A friend recently posted a lovely image on Facebook. In sum, it said “2011 was the year of transformation, 2012 was the year of culmination, and 2013 will be the year of upliftment.”
I couldn’t help but realize that this summary parallels the growth, change, and struggles of the Occupy Wall Street movement quite nicely. The revolution started in September 2011, with a few people who set up camp in Zuccotti Park and refused to leave. Since then, it’s grown into a global movement, a social hack and a solution to the corruption and hierarchical paralysis that runs rampant in our governments and society.
After Hurricane Sandy, Occupy Sandy Relief once again got the attention of mainstream media, with headlines declaring that “Occupy is Back.” Those who’ve been participating and paying attention know that Occupy never went away, nor will it while there are still members of the 99% willing to stand up to corporate oppressors.
To celebrate the indestructableness of this people-powered movement, we’ve gathered up five of our favorite moments from the Occupy movement in 2012. We hope this list will inspire you to Occupy in the New Year. Whether it’s shopping local, joining a direct action, running for office or simply sharing with your neighbors, there are plenty of ways to build community and disrupt the status quo.
We can write petitions to the President and form protest lines in front of banks, but the power to change laws (at least in America) lies solely in the hands of Congress. So, in early 2012, that’s where Occupiers went. Planned to coincide with the House of Representatives’ first day back to work after its winter vacation, Occupy Congress was a day of action designed to capture the attention of the very politicians who are charged with representing the interests of the 99%. Actions included a multi-occupational General Assembly, teach-ins, an OCCUParty, a pink slip for every congressional “representative” and a march on all three branches of what protesters say is “a puppet government that sold our rights and our futures to the 1%.”
Despite the violent eviction that occurred in November 2011, Occupiers in New York City pledged to carry on the good work. That promise was bolstered by a brief but symbolic re-occupation of Zuccotti Park in March 2012. Occupy Wall Street’s message was simple: prepare for a radical spring.
“Chants of ‘a-anti-anti-capitalista’ were more frequent and more broadly based than I had ever heard at an Occupy Wall Street event, suggesting that the movement has begun to coalesce around an ideological principle,” writes J.A. Myerson for Truthout. “A small group of protesters had put up what police were calling a ‘structure,’ which consisted of a dozen or so unfurled cardboard boxes, draped over a banner hung between two trees. This provided occasion for the New York Police Department’s own tone-setting action. The NYPD’s message: prepare for a violent spring.”
Minutes later, hundreds of officers clad in swat gear descended on the park, arresting over 100 peaceful protesters.
On May 1st, Occupy Wall Street held its first major action of 2012: the first truly nationwide general strike in U.S. history.
“Building on the international celebration of May Day, past General Strikes in U.S. cities like Seattle and Oakland, the recent May 1st Day Without An Immigrant demonstrations, the national general strikes in Spain this year, and the on-going student strike in Quebec, the Occupy Movement has called for A Day Without the 99% on May 1st, 2012. This in and of itself is a tremendous victory,” read the OccupyWallSt.org website.
In New York City, thousands of workers — representing hundreds of different nationalities, industries and age groups — marched, spoke, demonstrated and shared knowledge with fellow members of the 99% in hopes that 2012 would finally be the year when corruption and social injustice would finally be exposed in America. Since the May Day action, America and indeed the rest of the world have seen rolling strikes as oppressed workers speak out against the greed and criminal activities of the 1%.
When Superstorm Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard late October 2012, it wasn’t a surprise. Meteorologists had forecast the impending hurricane for weeks. What was surprising was how unprepared New York City and the surrounding areas were to face it. Homes, businesses, roads and the subway system were almost instantly submerged in contaminated water. Electricity was cut off to millions of people, leaving those who remained in their homes without heat or power.
FEMA was deployed and The American Red Cross started up its all too familiar text-to-donate campaign, but reports of residents without shelter and supplies continued to pour in. Building on its legacy of mutual aid and community support, Occupy Wall Street organizers sprang into action. The same efforts that helped OWS grow into a worldwide movement helped them fan out across New York to deliver aid including medicines, blankets, food and water, as part of the Occupy Sandy initiative.
Some, especially in Staten Island, Red Hook and the Rockaways, reported that Occupy Sandy volunteers were the only relief workers they ever saw. In true 1% fashion, Mayor Bloomberg initially praised the Occupiers for lending a helping hand to their fellow New Yorkers, then sent police to shut it down.
Thanks to a broken healthcare system, millions of Americans are drowning in medical debt. What few people realize is that distressed debt is often sold for pennies on the dollar. Members of Occupy offshoot Strike Debt organized a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed to buy this debt, announcing that they would then immediately pay it off, no questions asked, no fees to the former debt holder. Just last month the group announced the Rolling Jubilee campaign raised nearly half a million dollars — enough to buy and forgive nearly $10 million of debt. And in late December, the activists gathered to send out notifications to the unsuspecting recipients of this first round of debt forgiveness.
Image via Dr. Tongs/Flickr