Tag Archives: Occupy

An Alternative to Amazon.com’s Occupy Hoodie

 As an alternative to the #Occupy hoodie from Amazon.com that I wrote about previously

(Image from Not All Occupy Protestors Are Anarchists; Just the Cool Ones | Neon Tommy.)

Just take your basic black hoodie – bought from some nice, non-corporate capitalist exploiter and not made in a sweatshop (and when you find that shop let me know) – and then tape any slogan you want to it.

You’ll still run the risk of being shot, beaten or pepper-sprayed, but you won’t have contributed to Amazon.com’s bottom line along the way.

On the other hand, there’s still this…

Frank Kozik limited edtion black Anarchy Cat Qee 8″ vinyl figure

Occupy Wall Street Hoodie

This will get you shot in Florida, beaten by the cops in NYC and pepper-sprayed on University of California campuses…

The Occupy Wall Street hoodie — guaranteed to get you fucked up by some asshole somewhere. But stylish and warm.

(And buying it from Amazon.com won’t be buying into the same system as Wall Street. Not at all.)

Upcoming Conference: From Rebellion to Revolution: Dynamics of Political Change

From Rebellion to Revolution: Dynamics of Political Change
16th Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality, October 17 – 20, 2012, WZB

The Irmgard Coninx Foundation, a non-profit-organization founded in Munich in 2001, organizes an annual Roundtable on Transnationality, held in Berlin. The Roundtables provide a forum for international young academics and journalists to discuss the political and social challenges facing a global civil society. This year’s Roundtable is “From Rebellion to Revolution: Dynamics of Political Change”

The recent waves of protests and demonstrations in many countries around the world have reintroduced the question of revolution and grass-roots system change to the political and scholarly agenda. Whether it is the fight against autocratic and corrupt regimes or protests against market-driven politics, in many of these cases revolution is in the air or already on the streets. Against this background, the 16th Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality want to examine the dynamics of political (and often violent) unrest that lead to, or at least aims at, fundamental structural transformations of political regimes and alterations in power relations between the masses and the elites. Our key questions are: Who makes revolutions and why? What influences the emergence and course of revolutionary situations? What the immediate and long term outcomes? And what are successful modes of transformations to more democracy? (via Irmgard Coninx Stiftung: Revolutions.)

A detailed background paper on the conference and its themes is available.

They are looking for participants who are younger academics (max. up to 5 years after PhD) or activists/practitioners (eg workers in governmental or urban services, NGOs, journalists). I’m not sure if it is exactly what they had in mind, but I would think they’d be interested in people in Black Bloc groups or actively involve in significant Occupy movements.

Those interested in participating are invented to submit a paper (max. 3500 words max), an abstract (max. 300 words), a narrative biography and a CV. Submission deadline is June 30, 2012. Co-authored and already published papers will not be accepted. There is an online submission process.

Based on a review of submissions, approximately 45 applicants will be invited to participate in the conference with peers and prominent scholars in Berlin. The Irmgard Coninx Foundation will cover travel to and accommodation in Berlin.

Nancy Fraser will be giving evening lectures as part of the conference. Fraser is the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and professor of philosophy at The New School in New York City. She has written extensively on social theory, gender, Foucault, etc., with a focus on issues of justice. (I would love to hear her talks.)

Stunning Poster Art from Indonesia – #Occupy Jakarta

Earlier today, @OccupyWallStNYC tweeted: “Corporations are organized across borders. It’s time for the 99% to get organized GLOBALLY.” But in fact the Occupy movement went global pretty much as soon as it began.

One of the more powerful expressions of the internationalized Occupy movement has been coming out of Indonesia, where Nobodycorp. Internationale Unlimited is producing an amazing range of political poster art. One of the most striking things about these posters is their intensity. The Occupy movement in Jakarta is grappling not just with underwater mortgages and layoffs, but with military violence and murder, with the problems of Muslim terrorism and with breakaway movements in places like Aceh.

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For more…

Rebel Cities by David Harvey

Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
by David Harvey

Manifesto on the urban commons from the acclaimed theorist.

