes of a white OWS smacks of racism!”
Therefore, we ask: What’s behind these attacks to discredit the January 19th protest by writing it off as an initiative of non-Harlemites? Such accusations are eerily reminiscent of attempts to discredit the 50s and 60s civil rights movement in the South as simply a product of "outside agitators." The inference that Occupy Harlem and protesting Blacks are misguided dupes of a white OWS smacks of racism! It suggests Blacks are incapable of critical thinking and analysis regarding Obama’s presidency.
Much more diabolical are attempts to suggest that protesting Lyndon LaRouche extremists were part of the Occupy Harlem protest. This is a blatant lie! NYPD herded all protesters into the same pen across the street from the Apollo Theater. In mic check after mic check the LaRouchites were denounced again and again, even derisively called out as “looney tunies!” In particular, the Occupy crowd took on the LaRouchites’ politically inept portrayal of Obama as Hitler. Occupy protesters in no time physically separated themselves from the LaRouche group, a point conceded in Allison Kilkenny's In These Times report.
One liberal blog with a history of supporting the Democratic Party selectively ran photos that only included white demonstrators. Apparently rendering people of color invisible and voiceless is okay as long as it looks good for the Democrats. What really seemed to be bothering the author of this account was a failure to grasp why protesters choose to target Obama instead of Mitt Romney. Is this really hard to understand? Occupy is not a branch of the Democratic Party and it is not an electioneering organization. By protesting Obama, we are not telling people who to vote for or against. Obama, in case these critics failed to notice, is still the President of the United States. Obama, not Romney, just eviscerated the most fundamental rights of US citizens by signing NDAA.
“Do the lives of people bombed by Democrats matter less than the lives of those bombed by Republicans?”
If the last four years demonstrate anything, it is the evil of trusting "lesser evils." Obama, like Clinton before him, has exploited the trust of hopeful liberals to push policies that would have created a firestorm of outrage if initiated by Bush. Aside from its dedicated core, the anti-war movement almost evaporated after Obama was elected and countless lives were lost as a result. Do the lives of people bombed by Democrats matter less than the lives of those bombed by Republicans?
The demonstration was called by Occupy Harlem and lead by Occupy Harlem. Occupy Harlem, as many occupy movements across the country, was inspired by the resonating message of OWS for the 99% to challenge the US plutocracy in complete control of the US political process. We are an autonomous initiative of Harlem residents, initiated by and lead by people of color. We are deeply offended by Obama apologists who seek to belittle and denigrate the Occupy Harlem movement. Whether Obama or Romney is elected president, we can be sure that the attacks on the poor and working people, on civil liberties and on global human rights will continue and so will our protests. It is our right and responsibility to hold those in power accountable, not to serve as foot soldiers for the Democratic Party.
“If the last four years demonstrate anything, it is the evil of trusting ‘lesser evils.’"
As for the white Occupy Wall Street participants in the demonstration, these attacks leave our allies in a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" dilemma. If they avoid protesting Obama, they are portrayed as a Democratic Party front group. If they support Occupy Harlem's protest at Obama's Apollo Fundraiser, they are portrayed as “racially insensitive.” These bogus accusations will not dampen nor alter the coalescing of solidarity between Occupy Harlem and OWS. What's really going on here is that Democrats have figured out that the Occupy movement is not for them to manipulate and control! (See for example, Ology, January 18.)
They'll praise Occupy so long as we attack their enemies. But when Occupy says that we will hold ALL corporate shill politicians accountable for selling out the 99%, they start getting nervous. And when we protest Democratic politicians, they want to discredit us because we challenge the illusion that Democrats are the party of the people. Obama apologists and strategists can't afford this because the Democratic Party needs the votes of progressives and people of color to keep their elected officials in office, even as those officials betray us in service to corporations at almost every turn -- in service to the 1% that really sets the agenda for both major parties.