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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Getting Ready for Occupy Austin

Orienting to the Process
by GREG MOSES 10-6-11
My Tuesday evening walk to the General Assembly of Occupy Austin begins near 5th St. and Colorado as I enter the fashionable warehouse district occupied by restaurants where I cannot afford to eat.  Signs on the sidewalk offer valet parking.  A rooftop club shares music that puts you in the mood to party.
By the time I get to 2nd St, better known these days as Willie Nelson Blvd, sidewalk dining is in full buzz.  At 6:30 pm the temperature is sliding down into the 70’s, and the atmosphere could not be more perfect for a gourmet pizza with salad, wine, and schmooze.  This newly-developed high-rise section of downtown Austin has got to be one of the more fortunate neighborhoods in the history of the world.
At the corner of Willie Nelson and Lavaca, sidewalk tables hug the plate glass windows of a coffee shop leased out from the backside of Austin City Hall.  Here behind neat Texas gardens enclosed by hefty limestone blocks the diligent organizers of Occupy Austin check their emails, their twitter accounts, and make use of old-fashioned face-to-face communications.  Mostly they look relaxed, together.
“OK, it’s seven o’clock says a young man with light longish hair who has just rounded the corner from the front,” and folks fold up their laptops for the walk around the building.
At the front side of City Hall more than a hundred folks have gathered on and around a stair-stepped stone amphitheater.  In a handy space at the western edge of the front row I find myself sitting next to Jimmy, a friendly veteran with a pickup truck who is going to be helping out with chores of the occupation.  And standing on the other side of me is Jim, a well known Austin pastor, activist, and author.  We three are among the older folks here, though probably not the oldest, and we spend our first minutes together remarking how impressed we are with the velocity and youth of this movement, barely weeks old, and already approaching world historical.
Soon enough tonight’s facilitator Josh who I first recognized by his jeans that were netcast Monday night in a poorly lit General Assembly video is introducing us to the rules of the occupation.
“I moderated last night, and I’m facilitating tonight,” explains Josh, “but I can’t do this three times in a row.  Nobody can appear three times in a row for any of these things, so we need all of you to step up and do your part.”
Josh is orienting us to The Process, how we should lift our hands and wiggle our fingers to “sparkle” with signs of approval, or raise up our thumbs and index fingers together to make a triangle when we want to raise points of order, or cup our hands in the form of a “C” to seek clarification in discussion.  When we don’t want something to happen we cross our forearms in an “X” that will read as a “block.”  Blocks need to be cleared before the group can go forward, or, if necessary, a block can be overridden by a nine-tenths majority.
The Process seems to work pretty well for gathering a sense of things from a complex meeting filled with energy and opinions.  First order of business was to hear from working groups their Magnet Reports on health care, child care, press relations, outreach, affirmative action, wifi, reading groups, jail help, union solidarity, bank actions, campus activism, beverages, flyers, development of local issues, and more.
In between reports up steps the Vibe Watcher to remind insiders who are chattering amongst themselves only a dozen feet East of the moderator that they are distracting folks from what should be the main center of attention for the moment.  Which allows us to get back to the business of coordinating pickup trucks to haul trash and so forth.
The diversity of chores is daunting as the scope of the occupation unfolds before us.  Just check out the list of contacts at the Occupy Austin website ( and see if you don’t think wow that’s a lot of stuff to do.
After a careful process of agenda construction — which takes more minutes that anyone would prefer, but what can you do about it when so many people have so much to say — the new business begins.
A lawyer talks about procedures of arrest, booking, and bonding, in the event that cops are turned loose on the occupation at some point in time.  Money is gathered to print flyers.  Alex Jones is mentioned as someone who has allegedly threatened to stage a counter-occupation of some kind, which most folks here are of a mind to resist by means of booing him back.
A very short mission statement is read and approved, which is pretty close to the one posted at the Austin Occupation website.
And then, shortly before I decide to step off into the night, there is a substantive discussion about police relations and whether the Austin Occupation should continue to have a police liaison.  There is heartfelt disagreement about this, but the organizers appear to have a leaning on the question and so the liaison that is already in place stays in place.
The walk back is exceedingly pleasant, with signs of good life aplenty.  Then, back at the corner of 5th and Colorado, there is a bus-stop bench and a brief glimpse of the life that grinds you down slowly into old threads and sullen eyes.  Thirty-six hours before the occupation of Austin begins Thursday morning, you can’t help but hope that it does some good.

