Occupy has forced its way into the news this past month, despite the worldwide embarrassment it's causing U.S. political and financial leaders. Our streets don't yet look like those of Greece, but that's what they must fear most: a movement against almost every tenet the privileges of our economic system stand on. [The photos on this post are from Occupy Miami, Madrid, Mexico, Oakland, L.A., So. Korea, Aztlán and more are viewable here.]
Keith Olbermann's nightly news show covered Occupy Denver on Monday, interviewing protestor Jeannie Harley on the police violence perpetrated on protestors: "We had a perfectly peaceful march, a perfectly peaceful rally, and it turned into something much worse," Harley said.
Sorry, Harley, Occupy could develop into a greater threat than the 60s or 70s movements, which were infiltrated, spied on, framed up on charges, incarcerated, beaten and even assassinated. The worst may be yet to come: "The situation we find ourselves in is absolutely unacceptable," said Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President Joe Haraburda. "We have made our position clear.… We want Occupy Oakland closed."
Filmmaker, liberal activist Michael Moore stopped by to tell an enthusiastic Occupy Denver crowd of about 1,000 Thursday: "There is no leader to this movement. That's why it's such a large and growing movement."
"He said the rest of the country is watching the Occupy protest in Denver."
Moore's a big-time liberal; Saul Alinsky's definition about the difference between a radical and a liberal [Rules for Radicals] applies to him. Alinsky said something like, a liberal is the one who leaves the room when the fight starts. Moore's hope that no leaders appear to "mislead" Occupy is him wanting to leave a room where there are already thousands of leaders organizing the day-to-day workings of Occupy.
The Wall Street Occupy has been described as "drifters, hippies, college drop-outs, the mentally ill, Harvard graduates, addicts, occasional celebrities, freaks, parolees, middle-aged folks who've lost jobs and homes, and elderly people who've lost all hope in a cold, unrelenting economic malaise. This occupation is basically a microcosm of our current society. Everything that is already wrong with our world is magnified here."
This is not all of the story. Outside of places like Oakland, El Paso and L.A., Occupy has not linked itself to the most exploited, most persecuted and poorest segment of U.S. society: the millions of Latino immigrants. Occupy Oakland, at least, includes significant numbers of working, poor and unemployed Chicanos. But, again, outside of the Southwest, Spanish-speaking immigrants have not swelled Occupy's ranks yet for two reasons. 1. They are marginalized from society, including protest by citizens; and 2. Occupy protestors don't yet recognize how vital immigrants are, not just to the country's functioning, but also to a general strike intended to get the attention of the country's leaders.
Joshua Holland wrote praise of Occupy as “a discussion of the real issues facing Main Street: the lack of jobs... spiraling inequality, cash-strapped American families' debt-loads, and the pernicious influence of money in politics that led us to this point.”
What Holland didn't speak to was the millions of Latino immigrants who suffer most from what he described. But Susan Straight did: "You, me — any parent — would risk it all to cross the border to secure a better future for our families."
The Occupy movement in the U.S. appeared because whatever we've done at the polls has brought American citizens (and immigrants) to our present dismal state.
While Manuel Ramos doesn't always agree with my rantings, he noted in a comment to my last week's post: "I did a bit of research and, lo, discovered that many writers agree that voting is a waste of time and hope. Here are two links to such articles:
Below is the latest article from Frontera NorteSur on Occupy news from Santa Fe to the Valley of Mexico. I leave you with a description of Occupy Oakland: "You cannot beat us into submission," protestor Bolt said. "You are just beating on the bricks of a loose dam."
(Un)occupying the Camino Real, 11/3//11
Throughout the course of history, countless feet have treaded the long highway between the Valley of Mexico and Santa Fe. Traders, invaders, land-grabbers, smugglers, saints, sinners, visionaries, madmen, oppressors and liberators have all journeyed a binational road that endures over the centuries.
Occasionally, rebellion erupts on the Camino Real, or Royal Highway. In 1680, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico drove Spanish colonizers south to what is now modern-day Texas. In 1810, the Mexican people launched their own revolution against the Spanish crown. And in 1910, Mexico once again rose up against tyranny, inequality and dictatorship.
