3 Remarkable Occupations You Haven't Heard Enough About
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Editor's note: This is the first in a series of AlterNet articles profiling Occupations around the country. Tune in for the next one tomorrow.
Occupy Wall Street has spread like wildfire to all corners of the globe. No matter the distance between them, the protests bear a striking resemblance to one another in spirit, courage and resolve. The non-hierarchical decentralized structure, the inclusiveness and cooperation are staples of the occupations. The authoritarian response that accompanies any powerful uprising is also a constant among the protests, with little exception.
As the eyes of the country are glued to Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street, and to Oakland, where the violent police response has ignited a historical series of protests, OWS offshoots in over 900 cities worldwide are building communities and transforming the world despite all the obstacles.
Here are three occupations around the country that are thriving despite various underhanded schemes to crush them.
Occupy Tucson (Arizona)
The city of Tucson has avoided attention-grabbing police raids. They're trying to quell protests using a quieter approach.
Occupy Tucson has been camped out at Armory Park, just two blocks from the city's financial district, since October 15. Every night since, police enter the park at the 10:30pm curfew armed, not with riot gear and paddy wagons, but with a pad of citations or written arrests. Each citation amounts to a class one misdemeanor that carries up to $1,000 in fines , up to six months in jail, and up to three years probation. Occupy Tucson activists refer to these tactics as "financial and legal attrition to kill the movement."
Craig Barber, 28, an Occupy Tucson protester who describes himself as an "underemployed professional with unaffordable student debt," says the Tucson Police Department has issued over 400 criminal citations thus far. This includes protesters in the two nearby satellite camps at Veinte de Agosto Park and Library Park. There is a permanent presence of roughly 100 protesters every night, many of whom have received multiple citations.
"I think that the city of Tucson has been watching the national theater and has noticed that the physical reaction does in fact galvanize more support, so they're using the more insidious tactic of legally intimidating the occupiers as well as financially bleeding the movement and also overwhelming our legal support," said Barber, adding that the handful of attorneys volunteering their time to support the cause are swamped by the sheer volume of citations.
There is a growing concern that the potential for criminal charges is stifling participation. "If you're a teacher or somebody who needs to pass a criminal background check for your employment, a criminal misdemeanor charge is a real concern,” said Barber. “There is also the chilling effect that it has on people who would want to come and participate in the occupation, but can't necessarily afford a $1,000 fine per night or afford to have a misdemeanor charge on their record."
The citation protocol has also distracted the movement by diverting energy away from their original goals. "We started out wanting to protest the issues of economic inequality and disenfranchisement in our democracy because of corporate financing of politicians, but now because of the city of Tucson's response to the movement, our priorities have shifted to defending our first amendment protected activities."
Despite phone call and email campaigns demanding that city council members change the citation policy, and marches to city council meetings, Tucson representatives have remained silent on the issue. Having given up on swaying the city government to step up, members of the legal working group are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the city.