Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy’s Real Economy Project and editor of the www.BanksterUSA.org site for bank busting activists.
U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone used to say "sometimes you have to pick a fight to win one."
Now Occupy Wall Street has picked one, right in Jamie Dimon's backyard.
But it won’t stay contained in Zuccotti Park. While Brookfield Properties called the park a "public sanctuary" in 2005, they have apparently changed their minds. Mr. Zuccotti wants his park back and the police are preparing to clear it with new rules barring camping, sleeping and breathing.
They are too late. The train has left the station and the Occupation is on the move. From Manhattan to Hawaii big bank protests are planned. Everyone who cares about creating an economy that works for working people should get on board.
In 2009, President Obama told a group of 13 bankers "my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." Now the pitchforks are being tuned.
It hasn't escaped notice of the 99% that while 1,000 top officers were jailed after the Savings and Loan debacle, not a single bankers has been jailed for their role in collapsing the global economy. The only firm really punished in the entire affair was Lehman Brothers, allowed to fail by Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
When Obama took over, he failed to crack down on Wall Street, he failed to even tag the Banksters as the culprits for the global economic meltdown. Rather he praised Goldman Sach's LLoyd Blankfein and JP Morgan Chase's Jamie Dimon as friends and "savvy businessmen."
Into the void stepped the GOP, who made huge gains at the federal and state level in 2010. Never shy, the GOP spinmeisters stepped right up to name the culprits: us. Now, in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, teachers, firefighters, nurses and other public workers are fighting for their lives -- in utter disbelief that they are being blamed as the cause of the economic downturn. The poor, the elderly and working families are being asked to pay more to close state budget shortfalls, while radical governors shell out billions in tax breaks.
The young people in Zuccotti are standing up to say enough is enough.
As the Occupation of Wall Street enters its third week, the group has been criticized by media as not having a coherent message, as if a PR firm was a precursor to membership in our democracy. But from out here in Wisconsin, their message rings clear and true: The 99% percent has been shafted, our economic system is broken, and we need an economy that works for all.
The hopeful nature of the message, that change is possible when the monied elite have a stranglehold on our economy and our democracy, is itself remarkable and revolutionary. Too many Americans are ground down by opaque forces and feel powerless to change anything.
Messages like this one on the Occupy website resonate: "On September 27th, 2011, we marched on the Financial District's Luxury Night Out, where couples wore outfits that cost more than we will ever make in a month and looked at cars that cost more than we will ever make in a year, afterward, they went back to one of their many houses that cost more than we will make in our lifetime."
But for those who need a concrete list of demands, a working draft was produced though a consensus process on September 29.
As someone who participated in the Seattle 1999 WTO protests and in the Wisconsin uprising, I offer a few observations as the “American Autumn” gets underway. The Occupiers have already learned a key lesson of Wisconsin, the physical occupation of a space can’t be beat. When folks are sleeping, eating and strategizing together, a lot of quality communication and consensus building gets done fast. New alliances can be forged, and quality pizza can be delivered from supporters across America.
Another important lesson from Wisconsin is don't forget to put the classy in class warfare. We learned from Wisconsin that fun is essential to turning out large crowds. Only in a safe peaceful space will your supporters feel comfortable bringing kids and grandma, and your numbers can grow day by day, week by week. If the police give you trouble, as they have in NYC, try not to rise to the bait.
Although Wisconsin protesters were able to forge solid relationships with police and firefighters who saw they were next in the collective bargaining firing line, this was a rare occurrence. Police in big cities, whose entire careers have been spent protecting private property, will not be your friend.
This weekend there were 700 arrests in Manhattan as occupiers took to the streets, stopping traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Protesters charge that the police encouraged the march as a way of emptying the park and rounding up a large number of protesters and their leadership. Video shows police leading protesters onto an onramp on the Brooklyn Bridge where they are later corralled and carted away.
Protesters from the global justice movement -- which staged the successful 1999 WTO protests in Settle and forced the end of the “Millennium Round” of global trade negotiations -- can give you some advice based on subsequent battles. Police will infiltrate you by the dozens. They will identify and arrest your leaders without cause and hold them for as long as it takes.They will lure groups of you away for the sole purpose of corralling you and arresting you. Stay calm and protest on.
As if more evidence were needed, news broke this weekend that JP Morgan Chase recently donated an “unprecedented” $4.6 million to the New York Police Foundation. “These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe," chirped Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
The big banks are worried about a wide-ranging investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman into the Wall Street meltdown, not focusing on the small fry, but on the big fish -- the behemoth banks whose origination, pooling an securitization of mortgage-backed securities which turned our domestic housing bubble into a global economic catastrophe.
The banks freak every time Schneiderman drops a bomb such as “the markets didn't crash because we were paying too much to teachers.” Or how about “people are not going to be satisfied until they have a sense that those responsible have been held accountable." The Wall Street protesters are helping give Schneiderman a backbone.
A season of “Pay U.S. Back!” actions are planned for October under the banner of the "New Bottom Line" coalition, which among other things is demanding a financial speculation tax on the big banks. Find updates here.
Plus, the Occupation is spreading fast. You can find updates on many of the actions listed below at here.
In Seattle, hundreds of people shut down a Chase bank branch and 11 were arrested.
In Suncaidia, the Washington Community Action Network infiltrated the annual policy summit of Association of Washington Business, sponsored by Chase bank.
In Boston, 3,000 marched on Foreclosure King, Bank of America, to present their demands to stop foreclosures in the main lobby. More at Take Back Boston. Occupy Wall Street, Move On and organized labor is joining in with a major march planned for Wednesday, October 5.
Occupy Los Angeles is underway at City Hall.
Occupy Chicago is underway at the Federal Reserve bank.
Occupy Washington, D.C. starts on October 6 in Freedom Plaza.
Refund California is planning a “home visit to a Wall Street executive" October 4 in Los Angeles.
Chicago is planning a Pay US Back Action October 9.
Minneapolis is planning a Pay US Back Action October 10.
New York City is planning a Pay US Back Action October 11.
Occupy Milwaukee starts October 15.
Denver is planning a Pay US Back Action October 25.
Honolulu is planning a Pay US Back Action November 5.
Keep us posted on the actions planned for your neighborhood at the BanksterUSA Facebook page.
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