Friday, September 14, 2012 4:25 PM
This post originally appeared on Shareable.net.
Last year, on September 17, a
group of about 1000 people gathered in Bowling
Green to attempt to Occupy
Wall Street, whatever that meant. For those of us who’d been participating
in the planning assemblies all August, well, it went a little better than any
of us imagined it would. 2012 has seen less world-changing protest than 2011,
with Arab Spring, Walkerville in Wisconsin, the Indignados
movement in Spain, the uprisings in Greece and Israel, the London riots, the
Wukan commune and of course, Occupy. Still, 2012 has seen Occupy Nigeria, huge student movements in Chile and Quebec,
Mayday, corruption protests in India,
organizing around Trayvon Martin, and, with the escalating teachers’ strike in Chicago and a potential
East and West coast port shutdown, a still developing but potentially powerful
chain of strikes. The world is changed, changed utterly, and there is no doubt
in my mind that the next decade will see increasingly wild and escalating
peoples’ movements throughout the globe.
But as Occupy Wall Street ‘turns one year old’,
the vision for the movement is shakier. This weekend, leading up to a mass
day of action for September 17, Occupy organizers have planned a series of
events: an open ended educational
rally at Washington Square Park and an anti-capitalist
march uptown on September 15th, a march and party at Foley Square and Zuccotti on the 16th,
and an “anarchists against capitalism” march and rally on the big day,
Monday, 9/17, at Zuccotti park, including an attempted shut down of Wall
Street. Not to be flanked or caught off-guard again, the NYPD have already installed
cement barriers around Zuccotti, making it look more like a security checkpoint
in the Middle East than a public park in downtown Manhattan.
As we move towards OWS’ first
big day since the lukewarm success of Mayday, it seems like there’s a lot at
stake, and it's hard to imagine how we can turn it into something lasting. For
one thing, it’s clear that the militarized, misanthropic police forces of
America (perhaps even the world) will never let people establish another
occupation in a public park—from the spring’s attempted re-occupations of a
series of parks in Manhattan to the Gill Tract farm occupation in Berkeley,
police and owners have shown an absolute unwillingness to allow another
occupation to take hold. Even building occupations, like the 888 Turk
occupation in San Francisco,
have been responded to with immediate crackdown.
And while this behavior of the
police’s is vile and authoritarian, they’re strategically right not to allow an
inch. OWS produced a rupture in the ‘post-political’ ‘after-history’ narrative
that Neoliberalism loves to tell itself, and proved that resistance to
austerity and marketization is a real force, both here and abroad. And Occupy
opened up new communities of resistance and new territories for struggle across
the country while radicalizing thousands. The media narrative that “OWS changed
the dialogue” is a purposefully miniscule claim. The real effects of Occupy are
harder to nail down but much more meaningful.
Still, what of September 17th?
It’s hard to say. In some ways, the feeling is similar to that we were
experiencing this time last year: how many people will show up? Will we be
immediately shut down by the NYPD? What will it end up meaning? But there’s a
lack now too: an original energy, an excitement that marked last summer is
missing. We want a new rupture to explode, but no one agrees on how to make it
Until the 17th, it seems, there
will be more questions than answers. What does it mean to ‘celebrate’ a year
since Occupy’s appearance? Is Occupy still a meaningful force in people’s
lives? In America?
Can September 17th lead to a new phase of struggle in New York, or will it be the end to a
movement that was always hard to capture under a single rubric anyway? Even the
impulse towards prognostication seems to portend an unhappy result.
But this pessimism of the
intellect also hides something fundamental about Occupy. While we may never
have a camp in downtown Manhattan
again (or, at least, not until we’re much more powerful) the downstream effects
and inspiration of Occupy are everywhere. The militancy of the Chicago
Teacher’s Strike, the biggest such strike in generations, reflects a new
capacity for grassroots struggle inspired by Walkerville in Wisconsin and by Occupy. (Of course, it also
reflects a tremendous amount of hard work and organization within the union by
its new leading coalition, which should not be overlooked). Occupy has helped
open up a space for radical action in America, and that space still has
not closed. Whatever the future holds for Occupy Wall Street, whatever the
results of September 17 (and, if you’re in New York, I hope to see you there!) we live
in a new phase of grassroots action and social struggle.
A few more
Occupy articles to read: Solidarity During Wartime in the Streets of Chicago, Occupy Main Street: Reports from the Front-Lines, From Foreclosure to Occupation, The Park and the Protests
Image by DoctorTongs, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, October 17, 2011 10:35 AM
This post originally appeared at TomDispatch.
These last weeks, there have been two “occupations” in lower Manhattan, one of which has been getting almost all the coverage -- that of the demonstrators camping out in Zuccotti Park. The other, in the shadows, has been hardly less massive, sustained, or in its own way impressive -- the police occupation of the Wall Street area.
