Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reflections on Occupy and the 70th Anniversary of the White Rose Executions in Germany

There Is No Fall: The Rise of Occupy 

Occupy DC, Freedom Plaza;  Jan. 2012
(All Photos By The Author)
Many think the Occupy movement is history as it lacks the high profile it enjoyed in 2011 and early 2012. Whether Occupy returns to its’ glory days is not the most important question, but rather the fate of the struggle Occupy brilliantly helped raise to a new level.  However before looking forward it is important to first look back to appreciate the interconnectedness of events.

Back in 1999 a few of my friends left Tucson for Seattle to take part in a protest against the World Trade Organization. Few could expect what a huge splash that would end up making. I decided to attend the next big protest in Washington, D.C. in April 2000 to barricade the meetings of the IMF and World Bank. There I was introduced to the “spokes-council” model for consensus-based mass meetings, which later evolved into the “general assembly” meetings used by Occupy.

Occupy Austin, TX

Mass protests continued for a time around the world targeting international financial and trade institutions. In 2003 protests were held in Miami during negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (FTAA). The shocking level of police brutality unleashed on protesters was the product of law enforcement’s “Miami Model” which included large-scale pre-emptive arrests.
Occupy Tampa,   Dec. 2011

Seven years later in 2011 this same draconian level of brutality would be unleashed on peaceful Occupy protesters. Police violence against Occupy Oakland perhaps tops the list, with the pepper spraying of Occupy Wall Street participants and students at UC-Davis among other notable incidents. Many of the Occupy encampments were evicted with excessive use of force.

Returning to 2003 huge marches were held around the world to try to stop the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and thousands pounded the pavement in Tucson.  Turnouts were so large everywhere that it seemed like the peace movement could win but the Bush Administration was unmoved. The Tucson Peace Action Coalition did a great job as the lead organizer locally for these actions.

Occupy New Orleans;  Sign About Scott Olsen, 
wounded At Occupy Oakland
The next big splash I felt lucky to witness came in 2006 when millions poured into the streets around the country on May 1 including Tucson to protest changes in U.S. immigration policies. Later that day I went downtown to watch the public school students who had marched to there after walking out of classes. The energy was electrifying.  Schools had even sent buses to pick them up. Marches continue to be held in Tucson on May 1 organized by the May 1 Coalition.

The immigrants’ rights movement later shifted its focus on stopping Arizona’s SB 1070 law and I rode a bus up to Phoenix in April 2010 to march along with 150,000 others.  Of course the government shifted its tactics on dealing with this movement. In 2012 a record 400,000 were deported from the U.S.

Occupy El Paso, TX  General Assembly   Oct. 2011
In Feb. 2011,  organized labor and community allies launched a series of protests and occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol for two weeks to try to stop Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to eliminate collective bargaining. At the movements' zenith over 100,000 protesters rallied at the state capitol.

A Solidarity Lunch;  Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C.

Then came Sept. 17, 2011
Occupy Wall Street in Zucotti Park

The Occupy movement was one of the most diverse and unique movements I was fortunate to have witnessed in my lifetime. I ended up visiting ten encampments throughout the southern U.S. and have written about those inspiring experiences in earlier posts. Occupy features horizontal leadership and consensus decision-making, focus on direct action, collective structures, and overall rejection of party politics.

Occupy Tucson,  Dec. 2011; From Oct. 2011-
Feb. 2012 Occupy Tucson had three different
encampments evicted with over 700 citations and arrests.

It is also important to look at the rise of Occupy within the context of the international struggle. The December 26, 2011 issue of “Time” magazine was the person of the year issue naming “The Protester” as the winner and is a must-read (available online). The opening of that feature wonderfully captured the moment: “No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. In 2011, protestors didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world.”

Occupy Congress;  Jan. 17, 2012

In conclusion the international struggle is as active as ever and despite the diminished profile of Occupy in the U.S. the movement is far from dormant. Another large splash will occur sooner or later, seemingly coming out of nowhere like the Battle in Seattle, the 2003 peace marches, the 2006 pro-immigrant marches, and the hundreds of Occupy encampments that sprung up in cities large and small.

But of course nothing comes out of nowhere and thanks to Occupy many more are now active in the struggle for social and economic justice. A friend who’s part of Occupy Gainesville summed it up well, “Hey if you’re not sitting around on a couch watching TV, you’re occupying!”

Occupy Congress General Assembly

To conclude here's a video of an amazing action that occurred in the Tucson Mall on Jan. 11, 2013 in solidarity with the Idle No More ( indigenous rights movement in Canada. The Struggle Continues!

Remembering Germany's White Rose; Seventy Years Ago on Feb. 22, 1943,  The First Three Were Executed.

One of the most courageous acts in history was the White Rose group in Germany who dared resist Hitler and the Nazis by secretly publishing and distributing a series of leaflets condemning the regime.
Their acts of defiance were practically suicidal: if caught there was no question as to the outcome. But they blazed on, giving up their lives of comfort and risking all.

Siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, Cristoph Probst
The first ones of their group to be executed
by the Nazis on Feb. 22, 1943
A prior post on the Hobo Dispatch gives much of the background with photos:

It is important to reflect on those in our own country's history who have also paid a terrible price for denouncing injustice like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated exactly one year after he gave one of his most important speeches condemning the war in Vietnam. The King family's civil trail concluded that "governmental agencies" were involved in Dr. King's death.

Like Nazi Germany the U.S. spends most of the budget on a war machine which is constantly used to repress both abroad and at home.  Under the banner of fighting terrorism (which has replaced past banners of communism, etc.) the U.S. continues to unleash it's own brand of terrorism supporting repressive regimes around the world (Honduras, Israel, etc.), and sending unmanned drones to bomb targets without any rule of law involved. U.S. citizens can even be on this "kill list". Scores of innocent civilians have been killed. The Occupy movement prioritized fighting the National Defense Authorization Act (N.D.A.A.) with it's indefinite detention provision.

Finally it is important to mention two brave Americans who are whistleblowers of injustice but instead have been persecuted for their actions. Private First Class Bradley Manning is at the heart of the Wikileaks scandal where classified info was released, such as the infamous "collateral damage" video showing pedestrians being gunned down in Iraq. Manning is currently facing court-martial proceedings.
Former CIA agent John Kiriakou was just sentenced to 30 months in prison for blowing the whistle on torture by U.S. agents.

Links--Occupy Posts on Hobo Dispatch



1 comment:

  1. This is Charlie. It was great to see you at the March Against Monsanto! Thank you for sharing info on your site here with me. Great stuff on Occupy and everything else you've posted here as well. Keep in touch.