In 2011 sparks of rebellion are again flying on the Camino Real. On the south end of the highway in Mexico City, so-called indignados, young people disgusted with the prevailing political and economic order, have maintained their camp outside the Mexican Stock Exchange. On the north end of the highway in Santa Fe, people inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement have established their own encampment to protest the big banks and US economic policies.
In between the northern and southern points of the Camino Real, similar camps or protests have appeared in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, El Paso, Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. The movement has resulted in some confrontations with authorities, and led to growing debates over the right of people to peacefully assemble versus the perceived duty of officials to maintain public order.
In New Mexico’s biggest city, Camp Coyote was dismantled in an October 25 police raid that ended with more than 30 people arrested.
The eviction was ordered by the University of New Mexico (UNM) administration which claimed that the camp, located on school property at what's left of Yale Park, was drawing a seedy element and jeopardizing public safety.
A center of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture, Yale Park was later largely torn down by UNM in order to make way for a campus book store. Camp Coyote´s protesters disputed UNM’s intentions, and last-minute negotiations between university officials and occupiers failed to bear fruit.
"I made my opinion known that I am a 2002 (alumnus), and I have a right to be on my campus," protester Radonna Stark told Camp Coyote's General Assembly only hours before multiple New Mexico police agencies swooped in and forced the occupiers into the street.
As the clock ticked fast away to eviction time, Camp Coyote activist Sebastian Pais, announced he was going on a hunger strike.
The police action exhibited the latest in militarized crowd control techniques. A helicopter buzzed overhead, while an Albuquerque Police Department (APD) riot squad stood guard ready for further action. Other police patrols were strategically posted on streets surrounding Camp Coyote.
In response to the raid, hundreds of protest reinforcements and onlookers gathered on Central Avenue in front of Yale Park well into the early morning of October 26.
A lively demonstration ensued, with evicted occupiers and their supporters chanting a mixture of 60s’ era and contemporary slogans: "The Whole World is Watching" "Power to the People," "We are the 99 percent" and "Whose Street(s)? Our Street(s)!"
Intermittently, an unusual chant roared from the crowd facing down the APD: "FMB, FMB..."
A reporter was soon informed that the chant was APD's own, coined by officers unhappy with the policies of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry (MB). For the most part, both protesters and police showed restraint the night of October 25-26. However, on an October 27 listener call-in show broadcast on university-licensed KUNM radio, protester Barbara Grothus, who was among the arrested demonstrators, accused local jail staff of stealing valuables including jewelry and shoes from some of the detainees.
In a subsequent development, UNM agreed to allow Camp Coyote back in Yale Park under certain conditions until November 6. After seven days, hunger striker Sebastain Pais agreed to end his fast pending a meeting with UNM President David Schmidly, according to the latest media reports.
Prior to its eviction (Un)Occupy Albuquerque held a week-long teach-in at UNM on assorted domestic and foreign policy questions. Off campus, movement activists also leafleted one of the city’s Chicano/Mexicano communities in a protest against housing foreclosures.
Still a subject of ongoing debate, the name (Un)Occupy Albuquerque was chosen for the local movement after participants decided to respect Native American concerns about the historical implications of the word “occupy.” In addition to being near Native American reservations, Albuquerque hosts the largest population of urban Indians in the United States.
Raised in Las Cruces and a graduate of the New College of San Francisco, Rachel Matier spoke to a small group at the UNM teach-in about the links between the so-called drug war, mass incarceration of African-American men and the historic role of corporations in many levels of drug-related policy, from banning hemp production to running private prisons.
On a personal note, Matier later told Frontera NorteSur how she completed her education only by going $50,000 into debt. A single mother with two young children, Matier said she was "grateful to have financial support" from the father of her children, an advantage many single moms do not enjoy.
Matier said today's college graduates must compete for scarce jobs not only against their former classmates, but with graduates from the previous few years who are also unable to find work.
Asked about Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain´s recent appeal for anti-Wall Street protesters to blame themselves for their own economic predicaments, Matier responded that she had worked different jobs in her life, paid taxes and voted like any good citizen. "I feel like I really did what they told me to do for the American Dream,” she said.
