2011 will be remembered as a year of revolution, the beginning of the end for an unsustainable global system based on poverty, oppression, and violence. In dozens of countries across the Arab world, people rose up against broken economies and oppressive regimes, toppling dictators and inspiring the world to action. Popular rejection of austerity measures and attacks on worker’s rights brought millions to the streets in Greece, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK, Chile, Wisconsin and elsewhere.
By midsummer, murmurs of “occupying Wall Street” were stirring online, and on July 14th, we registered the domain occupywallst.org and began organizing. The first New York City General Assembly was held August 2nd and the Occupation of Liberty Square began on September 17th.
Fueled by anger at the growing disparities between rich and poor, frustrated by government policies that benefit a tiny elite at the expense of the majority, and tired of the establishment’s failure to address fundamental economic inequalities, OWS offered a new solution. We built a People’s Kitchen to feed thousands, opened a People’s Library, created safer spaces, and provided free shelter, bedding, medical care, and other necessities to anyone who needed them. While cynics demanded we elect leaders and make demands on politicians, we were busy creating alternatives to those very institutions. A revolution has been set in motion, and we cannot be stopped.
As the mainstream media ignored us, we learned from other leaderless resistance movements in places like Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran to use social media and live video streaming to spread our message. We are part of a global movement that has radically democratized how information is created and shared, rendering centralized, corporate-funded mainstream media increasingly irrelevant. The rapid exchange of information allowed us to make collective decisions quickly, discuss information and ideas across the globe, mobilize effective direct actions, and document police brutality. Now more than ever, when we chant “The Whole World Is Watching!” it is not an idle threat.
Today, tens of thousands of everyday people are putting ideals like solidarity, mutual aid, anti-oppression, autonomy, and direct democracy into practice. Individuals are joining together in city-wide General Assemblies and autonomous affinity groups. Through consensual, non-hierarchical and participatory self-governance, we are literally laying the framework for a new world by building it here and now – and it works.
The rest is history. In honor of a new year, here is a run-down of what we accomplished since then. It would be impossible to list every action or mention every place an Occupation has occurred. But let us start a new year by celebrating a few highlights of our victories — along with a sneak preview of what’s to come!
SEPT 17: We Occupied Wall Street.
Over two thousand people descended on Manhattan’s financial district with one goal: to Occupy. We brought tents and gave our new home (Zuccotti Park) a new name: Liberty Square.
SEPT 24: We exposed the violent underpinnings of economic inequality for all to see.
Foreshadowing events to come, over 80 people were violently arrested returning from a peaceful march on Union Square. Video of unprovoked police pepper-spraying protesters went viral, unmasking the brutality necessary for the perpetuation of social and economic inequality. Thousands marched on the NYPD headquarters to express outrage, and the world began to take notice.
SEPT 28-ONGOING: More workers and oppressed communities began to join in solidarity.
Early in the Occupation, OWS had shown support for many causes, including postal workers struggling for better conditions. On Sept. 28th, the Transport Workers Union Local-100 voted to support OWS and encouraged their members to show up. Since then, we’ve received tremendous support from local unions like the American Federation of Teachers and pilots, as well as rank-and-file workers like port truck drivers on the West Coast. On Dec. 1st, we responded to a call from the NYC Central Labor Council to march for jobs and a fair economy, and on Dec. 2nd, OWS marched with farmers to call for food justice. Economists, writers, and musicians have all supported us. We’ve also been joined by students, immigrants, African-American church leaders, transgender liberation activists, Native individuals and First Nations like the Indigenous People’s Council, incarcerated prison hunger strikers, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and countless other oppressed communities struggling to improve their living conditions under an unfair economic and political structure.
SEPT 29-ONGOING: The Occupation grew and spread across the globe.
Protesters in San Francisco began to occupy their own financial district. New memes (“We are the 99%!”) spread rapidly. “Occupy” itself was taken, adapted, and reinvented across the world. Occupy Wall Street became Occupy All Streets. Occupy groups and actions formed on every continent, in over one thousand cities in over 70 countries, and in all 50 U.S. States plus the District of Columbia. To date, at least 5,748 people have been arrested for Occupying. Camps and protests have appeared and survived in the biggest cities and the most rural towns. Although it would be nearly impossible to compile an exhaustive list of every place where Occupations and solidarity actions have taken place, it’s safe to say we are everywhere.
