Occupy Wall Street

occupy wall street protests photo taken by Tina Fineberg

As OCCUPY WALL STREET continues to build momentum and enters its third week of protests, people continue to try to understand what it is that is happening exactly on the streets of NYC.

occupywallst.org describes it as a “…leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”

In NY several major unions have decided to endorse the protests. “It’s really simple. These young people on Wall Street are giving voice to many of the problems that working people in America have been confronting over the last several years,” said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which has 20,000 members in the New York area.

The attempt by the conservative and even liberal mainstream media to discredit the ongoing protest by calling it, among other things “confusing, chaotic, a hippie drum circle, disorganized” is particularly poignant when you consider the enthusiastic response, instant credibility and massive amount of attention that was given to the “Tea Party movement” (we prefer to call them “Tea Baggers” (credit to Bill Maher for that term) ).  The Tea Baggers began as a disjointed, rambling group of racist, ignorant conservatives and today, they refer to themselves as political party. (And of course they are still rambling, racist, ignorant conservatives).

We are excited to follow the Occupy Wall Street protests and show solidarity for those who are there fighting for change to the financial structure of the United States, and those who are there standing up and fighting to make their voices heard within the Occupy Wall Street protests – voices of people of color, women, indigenous people, poor people, and LGBTQ people.

‘So Real It Hurts, Notes on Occupy Wall Street’ written by longtime NYC activist Manissa McCleave Maharawal, and published by Left Turn Magazine, is a truly inspiring account of her experience with Occupy Wall Street that everyone should read – it’s about being there at the Occupy Wall Street protests, working to create change within a progressive movement, racism and the importance of allies, the gains everyone can make by respecting the voices of people who are often marginalized in these highly visible types of demonstrations, understanding anti-oppression, people of color raising their voices and once again bearing the weight of other people’s ignorance to combat racism and oppression…..This is a piece that we hope all our LGBTQ readers and LGBTQ allies read and find as inspiring as we did!

So Real it Hurts – Notes on Occupy Wall Street

by Manissa McCleave Maharawal

I first went down to Occupy Wall Street last Sunday, almost a week after it had started. I didn’t go down before because I, like many of my other brown friends, was wary of what we had heard or just intuited that it was mostly a young, white male scene. When I asked friends about it they said different things: that it was really white; that it was all people they didn’t know; and that they weren’t sure what was going on. But after hearing about the arrests and police brutality on Saturday, September 24th and after hearing that thousands of people had turned up for their march I decided I needed to see this thing for myself.

So I went down for the first time on Sunday, September 25th with my friend Sam. At first we couldn’t even find Occupy Wall Street. We biked over the Brooklyn Bridge around noon on Sunday, dodging the tourists and then the cars on Chambers Street. We ended up at Ground Zero and I felt the deep sense of sadness that that place now gives me: sadness over how, what is now in essence just a construction site, changed the world so much for the worse. I also felt a deep sense of sadness for all the tourists taking pictures of a place where many people died ten years ago which  is now a testament to capitalism, imperialism, torture, and oppression.

Sam and I get off our bikes and walk. We are looking for Liberty Plaza. We are looking for somewhere less alienating. For a moment we feel lost. We walk past the department store Century 21 and laugh about the killer combination of tourists, discount shopping and the World Trade Center. The landscape is strange. I notice that. We are in the shadow of half built buildings. They glitter and twist into the sky. But they also seem so naked: rust colored steel poking its way out of their tops and their sides, their guts spilling out for all to see.

Liberty Plaza We get to Liberty Plaza and at first it is almost unassuming. We didn’t entirely know what to do. We wandered around. We made posters and laid them on the ground (our posters read: “We are all Troy Davis”, “Whose streets? Our streets!”, and “Tired of Racism, Tired of Capitalism”). I didn’t know anyone down there. Not one person. And there were a lot of young white kids. But there weren’t only young white kids. There were older people, there were mothers with kids, and there were a lot more people of color than I expected, something that made me relieved. We sat on the stairs and watched everyone mill around us. There was the normal protest feeling of people moving around in different directions, not sure what to do with themselves, but within this there was also order: a food table, a library, a busy media area.

Actually, there was order and disorder, organization and confusion. I watched as a man carefully changed his clothing, folding each piece he took off and placing them carefully under a tarp. I used the bathroom at the McDonalds up Broadway and there were two booths of people from the protest carrying out meetings, eating food from Liberty Plaza, sipping water out of water bottles, their laptops out. They seemed obvious yet also just part of the normal financial district hustle and bustle.

But even though at first I didn’t know what to do while I was at Liberty Plaza, I stayed there for a few hours. I was generally impressed and energized by what I saw. People seemed to be taking care of each other. There seemed to be a general feeling of solidarity, good ways of communicating with each other, less disorganization than I expected and everyone was very, very friendly. The whole thing was quite bizarre: the confused tourists not knowing what was going on; the police officers lining the perimeter; the mixture of young white kids with dreadlocks, anarchist punks, mainstream looking college kids, but also the awesome black women who were organizing the food station; the older man who walked around with his peace sign stopping and talking to everyone; a young black man named Chris from New Jersey who told me he had been there all week and he was tired but that he had come not knowing anyone, had made friends and now didn’t want to leave…please click here for the complete article