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Race and Occupy Wall Street

Rinku Sen | October 26, 2011 | Reposted from Nation.com The incident is well-known now. When civil rights hero Representative John Lewis asked to address Occupy Atlanta, the activists’ consensus process produced a decision not to let him speak. For many, the denial was a damning answer to a question that had arisen since the earliest, overwhelmingly white occupiers first took over Zuccotti Park: Is Occupy Wall Street diverse enough? “Diverse enough for what?” is the query that leaps to mind. Diversity alone will not ensure that OWS advances an economic change agenda that is racially equitable. The notion of taking over Wall Street clearly resonates with communities of color. Malik Rhassan and Ife Johari Uhuru, black activists from Queens, New York, and Detroit, respectively, started Occupy the Hood to encourage and make space for people of color to join the movement. On October 19, a different group, Occupy Harlem, put out “a call to Blacks, Latinos, and immigrants to occupy their communities against predatory investors, displacement, privatization and state repression.” Such interventions have been necessary. The original OWS organizers didn’t consciously reach out to communities of color at the beginning; as a result, many people of color felt alienated. But local movements seem able to self-correct—and some newer occupations have been racially conscious from the start. In Atlanta, the Lewis decision was followed by renaming Woodruff Park, the local occupation site, Troy Davis Park. In Albuquerque, the General Assembly, after a long and difficult discussion, renamed its movement (Un)Occupy Albuquerque in recognition of the history of indigenous lands. In San Diego, where October 10 was named Indigenous People’s Day, speakers have come from members of the Islamic Labor Caucus as well as immigrant and Native American communities. These are all great symbols of racial solidarity. We must now move from questions of representation to ask, How can a racial analysis, and its consequent agenda, be woven into the fabric of the movement? We need to interrogate not just the symptoms of inequality—the disproportionate loss of jobs, housing, healthcare and more—but, more fundamentally, the systems of inequality, considering how and why corporations create and exploit hierarchies of race, gender and national status to enrich themselves and consolidate their power. As the New Bottom Line campaign has pointed out through a series of actions across the nation launched the same week as OWS, the subprime lending practices of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have devastated communities of color. A 2009 study found that 85 percent of those hardest hit by foreclosures have been African-American and Latino homeowners. If racial exclusion and inequity are at the root of the problem, then inclusion and equity must be built into the solution. OWS has resisted making specific demands, but local groups are taking up campaigns and actions. The challenge and opportunity of this moment is to put these values at the center of their agenda. The signs are promising. In Boston, Occupiers joined a march that protested gentrification and financial abuse from a racial justice standpoint. In Oakland, the organization Just Cause/Causa Justa has inserted an anti-discrimination agenda, illustrated by a beautiful poster by artist and activist Melanie Cervantes reading, Somos El 99%, which is a prominent feature of the encampment there. (The poster exists in multiple other languages too.) New Bottom Line has asked Occupiers to make pointed, tangible demands of regulators and banks. Occupy Los Angeles has taken up actions supporting homeowners in the midst of foreclosure. A hearty response from other cities would go a long way toward legitimizing OWS as a movement that recognizes the fundamental role of racial discrimination in shaping our economy. As some Occupy cities are demonstrating, addressing race is far easier when there is already a history of white activists and those of color advancing common goals. In Flagstaff, Arizona, a city where activists have worked alongside Native communities for years, the local Occupy website features calls to resist a fake-snow-making scheme on a mountain sacred to Native tribes, as well as a plan by Senator John McCain and Representative Paul Gosar to reinstate uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. At Colorlines.com, which has covered the role of race in the Occupy movement, one commenter offered the example of Occupy Los Angeles—a city with a long history of collaborative economic justice campaigns with a clear race angle—as a model to emulate. “The LA folks seem to be able to reconcile how to fold race, monetary and social issues all into their messages,” she wrote. The Occupy movement is clearly unifying. Centralizing racial equity will help to sustain that unity. This won’t happen accidentally or automatically. It will require deliberate, smart, structured organizing that challenges segregation, not only that of the 1 percent from everyone else, but also that which divides the 99 percent from within.  

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Occupy Oakland Faces a Troubled Police Dept.—and Historic Mayor

By Roberto Lovato / Reposted from Colorlines.com Update @ 5:15pm ET: A YouTube video (below) is circulating of a protester who appears to have been struck in the face by a projectile fired by police, presumably one of many tear gas canisters police fired into the crowd during last night’s march. Huffington Post reports that the man is an Iraq war vet named Scott Olson, 24. Olson is reportedly in critical care, with swelling in his brain. In the video, as others rush to Olson’s aid, an officer fires what appears to be a flash-bang grenade into the crowd of people helping him.

