by Will Potter
City by city, it's growing. If you have been watching the rise of Occupy
Wall Street from the sidelines, maybe it's because you're not sure if you're
part of the "99 percent" or maybe it's because you just have other things to
do. Here's the thing: This is bigger than one person, one issue, or one
1) Corporations are destroying the planet. And, as
Bill McKibben wrote, "For too
long, Wall Street has been occupying the offices of our government, and the
cloakrooms of our legislatures." The first official
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City articulated some of the
many facets of this movement, including environmental and animal rights
concerns. Here are a few highlights:
"As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass
injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so
that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can
know that we are your allies..
2) Corporations are attacking you. Since the 1980s, corporations have campaigned to label activists as "eco-terrorists." They have pushed for outrageous prison sentences of activists like Tim DeChristopher. They have lobbied for federal legislation like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and state legislation to label civil disobedience as "eco-terrorism." They are doing everything in their power to marginalize and disrupt the environmental and animal rights movements. (In other words, as this clever Greenpeace video depicts, they're afraid of you.) Rather than protesting bill by bill, arrest by arrest, this is an opportunity to challenge the true problem: unchecked corporate power.
3) You have experiences to share about tactics. Occupy Wall Street has locked arms to blockade the banks, and marched to the mansions of millionaires. Sound familiar? More than 800 environmentalists were arrested in a massive civil disobedience against the XL Pipeline. And the SHAC campaign brought a multinational corporation near bankruptcy through a diversity of tactics including home demonstrations. This obviously isn't to say that environmentalists and animal rights activists created tactics like civil disobedience or home demonstrations, but they have, more than any other contemporary social movement, put them to unique and effective use targeting corporations. There are lessons to be shared-- good, bad, and ugly-- that will benefit everyone.
4) You have experiences to share about dealing with corporate and government repression. Occupy Wall Street has already seen some of the overt tactics used to target social movements, such as the police beating and pepper-spraying activists. As this movement grows, however, so will the proportionate backlash. You have experiences with informants, infiltrators, and corporate espionage. You have resisted grand jury witch hunts and fought back against restraining orders and injunctions. You have defeated draconian state legislation and organized effective prisoner support campaigns. To be clear, ya'll aren't alone! Other social movements have dealt with, are dealing with, this as well. But the backlash against the animal rights and environmental movements, the "Green Scare," is a case study in all the post 9/11 tools available to corporations and those who represent them. I've sounded like a broken record on this website, but I'll say it again. There's nothing inevitable about any of this. By coming together and sharing experiences, we can coordinate and fight back.
5) This is bigger than all of us. By "this" I don't mean Occupy Wall
Street (although that's part of it). I mean the task at hand. We all, out of
necessity, focus on the issues that are most dear to us. We have limited
time, limited money, limited resources. That's why, for instance, I have
carved out the field of work that I have. But listen: there are times for
carving out our niches, and times for doing the hard work, the messy and
uncomfortable and frustrating work, of trying to connect all of the pieces.
Animal rights activists and environmentalists are often pegged by the
broader, capital-L "Left" as "single issue," but I have never found that to
be true. This is an opportunity for all of us to share, as the Zapatista
saying goes, "One no, many yeses."
In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German
worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by censors,
he tells his friends: "Let's establish a code: if a letter you will get from
me is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink,
it is false." After a month, his friends get the first letter written in
blue ink: "Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant,
apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the
West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair -- the only thing
unavailable is red ink." And is this not our situation till now? We have all
the freedoms one wants -- the only thing missing is the red ink: we feel free
because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. What this
lack of red ink means is that, today, all the main terms we use to designate
the present conflict -- 'war on terror,' 'democracy and freedom,' 'human
rights,' etc -- are FALSE terms, mystifying our perception of the situation
instead of allowing us to think it.
Want to take action? Start at the Occupy Wall Street main website. What are you planning in your city?