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Statement from #Justice4Cecily

Posted 3 months ago on May 19, 2014, 11:21 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

Today, Cecily McMillan was sentenced to 90 days in prison for being sexually assaulted by a police officer at a protest, and then responding to that violence by defending herself. We all know that Cecily did not receive a fair trial and this case will be fought in the Court of Appeals.

The sentencing of Cecily McMillan has elicited an array of deeply felt responses from a broad range of individuals and communities, and it has also created a moment to think about what solidarity means. For many of us who consider ourselves to be part of the Occupy movement, there’s first and foremost a simple and deep sadness for a member of our community who has endured a painful and demeaning physical and sexual assault, and now has had her freedom taken away from her. And it’s painfully clear to us that Cecily’s case is not special. Sexual violence against women is disturbingly common, and there is a tremendous amount of over-policing and prosecutorial overreach by the police and the courts, enacted predominantly upon black and brown populations every single day, generation after generation.

On a broader level, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of public support in the wake of the verdict, for which Cecily and the team are truly grateful. We’re heartened, too, by the outrage this blatant, heavy-handed attempt to quash dissent has elicited from the public at large.

The message this verdict sends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy handed enforcers, the NYPD.

We certainly think outrage is an appropriate response from economic and social justice activists and allies who are concerned about the silencing of those who push for change. The DA and the courts want to make an example out of Cecily—to deter us, to scare us, to keep us out of the streets. And we won’t let that happen. This ruling will not deter us, it will strengthen our resolve.

At the same time we recognize that outrage is a blunt tool that can too often obscure important distinctions. Cecily’s story represents a confluence of a number of different kinds of structural and institutional oppression that impact different communities in different ways. Expressions of shock at the mistreatment and denial of justice for Cecily—a white, cisgendered graduate student—only underline how rarely we’re proven wrong in our presumptions that common privileges of race, class and gender-normativity will be fulfilled.

It’s no great secret that police brutality and intimidation and railroading in the court system are an all-too-predictable part of life for many low-income black and brown people, immigrants, and gender nonconforming New Yorkers—the vast majority of whom receive far less than Cecily in the way of legal support and media attention. And while we're furious that, in the wake of a violent sexual assault, Cecily might now be subject to the institutionalized sexual violence of the prison system, it’s only on top of our horror at the gross injustice that countless people with significantly less recourse experience daily at the hands of that same system.

While we believe Cecily’s story can provide a rallying point around which others may challenge police sexual violence and the brutal suppression of dissent, we recognize that, at best, Cecily is an awkward symbol for the broader issues of police brutality and a broken, biased legal system. This awkwardness is but one example of many awkward scenarios regarding race and privilege that played out in Occupy communities since the original occupation of Zuccotti Park. As a movement, we see in this moment a chance not to push past, but to sit with that awkwardness—to start to reach out in ways that at times may be uncomfortable and to further stretch our boundaries. To learn from communities who’ve been in this struggle long before Occupy existed: From feminist organizations who resist patriarchal domination and combat sexual violence, to anti-racist organizations who, in their struggle for justice, have been met every step of the way by a violent police force and a legal system committed to silencing dissent.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been a catalyst for social and economic change. But, while we claim to be “the 99%”, building a movement that truly represents the diversity and strength of the people will require a principled approach in our activism centered around a love ethic. Bell Hooks describes the love ethic in All About Love as:

“The will to one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does, Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

To build solidarity, it’s not enough to simply be a slogan or a meme—Slavoj Zizek told us during the encampment to “not fall in love with ourselves”.

Solidarity means listening and extending ourselves when oppressed communities ask—not to try to lead, but to get our hands dirty and do the work.

Building solidarity across the 99% is the only way to effectively fight the 1%, and to create genuine change. Though Zuccotti Park changed us forever, the true work began when we went back out into the world.

Many of us are now are working in communities, figuring out how to most effectively demand justice for the 99%—from copwatch, to tenant councils that combat high rents and poor living conditions, to helping build community gardens. As we continue building support networks in our new communities, for the people who still interact with one another in the movement, we are more than friends now—we are family. We’re connected because we see in each other the strength to overcome struggles we couldn’t possibly win on our own.

