Occupy Wall Street One Year Later… Our Insightful intv w/ Malik from Occupy the Hood

One year ago September 17th 2011, a group of people gather at Zuccotti Park a small enclave in the financial district of New York City and launched a movement that would effectively change the way we would for the foreseeable future talk about economic disparities. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was the movement that would eventually spread to over 1500 cities around the world and force presidents and economic advisors of any stripe to talk about the economy in terms of 1% vs 99%. It was a game changer on many levels.

Occupy Wall Street was a huge attraction … Zuccotti Park was the epic center where everyone from filmmaker Michael Moore to scholars like Cornel West to music moguls like Russell Simmons to former Black Panther Angela Davis to major labor leaders and members to students all came by to embrace what was going down.. In spite of the initial media blackouts, OWS exploded as it struck a chord. Hundreds and then thousands showed up to protest what many described ‘the Tyranny of the banks‘.

OWS Media Center

OWS had a tech savvy media center set up, which included a live U Stream so the entire world could watch, as this movement did what many thought was impossible, give folks who were feeling beleaguered, cynical and betrayed by the broken promises and lack of action around the Hope and Change rhetoric that excited so many in ’08, a sense of purpose and belief in the possibility that serious corners could be turned. OWS struck a chord with many who had deep yearnings to shake things up and change the world. The ‘leaderless’ movement seemed determined to bring the fight and the mass anger many were feeling, right to the front steps of Wall Street big wigs..It wasn’t long before lots of money and resources began to pour in..

OWS Brooklyn Bridge protest

t also wasn’t long before we started to hearing and then seeing incident after incident of New York City police beating down Occupy protestors. Mayor Michael Bloomberg once famously called NYPD his private army and sadly they lived up to the billionaires claim. With each march and with each protest the world was treated to seeing NYPD, many wearing white shirts punching, macing and using batons on women, men, young and old.. The arrests were fast and furious. It would be 5 here, 6 there, 10 there. One day over 700 were arrested with many beaten as OWS attempted to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was later learned that Wall Street institutions like JP Morgan donated 4.6 million dollars to NYPD which led to the belief that they had essentially privatized parts of the department. Many of these white shirts were answering to bankers and not the city..

Malik (right) at OWS protest w/ Jasiri X

As we look back on all that transpired since Occupy Wall Street began we talked with Malik Rashaan.. who started Occupy the Hood. He explained how he showed up and showed up at Zuccotti Park on day two, curious as to what all the commotion was all about and anxious to see how  many folks who looked like him were participating. Not seeing all that many, Malik started Occupy the Hood and maintained a strong presence down at Zuccotti..

During our interview, Malik gives an insightful, brutally honest assessment of what he experienced. He talks about the early growing pains as well as the strengths of OWS and its short comings.

He recounts the early days of OWS and explains whether or not he feels it lost focused..He goes into detail about the struggles around race, gender and class.. he talks about the intense debates around strategy..He said there were many fault-lines and many egos..Malik describes OWS as a church, where everyone comes but the pastor and many in the congregation don’t do the right things..

Listen to our Intv w/ Malik from Occupy the Hood
By Clicking the link Below

He also talks about the myth surrounding OWS being leaderless.. He weighs in on the Jay-Z- Russell Simmons controversy where Jay-Z called OWS Un-American. Malik talks about how cats from the hood perceived OWS especially after he brought them to Zuccotti.

Malik talks at length at some of the many things OWS accomplished and where he sees things headed..He talks about the new approaches he sees many Occupies taking. He also talks about the strength of of Occupy in other cities.. Oakland and Detroit are two that come to mind..

Russell Simmons Responds to Jay-Z w/ a Stinging Open Letter About Occupy Wall Street

In recent days a firestorm erupted around rap star Jay-Z when he was quoted as saying he thought Occupy Wall Street was ‘Un-American’ when it demonized the 1%…

Jay-Z went on to state that he didn’t get down with the Occupy Movement because he didn’t know anything about it’s goals. Many of us found this to be a bit odd since Jay-Z had embroiled himself in a controversy last year when he announced that he would be making Occupy Wall Street t-Shirts, but he had no intention of sharing the loot with OWS.. Russell Simmons who is friends with Jay-Z noted that he talked with him about it..Eventually Jay-Z released a t-shirt line called Occupy All streets.  Its with tht in mind we found Jigga’s remarks about not knowing about OWS’s goals.. The other day Simmons set the record straight witha public response to Jay-Z’s NY Times interview.. Here’s the open letter which first appeared in Global Grind..

-Davey D-

Jay-Z Is Right 99 Times, But This Ain’t One By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons

As a person who cares deeply about Occupy Wall Street, I have to honor their year-long effort and educate my long-time friend, Jay-Z. This weekend, he was interviewed by the New York Times where he discusses OWS, where he was quoted as saying “I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?” If he understood it and endorsed the movement, it would make a big difference to poor people. As the same man that said he would pay more taxes if it helped educate more children and create affordable healthcare, Jay-Z’s words matter. He was honest enough to say that he didn’t understand it. A lot of Americans don’t. He was also honest enough to recognize that there are some in the 1 percent who “deceiving” and “robbing,” so I know in his heart he gets it. I know he is a compassionate person who cares about the poor, so I’m certain if I had two more minutes with him, I could change his mind.