Long before the Occupy movement, modern cities had already become the central sites of revolutionary politics, where the deeper currents of social and political change rise to the surface. Consequently, cities have been the subject of much utopian thinking. But at the same time they are also the centers of capital accumulation and the frontline for struggles over who controls access to urban resources and who dictates the quality and organization of daily life. Is it the financiers and developers, or the people?

Rebel Cities places the city at the heart of both capital and class struggles, looking at locations ranging from Johannesburg to Mumbai, and from New York City to São Paulo. Drawing on the Paris Commune as well as Occupy Wall Street and the London Riots, Harvey asks how cities might be reorganized in more socially just and ecologically sane ways—and how they can become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance. (via VersoBooks.com.)

Spring has Sprung, May Day is Coming #M1GS

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Pictures from #Occupy Oakland

There is a there there…

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(thanks to reddit/R/Anarchism)

There’s so much on the events and the scene at Occupy Oakland that it’s hard to know where to start in terms of links to more info, but you might begin with…

And for a view from the other side…

And for photos of earlier Oakland action, you can begin with…

And for the view from across the briny…

If you’re new to protests where the police may get frisky, you might be intimidated by the shields, gas masks, etc. – don’t be.  For one thing, there’s a nice new Instructable for DIY Gas Masks that should give you breathing room (pun intended) in many situations were tear gas or pepper spray is used.   Backpacks stuffed with padding can help protect your back from police batons, but you can also buy riot gear just like cops wear. (Though I might recommend body armor meant for snowboarders or dirt-bikers that you could wear under a hoodie as less… confrontational.)

Don’t Mourn, Occupy

Nuff said.

A brilliant bit of BUGAUP-style culture jamming – you have to get up real close to see that the brown bands are separate pieces of paper, very cleverly inserted and positioned in this bus shelter wall ad, which is located outside San Francisco General Hospital – “as real as it gets,” and the main health care provider for many of the City’s 100,o00 adults who don’t have any health coverage.

Of course, while “Occupy the Banks” has a visceral appeal, squatting is really the way to go: direct action to address homelessness and inadequate housing, to preserve and maintain homes that have been rendered unoccupied by foreclosure, and to begin the process of reshaping our economic lives.

For more…

The War at Home

Terrorists? Drugs or gun dealers? No. These officers kitted out in military-style gear and armed with semi-automatic rifles were going after a small group of Occupy activists who had taken over an abandoned business in downtown Chapel Hill:

CHAPEL HILL — A police tactical team of more than 25 police officers arrested eight demonstrators Sunday afternoon and charged them with breaking and entering for occupying a vacant car dealership on Franklin Street.

Officers brandishing guns and semi-automatic rifles rushed the building at about 4:30 p.m. They pointed weapons at those standing outside, and ordered them to put their faces on the ground. They surrounded the building and cleared out those who were inside… [here]

Here are these dangerous criminals prior to the assault by police… doing what? Cleaning up the long empty eyesore. They wanted to turn it into a community space. Clearly desperate characters…

It’s not just a company—it’s a community.

Except it’s not, and can’t be. At least, not with the way things are.

Reporting on the closure of Boeing’s Wichita factory, CBS Evening News interviewed a former Boeing engineer who criticized the company’s decision, and the way that decision was announced, saying “It’s not just a company—it’s a community.”

It’s a community if you’re a worker, but if you’re the company, it’s not; it is just a company.  If the company tried to take care of the community rather than do whatever was best for its bottom line, regardless of cost to that company, it would open itself to shareholder lawsuits, among other things.

That engineer was naive to think otherwise, to expect Boeing to have any loyalty to the “community” where it had built planes since the 1920s.

So too was the congressman naive who complained about the huge amount of money spent providing Boeing with tax breaks and other incentives for their plant in Wichita.  Boeing took the money when it could, and left when it wanted; I can’t believe he expected anything different.

Corporations are not persons, whatever Republicans say. And companies are not communities, and have no loyalty to communities. They are not part of the web of society.  As Wichita has found out to its cost, big companies like Boeing are often more like parasites, or predators. #occupy

What should we Occupy next? Or should we stop occupying and start abandoning?

