Tag Archives: Occupy

We are the 99% – 1890 Style

I recently started a part-time job at a library on campus, stamping and source-marking books and manuscripts in acquisitions. My first project has been to sort through a large array of broadside ballads and booklets of songs. Last Friday I happened upon something pretty great: the December 17, 1890 edition of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside & General Labourers’ Union of Great Britain & Ireland. The issue is a collection of labor songs, and one on the front page struck me as particularly linked to contemporary issues. Unsurprisingly, it seems workers chanted against the stark inequality of the top one percent long before last September. Here’s a scanned copy, with the text below.

“Chants of Labour,” from December, 1890.

“There are Ninety and Nine”

There are ninety and nine that work and die
In want and hunger and cold,
That one may live in luxury,
And be lapped in the silken fold!
And ninety and nine in their hovels bare,
And one in a palace of riches rare.
From the sweat of their brows the desert blooms,
And the forest before them falls;
Their labour has builded humble homes
And cities with lofted halls,
And the one owns cities and houses and lands,
And the ninety and nine have empty hands.
But the night so dreary and dark and long
At last shall the morning bring;
And over the land the victors’ song
Of the ninety and nine shall ring,
And echo afar, from zone to zone,
“Rejoice! for Labour shall have its own!”
 

Black Bloc Reading

If you’ve been following Occupy, you have probably heard about the recent debate over Black Bloc tactics. I don’t know if I’d ever engage in the more militant tactics of Black Bloc, but I also don’t think there’s anything “violent” about protecting fellow protesters and defending yourself. It’s also absurd to view the tactics as a menace to the movement or anything like that, to me at least. That said, you should do some reading if you’re interested in forming your own opinion.

Chris Hedges started the debate by calling the Black Bloc “the cancer of Occupy” and denouncing the tactic outright. David Graeber, one of the architects of Occupy Wall Street, responded with this open letter that provided both a history of the tactic and an analysis of Hedges’ argument. Additional reading should definitely include Susie Cagle’s on-the-ground analysis and this historical perspective at PhD Octopus.

Update: There is also good reading to do on the Black Freedom Movement and Chris Hedges’ misuse of history and on a look at Hedges’ Hypocrisies: Surgeons of Occupy. There’s a moderate “intervention” on the debate at Dissent Magazine and another at American Leftist.

Occupy Phoenix Finally Occupies

Earlier this week I posted some photos of the pre-occupation march and initial occupation at Cesar Chavez Plaza. On Wednesday I returned in between classes for a few minutes and then again in the evening for a few hours. It turned out to be a pretty big night for the occupation.

The water and food station near its height.

After the initial confrontation on Saturday, the occupation has been constantly in flux, shifting from plaza to sidewalk. The plaza closes at 6.00 in the evening, and around 5 or 5.30 occupiers pick up and move everything. Cars pull over to load up countless coolers of water and boxes of chips and bread, the first aid station is packed up, everything is taken off site. Protesters remain, but they remain within four feet of the road, on the periphery of the plaza – and they can’t sleep.

In a show of support, several businesses have tried to lend a hand. The Five Guys around the corner has offered its restrooms to occupiers, and those who can patronize there to return the favor. After Wednesday night’s General Assembly a large group walked there to buy dinner, and there was even a proposal to buy cleaning supplies and send crews to clean the bathroom for them as a sign of thanks. A cafe called Conspire has been a hub since the beginning, gathering food there even before the occupation began. On Wednesday there were rumors of the cafe extending its hours to allow occupiers to use the internet and get some rest.

Small emergency GA discusses staying in Cesar Chavez Plaza

On Wednesday, as it got closer to closing time, we began to pack things up. As we loaded water into a truck there was a sudden call for a time-sensitive GA. The police had decided to stop enforcing the plaza closure. It’s hard to say whether it was pressure of the City Manager (who had been somewhat shamed at a city council meeting earlier that morning when occupiers stated that he could have prevented the mass arrests Saturday night by giving an earlier warning) or from police department worries about putting sleep-deprived people on the edge of the road in the middle of the night, but either way they made their decision. We discussed the caveats as a group – sleeping would still be prohibited and no-camping rules were still in effect, and we were trying to figure out where that line fell.

That night, someone brought a kettle of warm pasta, which was a well-received change from the peanut butter sandwiches and chips that we had been eating. More and more people flowed in as we prepared for the general assembly. The number of occupiers has big spikes and lulls, like I’m sure many occupations have. Compared to what I’ve heard from people in New York and Oakland, the occupation in Phoenix doesn’t have the community feel just yet. It might be because there had been so much back-and-forth in the first few days. Last Saturday there was a market place and a library, but both seem to have been shelved during the move. Despite having lasted six days now, when I was in the plaza it felt temporary. During most of the day the plaza had one gazebo, a bench, a computer, and a collection of coolers – the rest was people and food. The authorities must be happy with this – it looks more like a birthday party at a park than a politically engaged and self-sustaining community, if not for the countless signs. But with the plaza opened indefinitely, I hope to see the occupation grow.

