The Black Commentator: An independent weekly internet magazine dedicated to the movement for economic justice, social justice and peace - Providing commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African Americans and the African world.
Oct 20, 2011 - Issue 446

The People’s Occupation:
Making Demands and Building Democracy
A View from the Battlefield
By Jamala Rogers Editorial Board



The Occupy Wall Street Movement is now about a month old. It began way before people gathered at Zuccotti Park, which sits in the shadows of Wall Street. It began before the Canadian anti-capitalist maga zine Adbuster issued a call to spark an American “Tahrir moment” (in reference to the situation in Cairo that resulted in Egypt’s regime change). It certainly began long before a group of organizers met at 16 Beaver Street to create the New York City General Assembly. It started before the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol last year. And while all of the above may have been fuel, the Occupy Wall Street Movement has been simmering for about a decade. It was stirred to a boil in the last few years by U.S. corporate bloodsuckers and a GOP-dominated Congress who have thumbed their noses at the majority of citizens in this country.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) has spread to about 1,000 cities in the U.S. and throughout Europe, Asian, and Africa. That’s because neo-liberal policies have created a global financial system that is choking the life out of 99 Percenters all around the world.

For at least the last twenty years, the salaries of the working class have not just flattened, they have taken a dip, given the rise in the cost of living. During this same time span, the gap between the 1% and the 99% has tripled, pushing more Americans into poverty. While we lined up at pantry centers for food, lost our homes, filed bankruptcy because of health care catastrophes and witnessed a decline in the stability of our neighborhoods, the elite in this country have been jet-setting around, eating at the finest restaurants, going home to their nice mansions and finding more ways to exploit the world and keep wars going.

Some media observers and political pundits keep pressing the protestors for their demands as in what-do-you-people-want? Movements have their own unique rhythms, their ebbs and flows. It’s okay that people have come out to express their anger and outrage at a system that has caused a lot of economic damage at taxpayers’ expense. The ruling class and their Congressional cronies need to see the scope of this anger. We are tired of Wall Street getting bailouts on the People’s dime. Enough is enough and quite frankly, we’re out of dimes.

Each city’s Occupy looks and acts differently. It will take some time for those who are at the heart of the actions to get to know one another, to struggle through acts and words of racism, sexism and homophobia, to learn consensus building - all necessary to create a truly democratic space.

For example, Occupy L.A. has stated that it’s in it for the long haul and has put together Principles of Solidarity for its Action Assembly. It plans on reaching out to diverse communities and neighborhoods to bring them into the process.

Occupy St. Louis has its own website, being transparent about decisions and actions. With the World Series coming to St. Louis, the group will surely utilize this opportunity to raise important issues affecting families in this region with national eyes on us.

And the movement is getting more organized - creating websites to inform people of actions, raising monies, etc. They are organizing food, shelter, medical care, libraries and a host of other needs for participants.

Ultimately, the OWS Movement will have to figure out strategy and tactics that will ensure tangible changes in the future. We should always be guided by the eloquent words of Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

With thousands of people being mobilized across the country, it would be a travesty not to use the power of the people to force some concessions that will ease our economic pain. We can choose from a smorgasbord of economic injustices to address: mass unemployment, rampant home foreclosures, slashes in social services, defunding of public education, increases in health care costs, etc. People will need to graduate from chants and signs to a political agenda that spells out what must happen to “Make Wall Street Pay for the Crisis!”

This is a broad based, intergenerational, multi-racial movement that could bring meaningful changes in this country, especially as we head into the 2012 elections. Let’s work towards minimizing empty rhetoric and pockets and maximizing our political power and economic victories. Editorial Board member, Jamala Rogers, is the leader of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis and the Black Radical Congress National Organizer. Additionally, she is an Alston-Bannerman Fellow. Click here to contact Ms. Rogers.