The San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s cover story this week is “Occupy America!” — a call to “take back the country.” It concludes:

the important thing is to let this genie out of the bottle, to move Occupy into the next level of politics, to use a convention, rally, and national event to reassert the power of the people to control our political and economic institutions — and to change or abolish them as we see fit.

It is important — vital even, I would say — to continue the discussion and movement that #occupy has begun, but I think that the time has come also for reflection on where that movement is going and where we want it to go. The Occupy movement has always been a big tent, with lots of different groups with differing agendas operating within it, but there have been some clear tendencies. And I don’t agree with all of them by any means.

Occupy Wall Street?  It was a great idea, a great slogan and it really got things going, but do we really want to occupy Wall Street? Do we want to retake or reclaim Wall Street – that whole sick and perverse congeries of gamblers, shills and greed-heads that passes itself off as an “industry” – for something, for ourselves?  Or do we want to abolish and/or abandon it? I think some of the activities that emerged around banking had the right idea: don’t “occupy” the bad banks and financial institutions with your money; abandon them, taking your money to more positive institutions, local credit unions and the like.

But couldn’t we push that logic further? What about a wholesale abandonment of the whole crappy, corrupt and dehumanizing system.  Don’t occupy it, leave it.  Leave the banks and stock markets, leave the malls and Wal-Marts, and as much as possible shift your money, your energy, your time, your production and consumption to spaces that embody values of human freedom and social and economic justice, of happiness.  Find all the worker-owned collectives in your area and support them. Start your own collective.  Start a co-housing community, a squat, a shared multi-generational living situation. If your family sucks, abandon them, too, and create a new family based on freedom, love and justice.

I could go on in this vein, and hopefully will, in greater detail, but for now let me leave you with some thoughts on another aspect of the Occupy movement…

on the Port Blockades

I was really pleased to see the Occupy movement expanding out from the Wall Street locus to address issues of globalization, and root itself or rhizomatically connect itself with the ongoing alter globalization movement.

But the port blockades were a bad idea.

Sure, the ports are a logistical choke point in globalization’s long supply chain, where a bit of work can cause a lot of disruption and economic losses for the entities involved.

But it’s a distraction and it hurts people we don’t — or shouldn’t — want to hurt.

Occupy Wall Street worked because it was such a powerful symbolic statement. Blocking the doors of local bank branches would not have been as effective, and would have brought a much more immediate police response.  Now that the Occupy movement has captured a lot of attention, taking the struggle to the headquarters of offending Wall Street entities will work fine, but going after local branches still seems to me to be offer a small payout for a lot of stress, and to inconvenience average people in a way likely to turn potential allies into probable opponents.  (Just as some of the stupider acts of vandalism around Occupy Oakland have done with downtown Oakland residents and merchants.)

“Occupying” the ports pissed off some members of trade unions that have historically been important supporters of progressive struggles — against US imperialism in Central America, for instance, on in the general strikes of the 1930s.  Port workers, longshoremen and their ilk were some of the most radical activists in the Bay Area in the first half of the Twentieth Century.  It’s stupid to piss them off, or to get into their turf, without working with them. (One of the reasons the events of May 1968 in France were so threatening and effective was the alliance forged between traditional, blue collar workers and student activists.) And the port “occupations” hurt local economies that were already hurting, probably more than they hurt the big nasty corporate entities we’d like to see suffer.

More than that, though, the ports are simply not where it’s at in any real sense.  If you want to “Occupy” globalization, you need to go after the headquarters, the  brain and heart of it; the ports are like the feet or the fingers, or maybe the lower intestine, pipes that things pass through that are not making any real choices.

And there are plenty of big, fat, juicy targets in the Bay Area. Lots of corporate headquarters for companies that are big players in globalization.  Levi Strauss no longer makes jeans in the United States. They moved all that overseas.  Apple doesn’t make any of its cool, fancy gadgets, so popular with hipsters and radicals alike around here.  And both have been implicated in some really bad shit with their workers overseas.  What about Chevron, right down there on Market St.?

If you want to move on globalization — and you should — don’t get distracted. Go for the commanding heights.  And that isn’t the ports.  It’s public perception, media support — and corporate hqs. All of which the port blockades miss.

