As the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement approaches on September 17th, occupy groups across the country are planning solidarity events.
To commemorate the birth of OWS in New York City, activists in Seattle plan to stage a march and vigil at the original site of their encampment at Westlake Park. Occupy Seattle participants say they will cover their mouths with dollars bills and carry signs saying, "Money is not free speech!", referring to the US Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unlimited contributions to political candidates.
In New York City, OWS organizers are preparing for a mass act of civil disobedience called "The People's Wall". Demonstrators will converge at seven different street intersections in Manhattan on the morning of Sept. 17th. The activists know that a security zone will be established around the stock market, denying protesters access to the building. In response, the occupiers say they will sit down and refuse to move when they are barred from entering the area by the New York City Police Department.
A legal team has been assembled, and OWS NYC is asking everyone who participates in the protests to register with a legal observer. There will be intensive legal training available for all of the demonstrators visiting New York City. In this way, the organizers hope to track and assist anyone who may be arrested while practicing civil disobedience.
But the OWS folks in NYC want everyone to know that this mass act of protest is just one small part of the week's activities. Most of the the time, organizers will be concentrating on training activists who will be gathering from around the nation. They want to provide a two day training camp so that occupiers can go back to their own communities and stage effective protests.
Recently a judge upheld an injunction which will allow occupiers to enter Zucotti Park on the OWS anniversary, presumably without fear of being arrested by the NYPD. A legal precedent may also allow protesters to stay in the park for an extended period of time as a demonstration against homelessness. They are organizing a "Sleepless Protest" to occupy the park. A similar court ruling in Seattle allowed activists to occupy Westlake Park for 24 hours.
During the three days of events marking the one year anniversary of the movement, there will be a music concert in NYC, workshops and several general assemblies. One of the goals of the NYC OWS group is to help facilitate an exchange of ideas and tactics between occupiers from different parts of the country.
Over the winter, there have been dozens of conference calls and webinars, facilitated by the InterOccupy.net website which serves as a central hub for the local Occupy organizations. There have even been international calls and meetings with activists like Hordor Torfason, who almost single handedly created a peaceful revolution in Iceland. OWS NYC is hoping that even more of this dialogue and networking will take place after September 17th.
It is clear that US law enforcement and government authorities would like to stop the Occupy Wall Street movement in it's tracks. A letter written by two United Nations envoys to the US Secretary of State in December was critical of the violent dismantling of US occupy encampments and the violations of people's Constitutional right to assemble peacefully. The UN envoys maintain that international treaties also outlaw this kind of behavior by governments against their people.
Currently, a federal grand jury is convening in Seattle to investigate activists in Oregon and Washington State. As part of the investigation, police and FBI teams have raided the homes of activists in Seattle and Portland looking for political literature and Anarchist material. The National Lawyers Guild claims that these raids and the grand jury are being used to intimidate and suppress the Occupy Wall Street movement. Neil Fox of the Seattle NLG points out that the possession of political literature is protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Although the protests against the Democratic and Republican conventions did not turn out to be the major uprisings that the Department of Homeland Security had predicted, the Occupy Wall Street movement is still alive and well in America. In big cities and small towns activists have been addressing issues on the local level including: home foreclosures, the Citizens United case, cuts in social services and education, corruption on Wall Street, the Keystone Pipeline, anti-labor union legislation, the dominance of the two national political parties, unfair tax policies, etc.
In Seattle there are weekly food distribution programs, regular marches against student debt, an Occupy film series, a free library, cash mobs, protests against Wall Street banks and, more recently, demonstrations against the federal grand jury at the federal courthouse.
Des Moines, Iowa occupiers will be hosting a major international conference on world food prices in October. Asheville, North Carolina, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Gainesville, Florida all have small but active groups associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On September 17th, occupiers in the US expect to see a resurgence of OWS. All across the nation folks are looking forward to that same altruistic spirit and sense of grassroots community that inspired everyone last year. The Occupy Wall Street activists in NYC hope that they can help make that happen again.
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