hese past several months have witnessed something very different in the US. People from many different walks of life came together to occupy public space in nearly 1,000 cities in the US. They stood up to vicious police violence, they broke through the confines of “protest as usual,” and in the middle of all that, they built community. Even in the face of media attempts to ridicule, distort, and demonize these protests, their basic message began to get through. People throughout the US – and even the world – took notice of and took heart from these brave and creative protesters.
The political terms of discourse began to shift; the iced-over thinking of people in the US began to thaw. Standing up to the unjust brutality and arrests became a badge of honor. People began to listen to and read the stories of some of the victims of this economic crisis, and to share their own. And most of all, as the protests spread to city after city, the fact of people occupying public space forced open debate and raised big questions among millions as to what kind of society this is, and what it should be. Why does such poverty and need exist in the face of a relative handful of people amassing obscene amounts of wealth? Why do the political institutions of society seem only to serve that handful? Why do so many youth feel they face such a bleak future? Why does the insane destruction of the environment continue to accelerate? And what is needed to overcome all this?
Those who actually wield power in this country regarded these protests, and these questions, as dangerous, and reacted accordingly. Time and again those who wield power violated their own laws and ordered police to pepper spray, beat with clubs, and shoot tear gas canisters at the heads of people who were doing nothing more than non-violently expressing their dissent and seeking community.
This reached a peak in the recent coordinated and systematic attacks of the past few weeks against all the major occupations. In fact, the mayor of Oakland admitted on BBC to being part of conference calls that coordinated national strategy against the occupiers. On top of all that, and in another blatant show of illegitimate force and power, they attempted to prevent journalists and photographers from covering these acts of repression – unless they were “embedded” with the police.
To put the matter bluntly, but truly: the state planned and unleashed naked and systematic violence and repression against people attempting to exercise rights that are supposed to be legally guaranteed. This response by those who wield power in this society is utterly shameful from a moral standpoint, and thoroughly illegitimate from a legal and political one.
Now this movement faces a true crossroads. Will it be dispersed, driven into the margins, or co-opted? Or will it come back stronger? This question now poses itself, extremely sharply.
One thing is clear already: if this illegitimate wave of repression is allowed to stand… if the powers-that-be succeed in suppressing or marginalizing this new movement … if people are once again “penned in” – both literally and symbolically – things will be much worse. THIS SUPPRESSION MUST BE MASSIVELY OPPOSED, AND DEFEATED.
On the other hand, this too is true: movements grow, and can only grow, by answering repression with even greater and more powerful mobilization.
The need to act is urgent.
As a first step in the necessary response, there must be a massive political mobilization on a day, or days, very soon to say NO! to this attempt to suppress thought and expression with brutality and violence. This mobilization should most of all be in New York, where this movement started … but it should at the same time be powerfully echoed all around the country and yes, around the world. This is a call for massive demonstrations – soon – carried out in public spaces where they can have maximum impact and exposure and where the authorities cannot pen in, suppress, and otherwise attempt to marginalize these demonstrations.
These demonstrations must be large enough to show clearly that people will not tolerate that which is intolerable … that people will not adjust to that which is so manifestly unjust. Such demonstrations, along with the efforts to reach out and build them, can draw many more people from passive sympathy into active support and can awaken and inspire even millions more who have not yet been reached. Such demonstrations can powerfully answer the attempt by “the 1%” to crush and/or derail this broad movement. Thousands and thousands in the streets, acting together, can seize new initiative and change the whole political equation. The urgent questions raised by Occupy – and other urgent questions that have yet to be raised in this movement – can once more reverberate, and more powerfully than before.
The repression of the Occupy movement must not stand. Act.
Signers of this Call include:
Prof. Cornel West
Gbenga Akinnagbe, actor on the HBO series “The Wire”
Fr. Luis Barrios
Renate Bridenthal, Professor of History, Brooklyn College, CUNY, retired
Elaine Brower, World Can’t Wait & Military Families Speak Out
Craig Phipps, Ombudsman, Casa Esperanza
Cynthia Carlson, artist
Nina Felshin, independent curator
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, NYC
Camille Hankins, Founder and Director: Win Animal Rights and No Kill New York
Ray Hill, producer/host of Ray on the Raydio Internet radio show, Houston, TX
Lee Siu Hin, National Coordinator, National Immigrant Solidarity Network
Rev. Dr. James Karpen, Church of St Paul and St Andrew, New York City
Chuck Kaufman, Executive Director, Alliance for Global Justice
Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem
Jim Long, artist
Waqas Malik, artist
Lydia Matthews, Dean of Academic Programs, Associate Dean of Parsons/ Professor
Ann Messner, artist
Dorinda Moreno, Fuerza Mundial / FM Global / Hitec Aztec, US Liaison Secretariat, International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement/TICPM
Nick Mottern, ConsumersforPeace.org & kNOwdrones.org
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
Bradley Olson, Psychologist, Activist
The Rt. Rev. George E. Packard, Retired Bishop of the Episcopal Church for the Armed Services and Federal Ministries
Suzanne Ross, PH.D., Clinical Psychologist
David E. Rousline, Ph.D. Berkeley CA
Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, New Sanctuary Movement
Jayce Salloum, artist, Vancouver
Donna Schaper, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church
Stephen Soldz, Director, Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Rev. Max Surjadinata, Area Coordinator of Friends of Sabeel North America
David Swanson, warisacrime.org
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can’t Wait
Dennis Trainor, Jr, Writer, Producer & Host of Acronym TV
Marina Urbach, independent curator, other projects, New York
Nancy Vining Van Ness, Director, American Creative Dance
Jim Vrettos, Adjunct Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights