In tandem with Occupy Wall Street, there was a call to occupy Freedom Plaza in Washington DC on the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Under the banner of "Stop the Machine! Create a New World! Human Needs - Not Corporate Greed!" Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers and others created the October2011.org website where people from all over the country pledged to come occupy Freedom Plaza, as long as they could, for as long as it took, to shift the policies and priorities in DC from catering to corporations and the war machine, to serving real people and planet. In an article written by Kevin and Margaret, they described the evolution of their idea and experience-
They joined with Veterans for Peace and other organizations in an anti-war protest in December 2010 under the theme of developing a ‘culture of resistance’ in the United States. Chris Hedges said “Hope will only come when we resist the violence of the state. . . . those who resist here today with non-violence are the last thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration.”
The Tunisian and Egyptian Revolution drew media coverage in the United States. The Arab Spring led to a European summer, most noticable in Spain and Greece – rebellions which continue.
Beneath the media radar, people were in revolt in the United States. The occupation of the capitol in Wisconsin, and to some extent in Ohio and Michigan, were the tip of the iceberg breaking through the a media blockade. There were protests multiple times a week on a range of issues including closings of schools, tuition increases, mountain top removal for coal, austerity measures, health care, banking, foreclosures, failure of big business to pay taxes, climate change, war, torture, Bradley Manning – the issues and actions go on and on...
Margaret, Kevin, and others planning the occupation of Freedom Plaza were still not sure if the American people were ready to stand up against the power of concentrated wealth that had corrupted the government.In July when Ad Busters called for “20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months,” they were not sure whether it would detract or be synergistic with the Occupation of Washington, DC. They decided to endorsethe action and work to help it succeed. Organizers from Occupy Washington, DC went to the assemblies in New York to participate in making plans for OWS. Many were there on the first day and some stayed until the occupation of Freedom Plaza which began on October 6th.
The small, persistent group in the park and New York City police abusing their power, led to an explosion of hundreds of occupies throughout the country. More than 1,200 Occupy camps sprang up quickly around the nation and the world.
The Movement drew the nation's attention.They had a dramatic impact on the public discourse, but the first months were not without their problems. Occupies were not ready for dealing with many of the problems that exist in our unfair economy – homelessness, mass poverty, crime and violence – which were drawn to occupy sites. The Occupies had the challenge of dealing with those injured Americans.
Occupiers were torn between taking care of the 99% and building an effective political movement and safe encampments.
My son and I spent time at the occupations of Chicago, DC, Wall Street, Jacksonville, San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Stanford. In DC, we participated in the General Assemblies, street actions, protests, working groups, discussions, producing media, art, music and witnessing the multitude of events taking place as thousands gathered together to challenge the status quo. We were deeply impressed by the organizers, as well as the activists drawn to all of the occupations.
Kevin Zeese is an attorney who has been a political activist since 1980. He works on peace, economic justice, criminal law reform and reviving American democracy. He advocates for democratizing the economy and works to oppose to war and shrink the military budget. He chronicles the dramatic rise of corporate power on his blog. Zeese serves on the steering committees of the Bradley Manning Support Network which advocates for alleged whistle-blower, Bradley Manning, and October2011.org. He has challenged the activities of the national Chamber of Commerce, as well as the activities of Karl Rove’s Americans Crossroads and is seeking to overturn the Citizen’s United decision. He has been active in independent and third party political campaigns including for state legislative offices in Maryland, governor of California and U.S. president, where he served as press secretary and spokesperson for Ralph Nader in 2004. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006 and was the only person ever nominated by the Green Party, Libertarian Party and Populist Party.
Zeese serves as president of Common Sense for Drug Policy. He is a co-founder of Voters for Peace , Prosperity Agenda, True Vote and the Drug Policy Foundation, now known as Drug Policy Alliance.
Kevin will share his experiences at Freedom Plaza, where things stand now, and his hopes for the movement, and the evolution of their plans, recently outlined his blog posting "Phase II Occupy Washington, DC Two Houses & Freedom Plaza, Occupy the Economy, NOW DC" and more. He also worked on "The 99%’s Deficit Proposal: How to create jobs, reduce the wealth divide and control spending." He will be my guest on the upcoming Community Currency radio show, on the Progressive Radio Network, which is archived online. Margaret Flowers will be coming to the Bay Area next week to speak in San Francisco, February 15th, at Which Way Forward? A Panel to explore diverse paths to political change in America being organized by the San Francisco 99% Coalition.