Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Wall Street’

A word of advice to protesters

June 29, 2015
Micah White

Micah White

Thinking strategically, I believe it is very important never to protest directly against the police.

Because the police are actually made to absorb protest—the objective of the police is to dissipate your energy in protesting them so you’ll let alone the most sensitive parts of the repressive regime in which we live: politicians and big corporations.

We must protest more deeply.

via Micah White, PhD | Occupy Wall Street Cocreator.

Peace and protest: Links & comments 5/24/14

May 24, 2014

The Judicial Frame-Up of Occupy Wall Street Protester Cecily McMillan on corrente.

This case makes my blood boil.  I was brought up to believe that one of the worst things a man could do is to assault a weaker person, especially a woman.  A young woman named Cecily McMillan was taking part in a peaceful demonstration, as she had a right to do.  A police officer, not in uniform, grabbed her breast from behind, so forcibly it left finger marks.  She instinctively elbowed in the face, as any woman who had been assaulted would do.  She was brutally beaten, held without bail, given an unfair trial and sentenced to three months in prison.  The fact that she could have gotten seven years doesn’t make this any less  unfair.

Government Treating Peaceful Left Activists Like Terrorists—Again by Paul Waldman for The American Prospect.

The government has a pattern of cracking down on peaceful anti-war and environmentalist protesters, while indulging armed anti-tax and anti-government protesters. It has been many years since the days of Weatherman, the Black Panthers and the violent left, but racist and anti-government violence is all too common.

The Trigger-Happy University by Kathleen Geier for The Baffler.

Protests Against Commencement Speakers: Hard-Won But Hollow by Kathleen Geier for The Baffler.

As an old guy, I can remember when the USA was shaken by campus protests against the Vietnam War, racial segregation and university ties to the military.  Nowadays I read about college students trying to protect themselves against hearing morally objectionable commencement speakers or emotionally disturbing textbooks.  I am not an academic, so I don’t know how widespread this foolishness is.  I do know that if I were a student, the things I’d be bothered about are high tuition, student  loan debt, overworked adjunct faculty and the corporatist attack on the liberal arts.  But then again, taking part in mass protest demonstrations against those kinds of things is a good way to wind up like Cecily McMillan.

Afterthought.  My comment about student protests against commencement speakers was, as a judge might say, I was “assuming facts not in evidence” — namely, that the students planned to shout down speakers, and that the universities canceled the invitations of the speakers because of the student protests.  I don’t know to what extent these things are true, or even if they are true at all.  Young people today have a tougher row to hoe than I ever did when I was their age, and I should resist the temptation to go into old-guy mode about “kids these days.”

Occupy protestor convicted of assault

May 8, 2014

Occupy protestor Cecily McMillan, who elbowed a police officer in the face two years ago after he grabbed her breast from behind, has been convicted of assault.  For details click on Cecily McMillan Now Faces up to 7 Years in Prison by Amity Faye for The Nation and Cecily McMillan’s guilty verdict reveals our mass acceptance of police violence by Molly Knefel for The Guardian.

[Added 5/10/14]  Also click on The Open-and-Shut Assault Case Against Cecily McMillan: Just Look at the Pictures for photos and videos of the event on Bag News.

[Added 5/22/14]  Cecily McMillan Gets Three Months.

Occupy protester faces jail for defending herself

April 8, 2014
Cecily McMillan

Cecily McMillan

Back in March 17, 2012, an Occupy Wall Street protester named Cecily McMillan was grabbed from behind by the breast by a plainclothes police officer named Grantly Bovell.   He grabbed her with such force that he left a hand-shaped bruise on her breast.  She lashed out behind her with her elbow.

This week she is on trial on charges of assaulting a police officer and faces a possible seven years in prison.

The police officer hasn’t been charged with anything.

Outrageous as this is, it is not exceptional.  Beatings and arrests of peaceful Occupy protestors were common.

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, many local police forces, working in concert with the Wall Street banks, treated the Occupy movement as terrorists.  I guess the government’s definition of “terrorist” is anything that terrifies the powers that be.


Here are links to articles giving the background of the McMillan case.

Here is a link to an article giving the background of the suppression of the Occupy movement.

