Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Movement: Full Steam Ahead, with Citywide Demonstrations Planned for New York Today

Robert Reich's speech Tuesday at University of California to students and other activists supporting the Occupy movement is inspiring.  He notes that, in a nation whose Supreme Court has told us that corporations are people and that money is speech, it is astonishing to see protesters exercising their right of free speech and right to assembly being hounded by the police.  

He also points out that, with the tremendous gap between the super-rich and everyone else in the U.S., with the underfunding of eduction, with the dismantling of social safety nets for those on the margins, we are eroding the moral foundations of our democracy.  This is a motif that recurs in his address: the Occupy movement is an attempt of citizens across the nation to recover the moral basis of our democratic society.

I hadn't known of Reich's personal connection to Michael Schwerner.  What he says about this brought tears to my eyes as I listened to this video.  It made me realize that the painful, laborious struggle to preserve democracy and extend human rights that took place as I was growing up in the midst of the Civil Rights movement is still going on.  The Occupy movement is its latest manifestation.  And this movement is extraordinarily important, precisely for the reasons Reich articulates: if we remain apathetic while the structures of our participatory democracy are dismantled one by one, we will quickly find ourselves in an outright police state ruled by the brutality of the super-rich.

The attempt of the wealthy elite to employ police force to shut down protests is rebounding, however.  The repression is not suppressing, but is energizing, the moral force of the Occupy movement.  As Sarah Jaffe reports at Alternet, in New York, the OWS group is planning a citywide demonstration today, which will include student strikes at universities (these had been planned in advance of the eviction from Zuccotti Park), along with a rally at Foley Square. 

Jaffe cites an incisive observation of Aaron Winslow, a student at Columbia University, who turns on its head the argument being used in many cities to justify the shutdown of Occupy gatherings: this is the claim that the Occupy protests represent a threat to public safety.  Winslow states, 

The real threat to health, safety, and democracy in our communities dwells in the boardrooms of Wall Street firms and universities that are destroying our economy, dismantling our education, and corrupting our political system - not among non-violent demonstrators spending cold nights in tents in Liberty Square.

I noted yesterday that a number of faith communities in New York were considering offering sanctuary to the protesters evicted from Zuccotti Park, and that religious leaders were helping to reorganize the movement following the eviction and to assure that the protests continue.  And spread.

Later in the day, I received an email request from Faithful America to sign a petition asking Trinity Episcopal church on Wall Street to participate in the movement to offer sanctuary to protesters.  And this morning, I'd like to pass the link on to readers.  The petition demonstrates how decisive and important the involvement of some people of faith (though, I repeat, because this is historically significant, not the leaders of my church, the Catholic bishops of the U.S.) remains to this movement.  This is a movement sustained and energized by moral force and spirituality, comprising the aspirations of people from many religious traditions or no faith commitment at all, who share a concern to build a more humane world for everyone.

And if you need data to back up the claims of Reich and other supporters of this movement that our democracy and its institutions are imperiled by the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, I'd like to recommend this valuable educational resource from The Guardian, by way of Truthdig.

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