A member of our support team went to Rikers Island yesterday to visit Cecily and she spoke of her experiences in prison:

“I am very conscious of how privileged I am, especially in here. When you are in prison white privilege works against you. You tend to react when you come out of white privilege by saying “you can’t do that” when prison authorities force you to do something arbitrary and meaningless. But the poor understand that’s the system. They know it is absurd, capricious and senseless, that it is all about being forced to pay deference to power. If you react out of white privilege it sets you apart. I have learned to respond as a collective, to speak to authority in a unified voice. And this has been good for me. I needed this.”

“We can talk about movement theory all we want,” she went on. “We can read Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, but at a certain point it becomes a game. You have to get out and live it. You have to actually build a movement. And if we don’t get to work to build a movement now there will be no one studying movement theory in a decade because there will be no movements. I can do this in prison. I can do this out of prison. It is all one struggle.”

As Cecily continues the struggle in prison, we will continue outside. We show that we are a family not just by words, but by our actions. Paulo Freire states in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that praxis is the "reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.”

Through praxis, we learn again and again that all of our grievances are connected. Our struggles are not the same. But our fates are tied up in each others. Solidarity is the only way we’ll see our way through.

To stay involved and help Cecily while she is in prison, please go to www.justiceforcecily.com for more details.

29 Comments

Cecily McMillan Sentenced to 90 Days: A Call to Action

Posted 3 months ago on May 19, 2014, 10:17 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

No #Justice4Cecily, No Peace. Rally at 7:30PM TONIGHT, Zuccotti Park

Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan has been sentenced in New York City. Her imprisonment and botched trial are just the latest in a two-year trial of injustices that leads back to her brutal arrest on March 17, 2012 in Liberty Square. She has become another symbol of the two-tiered justice system in the United States: prisons overflowing with nonviolent offenders, whistleblowers and political dissenters while thieving executives and banksters walk free.

As Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” The perpetrators of the crime of poverty not only walk amongst us but are elevated by a broken system to the highest offices of government and corporate power. Enough!

When we took to the streets across our country in 2011 in dignified and peaceful protest, we were brutally arrested by militarized police officers sent to destroy our solidarity and resolve. By the thousands we occupied jail cells and courtrooms and learned of the atrocities committed to the ‘other 1%’: the 1 in 100 Americans who are currently ensnared in the prison system in some form. This is the highest rate of incarceration this country, and the world, has ever seen. Enough!

We need a mass and militantly non-violent movement to bring down the broken prison system in the USA and restore justice.

This is a call to action.

Take a one-day vow of silence against their violence. Take a picture of yourself with duct tape covering your mouth and on it write the name of a prisoner you know. Post it online. Join with others at your local District Attorney’s office for a rally or direct action. Create or join a silent candlelight vigil in your community against police brutality and for freedom for all political prisoners.

You will not be alone in your silence. We will join your silence with ours and unite in a deafening roar to let the country know we will not stand by while you destroy our loved ones’ futures.

At the end of the one-day silence, we will take bold and brave direct action together to shut down the prison-industrial complex. We will have your back.

Our silence against their violence.

Justice for Cecily!

Justice for Trayvon!

Justice for Troy Davis!

Justice for Marissa Alexander!

Justice for Chelsea Manning!

Justice for Ramarley Graham!

Justice for the victims of poverty!

Justice for the victims of systemic racism!

Justice for all.

1 Comments

Hail to all who has come to show solidarity with #OccupyITU!

Posted 3 months ago on May 17, 2014, 11:49 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: occupyitu

We have OCCUPIED ITU Mining Faculty to demand the perpetrators and their collaborators in our university to account for what happened in Soma on 13th of May, Tuesday.

After our occupation has begun, the Dean of ITU Mining Faculty Fatma Aslan has declared that all collaboration with the Soma Holding has been canceled. With our demand, Secretary General to Rectorate Tayfun Kındap has also declared that none of the students who have participated in occupation will be subjected to investigation. In addition, Orhan Kural apologized publicly from his own web site. Although our basic demands have been verbally accepted, this occupation cannot be limited by demands. We still do not accept the declaration of the Rectorate considering the situation far from scientific view, similar to government. ITU administration must make an official declaration that they have consented to our demands and that the Soma incident was a massacre.

The former governments’ multiplication of worker-hating and out-sourcing policies today, with AKP government, has become the greatest worker massacre of the century.

This massacre is neither the first, nor the last. As the labor organizations and Chamber of Mining Engineering, who has fought against the governments’ policies of privatization and out-sourcing, have been repeatedly saying for years, the most important reasons for accidents and murders in work are privatization and out-sourcing. Even though 95% of the accidents can be prevented, 5000 work accident has occurred only in Soma in 2013. The privatization of supervision and the interest of the greedy bosses to reduce costs, have cost to the lives of workers; Soma massacre was no surprise.