On a recent visit to the park, I found the streets around the Stock Exchange barricaded and blocked off to traffic, and police everywhere in every form (in and out of uniform) -- on foot, on scooters, on motorcycles, in squad cars with lights flashing, on horses, in paddy wagons or minivans, you name it. At the park’s edge, there is a police observation tower capable of being raised and lowered hydraulically and literally hundreds of police are stationed in the vicinity. I counted more than 50 of them on just one of its sides at a moment when next to nothing was going on -- and many more can be seen almost anywhere in the Wall Street area, lolling in doorways, idling in the subway, ambling on the plazas of banks, and chatting in the middle of traffic-less streets.
This might be seen as massive overkill. After all, the New York police have already shelled out an extra $1.9 million, largely in overtime pay at a budget-cutting moment in the city. When, as on Thursday, 100 to 150 marchers suddenly headed out from Zuccotti Park to circle Chase Bank several blocks away, close to the same number of police -- some with ominous clumps of flexi-cuffs dangling from their belts -- calved off with them. It’s as if the Occupy Wall Street movement has an eternal dark shadow that follows it everywhere.
At one level, this is all mystifying. The daily crowds in the park remain remarkably, even startlingly, peaceable. (Any violence has generally been the product of police action.) On an everyday basis, a squad of 10 or 15 friendly police officers could easily handle the situation. There is, of course, another possibility suggested to me by one of the policemen loitering at the Park’s edge doing nothing in particular: “Maybe they’re peaceable because we’re here.” And here's a second possibility: as my friend Steve Fraser, author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace, said to me, “This is the most important piece of real estate on the planet and they’re scared. Look how amazed we are. Imagine how they feel, especially after so many decades of seeing nothing like it.”
And then there’s a third possibility: that two quite separate universes are simply located in the vicinity of each other and of what, since September 12, 2001, we’ve been calling Ground Zero. Think of it as Ground Zero Doubled, or think of it as the militarized recent American past and the unknown, potentially inspiring American future occupying something like the same space. (You can, of course, come up with your own pairings, some far less optimistic.) In their present state, New York’s finest represent a local version of the way this country has been militarized to its bones in these last years and, since 9/11, transformed into a full-scale surveillance-intelligence-homeland-security state.
Their stakeout in Zuccotti Park is geared to extreme acts, suicide bombers, and terrorism, as well as to a conception of protest and opposition as alien and enemy-like. They are trying to herd, lock in, and possibly strangle a phenomenon that bears no relation to any of this. They are, that is, policing the wrong thing, which is why every act of pepper spraying or swing of the truncheon, every aggressive act (as in the recent eviction threat to “clean” the park) blows back on them and only increases the size and coverage of the movement.
Though much of the time they are just a few feet apart, the armed state backing that famed 1%, or Wall Street, and the unarmed protesters claiming the other 99% might as well be in two different times in two different universes connected by a Star-Trekkian wormhole and meeting only where pepper spray hits eyes.
Which means anyone visiting the Occupy Wall Street site is also watching a strange dance of phantoms. Still, we do know one thing. This massive semi-militarized force we continue to call “the police” will, in the coming years, only grow more so. After all, they know but one way to operate.
Right now, for instance, over crowds of protesters the police hover in helicopters with high-tech cameras and sensors, but in the future there can be little question that in the skies of cities like New York, the police will be operating advanced drone aircraft. Already, as Nick Turse indicates in his groundbreaking report [at TomDispatch], the U.S. military and the CIA are filling the global skies with missile-armed drones and the clamor for domestic drones is growing. The first attack on an American neighborhood, not one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, or Libya, surely lurks somewhere in our future. Empires, after all, have a way of coming home to roost.
Read Nick Turse's essay, “America's Secret Empire of Drone Bases” at TomDispatch.com >>
Image by WarmSleepy, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008 2:39 PM
New York City police officers are the latest group to be caught up in America’s scandalous national pastime: steroid investigations. The probe, spearheaded by the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, stems from the sketchy diagnosis of dozens of young officers and civilian NYPD employees with hypogonadism—a condition that causes low testosterone, typically in men over 60—according to a recent article in the Village Voice. The common treatment for hypogonadism is steroids, which have been prescribed to at least 39 NYPD officers and employees, according to the Village Voice’s in-depth look at the sordid story, which broke in October. The investigation doesn’t just target cops. Alleged involvement includes a Brooklyn mom and pop pharmacy-turned-drug-lab, exclusive Beverly Hills anti-aging clinics, and even the Gambino crime family. Although the ultimate target of the investigation will most likely be distributors of the steroids, buff cops suffering from ’roid rage should earn a top spot on the NYPD’s list of concerns.
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