OCT 1: We took the Brooklyn Bridge and inspired the world to Occupy.
Over 5,000 people marched to the Brooklyn Bridge. Police enclosed protesters in netting and arrested around 800. Days later, 15,000 demonstrators marched from Foley Square to Liberty Square. After nightfall, NYPD again responded violently by pepper-spraying bystanders and using kettling nets. The next day, thousands marched in Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tampa, Houston, Austin, Salt Lake City, and elsewhere and began to Occupy Together.
OCT 10-25: We showed determination during the first wave of eviction attempts.
140 were arrested at Occupy Boston. On Oct. 25th, hundreds of police moved to evict Occupy Oakland using an arsenal of teargas, beanbag rounds, and rubber bullets, arresting 85. A Marine and Iraq War veteran was left in critical condition after being shot directly in the head with a teargas canister. The growing movement responded quickly. In New York, OWS marched near Union Square. Nearly 100 people were arrested in Portland, Austin, and Denver, where police fired pepper spray pellets to disperse Occupiers. Nevertheless, new Occupations continued to pop up.
OCT 15: We contributed to a global movement for economic justice.
Thousands in NYC marched to Times Square in a Global Day of Action. Protesters from small towns like Ashland, KY and Ketchum, ID joined with other U.S. cities like Des Moines and Dallas.
Globally, protesters stormed financial districts in Amsterdam, Athens, Auckland, Mumbai, Tokyo, Seoul, Ottawa, Sydney, London, and Johannesburg. One million people marched in Barcelona and Madrid alone. Hundreds of thousands marched in Rome and Valencia, and tens of thousands marched in Berlin, Zagreb, Brussels, Lisbon and Porto. In Latin America, the largest Occupations took place in Buenos Aires, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Bogota, San Jose, Quito, Mexico City, Lima, and Montevideo.
OCT 16-ONGOING: We altered mainstream political discourse.
Recognizing how well our message resonated, the political establishment tried to co-opt our movement and use our slogans for political gain. On Oct. 16th, President Obama claimed to “work for the 99%.” During the last week of October, mainstream media mentioned “income inequality” more than five times more often than during the week before the Occupation began. On Nov. 10th, a media analysis company announced “occupy” had become the “most commonly used English word on the internet and in print.” Time Magazine named “the protester” its Person of the Year. In 2011, we made General Assembly a household term.
NOV 2: We organized the first General Strike in the United States since 1946.
Occupy Oakland spearheaded a General Strike and shut down the Port of Oakland. Over 100,000 people marched in solidarity. The next day, riot police attacked with flash bang grenades and tear gas. Over 100 were arrested, and another Iraq veteran was seriously wounded.
NOV 5: We hit the bankers where it counts: their wallets.
OWS supported Bank Transfer Day by protesting outside major banks and financial institutions. Over 600,000 people switched from banks to nonprofit community credit unions.
NOV 9-22: We walked hundreds of miles to share the message of justice.
On Nov. 9th, a group of Occupiers left Liberty Square for Washington, D.C. to protest President Obama’s tax cuts for the 1%. Weeks later, the “Walkupiers” arrived in D.C. to a warm welcome and massive media presence.
NOV 15: We survived the violent eviction of Liberty Square.
Mayor Bloomberg’s private army attacked our home. Around 1AM, police moved in a horrific display of force, using LRAD sound cannons and bloodying protesters with batons in the middle of the night. Journalists were barred. Over 5,000 donated books from The People’s Library were wantonly destroyed, along with many Occupiers’s personal possessions. A New York City councilmember was among those arrested. Occupiers in D.C. held a sit-in at the offices of Brookfield Properties, “owners” of Liberty Square. Soon after, Occupiers in Seattle were attacked with pepper-spray and there were hundreds of Occupy-related arrests in Portland, Berkeley, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. We remained nonviolent through it all.
NOV 17: We persevered, fought back harder, and triumphantly returned to the Bridge stronger than ever.
Two days after the Liberty eviction, we held perhaps the largest OWS action to date. In the morning, Occupiers blockaded every entrance to the New York Stock Exchange. A retired Philadelphia Police Captain stood in solidarity and was arrested by NYPD along with hundreds. Over 30,000 people, including organized students and labor unions, marched around Liberty, Union, and Foley Squares before walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Occupations in Portland, Milwaukee, Seattle, Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, D.C., Hartford, Houston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Great Falls, Minneapolis, Kalamazoo, Augusta, Saginaw, Cleveland, Richmond, Iowa City, and more marched on key bridges in solidarity with the Liberty Square Occupiers. In New York, students at the New School established a 24/7 occupation. Solidarity actions also took place across the world in Canada, Japan, the U.K., Spain, Germany, Greece, and more.