With this occupation, we declare that we will not be a part of this massacre and we do not accept ITU to have any part in this crime against humanity. ITU must raise science and knowledge for the interest of the people, the labors who work with their honorable stand, not for the bosses who multiply their fortune from them. The involvement of ITU Mining Faculty with the companies aiming to provide them more profit with the cost of workers lives, is not in harmony with science and conscience at all.

The number of workers who are left to die under the mines is still unknown, yet the government continues to attack the people in Soma from every direction possible. But, the spark of Soma has built up a fire in ITU. Now, we call for all our friends in universities to demand the perpetrators to account for Soma, to start occupations in their universities for Soma and to rise up against the collaboration of universities with the capital and the policies of out-sourcing.

We declare that we will participate in the process of retribution of those responsible from Roboski to Reyhanlı and to Soma.

We demand worker-hating AKP, partisan Rectors, and collaborating academicians to account for what they have done. We continue our occupation and we continue to make it grow.

We will be the engineers and architects of the people, not those murderers!

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING, LONG LIVE OUR RESISTANCE!

http://isgalinguncesi.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/hail-to-all-who-has-come-to-show-solidarity-with-the-occupyitu-and-who-multiplied-the-occupation/

2 Comments

I’m making $21 an hour at McDonald’s. Why aren’t you?

Posted 3 months ago on May 16, 2014, 9:13 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: organizing, global protest, fast food forward

No, that isn’t a typo. It’s really my salary.

You see, I work for McDonald’s in Denmark, where an agreement between our union and the company guarantees that workers older than 18 are paid at least $21 an hour. Employees younger than 18 make at least $15 — meaning teenagers working at McDonald’s in Denmark make more than two times what many adults in America earn working at the Golden Arches.

To anyone who says that fast-food jobs can’t be good jobs, I would answer that mine isn’t bad. In fact, parts of it are just fine. Under our union’s agreement with McDonald’s, for example, I receive paid sick leave that workers are still fighting for in many parts of the world. We also get overtime pay, guaranteed hours and at least two days off a week, unlike workers in most countries. At least 10 percent of the staff in any given restaurant must work at least 30 hours a week.

Many of the U.S. workers I meet make less than $9 an hour. And unlike in Denmark, where most fast-food workers are young people looking to make extra money while in school, the vast majority of U.S. fast-food workers are adults trying to support their families. Roughly 70 percent are in their 20s or older, according to a recent study, and more than a quarter are raising kids.

Jessica Davis, for example, who works at a McDonald’s in Chicago and has two daughters— one 4 years old and the other 4 months old. After working four years at McDonald’s, she makes $8.98 an hour and has no stable work schedule.

How can fast-food companies expect employees to work hard but not pay them enough to live on? All fast-food workers should be able to support themselves while helping large companies like McDonald’s make huge profits.

Employees also deserve a voice in their workplace — as we have in Denmark — and McDonald’s should respect the right of employees in all countries to organize and speak for themselves.

McDonald’s didn’t give us our union. We had to fight for it. It was a five-year struggle that involved many demonstrations like the ones that will stretched across the globe on Thursday.

Written by McDonald's worker Louise Marie Rantzau. Originally published on Reuters.

109 Comments

End the Fast Food Swindle with the #FastFoodGlobal Day of Action

Posted 3 months ago on May 15, 2014, 7:06 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: strikes, Fight for $15, Fastfoodglobal

Following successful strikes in August, the UC Berkeley Labor Center published a report showing the very high cost of low wages in the fast food sector.

Among their findings:

  • More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.
  • The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year. Following that report, the National Employment Law Project found that the top fast food employers are the biggest beneficiaries of that assistance:

Additionally, the report found that the top five fast food companies profited a combined $7.44 billion while purchasing $7.7 billion in stock buybacks for the benefit of executives and investors. People working in fast-food jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty. Meanwhile, fast food corporations are posting records in profits and buybacks while spending billions on advertising and millions on corporate jets. If the stark difference between workers and executives becomes too much McDonald’s has sage advice for its employees: “Stop Complaining.” But it gets even worse. Workers admit that their bosses routinely steal from them as well.

For these reasons and more, we are joining the #FastFoodGlobal day of action.

*Article originally posted on FastFoodGlobal.org

115 Comments

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