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What Does Occupy Wall Street Have To Do With Internet Freedom and Media Reform? Everything!

by Mera Szendro Bok/ Reposted from communicationsisyourright.org The movement building skills and ability of the Occupy Wall Street Protesters have been a ray of hope for people around the globe. This movement is building in every major city in America, and the mainstream media outlets are finally mentioning the protests. The media outlets that are truly gathering the stories are the independent media outlets such as Free Speech TV, Democracy Now! and independent podcasts like Citizen Radio that are sharing the direct messages of articulate protesters and amplifying their voices. There are movements beginning, growing and ideas being shared RIGHT NOW that are the seeds of movements. The truth is that the success of these movements are threatened. To protect these movements and the voices of communities in America, we must channel a part of our energies towards creating our own media, supporting independent media and reforming media policy so it serves the public and innovation in America and around the world. For too long attention to the growing media reform movement has not been high enough on the majority of people’s priority list. With the internet being turned off in Egypt and BART employees in San Francisco turning off the cell phone service in subway stations, more people are realizing that people’s power over communications mediums are slipping away quickly. We can not stand for this. At the same time, those of us with access to internet and mobile device are increasingly connecting with each other, organizing meetups and protests that work to protect quality education, healthcare, jobs and the environment. Can you imagine what would happen to the Occupy Wall Street Movement if Americans lost access to internet right now? Access to open communications platforms is critical for the human species evolution and survival. WE THE PEOPLE MUST RECLAIM OPPORTUNITIES TO TRANSFORM THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE IN OUR COMMUNITIES AND COUNTRIES BY JOINING THE MOVEMENT FOR MEDIA REFORM AND INTERNET FREEDOM. People around the world must understand that the fight for better media is a fight for survival, because humanity will not evolve, or possibly even survive if we can not listen, communicate and learn from each other. We must be able to share solutions, actions, ideas about sustainability and solutions to economic turmoil including new economic models that will lead to the sustainability of our environment and economy. At the same time, we as a people need to understand that it’s not only important to create more opportunities to communicate. It’s also critical to be conscious of how we are sharing our messages and how well we are sincerely listening to each other, to truly understand each others contributions without harsh judgement. It’s important that we focus on each other’s strengths to find common ground and build solutions. I founded Communication is Your Right! (CIYR!) in 2009 and gathered together a great group of CIYR! organizers. Building this campaign has been an excellent way for us to collaborate with individuals and groups around the world that are advocating for open access to internet, as a part of the growing global internet freedom movement. My vision now with Communication Is Your Right! is that it continues to grow as a platform that supports the hard work of communications rights advocates around the world. The goal of CIYR! is to empower people through the fact that communication is a human right. We also encourage everyone to take a more active role in the media policy making process in your local communities and within your country. CIYR! supports policies that are increasing a diversity of voices in communities and access to communications platforms but also wants to hear from you about the policies your feel are silencing people and controlling access to communicate via internet, TV and radio. The vision that I see for transformational global communication acknowledges the powerful effects of media policy on communities but also acknowledges our need to evolve and heal in the way we communicate as people with ourselves and each other is possible and necessary. Questions, Comments about this post? Contact me at meraszendro at gmail dot com or @MeraSB  

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Occupy Oakland shut down

The Occupy Oakland sit-in was raided by police, they surrounded the area and forced everyone out. Here are some photos.

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(Un)occupy Albuquerque Connects Corporate Greed to Fight for Native Land

by Jorge Rivas Reposted from Colorlines The 99 percent movement that’s swept the country has reached Albuquerque, New Mexico. But organizers there have decided to alter the “Occupy” name out of respect for area’s indigenous communities, which have been forcibly occupied by the United States for centuries. Instead, organizers are calling their protests “(Un)occupy Albuquerque” to connect corporate greed with the ongoing fight for indigenous land rights.

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Occupy LA Joins News Corp. Protest

By Lisa Derrick/ Reposted from http://lafiga.firedoglake.com Friday, as the News Corp. Board of Directors held their annual shareholders meeting, close to two hundred demonstrators from Good Jobs LA, Brave New Foundation, NABET-CWA, Media and Democracy Coalition, Media Alliance, and Media Action Center joined with Occupy LA, AAVAZ.org, Free Press and Common Cause to protest the media giant’s behavior -including having politicians on their payroll as media commentators and authors, phone hacking and bribery, one-sided reporting, use of faulty statistics, bad governance, and most especially, not acting in the public interest.

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As the 99% are #OccupyingEverywhere. . .

Trainers at the Take Back the Dream Conference were offering interview tips for folks being interviewed by mainstream press. There was a strong emphasis on framing messages that would speak or appeal to the middle – that is the white middle class. Where then, I wonder, would the hundreds of people I work with through the Media Action Grassroots Network fit in?

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Tangles in the ties that bind

By Carolyn Cosmos / Reposted from Boulder Weekly It’s a well-known fact that prison inmates with strong family and community ties are less likely to wind up back inside the joint once they are released. So why are state prison systems, including Colorado’s, charging inmates high rates for phone calls, rates that discourage prisoners’ often frayed home attachments?