I went to Zuccotti Park, the home-base of the Occupy Wall Street movement, almost everyday for months. I listened to the young people talk about their 99 problems. The 99 percent. Healthcare reform. Prison industrial complex. The war machine. Bad schools. Lack of access to affordable higher education. Genetically modified food. Gay rights. Immigration reform. Crumbling housing projects. Climate change. Everyday, there was a new protester with a new sign, fighting for the rights of the under-served. There was never an official agenda or media-friendly talking points. Zuccotti Park and the Occupy camps that sprung up around the country were places for any and every person to come and share ideas about how to better perfect our union. Our democracy.

I would agree that for many it was hard to understand the purpose of the movement if you did not attend any of the General Assemblies, or march hand-in-hand with the millions of protesters around the country. The months during the height of the beginning of the movement were unlike anything we had seen before in our nation. A protest led by no one, but always led by leaders. Organized through social media, yet no organization at the forefront. This was a true people’s campaign.

If we look back at the accomplishments thus far of Occupy Wall Street, there are many. For one, the national conversation that preceded September 17th, 2011 was dominated by a manufactured political fight in Washington to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a credit default. Within the first weeks of OWS, the conversation had been changed to the real issue that is eroding America; economic inequality, a topic that hasn’t been discussed for decades. Within the first few months of OWS, the conversation evolved into an examination of how Wall Street’s money has destroyed our political system and took control of our democracy. The prison industrial complex, lower taxes for the rich, the outsourcing of jobs, Wall Street running rampant, poisonous foods for our children, even some wars and almost everything that disempowers the poor, is a result of money passing from lobbyists and corporations to our politicians. And that is what Occupy Wall Street is fighting against. It is a sad state that the politicians work for the people who pay them, not for the people who elect them. That is not democracy.

f you look at the current Presidential election, Money Mitt Romney and his buddies are spending 12 times that of President Obama in special interest money and/or Super PACs. Money Mitt is clearly being manipulated by big corporations and folks who can write $10 million checks. The man changes his position every three days. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizen’s United, our democracy sign was placed on the front lawn with big red letters: FOR SALE! I am encouraged by President Obama’s support of using a Constitutional Amendment as an option to return our democracy back to the people. This will be his legacy issue. I am sure of that. And without the pressure of Occupy Wall Street, this conversation might never have happened.

So, Jay, here’s the deal. You’re rich and I’m rich. But, today it’s close to impossible to be you or me and get out of Marcy Projects or Hollis, Queens without changing our government to have our politicians work for the people who elect them and not the special interests and corporations that pay them. Because we know that these special interests are nothing special at all. In fact, they spend millions of dollars destroying the fabric of the black community and make billions of dollars in return. For example, the prison lobby paid politicians to create a so-called “War On Drugs” that resulted in a prison economy that disproportionately locks up black and brown people, including many of your friends and mine. They took drug-infected, diseased people, locked them up, educated them in criminal behavior and dumped them back into our community, thus producing a jail culture for our streets. There are more black people under correctional control (prison, jail, parole, probation) today, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War. This is just one issue that has been bought and sold. If we have to occupy Wall Street or occupy All Streets to change the course of direction of this nation, then we must. We must take our democracy off the market and let the world know that it is no longer for sale! Mic check!

Your Friend,

~Russell Simmons 

What will happen to Occupy Wall Street if it loses its Park

What will happen to Occupy Wall Street if it loses its Park?

by Danny Schecter
The tarps are flapping and the tents are not bringing much warmth.
The harsh winds of winter are lashing the encampment at Zuccotti Park – or as many would prefer, “Liberty Plaza” – the symbol of a wannabe revolution against the status quo and powercrats of the American oligarchy.

The hard, real-world contradictions of urban life have bumped up against the idyllic hopes of the occupiers as all the urban crises that our society has ignored and neglected surface in that half acre of hope.

There are man/woman handlers and gladhanders, doers and dopers, ragers and even rapists, and so many poor with nowhere else to go. There are cops on the outside (and many on the inside) who plan for and hope for the worst.

This fight is not just the 99% against the 1%, because truth be told, this movement has so far only motivated a minority of the conscious and has yet to reach a majority of the beleaguered and oppressed.

When I joined a march last Saturday, one occupier seemed to recognize this reality with a home-made sign, that read “I am part of the 1% of the 99% that is protesting. Where are the rest of us?”

Polls showing broad public support are not enough. Public opinion can be fickle and easily manipulated.

True, some unions are reaching out to the Occupy Movement, but they are at their lowest point in a century. They are fighting for survival.

JA Myerson writes on the new, must-read OWSNews.org website that many are preparing to evacuate the park in this winter of growing discontent, as the lines between those who want change and those who don’t become clearer.

