By Chris Hedges, from truthdig.com, October 9, 2011
Ketchup, a petite 22-year-old from Chicago with wavy red hair and glasses with bright red frames, arrived in Zuccotti Park in New York on Sept. 17. She had a tent, a rolling suitcase, 40 dollars’ worth of food, the graphic version of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and a sleeping bag. She had no return ticket, no idea what she was undertaking, and no acquaintances among the stragglers who joined her that afternoon to begin the Wall Street occupation. She decided to go to New York after reading the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which called for the occupation, although she noted that when she got to the park Adbusters had no discernable presence.
The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of Ketchup or any of the other scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? Those who worship money believe their buckets of cash, like the $4.6 million JPMorgan Chase gave a few days ago to the New York City Police Foundation, can buy them perpetual power and security. Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris.
Even now, three weeks later, elites, and their mouthpieces in the press, continue to puzzle over what people like Ketchup want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda?
The goal to people like Ketchup is very, very clear. It can be articulated in one word—REBELLION. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.
This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.
“The world can’t continue on its current path and survive,” Ketchup told me. “That idea is selfish and blind. It’s not sustainable. People all over the globe are suffering needlessly at our hands.”
The occupation of Wall Street has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. If the police shut down the encampment in New York tonight, the power elite will still lose, for this vision and structure have been imprinted into the thousands of people who have passed through park, renamed Liberty Plaza by the protesters. The greatest gift the occupation has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint is being transferred to cities and parks across the country.
“We get to the park,” Ketchup says of the first day. “There’s madness for a little while. There were a lot of people. They were using megaphones at first. Nobody could hear. Then someone says we should get into circles and talk about what needed to happen, what we thought we could accomplish. And so that’s what we did. There was a note-taker in each circle. I don’t know what happened with those notes, probably nothing, but it was a good start. One person at a time, airing your ideas. There was one person saying that he wasn’t very hopeful about what we could accomplish here, that he wasn’t very optimistic. And then my response was that, well, we have to be optimistic, because if anybody’s going to get anything done, it’s going be us here. People said different things about what our priorities should be. People were talking about the one-demand idea. Someone called for AIG executives to be prosecuted. There was someone who had come from Spain to be there, saying that she was here to help us avoid the mistakes that were made in Spain. It was a wide spectrum. Some had come because of their own personal suffering or what they saw in the world.”
By Kim Mackrael and Justine Hunter, Globe and Mail, |October 9, 2011
One week before Occupy Wall Street-style demonstrations are expected to begin in hundreds of locations around the world, organizers in several Canadian cities are holding meetings to muster their numbers and iron out their plans for the event.
Demonstrators in New York have occupied a park in the city’s financial district for three weeks, holding frequent marches through the streets to express their frustration with the gap between the world’s wealthiest individuals and everyone else.
In Vancouver, organizers are expecting the B.C. Federation of Labour to add its clout – and organizing skills – to the occupation that is set to begin Oct. 15 outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.
In Toronto, nearly 300 people gathered in Berczy Park on Friday for a three-hour meeting on this week’s demonstration. Protesters in the city plan to occupy a space near Toronto’s financial district, but they have not yet settled on a location.
Vancouver police are being kept informed of plans in that city in a bid to keep the demonstration family-friendly, said Min Reves, one of the organizers. “In Vancouver we have a huge number of people who don’t consider themselves activists. Having opened the channel of communication with police, allows them transparency they wanted so they can safely bring their kids,” she said after a packed meeting Saturday set a loose framework for what she promised will be an indefinite occupation.
“We plan to isolate and identify any individuals with violent behaviour. Kids come first.”
Organizers in Toronto, however, have cut off communications with police, reflecting residual anger over policing response to last year’s G20 protests.
The Toronto group has no recognized spokespeople. Its most active organizers are reluctant to speak publicly out of a concern that they could be viewed as leaders in a movement they are trying hard to keep open and leaderless.
Occupy Vancouver is also operating on a consensus basis. Ken Keslo, another self-identified organizer, said a number of participants objected to plans to co-operate with police but they did not win over the crowd that gathered Saturday to strategize.
He is hopeful the BC Federation of Labour and other unions will join to help deliver a mainstream, peaceful demonstration. “I believe the BC Fed will officially announce their support on Tuesday. They definitely have their concerns but I believe they will be there.”
A spokesman for the BC Fed said Sunday no decision has been made.
In Toronto, where the Occupy movement has attracted a mix of experienced activists and newcomers to protests, even coming to an agreement on process was a challenge. “There’s no consensus on having consensus,” one man shouted following a long discussion about the relative merits of voting.