Brown U. students join Occupy Providence protest

From Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—People planning a Wall Street-style protest in Providence are rallying on the campus of Brown University.  Several dozen students gathered with members of the group Occupy Providence Wednesday at the Ivy League university's campus. Occupy Providence plans to begin a protest later this month.
Similar protests are under way in many cities and campuses. They're modeled on the Occupy Wall Street protest which began last month to criticize corporate greed and social inequality.
Brown freshman Ian Georgianna attended Wednesday's rally and says he likes Occupy Providence's energy and agenda. He says the movement shows great potential, but that it must translate its passion into action.
Occupy Providence participant Amanda Magee says the group tentatively plans to begin a protest Oct. 15 but has not yet picked a site.

Occupy Wall Street- South Florida

South Florida Occupy Groups Get Organized

Occupy groups in Fort Lauderdale and Miami prepare to meet this Saturday

By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel
|  Thursday, Oct 6, 2011

South Florida Occupy groups were preparing to gather this weekened in Miami and Fort Laurderdale to plan their actions.
Occupy Fort Lauderdale's Facebook page said the group will meet from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday in front of the Broward Main Public Library, located at 100 South Andrews Ave.
"Let's Occupy Fort Lauderdale and show that every place in this country is fed up with corporate theives stealing our liberty and selling it to the highest bidder," said the Facebook page.
Meanwhile, according to the Miami group's Facebook page, they will meet on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Bayfront Park in Miami. Their mission statement on their website was under development, but the movement has been spreading across the country.
Activists have been showing solidarity with the movement in many cities, including Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and Providence, R.I.
The Fort Lauderdale group said the meeting is to choose a date, time and place for a demonstration.
In New York, the protesters have varied causes and no apparent demands, but have spoken largely about unemployment and economic inequality, reserving most of their criticism for Wall Street. "We are the 99 percent," they chanted Wednesday, contrasting themselves with the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
The Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp nearby in Zuccotti Park and have become increasingly organized, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama said the protesters are expressing the frustrations that Americans feel.
 "It expresses the frustrations that the American people feel that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street," Obama said. "And yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place."

Occupy Wall Street-Philly and NYC

Occupy Wall Street spreads to Philadelphia, 250 at City Hall

Date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 from Bizjournal
Occupy Wall Street-style protesters swarmed Philadelphia City Hall Thursday with messages of anger and hope.
An estimated 250 people amassed on the 15th Street side, holding banners, picket signs and props.
Teresa Shoatz of West Philadelphia held a poster-board sign saying, “Jail bankers for fraud.”
“I’ve been out here for an hour, and I’ll be out here till whenever,” Shoatz said. “I’m here about the issues of education, unions, the Philadelphia School District. We’re spending more money on prisons than schools.”
It was one of many rallies taking place around the country. The demonstrations started in New York City after an activist group that publishes the magazine Adbusters called for action, inspired by the Arab Spring protests in Egypt. Twitter, Facebook and other social media have helped organize the rallies on short notice.
On Thursday in Philadelphia, protesters invoked vehicles passing by to honk horns — and drivers from cars, tour buses and even a police car responded.
Carol Levy, a Lansdale, Pa., resident, asked passers-by to “come join us.”
“I’m concerned about corporations’ unfettered access to our finances,” Levy said.
A woman who identified herself as Alex from Philadelphia held a sign that said, “I was wrongfully terminated.”
“I need a job,” said Alex, who said she was a leasing consultant at a property management firm but was let go without cause. “I intend to find a salaried position that will pay living expenses — rent, clothes, food, medical, education.”
Occupy Wall Street protests gather pace in US
from Belfast Telegraph