NOV 18-ONGOING: In the face of police brutality and disproportional force, we adapted.
Riot police nonchalantly pepper-sprayed a line of UC-Davis students holding a peaceful sit-down. The image went viral, viscerally capturing the state’s attitude toward nonviolent resistance. The pattern of police violence and midnight raids continued in dozens of cities: Seattle, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, Boston, Atlanta, Montreal, Amsterdam, and beyond. But we learned to evolve as the circumstances change, proving that “Occupy Will Never Die, Evict Us — We Multiply!” Evicted Occupations continued to hold General Assemblies and maintain busy calendars with daily meetings, events, workshops, teach-ins, marches, direct actions, and demonstrations at their local city hall, bank branch, corporate office, and courts. Some moved indoors, some took over bank-owned homes, some slept in churches, some held 24/7 vigils at their Occupation with no tents to avoid city ordinances, and dozens still maintain physical occupations with tents — but all of us kept organizing.
Our new slogan became:
You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.
NOV 19: We took back unused public property to benefit our communities.
Occupiers in DC liberated the empty, city-owned Franklin School. In blatant disregard for social services and popular will, the former homeless shelter was slated to become a condo or hotels for the 1% lobbyists on K Street. Before massive police repression, Occupiers had already planned public forums to decide how to put the building to use. There are more empty houses than homeless people in the United States.
After the greedy speculation of Wall Street bankers created a housing crisis for their own huge profits, we helped revive many hardest-hit communities by turning vacant buildings into livable, productive,and life-saving resources for those most in need. In London, Seattle, Oakland, Chapel Hill, Portland, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Boston and many other places, we continued to occupy bank-owned buildings and turned them into social centers.
NOV 24: We demonstrated new ways of supporting ourselves and each other.
On “Thanksgiving” in the U.S., instead of supporting colonialist holidays, we gave thanks for our spirit of compassion by continuing to provide for our collective needs. In NYC, Occupiers gathered in Liberty Square to share dinner. The People’s Kitchen made food to feed thousands, while Occupy the Hood distributed meals throughout Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx, as well as the New School Occupation and Occupiers staying in Far Rockaway.
From Oakland to Boston, Occupations sat down for meals and took part in actions in solidarity with First Nations and Native Americans. In Philly and other places, we began to turn vacant lots into small farms for public use to feed their communities. Occupy Boston, Occupy DC, and many other cities hosted “Really Really Free Markets” to share goods with whomever needs them, proving that another world — and an economy where we take care of one another’s needs instead of corporate profits — is possible.
NOV 25: We perfected the People’s Mic.
What began as a creative way to avoid NYPD amplification restrictions became an excellent tool for organizing. From making announcements to redirecting marches, 2011 was the year of the mic check. The People’s Mic has been used countless times to confront 1%ers and corrupt politicians. It was used in New Hampshire to interrupt President Obama, in Iowa to call out Newt Gingrich, and in L.A. to voice popular dissent at City Council meetings. But on Black Friday, the People’s Mic was perfected. Occupiers used it to occupy Wal-Marts and other large retailers in dozens of cities like El Paso, Kansas City, San Diego, Atlanta, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago and more.
NOV 28: We fought for accessible education.
In response to police violence, a massive General Assembly of University of California-Davis students called for a system-wide strike and announced their intention to shut down campuses where the U.C. Regents were scheduled to vote in favor of extreme service cuts and raised tuitions. Students at the City University of New York — who had been attacked by police a week prior while protesting tuition hikes — took over Baruch College and barricaded the building to prevent the Board of Trustees from voting to raise tuition. Outside, hundreds of Occupy CUNY students and their supporters chanted, “Education is a right!” while the New School students continued to Occupy their campus.
DEC 1: We took direct action to support the occupiers of Tahir Square.
