Awesome Actions and Demonstrations Planned to Mark 1st Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street
Photo Credit: Sarah Jaffe
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On Monday night, September 10, in the basement of Judson Memorial Church over 100 people gathered to attend the last large “S17” planning meeting. S17 is the shorthand for the weekend of assemblies, concerts, meetings, protests and actions that people have been planning in New York City for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. At 9:30, in the hot and crowded basement room as the meeting started to wrap up, somebody yelled, “This is going to be great, everyone!” Those who heard let out nervous laughs and smiles.
The last large planning meetings before big events are usually like this: packed, hectic, anxious, long, and with an underlying air of anticipation and excitement. But for those planning the S17 events, these feelings are all the more intense, as the movement struggles to prove that it is still very much in existence, still relevant and has accomplished a lot in the past year.
If one were at this Monday night planning meeting, or any of the planning meetings leading up to this one, or one of the many smaller outreach, action, support or services meetings there would be no question that Occupy was still in existence, albeit in a very different form than it was a year ago. Now, a year later, Occupy has transformed from, as organizer Marisa Holmes says, “A centralized body in the park to a decentralized network” that includes a broad range of projects from the Strike/Debt campaign, to Occupy Town Square, to the Free University. As Holmes says: “From debt strikes to rent strikes to free schools, to local food, Occupy has started to build a world without Wall Street.”
The events planned for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street aim to show what this world without Wall Street would look like, and in that vein include not only a day of protests and direct actions on Monday, September 17, but also a weekend of workshops, convergences and trainings on the 15th and 16th and a Free University in Madison Square Park from the 18th to the 22nd. This plan, that takes on the themes of “Education” on September 15, “Celebration” on September 16 and “Liberation" on September 17 aims to incorporate a wide range of people's interests, from the environment to debt to education and a wide range of ways to protest and come together around these shared interests.
Highlights of the schedule include thematic assemblies in Washington Square Park on Saturday, September 15th around issues such as education, debt, political repression/ anti-oppression, workers and the environment. These assemblies are aimed at plugging people into the work that is already happening around these issues, both within Occupy and within the more institutional left. As organizer Winter (who goes by one name only) says, they are also to “remind people of the power of Occupy: not just protesting and screaming at capitalism and its rotten institutions, but realizing that coming together and beginning to listen to each other, cooperate and be together in public is about the most radical thing you can do right now.”
On Sunday there will be the “99 Revolutions” concert at Foley Square, featuring a wide range of musical acts, including Tom Morello and members of Das Racist, as well as evening Rosh Hashanah services at Liberty Plaza organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Occupy Judaism and Jewish Voices for Peace. These services aim to show that the themes of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, resonate with those of Occupy, themes of renewal and reflection and moving forward with intention. They also aim to provide a space for people who would not normally engage with Occupy to do so and for those who choose to either come to, or stay in, New York for the weekend of actions to have a space to celebrate the holiday as a community.
The action plan for the Monday, September 17th day of “Liberation” is elaborate and intentional in its aim not to be just another march or rally, but to allow people to express their discontent with Wall Street in their own creative ways. Starting at 7am, the “Peoples Wall” will be enacted as people engage in non-violent civil disobedience and sit down around Wall Street to prevent the Stock Exchange from opening. At the same time there will be the 99 Revolutions “swirl” protests in which different groups engage in mobile occupations of intersections throughout the financial district and protest at specific targets that are applicable to their interests.
At 10am the Eco Cluster will gather at Bowling Green to "Storm Wall Street" and demand that Wall Street stop bankrolling climate change. In the afternoon, in conjunction with various unions, there will be a rally at Foley Square and then in the evening there will be a Popular Assembly to bring everyone together.
Starting the next day, on Tuesday, September 18 through September 22, the Free University will conduct an experiment in radical pedagogy, horizontalism and political education at Madison Square Park. Born out of a deep-seated critique and anger about the inaccessibility and inequality of higher education, that is connected to a lack of democracy and transparency in the governing and management of the educational system, the Free University will occupy Madison Square Park with days of radical, free and open courses, workshops, discussions and trainings in order to pre-figure a different vision of what education could be. The Free University is also a space for those involved in the Occupy movement to come together after its weekend of actions to share knowledge, skills, engage in critical self-reflection and practice the kind of revolutionary critical self-education that enduring social movements most invest in.
With its variety of different actions planned and groups involved, the events organized from September 15-22 promise to highlight Occupy Wall Street's original message: that years after the bailout and financial crisis the institutions that caused this crisis have still not been held accountable and now, in another election year, still hold too much power over our political process. They also promise to enact, albeit in a different way then the occupation last year, the practice of not only critiquing, but also making the world that those in the movement want to see.
In an election year these protests and actions take on even more importance. While the context of the elections is not often specifically mentioned at Occupy planning meetings it is there in the background. Occupy has intentionally rejected being aligned with any political party and instead has focused its message around the corrupting influence of money in politics. As organizer Andrew Smith says, “We are inherently in dialogue with the elections by choosing to be non-partisan and firmly behind getting money out of politics.”
On September 17 there are also 22 solidarity events planned around the country in places as far ranging as Burlington, VT to Charleston, SC. There are also international events and protests planned in places such as Moscow, Ottawa and Paris (to name a few) ensuring that the one-year anniversary of Occupy is national and international in scale and takes on the issues that are relevant to these places.
Everyone I talked to about the organizing of these events emphasized over and over again that while September 17 is Occupy's anniversary, these events are not meant to be backward-looking but instead to be forward-looking and to serve as outreach to get more people involved in political action. When I asked why people should get involved and come out for one of the many events and actions planned, the answer I got from one organizer was as simple as it was beautiful: “Because all we have is each other and the streets.”
For more information on events planned and because these schedules are still in flux, find information here.
For information about events outside of New York City and more general information look here.