You Can't Evict an Idea Whose Time has Come
Two months ago, just 200 of us set up an encampment at Wall Street's doorstep. Since then, Occupy Wall Street has become a national and even international symbol – with similarly styled occupations popping up in cities and towns across America and around the world. A growing popular movement has significantly altered the national narrative about our economy, our democracy, and our future.
Late into last night, we on the Occupy Wall Street PR team were reflecting on the successes, challenges and the aims of our movement up to this point. Over the weekend, some 20 writers sent us their thoughts on their experience with direct democracy and the evolution of the movement. We sat in awe for a moment at the various perspectives, backgrounds and motives of each OWS contributor and their journey through this burgeoning movement.
At exactly 12:54 am – as the PR working group was culling final articles for this very editorial page, the Outreach team nearby was developing orientation materials for the new initiative "Occupy Your Block", and the Movement Building working group engaged in a conference call about national plans for the Day of Action on 17 November – an alert rippled room to room. At 1:20 am, our phones started buzzing off the tables, overloaded with text messages. Three blocks away, and within seconds, we knew that hundreds of riot police were arriving, dump-trucks rolling in, subway stops shutting down, and the Brooklyn bridge had been closed. Via Twitter we knew our fellow Occupiers were chanting, "This is what a police state looks like." Half the people in the off-site office space ran to Liberty Square, leaving their laptops, their wallets, their phones even, behind.
PR working group member Jason Ahmadi texted the team from a police van full of 13 arrestees, and we soon discovered that NYC council member Ydanis Rodríguez had been arrested and was bleeding from the head. One after another text message alerted us to the effect that those not yet arrested at Liberty Square were being chased up Broadway, towards Chinatown. Some of our people headed to Foley Square by City Hall, some to Washington Square, and others to Judson Memorial Church, where so many of our meetings have been held these past weeks.
Occupiers undeterred by the unprovoked brutality rained on them by police instantly regrouped and launched a fresh General Assembly, which took place at Foley square. More General Assemblies are planned throughout the day. An interfaith gathering planned for 9:00 am aimed to offer comfort and encouragement to the occupiers.
At 2:43 am, the New York Observer reported that photographers with credentials were barred from Liberty Square. Seconds later the director of editorial operations at Gawker reported that a CBS news chopper were ordered out of the sky by the NYPD. New York Times journalist Jarid Malsin went to jail in zipties. And 20 minutes later, we heard the NYPD was cutting down trees in Liberty Square, and from our office space we could hear the deployment of a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a sound cannon. To be certain, we could see and feel that this operation had been planned carefully to exclude all media coverage, sending out a loud message about how dissent will be treated in this democracy.
But we are not deterred. Our spirits our high, our resolve indomitable.
This burgeoning movement is more than a protest, more than an occupation, and more than any tactic. The "us" in this movement is far broader than those who are able to participate in physical occupations. The movement is everyone who sends supplies, everyone who talks to their friends and families about the underlying issues, everyone who takes some form of action to get involved in this civic process.
This moment is nothing short of America rediscovering the strength we hold when we come together as citizens to take action to address crises that impact us all.
Such a movement cannot be evicted. Some politicians may physically remove us from public spaces – our spaces – and, physically, they may succeed. But we are engaged in a battle over ideas. Our idea is that our political structures should serve us, the people – all of us, not just those who have amassed great wealth and power. We believe this idea resonates with so many of us because Congress, beholden to Wall Street, has ignored the powerful stories pouring out from the homes and hearts of our neighbors, stories of unrelenting economic suffering. Our dream for a democracy in which we matter is why so many people have come to identify with Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement.
As of filing this morning, with 100 people sitting in jail, a judge has declared that we have a right to return with our belongings, while Mayor Bloomberg insists that the park will remain closed. It does not matter. We will reclaim our streets block by block: we will occupy our public spaces, everywhere, knowing that this idea cannot be evicted.
-- JM Smucker, Rebecca Manski, Karanja Gaçuça, Linnea M Palmer Paton, Kanene Holder and William Jesse of the OWS PR Team