Four hours south of Albuquerque on the Camino Real, another protest camp is active. Situated smack dab in El Paso's downtown, the occupation is literally taking place in the shadows of the big banks. Flanking San Jacinto Plaza and its Occupy El Paso encampment, stand the local officers of Chase, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Wells Fargo and Mexico-based Banamex USA, which is actually controlled by Citibank.
In Spanish and English, signs greet visitors to a colorful encampment of about 30 tents and a large tipi. "We'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one," reads one sign. "Join the 99% and make a stand," urges another message.
Occupy El Paso has a city permit to operate until November 13, according to occupier Wiley Driskell.
Like Camp Coyote and other Occupy Wall Street-inspired encampments, a plethora of issues and activities are taken up at El Paso's nightly general assembly, where no leaders are supposed to hold sway and decisions are reached by consensus. For example, activists plan to car pool to various sections of the sprawling border city on Nov. 5, National Bank Transfer Day, to urge account holders to move their money from commercial banks into credit unions.
At one assembly, the talk ranged from the high cost of wheel chairs charged to the Veterans Administration to the alienation of high school youth in the age of high-stakes testing. A former full-time teacher, John Russell urged the crowd to consider the systemtic roots of economic concentration as opposed to the individual, moral will of corporations. "Accusing a bank of being greedy is like accusing a fish of swimming in water," Russell said.
Emily Davis, a young El Paso activist, later told Frontera NorteSur that she hoped the occupation would help stir her city out of apathy and political passivity. "Maybe a good by-product of Occupy El Paso would be to make El Paso more progressive,” Davis said.
Not everyone accepts Occupy El Paso´s message. For 24-year-old Eddie Guzman, the words smoldering from San Jacinto Plaza are jumbled and confused. On a recent afternoon, the young man stood with two friends also dressed in black and protested the protesters with vulgar signs.
"They're not accomplishing anything," Guzman contended. A cook in a new downtown restaurant, Guzman said the occupiers were intolerant of skeptics and the "uninitiated" persons like himself who were trying to get honest answers on what the whole commotion was really about in the city square.
Occupy El Paso is taking some steps to broaden its base. On November 2, the Day of the Dead in Mexico and growing parts of the US, a migrant procession organized by the Border Network for Human Rights was scheduled to reach San Jacinto Plaza.
In a press statement prior to the march, the El Paso-based group expressed support for those forces that "stand in solidarity with all who believe human rights matter more than profits."
Occupy El Paso activist Jovanni Flores said the issues raised by Occupy El Paso should "resonate" with Latinos and other people of color who suffer high poverty rates and other effects of capitalism. An offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, a new movement called Occupy the 'Hood is gaining traction in some US cities, Flores said.
"(People of color) need to have more of a presence in the movement," he said. ¨The idea is to get people who are directly affected into the movement."
Like Camp Coyote and other Occupy Movement sites, the El Paso camp has attracted many homeless and other people in need of food, shelter and a friendly word or two.
Smartly dressed and neatly-cut, 52-year-old Wiley Driskell looks younger than his years. Immersed in the occupation, Driskell offered his views in between serving needy comers.
Responding to a constant stream of requests, Driskell dug out money for a coffee run, poured water for thirsty people and directed a man with a court date to the judge's chambers just down the street.
"As disparate as the stories are, it's the same. The source of the problems are the same," Driskell said, citing the lack of social, public, education and transportation services. "I can definitely relate to the service centers," he added. "We need education in the social system so people can understand how to improve their lives."
A borderlander with family roots in Parral, Chihuahua, Driskell said he found Occupy El Paso after a two-year stint of unemployment and different careers in real estate, media sales, television production and commercial loan operations. Driskell said he had "worked hard to develop my skills only to be thrown out into the streets."
After a reflection on his work life, Driskell said he came to the conclusion that he had worked for “people who were ripping off the public” and felt "terrible about it."
In assessing Occupy El Paso's impact, the activist said many people were stopping by the camp with questions about its mission. The movement is “definitely growing,” he said, though perhaps not as fast as desired by organizers.
"We're experiencing the problems of a young growing organization...but all of that was expected.”
- Kent Paterson
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
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