You say you want a revolution? Well, we need to be smart about it.

Occupy Market Street

The Occupy meme, kicked off by Kalle Lasn and the crew at Adbusters, has spread perhaps faster and further than they could have dreamed in the short months since they launched it. Some of the “Occupy” spin-offs have a sensible and organic link to the original “Occupy Wall Street,” like the current #OCCUPYXMAS meme (and Twitter hashtag). Some have been parodic but pointed – Occupy Sesame Street being the obvious example:

Some of the mutations of the Occupy meme speak to its power and pervasiveness, such as people joking during the Thanksgiving holiday about “occupying the dinner table.” Some of these mutations though have been distorted and distorting, like the CBS radio spot, mentioned in a recent New York Times article, that ‘invited viewers to “occupy your couch.”‘ This seems very far from, even antithetical to, the motives, dreams and outrage that underlie Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy occupations/encampments/protests continue to get shut down, often violently across the country, despite the efforts of groups like the National Lawyers Guild (see here). And the Occupy meme’s spread also involves a certain amount of dissipation of its original force and focus. So I’ve been thinking of what we might “occupy” now that we’ve been kicked out of the original occupations – and have left the Thanksgiving tables and refuse to sit in our couches to be passively entertained by corporate media (except when The Big Bang Theory is on). Something that has some real connection with the aims, dreams and desires of the Occupy movement, of the Occupiers.

Of course, as so many of the mainstream responses have pointed out, it is not that easy to pin down or to speak to those aims and desires. One of the more articulate – though also highly academic, and deeply engaged with contemporary cultural theory – discussions of this problem is in a current opinion piece in The Guardian. As Bernard Harcourt notes in his analysis of “Occupy’s new grammar of political disobedience,” the Occupy movement is motivated by a response to the current situation in America (and elsewhere, I would argue):

this situation that so many perceive as intolerable – a condition of continuously increasing inequality where, today, “the 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.” That, I take it, is the guiding Jacobin spirit of this new form of political disobedience

Banks and financial institutions hare played a key role in creating the current situation of economic inequality in the United States, and more notoriously and obviously were central causes of the economic crisis that even when it hasn’t left them jobless and homeless has left many Americans feeling – correctly – profoundly vulnerable, and with an acute awareness that the “American dream” is a fantasy for most people, and the world of our parents, the world where it was natural to assume that your children would be better off than you, that world is gone.

Not precisely gone. Stolen. And in part what the Occupy movement has been “occupying” is the space, the void created by that lost world. The post-war prosperity in the United States was built, to a large degree, on a consensus between Big Business, Big Government and Big Labor. That consensus is gone. Labor is gone. Big Government is not so big anymore and if the Republicans have their way will get drastically smaller. But Big Business is bigger than ever, and it is not just limited to Wall Street.

During the early days of the current economic crisis, there was another meme making the rounds, “Wall Street vs Main Street” – the bailout of the financial institutions being contrasted with the struggles of “small businesses.” But that meme, that juxtaposition, relied on a hyper-idealized image of “Main Street.” The Main St. of Gene Kelly signing to Vera-Ellen in On the Town (one of the greatest of musicals, directed by Stanley Donen):

Let me tell you about my hometown, San Francisco… Well, that would take a long time – there’s a lot going on here, some of it good, lots of it bad – so let’s just talk about the “Main Street” here, Market Street, and more generally the downtown shopping district around Union Square.

Once a vibrant and diverse commercial district, Market St. has fallen on hard times in recent years. Many of the independent businesses have gone, to be replaced by corporate chain stores, or left as bordered up spaces. A few spaces get taken up by seedy operations selling convenience food and junk products that come and go, and are in any case interchangeable and equally awful. The sidewalks are dirty. Many of the city’s too homeless make their homes down there, where they are stepped over – figuratively and sometimes even literally – by shoppers on their way to Armani or The Gap, lawyers, financial analysts and tourists.