And here is my view of what’s going on.

And here is the outcome [added 5/22/14]

A vision of a better world

October 21, 2013


The following quotes are from the last chapter of David Graeber’s The Democracy Project, in which he outlines his vision of a future anarchist society.   The bipartisan establishment in Washington does not offer hope and change, but an argument that our present plight is the best that we can hope for.   Graeber and his friends show there are other alternatives to that thinking besides the reactionary right.


Since we are all unique individuals, it’s impossible to say which one of us is intrinsically better than any other, any more, for instance, than it wold be possible to say there are superior and inferior snowflakes.

If one is going to base egalitarian politics on that understanding, the logic would have to be: since there’s no basis for ranking such unique individuals on their merits, everyone deserves the same amount of those things that can be measured: an equal income, an equal amount of money, or an equal share of wealth.


We are already anarchists, or at least we act like anarchists, every time we come to understandings with one another that would not require physical threats as a means of enforcement.

It’s not a question of building up an entirely new society whole cloth.  It’s a question of building on what we are already doing, expanding the zones of freedom, until freedom becomes the ultimate organizing principle.


I’m sure that in practice any attempt to create a market economy without armies, police and prisons to back it up will end up looking nothing like capitalism very quickly.


There are many things in short supply in the world.  One thing of which we have a well-nigh unlimited supply is intelligent, creative people … … The problem is not a lack of imagination.  The problem is the stifling systems of debt and violence, created to ensure that these powers of imagination are not used—or are not used to create anything beyond financial derivatives, new weapons systems, or new Internet platforms for the filling out of forms.


… For the rest of us, having money, having an income, being free from debt, has come to mean having the power to pursue something other than money.  Certainly we all want to ensure that our loved ones are taken care of.  We all want to live in healthy and beautiful communities.  But beyond that, the things we wish to pursue are likely to be wildly different.  What if freedom were the ability to make up our minds about what it was we wished to pursue, with whom we wished to pursue it, and what sort of commitments we wish to make to them in the process?

Equality, then, would be simply a matter of guaranteeing equal access to those resources needed in the pursuit of an endless variety of forms of value.  Democracy in that case would simply be our capacity to come together as reasonable human beings and work out the resulting common problems—since problems there always will be—a capacity that can only truly be realized once the bureaucracies of coercion that hold existing structures of power together collapse of fade away.


Is such a vision possible?  I don’t know.  Or rather I don’t know to what degree it is possible.

The late Arthur C. Clarke said that the only way to discover the limits of the possible is to push a little bit into the impossible.

David Graeber’s “rape, torture and murder” test

October 2, 2013

I’m reading David Graeber’s The Democracy Project, which is about the Occupy movement.  I came across this passage which I like so much that I’m going to make a separate post about it.   He started out by talking about how writers use phrases such as “human rights abuses” or “unsavory human rights records” when they mean “rape, torture and murder.”  He went on to write:

… I find what I call the “rape, torture and murder” test very useful.  It’s quite simple.  When presented with a political entity of some sort or another, whether a government, a social movement, a guerrilla army or, really, any other organized group and trying to decide whether they deserve condemnation or support, first ask “Do they commit, or do they order others to commit, acts of rape, torture or murder?”

DGCIt seems like a self-evident question, but again, it’s suprising how rarely—or, better, how selectively—it is applied.  Or, perhaps, it might seem surprising, until one starts applying it and discovers conventional wisdom on many issues of world politics is instantly turned upside down.

In 2006, for example, most people in the United States read about the Mexican government sending federal troops to quell a popular revolt, initiated by a teachers’ union, against a notoriously corrupt governor in the southern state of Oaxaca.  In the U.S. media, this was universally presented as a good thing, a restoration of order; the rebels, after all, were “violent,” having thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails …

No one to my knowledge has ever suggested the rebels had raped, tortured or murdered anyone; neither has anyone who knows anything about the events in question seriously contested the fact that forces loyal to the Mexican government had raped, tortured and murdered quite a number of people in suppressing the rebellion.

Yet somehow such acts, unlike the rebels stone throwing, cannot be described as “violent” at all, let alone as rape, torture or murder, but only appear, if at all, as “accusations of human rights violations,” or in some other similarly bloodless legalistic language.