General Aseembly on Wednesday Night

It seems that the authorities are already trying to stymie the growth. As the police presence dwindled on Wednesday, the sergeant on the scene discussed with a couple of us some of the finer points of what would be allowed and what wouldn’t be. Right as he left, he told me that the media center – a desktop computer under a tree running the livestream – was borderline and might have to go.

This afternoon, the power to the plaza was cut, shutting down the media center and anything else the occupiers had plugged in. There are a handful of car batteries and two solar panel chargers, but the occupiers don’t have enough to provide power to the whole plaza. In addition (and maybe only because the power is out) the city WiFi network usually available at the plaza is also gone. The occupiers are currently marching, and there is a campaign going to call the mayor to convince him to turn the power back on. Meanwhile, it seems that while the plaza may be open to the occupiers to stay in, they won’t be able to sleep, camp, cook, record, connect, or organize. The city gives, but the city also takes away.

Photos from Occupy Phoenix

Occupy Phoenix has begun this week, although it’s had a rough time. I was only there for the very beginning, but plan on returning tomorrow and give you all another post. Here are some photos from days 0 and 1, followed by a short run-down of what I’ve missed.

Last Friday, there was a pre-occupation march through downtown Phoenix. It lasted a few hours, replete with lots of chanting at numerous locations before ending at Cesar Chavez Plaza, where a group of Arabs were demonstrating against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two groups joined up pretty seamlessly before an occupier read the Occupy Wall Street declaration and a band played some anarchist acoustics.

Pre-Occupation March snakes through downtown

Outside Chase Tower, chanting "Chase got bailed out! We got sold out!"

Crowding the Channel 12 studio

Protesting outside the BofA at Collier Center

Angry suit looks angry.

This is only about half the crowd (I was in the middle) headed towards Cesar Chavez Plaza.

The Syrian demonstration is joined by Occupy Phoenix.

Saturday, protesters returned to Cesar Chavez Plaza to begin the occupation. I arrived about an hour and a half after it began, and missed the armed presence of a local militia, which caused some controversy. What I saw was a small but thriving community. I didn’t get photos of everything, but there was a main circle of speakers outside City Hall, surrounded by smaller circles, a book store, a “free” market, a food table with bagels and pizza, a water station, and people signing petitions for an open primary. The whole plaza was well over 1,000 when I was there, I heard 2,000 quite often.

Speaking outside of Phoenix City Hall

My favorite sign.

Speaking about nonviolence in a smaller circle.

Everything else I know is from Twitter, the Downtown Devil’s Saturday coverage, and the livestream. Saturday night the crowd marched from the Plaza to Margaret T. Hance Park to set up camp. Phoenix Police warned that anybody in the park when it closed would be arrested. After initially claiming to be leaderless, the Occupy Phoenix crew eventually designated representatives to meet with city officials to negotiate a lawful occupation. It was around this time that a rumor circulated that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said that if the police arrested the protesters, he would come out to get arrested. In the end, the negotiations collapsed and the mayor never showed (later stating that his support was behind civil rights groups and anti-SB1070 groups). Police gave four warnings before marching in and arresting about 30 protesters, leading to this epic photograph.

A photo circulating on Twitter: Police close in on protesters on Saturday night.

Sunday morning, the occupation reconvened at Cesar Chavez Plaza early in the morning. A group of protesters marched to the 4th Ave. jail to demonstrate in solidarity with protesters inside, but left after finding out that their presence had put the jail on lock down, restricting visitation rights to the protesters inside. The occupation returned to Cesar Chavez Plaza until the park closed, at which time a Marine veteran and protester sat down and was arrested. Two more protesters were arrested while demonstrating in the middle of a street. The occupation slept on the sidewalks.

Monday’s protest was generally subdued. The occupation moved back into Cesar Chavez Plaza during the day, and was prohibited from sleeping on the ground at night. Protesters were mobile on the sidewalks of downtown, with live music and lots of coffee.

So far, today has seen a lot like yesterday from Twitter and livestream. For this evening’s general assembly, the protesters moved to a county island a block away from Cesar Chavez Plaza. This way they were able to conduct the assembly without worrying about Phoenix PD getting involved, although there were worries that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies might make an appearance to enforce loitering laws. I heard something about the Phoenix City Council meeting tomorrow regarding urban camping ordinance, and some plans to take part in that, although I’m not sure if it’s a protest or actual involvement in speaking at the meeting.

That’s all for now. More tomorrow!