Partly what has hit Market St. is the same thing that his hit downtowns across the USA and Canada: malls, which suck too much of the money away from downtown to the periphery and leave nothing behind but liquor stores and shops selling cheap junk or bongs. But it’s not just that: one of the most successful malls in the country is right there, at the heart of Market St., at the intersection with Powell – the Westfield San Francisco Centre (owned by an Australian-based multinational). The malls don’t just suck money away from downtowns, though, they suck it away from locally-owned, independent businesses to the chains and franchises that seem to do best in the carefully controlled spaces of malls. The surveilled spaces. The private spaces.

So maybe what we need is an Occupy Westfield. An attempt to reclaim those parts of daily life which are increasingly being taken out of the public realm and put into the private, where they can be more fully controlled and policed. But even if some sort of magical inside-out operation could be effected and all the stores inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre were poured back onto the public street, onto Market Street, into those empty storefronts… I still wouldn’t want to shop at them. They are part of the problem.

It’s not just banks and financial institutions that created the inequality in the United States. Big Business and corporate capitalism have played their part as well. Wal-mart is the 18th largest public corporation in the world, the largest grocery store in the country and the largest private employer. But lots of those Wal-Mart employees still need welfare or second jobs to afford those groceries, as Wal-Mart is a notoriously bad employer. And notoriously anti-labor. Fortunately, there isn’t a Wal-Mart on Market Street, nor anywhere else in San Francisco. The nearest one is across the Bay in Oakland, near the Oracle Arena – named for the Oracle Corporation, whose co-founder Larry Ellison is one of the three wealthiest individuals in the USA, and the highest paid CEO in the world. The 1% indeed. And all of that started just a few miles away.

There is a Gap store, though, a huge one, right across the street from the San Francisco Centre. Just down the block from is a big Old Navy outlet. A couple of blocks away, off Market Street on Grant, near Union Square, is the flagship Banana Republic. All three of these clothing chains are owned by The Gap, Inc. – the country’s biggest specialty apparel retailer, and only recently slipped from #1 to #2 in the world, another mega-business that started right here. The store locations, appearances and contents give a very graphic lesson in market segmentation: from Old Navy at the bottom end to Banana Republic at the top. I feel particularly aggrieved by these stores since I can remember shopping at them when they were stores, nice little local stores, and not part of some huge corporate machine. Banana Republican was a quaint joint up a staircase in Marin that sold weird suplus from around the world, like British Army shorts from the WWII North Africa campaign that had been sitting in a warehouse over there for decades. The Gap was where I got my back-to-school clothes when I was little. I haven’t set foot in one for years. I’ve looked in from the outside, though. The one in the mall near my dad’s house in Canada looks like the one in San Francisco which looks like the one in Sydney, and the one in London, and the one in Singapore and the one in Hong Kong.

Across the street from that Gap, back in the San Francisco Centre, there’s a Godiva Chocolatier store. It too looks just like the one in Hong Kong, in London, in Toronto. Who needs it? These corporate chains are impoverishing us both culturally and economically. The malls and these mall stores, regardless of where they are located, don’t just suck the life out of our downtowns, they suck the money out of our communities, and in doing so contribute to the inequalities we see now, the vast inequalities that corporate capitalism is driving, growing fat on.

So what would it be to “Occupy Market St.”? Well, it would be the exact opposite, in a way, of “Occupy Wall Street.” It might be better called “Abandon Market St. and the Mall.” In short, shop local. Not just in your local neighbor, but at locally owned stores. And as much as possible for goods that do not come out of the same corporate capitalist machine.

Things will cost more. Good. We buy too much stuff already. It’s part of why our carbon footprint is stamping out the life of the planet.

There isn’t all that nice, free parking like at the mall. Again, good, and for roughly the same reasons.

Here is where the Occupy movement and the Green movement and the Slow Food / locavore movement and lots of other movements come together. The anger at Wall Street is more properly anger at a whole system which has risen up – call it corporate capitalism, or maybe, as Kim Stanley Robinson does, Götterdämmerung capitalism (see here for a start), creating vast fortunes for the few while immiserating the many, privatising more and more of the world, surveilling more and more of daily life to feed those profits, gutting civil liberties when they get in the way, gutting healthcare, and health, burning up the planet.

It’s time to Occupy Daily Life.

For more…