“For the last week or so, the 1%-owned media have been doing everything possible to give their fellow 1%-er and good friend Mayor Bloomberg the political cover necessary to seize Zuccotti Park. They have made an example of a restaurant whose business is suffering because of barricades – but who put up the barricades? They have made an example of the unsanitary conditions arising among a community deprived of facilities – but who deprives it of facilities? They have made an example of the homeless people and drug addicts who populate the park – but who has denied them anywhere better to go? And now that they have cultivated the image of a failed project (after themselves erecting the barriers to its success), they appear to be gearing up to demolish it.”

The Occupy Wall Street encampment during a recent snowstorm, 10/30/11. (photo: Julie Dermansky/flickr) go to original article

The New York Times believes (and perhaps hopes) the occupation is sputtering, writing, “Occupy Wall Street Protest Reaches a Crossroads.”

That could happen because revolutions don’t run in straight lines and don’t happen only when those most aware among us want them too. The occupiers have the sympathy, but a company called Brookfield owns the property, in a society where property rights trump human rights.

There are rumors that a new location is being considered.

Revolutions happen when social and economic conditions ensure they are unstoppable, when the crisis makes millions understand not only their inevitability but their desirability, and when many forces converge and see no alternative.

It’s one thing to call a General Strike, but mounting one requires more than staging a mass protest in one city for one day after less than a week of mobilizing. Yes, the turnout in Oakland was impressive, but it could not be sustained.

As Noam Chomsky advised before it happened, “you have to educate – educate yourself and others – before you strike.” The violence of a few was used to discredit the efforts of the many, prompting as many criticisms from within as from without.

Why does a macho handful always feel the need to prove how militant they can be?

There are no shortcuts to building a deeper and broader movement. Organizing is not easy but is always essential. Being right is never enough!

The Italian theorist Gramsci advised revolutionaries a century ago to fuse “pessimism of the intelligence and the optimism of the will.” He was right about that then and he is right now.

A group of Democrats in Lower Manhattan looked for some historical lessons, warning:

“Revolutionary pretensions can be dangerous. They threaten the status quo, suggest instability, and often threaten and provoke real violence. America, like it or not, has a stable and venerable system of government which yields ceaseless peaceful transfers of power, and is in actual fact fairly responsive to voter sentiment, despite even the most level-headed criticisms made over the issues of inaction and corruption. Isolated incidents and injustices aside, our civil servants are professional and disciplined.”

While this may have been once true, that system is cracking under the weight of cynicism, polarization and corruption. The polls show Congress enjoys record lows of public support. So does President Obama and, in fact, his Republican challengers.

This does not mean the country is ready to scrap the system, but is a sign of growing dissatisfaction. While some of us have become intensely politicized, others are tuning out, taking refuge in the distractions of consumerism, entertainment and sports.

While the financial industry is the main enemy, it is allied with, and finances, a media industry that specializes in obscuring issues and propagandizing 24/7. It is a master of withholding important information and ridiculing dissidents while it boosters war and promotes passivity.

We have to get beyond our own self-righteousness and hear our critics, not just among the buffoons of the right who are the easiest to refute and dismiss.

We have to study the long history of failed attempts to turn our country around and learn from it. We have to acknowledge our mistakes as well. This generation of activists is not the first to take on the status quo.

Revolutionary zeal may be driving many – but can also drive them to disillusion and despair in a society focused on instant remedies like Alka-Seltzer.

We are a generation that wants everything, and wants it NOW! We may have speed dating, but not speed social transformations and political revolutions.

Today’s occupations are not the first, either. The Democrats I referenced before looked to an earlier moment in our own revolution’s history: #OccupyValleyForge.

True, that was a war, not a movement, but its methods deserve scrutiny.

As I have just learned:

“They brought in what were known as Regimental Camp Followers, women and children, basically, relatives and families of enlisted men. They built structures, erected defenses, and two more things. They worked out an alliance with France, and they basically made the Continental Army out of their troops at Valley Forge. They did this with the help of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who had been, dare I say, a community organizer type for the Prussian military … community.

The Continental Army was built through shared hardship and struggle, with excruciating drilling and training, and they were provided with ample moral support in the form of the Regimental Camp Followers.”

History never repeats itself. The bearded oracle once said that when it does, the second time is farce.

We have to prepare for the possibility that Occupied Wall Street will take new forms, and may have to spread out and decentralize as it already happening with meetings in public atriums and churchyards.

It has already outgrown one park and spread through the world. It has, to its credit, brought issues like economic inequality and Wall Street crime into the national conversation. It has, so far, succeeded beyond its greatest hopes.

It is revolutionary in its very leaderless small “d” democratic being, but has not yet made a revolution. No surprise there! There is quite a way to go.

The battle with the oligarchy as symbolized by the greedsters and fraudsters on Wall Street will go on, with or without a Park, as a form of non-violent guerilla-style class warfare, always bearing in mind that moral power can defeat physical power when it is creative, courageous, non-violent and committed for the long run.


News Dissector Danny Schechter writes the daily newsdissector.com blog. He directed the film “Plunder – The Crime of Our Time” (PlunderTheCrimeOfOurTime.com), about the financial crisis as a crime story. You may contact him at dissector@mediachannel.org.

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