UPDATE FOR WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28
Meeting to be held in San Diego at park near fountain at 1st Avenue and East Harbor Drive, 6pm.
The “Occupy Wall Street” protests and occupation of a small nearby park, dubbed “Liberty Park”, continues into its 12th day in downtown Manhattan in New York City. The protests began on Saturday, September 17th, and while activists initially wanted to surround the banks and other symbols of Wall Street, they were blocked by the ever-ready presence of the NYPD. So the protesters took over a small park a block from Wall Street and have been occupying it ever since.
A mass arrest last Saturday, the 24th, of over 80 demonstrators by police during a march appears to have back-fired. There is now more corporate and mainstream media coverage since the arrests, and particular official disgust has been directed at one officer in particular who pepper-sprayed protesters for no reason.
Well-known celebrities have either stopped by Liberty Park or have sent their support. Rosanne Barr was at the site earlier last week, Alec Baldwin spoke out about the police violence, Susan Sarandon dropped by, as did Michael Moore – who gave an emotional speech in support. Noam Chomsky has issued his solidarity message and the Teamster Union has declared its support of the demonstrators as well.
“Occupy” events and actions are either happening in other places around the country or are in the planning stages, including San Diego.
These include Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, …. There’s a general Occupy site that directs people to the various actions being planned, and there’s the Occupy Wall Street site itself.
The “Occupy” movement actual events staged in Los Angeles (a march), San Francisco (small encampment and march), Chicago (a march and encampment at the Federal Reserve) and Denver (noon gatherings at the Statehouse). In other places, twitter feeds and Facebook pages are starting up for Occupy Atlanta, Occupy Boston, Occupy Brisbane, Occupy Cincinnati, Occupy Cleveland, Occupy DC, Occupy Dallas, Occupy Glasgow, Occupy Houston, Occupy Kansas City, Occupy Manchester, Occupy Nashville, Occupy New Orleans, Occupy Philadelphia, Occupy Phoenix, Occupy Portland, Occupy Tampa, Occupy Richmond, Occupy San Jose, Occupy Seattle and Occupy Youngstown.
‘Occupy Wall Street’ Fighting Bankster Greed and the Surveillance State
By Sarah Jaffe / AlterNet / September 27, 2011 |
Over a week in, and despite mass arrests, the protesters are still camped out around the corner from Wall Street, and the Internet is watching.
The crackdown on the Wall Street protesters this weekend seems to have backfired. The campsite-cum-experiment in radical democracy is still there, holding general assemblies just shouting distance from Goldman Sachs and the Wall Street bull. It even appears to be growing.
The complaints that the media has ignored the sustained protest seem to be resonating—the park has cameras aplenty today, and food trucks line one side of the plaza. (Local eateries have been taking out-of-town orders for protesters.) Tourists seem to be catching on that this is something, as they snap pictures of protest signs.
While even theoretically like-minded folks had been a bit dismissive of the Wall Street occupation before Saturday, the heavy-handed moves by police to control a small march have brought worldwide attention to Zuccotti Park, formerly Liberty Plaza. The Guardian has broken stories ahead of the New York media, outing the police officer caught on tape pepper-spraying penned-up protesters as the same officer named in a wrongful arrest lawsuit from 2004’s Republican National Convention protests.
Techniques honed from the “Battle in Seattle” in 1999, including penning up protesters with temporary fences or an orange mesh net, were deployed in 2004 and then exported to the UK in the past year, as student activists fighting their government’s attempt to impose fee hikes on university attendees found out when they were trapped outside in so-called “kettles” for hours in the cold, unable to leave.
The orange mesh net came out on Saturday and the #OccupyWallSt Twitter hashtag was filled with warnings from those who had been there in 2004. “Anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of the net, even if they were just out buying milk, is going to be arrested,” New York blogger and activist Phillip Anderson said.
The anger in 2004 stemmed from two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the GOP’s politicization of the September 11 attacks, while the protests now are aimed squarely at Big Business and indeed at least some of the protesters would be happy if government would take action against the big banks. Camille Raneem, who has been at the occupation since the beginning, told me that she voted for Obama in 2008, but found herself getting involved in activism when the things she’d hoped to see didn’t happen.
