Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We Are Not Trash - Occupy Encampments Destroyed

I've got to get off my duff and start writing every day about the changes that are happening in our country, finally. I am talking about the Occupy movement.

This week,  the Oakland encampment was removed by police, and the Occupy Wall Street itself was summarily tipped into NYC sanitation trucks. We then read that the mayors and managers of 18 cities with occupations conference-called about what to do with them. Apparently, they decided the thing to do was treat them like trash to be swept away, and justify police actions with sanctimonious pronouncements about "public safety."

But the mayors - either 1%-er's like New York's Bloomberg, or terrified politicians like Jean Quan in Oakland, are just stumbling forward in a stage-play whose finale is already written. Their inevitable authoritarian reactions to Occupy merely serve the function of strengthening and widening the movement. The finale is the fall of the economic and political structures we have now, that are not working for 99% of the people (or more.)

The next act of the play, though, is improvisation. Change requires untried solutions; and not everything that gets tried will work. The Occupy Movement is creating new forms of democracy. A working system of elections, that voice the actual will of the majority, (with protection of minorities,) will have to be in place BEFORE the ultimate fall of the system, if we are to avoid massive violence and loss.

The next play, the one that comes after the new structures of democracy are in place, will be written by the new democracy itself. All we know now are the problems it will have to solve - the environmental emergency, creating opportunities for productive work for all, and the equitable distribution of resources that productive work creates.

I propose the next step for Occupiers is to demand public space for Occupations as a right, in EVERY locality. People need to gather for long periods of time - these are informal constitutional conventions. They are political free speech of the highest order. Money is not speech, as the Supreme Court would have it. But human bodies, gathered in protest, ARE. Their right to gather trumps the local ordinances that would prevent it.

Furthermore, there are now millions of homeless people in the United States. For a person to live, they need shelter. To have a decent life, they need the same shelter every night, and the right not to be kicked out of it. Millions of homeless people is not a normal phenomenon - it is not simple "delinquency." It is a symptom of the sickness that befouls us. In this housing emergency, we need a provision of public space for camping, and it has to be usable - in cities, near facilities and public transportation. Yes, Occupy encampments attract homeless people, of course! Mayors should be welcoming and accommodating this. Occupy Wall Street has plenty of resources to keep itself clean and safe. Less well-endowed occupations should be supported by their cities with water and sanitation. Until we have well-built homes for all, encampments are our right, and our political necessity.

The 1% are losing their minions by the second. One Oakland mayoral adviser resigned in protest at this week's police action. More importantly, veterans of our reckless foreign wars are showing up at occupations in force. Last February, Madison, WI police disobeyed orders to remove protesters from the capitol rotunda. Working class soldiers and police are waking up, and will not be used to suppress dissent.

This is why I say the battle is won - the tide has turned. If the road ahead it not yet clear, at least people are starting to wake up, and see that we need to go in the opposite direction from  the one the 1%-ers have been leading us in.

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