Two years after Occupy Wall Street

September 27, 2013

Click on Breaking Up With Occupy for an article about Nathan Schneider’s interviews with Occupy Wall Street protesters two years later and his reflections on the legacy of the movement.

Schneider, one of the first journalists to cover the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Mark Bray, Occupy Wall Street’s press liaison and one of its first organizers, will take part in a panel discussion sponsored by Rochester Red and Black at 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Flying Squirrel Community Space,  285 Clarissa St., Rochester N.Y.

One of their topics will be anarchism and Occupy Wall Street’s non-hierarchical system of decision-making and organization.

David Graeber on the practicality of protest

May 14, 2013

Economic anthropologist David Graeber was one of the early participants in Occupy Wall Street.  He wrote an interesting article in the current issue of The Baffler in which he argued that the power of the political and economic elite is based on their ability to convince the rest of us that there is no alternative to the status quo.  He said that is why they have such fear of dissent and protest.

One often hears that antiwar protests in the late sixties and early seventies were ultimately failures, since they did not appreciably speed up the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina.   But afterward, those controlling U.S. foreign policy were so anxious about being met with similar popular unrest—and even more, with unrest within the military itself, which was genuinely falling apart by the early seventies—that they refused to commit U.S. forces to any major ground conflict for almost thirty years.

David Graeber

David Graeber

It took 9/11, an attack that led to thousands of civilian deaths on U.S. soil, to fully overcome the notorious “Vietnam syndrome”—and even then, the war planners made an almost obsessive effort to ensure the wars were effectively protest-proof.   Propaganda was incessant, the media was brought on board, experts provided exact calculations on body bag counts (how many U.S. casualties it would take to stir mass opposition), and the rules of engagement were carefully written to keep the count below that.

The problem was that since those rules of engagement ensured that thousands of women, children, and old people would end up “collateral damage” in order to minimize deaths and injuries to U.S. soldiers, this meant that in Iraq and Afghanistan, intense hatred for the occupying forces would pretty much guarantee that the United States couldn’t obtain its military objectives.

And remarkably, the war planners seemed to be aware of this.  It didn’t matter.  They considered it far more important to prevent effective opposition at home than to actually win the war. It’s as if American forces in Iraq were ultimately defeated by the ghost of Abbie Hoffman.

I think this is true.   The reason the United States government is moving heaven and earth to capture Julian Assange and punish Bradley Manning is the fear of letting the American public know what the government really is doing.  Fear is the reason for the massive police response to the Occupy movement and to protests generally is so out of proportion to what is actually being done.

Urban police departments have military equipment and are encouraged to use military tactics, as if they were an occupation force in a hostile foreign country.   It is as if the powers that be are preparing to suppress an uprising among the citizenry.

The United States government has, for more than 30 years, been dismantling government regulation of corporations and Wall Street banks, dismantling the social safety net and reducing taxes on rich people, with the promise of economic growth and prosperity for all, and that this promise has not been fulfilled.    It also is true that the optimism and hope for a better future, which has characterized American life since before the United States was an independent nation, is vanishing.   And historically, disappointed hopes were what inspired revolutions.   So it is no wonder that the elite are fearful.

Click on  A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse for Graeber’s complete article, which is well worth reading in full.  The article was taken from Graeber’s new book, The Democracy Project (which I haven’t read).  Click on A Kaleidoscopic Sense of Possibility for Graeber’s discussion of the book with Lynn Parramore of Alternet.

Rolling Jubilee: A people’s bailout

November 17, 2012


An offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement has launched a practical movement to help debtors.  It is called the Rolling Jubilee, named for the 50-year Jubilee decreed in the Book of Leviticus, in which all debts are forgiven and all Hebrew slaves freed.

Banks and other creditors sell off bad debt to collection agencies for pennies on the dollar, who try to get their investment back by hounding the debtors unmercifully.  Supporters of the Rolling Jubilee buy up that debt, and forgive it.

So far the Rolling Jubilee program has raised about $330,000 and managed to cancel more $6 million worth of debt.  I don’t know of any other form of charitable giving that is so highly leveraged.