Friday, 7 October 2011

They said it could never happen in the US. At the foot of Wall Street, in the belly of the beast of aggressive market finance, 2,000 protesters demonstrating against corporate greed are attempting to push through a police barrier and occupy the iconic street.
Click 'More Pictures' for gallery
The NYPD are beating them back with mace and batons, one white-shirted officer lashing into the crowd indiscriminately with his nightstick.
The air tastes of pepper spray and there are screams from the crowd. “Who the f*** are you protecting?” they chant. The Obama generation is beginning to receive an ugly answer to that most basic of political inquiries.
These protesters are part of a breakout march from the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Manhattan's Liberty Plaza, which has now been in place for almost three weeks. Copycat demonstrations against economic injustice are springing up in cities across the US, and many thousands are involved.
Two hours earlier, a crowd of 20,000 students, labour members, activists and angry citizens are chanting over the sound of drums that “the people, united, will never be defeated!”
Labour unions have been swift to come out in support of the occupiers and rally in Foley Square, taking up their mantra: “We are the 99%” — the majority of the American people who have been cheated out of their share in the nation's wealth by the remaining “1%”.
“We are here to thank you!” a worker involved in the strike against Verizon tells the crowd. “We have to take back this city, take back our democracy.”
The process of taking back democracy, however, is rarely painless. As the cry goes up to “march on Wall Street”, the police begin to move in. To date, 23 arrests of peaceful protesters have been recorded in New York. On Broadway, demonstrators are dragged off the pavements and taken away by police.
One of them is a young white woman, who I see being hustled along by a number of officers. “I was standing on the sidewalk. Apparently that's illegal now,” she says, as police twist her hands and shove her into a car.

Occupy DC To Join 'Stop The Machine,' But Remain A Separate Protest

From Huffington Post and Arin Greenwood 10-6-11

WASHINGTON -- In McPherson Square, a handful ofOccupy DC participants were still milling Thursday morning around the western part of the park where the protesters' belongings -- sleeping bags, food, signs -- are collected in a pile under a large tree. But most of the Occupy DC protesters had already decamped to Freedom Plaza to join forces with theStop the Machine rally that is scheduled to begin at noon.
Among those still in McPherson Square was Jamie Troutman, an itinerant 22-year-old artist and musician. Troutman, who came to D.C. from Richmond to join the protest, was strumming a ukulele hanging by a cord around his neck. He was waiting for a coffee delivery before heading to Freedom Plaza.
Corryn Freeman, a 22-year-old studying political science and philosophy at Howard University, said that Occupy DC is united with Stop the Machine, but that the group had no plans to leave McPherson Square or disband.
"We're different entities," she said. "We're going to maintain our own presence."
Freeman, who was arrested earlier this year while protesting for D.C. voting rights, said she'd be at the Stop the Machine protests all week. "Heck yeah," she said. "When I'm not in class, or teaching a Zumba class, I'll definitely be down there with them."

Brian Grimes, who is 34 and "mostly homeless," he said, was going to stay behind. His feet were hurting, from a flare-up of gout. He was also going to guard the pile of bags and signs and food. If no one was there in the park, he said, the police would take all the protesters' things and throw them away.