“I’ve been waiting for this for three years,” she said. And like many in 2004, she was angered by Guantanamo Bay, and the crackdowns on civil liberties of the Bush administration—things she sees continuing under Obama, and proved this week when many of the Wall Street protesters were arrested.
Many of the overzealous police moves in the past have been around political rallies or events where there were diplomats, politicians, world leaders involved that police could perhaps be justified in claiming a need to protect. Who was being protected in Union Square from girls behind an orange mesh net?
But though the police overreaction caught everyone’s attention, crackdowns on political protests are nothing new—anyone who remembers Chicago in 1968 could tell you that. What’s new now is the way information is both being spread, lightning-quick on Twitter and Facebook, videos uploaded instantly from smartphones to YouTube to go viral, and the way that same information is being suppressed, or used against people.
From Hacktivism to the Streets
Imagine Bull Connor, the infamous Birmingham, Alabama Commissioner of Public Safety, who authorized the use of fire hoses and attack dogs against civil rights protesters, in the age of YouTube and Google. Imagine videos of peaceful activists zapped around the world at the touch of a button, uploaded in seconds from a smartphone in Martin Luther King Jr.’s pocket.
That’s what protesters in New York and around the country are counting on as they risk arrest.
The protests were organized on the Internet; they weren’t taken seriously by many. The crowds at Zuccotti Park were shrugged off as dirty hippies, angry kids, incoherent. So were Anonymous and Lulzsec, two of the most prominent hacker “collectives,” until they showed that they could take down Visa and Mastercard.
The gradual politicization of Anonymous and the other hacktivism groups has seemed incoherent at times, but they’ve always stood for a loose sort of Internet freedom, jumping to the defense of WikiLeaks against both government and corporate attacks. In June, LulzSec and Anonymous declared Operation Anti-Security, making explicit the link between government power and big banks:
“Top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including email spools and documentation. Prime targets are banks and other high-ranking establishments.”
What they are opposed to is power and control. Which is why it makes perfect sense that hacktivists from Anonymous are supposedly down in Zuccotti Park, the Guy Fawkes masks they cribbed from Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta as a badge of identity (and occasionally an excuse to arrest them). They are fighting the power out from behind a computer, putting their bodies on the line.
The Internet, after all, was a military invention, paid for with government dollars. It took the form we know it by now because the people creating it couldn’t stop using it to talk to one another. Like the surveillance state itself, the ‘net moved from the military to corporations, a center for profit. Yet despite the intentions of the tech companies who may or may not be intentionally obstructing the attempts of the Occupy Wall Street movement to get the word out (accusations of censoring emails have been raised against Yahoo and many have complained that Twitter is preventing #occupywallstreet from becoming a trending topic despite the frequency of tweets using the hashtag), the Internet still works best as a way for people to talk to one another, and it has been these protesters’ ally, allowing them to get their message heard.
And after the ability of Hosni Mubarak’s regime to effectively shut down the Internet during Egypt’s revolution, a group of scholars and activists have been working on creating alternative networks to use in case of a similar government or corporate crackdown:
“At the heart of the movement is the idea that seemingly mundane technical specifications of Internet routers and social-networking software platforms have powerful political implications. In virtual realms, programmers essentially set the laws of physics, or at least the rules of interaction, for their cyberspaces. If it sometimes seems that media pundits treat Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Apple’s Steve Jobs as gods, that’s because in a sense they are—sitting on Mount Olympus with the power to hurl digital thunderbolts with a worldwide impact on people.
Instead of just complaining, many of those heading to New York next month believe they can build alternatives that reduce the power of those virtual deities and give more control to mere mortals.”
Marisa Holmes, a filmmaker who has been part of the media team at the occupation and who was one of those arrested Saturday the 24th, told me, “We know we’re going to get shut down eventually. We’re preparing for a long-term occupation, that includes not only physical space but digital space. Occupy the media.”
Their systems are not ultra-sophisticated but they are impressive for a week’s worth, for something that was planned very loosely on the Internet. They have a power source and wireless Internet access in the square, a media team huddled around laptops all day long making sure the word gets out, keeping in touch with supporters around the world. They’re making long-term plans, testing ideas, building community.
For the remainder of this article, please go here.