I must confess that six months ago, I wondered about the future of the Occupy movement.   I liked what I saw of the Occupy Rochester people.  I gave them an old sleeping bag and some books for their library, and my church, which adjoins the public park where they were camping out, invited them in for supper one night a week.  But they seemed to me to be bogged down in their internal processes, and overly focused creating a model for an ideal anarchist society and in defending their right to camp out in public parks.  Still, with their slogan, “We Are the 99 Percent,” they got journalists to talking about the issue of concentration of wealth.

But the Occupy supporters did good work, along with other groups, in organizing help for victims of Tropical Storm Sandy.  If you’re trying to build a grass-roots movement among poor people, this is the way to do it—to be their friend all the time, and respond to their concerns rather than expecting them to support yours.  The old-time political machines understood this; modern political parties do not. And Occupy’s networked organization, based on anarchist principles, may have been more effective than a hierarchical organization would have been.

The Rolling Jubilee will do a lot of good, although it will not in and of itself solve the U.S. debt problem.   In fact, the nation’s moneylenders may try to put a stop to it before it can get started.   A group called American Homeowner Preservation tried to buy up defaulted mortgages, then allow the former owner to live in the house and pay rent, or take out a new mortgage based on the house’s lowered value.  Banks and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Association wouldn’t cooperate.  Although they didn’t lose financially, they objected on general principles to foreclosed debtors being able to stay in their houses.   This was “moral hazard,” they said.

David Graeber, one of the original Occupy Wall Street members, says this reflects an assumption that needs to be challenged.  I agree.  If you borrow money, you are obligated to make a good-faith effort to pay it back, but the obligation to repay debt at compound interest is not the highest moral obligation.  Your moral obligation to provide for your loved ones comes before your obligation to moneylenders.  You are responsible for your own actions, but you are not responsible for the economic crash.  In fact, many of the individuals whose actions brought on the financial crash are the ones now trying to squeeze money out of unemployed students and underwater homeowners.  Strike Debt will have accomplished much if it gets us to questioning our assumptions about debt.

Click on Rolling Jubilee for Strike Debt’s home page.

Click on The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual for a link to Strike Debt’s free on-line book, which informs debtors of their legal rights, suggests survival strategies and explains what’s wrong with the system.  I haven’t read it the whole way through, but what I’ve read is good information.

Click on Local Churches Partner With Occupy Sandy In Grass-Roots Relief Efforts for a report on the Occupy movement’s role in helping victims of Tropical Storm Sandy.

Hat tip to Making Light.


Julian Assange meets the Occupy movement

May 29, 2012

Julian Assange is under house arrest in Britain and can’t get out and about to interview people for his The World Tomorrow TV program, but an interesting array of people come to him.

In Episode 7, he interviewed members of Occupy London and Occupy Wall Street, including David Graeber, an anarchist anthropologist and political theorist, who was one of the original Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Click on Digital Journal for a summary of Episode 7 and links to previous episodes.

Click on David Graeber, the Anti-Leader of Occupy Wall Street for a Business Week article about Graeber.

Click on “Intellectual Roots of Wall St. Protest Lie in Academe” for reasons why David Graeber should not be considered the leader or intellectual mentor of the Occupy Wall Street movement. [Added 6/5/12]

Click on Davod Graeber: anarchist, anthropologist, financial analyst for an article about Graeber and many links to his short writings.

Update [5/30/12]  Julian Assange lost his appeal to Britain’s supreme court against being extradited to Sweden to face chargesallegations of rape and sexual molestationmisconduct.  However, inasmuch as the ruling was based on an interpretation of international law not argued in court, Assange’s lawyers will have until June 13 to make an argument against the ruling.  Assange’s lawyers also are appealing to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

If there is good evidence to support the charges, Julian Assange should be put on trial just like anybody else.  The problem is the possibility that Sweden’s current conservative government will hand him over to U.S. authorities, where he could be tried and sent to prison for revealing secret information about U.S. government misconduct.

Click on Julian Assange loses appeal against extradition for a report in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

Click on Julian Assange Loses Extradition Appeal for Time magazine’s account.

[Added 5/31/12] Click on Julian Assange: The Rolling Stone Interview for background to the case.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss

January 7, 2012