Occupy Keeps Up the Momentum With an Anti-Austerity Week of Actions in NYC
Occupy Wall Street isn't wasting any time post- Spring Awakening and May Day. It is geared up for a full week of actions addressing different issues each day from May 10 to May 15. It is clear that Occupy is working very hard not to lose its spring momentum.
The week of action, which has the theme "Another City is Possible, Another World is Possible," arose to combat the ongoing budget cuts in New York City. With the 2013 city budget having come out the first week of May, the week of action is timely, focusing on austerity and measures directly relate to the struggles of the 99 percent. In addition, the week will be punctuated by two global days of action, on May 12 and 15, to tie the local actions into a broader international context.
An organizer of the week of action, Yotam Marom, says he wants the week to be about "creating a framework for a lot of groups and individuals to work collectively on issues they are already working on individually. We need to connect everyone because all the issues are interconnected. There are a lot of different groups with different tactics and goals, but it's a way for these groups to work together - to have autonomy while still having solidarity."
Additionally, organizers want to connect Occupy to other social change initiatives. As Marom says, "Occupy is at its best when it's part of everything else." The week of action is meant to side-step questions of affiliation and coalition building. The planners of the week are not a coalition, but rather, individuals working together on relevant issues because they care about them - not because of their affiliation.
The issues for each day were chosen based on a look at where budget cuts have been made in recent years, and also what was important to people involved in the planning process. Organizers wanted to focus on real issues that individuals can connect to, with the hope of using these issues to create radical change over the long-term.
The week kicks off on Thursday, May 10, with an opening assembly at 6pm in Union Square. This assembly will allow participants to speak out about issues that affect their lives and will offer details on each day of action.
Friday, May 11, will be all about homes, jobs, and services. Actions start at 11:30am with an anti-budget cuts action at the lighthouse at South Street Seaport, continuing with a rally on the southeast corner of Murray and West Streets at 1pm calling for good jobs, not giveaways, from big banks. Next there will be a celebration and speak-out at Rockefeller Park near Battery Park City from 2 to 6pm, and finally an action at 7pm demanding respect for workers' right to organize at Capital Grille (155 E 42nd St.).
Caroline Leader, one of the organizers helping plan actions on the 11th, discussed why she got involved. "So often the 1 percent and corporations blame lower-income people for their struggles, but we need to realize that many people start at a disadvantage," she said. "Even more encounter serious life changes - loss of a job, illness, family member's deportation, etc. - and have trouble picking themselves back up again. We live in a connected world and we all need to help each other. Basically, the 1 percent get what they want while too many of the 99 percent struggle to get what they need. We are showing up on May 11 to fight for a city where housing is a human right, for a country with good jobs for all, for a world where our basic needs are met."
Saturday, May 12, a global day of action, focuses on food, the environment, and health issues. Many individuals will be attending the Brooklyn Food Conference being held at Brooklyn Tech High School (20 Fort Greene Pl.) from 9am to 6pm. The purpose of this free conference is to discuss the global economy and how to make a sustainable food system a reality. Some activists will leave the conference early to join the No Pipeline Bike Ride starting on the south side of Union Square at 2pm. People will bike around the city dressed in colors of toxic chemicals to raise awareness about the Spectra Pipeline. For those who cannot make the 2pm ride, a second meet-up will be help for pedestrians at 3pm at Pier 54. At 5pm, there will be a Making Change at Walmart truck tour about workers' rights, starting outside Brooklyn Tech High School. The tour will declare New York City a Walmart-free zone. At 5:30pm, all actions will converge with a rally to end the day at City Hall.
Sunday, May 13, will be the Mother's Day of Action, with mothers taking a stand against the injustices of police brutality, mass incarceration, war, immigrant repression, and other issues that gravely affect their children and families. Of course, non-mothers are also encouraged to attend these actions and show their support.
That day, OWS decided to support the many actions already being held across the city. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the movement is collaborating with other organizations that are working on the same issues, and giving them the support and the audience they need. So OWS will participate in the following actions being planned by other groups:
At 11:30am, the Granny Peace Brigade will hold its sixth annual Mother's Day Peace Stroll in Central Park, at the Columbus Circle entrance. There will be music by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and songs from the Raging Grannies.
The main action of the day is Mothers Resisting Racist Policing, being held by Mothers Against Racist Policing, an ad hoc group of Black and brown mothers organizing against police violence, stop and frisk, and racist policing in their communities. That action will take place at 1pm at te corner of E. 158th St. and 3rd Ave. in the South Bronx. Thisanjali Gangoda, an organizer for the day, says, "Participating in this march is vital to growing our movement because we must work with impacted communities in a way that supports their autonomous organizing efforts. It's also a way to build relationships and trust amongst each other so that we can continue doing awesome work together in the future."
The latter half of the day will feature a citywide movement assembly - a follow-up to the Spring Awakening event Occupy held last month. The assembly will begin at 5pm at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Sq. South) with a speak-out on how the issues of the week affect mothers, children, and families. The assembly will continue with strategic discussion at 6pm and end with a potluck and dance party at 8:30pm.
On Monday, May 14, actions will focus on education and students - fostering a city with quality public schools, a country without student debt, and a world with free education for all. Teachers from the United Federation of Teachers, along with other supporters, will be leafleting and picketing at Bloomberg L.P. I731 Lexington Ave.), starting as early as 7am, all day until 4pm. The highlight of the day will be a family event from 5 to 7pm at Manhattan's Grand Army Plaza (59th St. and 5th Ave.), including a stroller march, games, and a kids' + brigade against childcare cuts. With federal student loan interest rates expected to double by July 1, education and student debt is an issue on many New Yorkers' minds.
The week ends with another global day of action on Tuesday, May 15, tying together all the issues of the week. This last day will include a financial crime walking tour, starting at 4pm at Bryant Park. The day, and week, will end with a convergence at Times Square at 6pm. This is expected to be a mass gathering and a culmination of the week's actions.
To get involved in any of these actions, all you need to do is show up! But if you want more information, visit the week of action's website and Facebook page. True to Occupy's spontaneous nature, additional actions are sure to spring up over the next few days. But if you can only make it to one event, the global day of action on May 15th is where you will want to be. And throughout the week, you can follow real-time updates on Twitter by following #anothernyc.
If you've been waiting for the right event to get plugged into Occupy, your options are plentiful this week. Don't wait any longer. Rise up!