What Do They Want? Justice

From Huffington Post and Robert Scheer 10-6-11

How can anyone possessed of the faintest sense of social justice not thrill to the Occupy Wall Street movement now spreading throughout the country? One need not be religiously doctrinaire to recognize this as a "come to Jesus moment" when the money-changers stand exposed and the victims of their avarice are at long last offered succor.
Not that any of the protesters have gone so far as to overturn the tables of stockbrokers or whip them with cords in imitation of the cleansing of the temple, but the rhetoric of accountability is compelling. "I think a good deal of the bankers should be in jail," one protester toldNew York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. That prospect has evidently aroused concern in an industry that has largely managed to escape judicial opprobrium.
"Is this Occupy Wall Street thing a big deal?" the CEO of a major bank asked Sorkin. "We're trying to figure out how much we should be worried about all this. Is this going to turn into a personal safety problem?"
It should pose a threat, not because peaceful demonstrators will suddenly morph into vigilantes fatally damaging their cause with violent action, but rather because government prosecutors should fulfill their obligation to pursue justice and incarcerate some of the obvious perps. As Sorkin conceded, in one of the rare instances of the business press attempting to understand the protesters: "the message was clear: the demonstrators are seeking accountability for Wall Street and corporate America for the financial crisis and the growing economic inequality gap."
Sorkin ended his account with snarky comments about the protesters using ATM machines and about the ever-admirable Code Pink founder Jodie Evans having flown a commercial airline to get across the country to the demonstration. He also offered the predictable dismissal that could be made about any genuinely spontaneous movement, that "the protesters have a myriad of grievances with no particular agenda."
But ignore the mass media's nitpicking and mostly derisive coverage and wonder instead why it took so long for this grass-roots movement to emerge as an alternative to the tea party, which exonerates the thieves of Wall Street. With 25 million Americans unsuccessfully looking for full-time work, 50 million experiencing mortgage foreclosure and an all-time high of 46.2 percent living in poverty, including 22 percent of all children, isn't it logical that the faux populism of the tea party be confronted with a progressive alternative?
The Republican narrative, which the media have treated with considerable respect, blames "big government" for our ills, not when Washington bails out the banks, or feeds the maws of the military-industrial complex, but only when it might go to the aid of the victims of the financial conglomerates.
It was the Wall Street lobbyists, with the complicity of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who caused the Great Recession by destroying a sensible regulatory system -- one that had kept U.S. banking reliable since the Great Depression -- and by legalizing the securitization of homes. But the Wall Street titans escaped being held accountable for the excesses of their greed: They got their lackeys in government to throw them a lifeline bailout while their victims among the unemployed and foreclosed were abandoned.
"We bailed out the banks with an understanding that there would be a restoration of lending. All there was was a restoration of bonuses" is the way Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz described it inspeaking to the protesters on Wall Street.
It was a thought echoed by George Soros in expressing his support for the demonstrators: "The decision not to inject capital into the banks, but to effectively relieve them of their bad assets and then allow them to earn their way out of a hole leaves the banks bumper profits and then allows them to pay bumper bonuses."
Those bonuses are part of a practice throughout the corporate world that has far less to do with corporate performance than with the power spoils of CEOs. As The Washington Post points out, "The gap between what workers and top executives make helps explain why income inequality in the United States is reaching levels unseen since the Great Depression." While the median pay for top corporate executives has quadrupled since the 1970s, the pay of non-supervisory workers has declined by more than 10 percent.
"Ultimately this is about power and greed, unchecked," Jodie Evans told the Times' Sorkin, and it is a protest that the columnist's newspaper, along with the rest of a mainstream media that editorially enthused over the radical deregulation that unfettered Wall Street greed, should now honestly cover.

Occupy Wall Street: Video Allegedly Shows NYPD Officer Striking Protesters With Baton

from Huffington Post and Jason Cherkis  10-5-11

Just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, reportedly at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, a New York Police Department officer appeared to turn on a throng of activists with the Occupy Wall Street movement, hitting them with a baton. A video posted hours later to YouTube shows the officer wielding the baton with two hands -- like a baseball bat -- as he swings at and strikes the demonstrators. At one point, a woman can be heard shrieking in the background.
The white-shirt cop, most likely a supervisor, had stood next to at least a half-dozen other officers, including other department brass. The video shows the officer appearing to nudge a spectator out of the way, back up and raise his baton. He then gets off three swings before the crowd appears to surge toward him -- digital cameras and video recorders held high.
This may be the first of many videos documenting clashes between the police and Occupy Wall Street. At the end of the video a few in the crowd chant: "The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!"
It is unclear from the video what provoked the officer's actions, but HuffPost's Matt Sledge, who was at the scene, reports the baton swinging took place after a handful of people had been arrested for attempting to cross a police barricade.
When reached for comment Friday night, a New York Police Department spokesman who refused to be identified said he had heard about the video but had not seen it and therefore could not comment.
Throughout the night, activists had reported via Twitter that the police had resorted to using pepper spray and had made some arrests. A spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street later reported some 20 arrests in total.
Fox 5, the local affiliate in New York, reported that police officers had struck the station's journalists with batons and doused them with pepper spray:
Officers swatted protesters with batons and sprayed them with mace, according to video from the scene. Fox 5 photographer Roy Isen was hit in the eyes by mace, and Fox 5 reporter Dick Brennan was hit by what he believes was an officer's baton. Both were all right and continued to cover the protests and arrests.