In Egypt, the military regime that took power after protesters toppled the Mubarak regime continued to attack and murder protesters fighting for democracy and freedom. Many of those in the streets were the same people who had inspired and supported the original Occupation of Wall Street. In solidarity, Occupiers from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and across the Mid-Atlantic joined with Egyptians here in the U.S. to protest outside a company in rural Pennsylvania that manufactures tear gas canisters that have been sold to Arab governments and used against protesters in places like Tahir Square, Cairo. OWS has also protested in front of Egyptian consulates in New York and elsewhere.
DEC 6: We took direct action against foreclosures by putting mutual aid into practice.
During and after our Day of Action, we occupied homes and prevented foreclosures and evictions. In L.A., Atlanta, Bremerton, Reno, New Orleans and beyond, Occupiers disrupted foreclosure auctions. Occupiers foreclosed on bank offices in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Buffalo and elsewhere. In cities like New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Rochester, Cleveland, Oakland, and Philadelphia, we helped homeless, poor, working- and-middle class, low-income families and families of color, people who had been foreclosed on, and veterans move into empty, bank-owned homes.
DEC 7: We exposed the corruption of money in politics.
Thousands of Occupiers shut down K Street in Washington, DC — home of the Wall Street lobbyists who control the politicians. Hundreds were arrested for laying down in the intersection of 14th St NW & K St. From there, we marched through freezing winds to the White House chanting “Occupy Wall Street, Occupy K Street, Occupy EVERYWHERE and NEVER give it back!” and “Rain, sleet, ice, or snow — Occupy will never go!” Later, more people were arrested on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court while decrying the government’s collusion with the 1% through acts like the ruling on corporate personhood in Citizen’s United.
DEC 12: We shut down the ports.
In response to the government’s coordinated effort to suppress our movement, we organized a multi-city effort of our own. Nonviolent blockades and other actions occurred at ports in Long Beach, San Diego, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Anchorage, and more. Occupy Houston shut down their port on the Gulf of Mexico, while land-locked Occupy Denver rallied outside a massive Wal-Mart distribution center. Occupy Bellingham nonviolently shut down rail ways used to transport goods from the ports. In New York, OWS picketed the headquarters of Goldman Sachs and flash mobbed the World Financial Center. Solidarity actions also took place in Anchorage, Tacoma, Chicago, Tokyo, and elsewhere.
DEC 17: We celebrated our 3-month anniversary.
Since the eviction of Liberty Square, many homeless Occupiers had been sleeping on the street or in local churches. On Dec. 17th, OWS attempted to re-occupy a new home in Duarte Square, an empty lot in Manhattan owned by one of these churches — Trinity Church on Wall Street. Thousands showed up in solidarity, and we received tremendous support from religious leaders.
DEC 18: We marched in solidarity with immigrants and economic refugees.
On the International Day of Migrants, OWS and members of the immigrant community marched to Foley Square to demand an end to wage theft, detentions, and deportation, and to support the rights of economic refugees and immigrants. Occupiers rallied outside an ICE Detention Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Actions in solidarity with migrant justice also took place in cities and Occupations across the world.
DEC 31: We celebrated the New Year.
After demonstrations to abolish the prison-industrial complex took place in dozens of cities across the U.S. and more throughout the Europe and South America, we took back the place where it all started — Liberty Square – to bring in the New Year. Occupiers danced on top of the barricades the police had tried to use to keep us out of OUR park, and at least 68 were arrested. Occupiers in dozens of other cities also held events to celebrate the beginning of 2012.
2012: We are getting ready.
The spontaneous, leaderless qualities of our movement give us strength. The future is unwritten, and the possibilities boundless. In 2012, Occupiers everywhere will continue to show the strength of the people united. We will keep fighting back against attacks from the 1% and governments. Here is a mere “teaser trailer” for some of the actions that are in the works:
- We continue to Occupy the Iowa Caucuses by occupying campaign offices of Presidential candidates to remind the world that the “liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican dichotomy is a distraction from the real social conflict undergriding American society: the 99 percent versus the 1 percent.”
- OWS in New York will protest the “indefinite detention” authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act
- Also today, Occupy Atlanta will disrupt another foreclosure auction, and then rally against the death penality in honor of Troy Davis, namesake of their main encampment.
- On Jan. 17th, we will Occupy Congress.
- On Jan. 20th, Occupy San Francisco will retake the financial district.
- On April 7th, Occupy Chicago will launch a “spring offensive” along with Occupations across the globe.
- On May 1st, the world will be watching…