Consider this more of a note than a post, but the segment of the Occupy Wall Street movement that evolved this year into “Strike Debt” have announced their first big public action.
And it’s a telethon.
Strike Debt is going to stage an online telethon, raising funds to buy people’s debt from the shadowy debt market and then– forgive it. They call the overall idea the “Rolling Jubilee” riffing on a practice from earlier times when all debts and other trangressions would be forgiven by the decree of the powers that be.
In a democracy, of course, the powers that be are the people.
There’s a hell of a lot to digest in this idea, but for the moment I just wanted everyone to be aware that the telethon, called “The People’s Bailout” will be going live on November 15th, with a host of politically active celebrities in attendance. Check the links for more info.
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The Hot List is Turnstyle News’ weekly round-up of what’s keeping us entertained, thinking, and sane.
Letterpress (iPhone App): There’s only one thing that needs to be on the hot list this week: Letterpress. This game is for all of the Scrabble nerds in the world. This game is for all of those with addictive personalities. This game is for everyone who likes looking at pretty things. This game is for thinkers, button pressers, touchscreen mavens, and all-around awesome people. Everyone’s doing it; why aren’t you? -Kurt Collins (more…)
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NPR on Wednesday, May. 16th
Alexander Arbuckle, the defendant in the first Occupy Wall Street case to go to trial, has been found not guilty after video of the incident he was involved in showed him breaking no laws. The Village Voice reports:
“The protesters, including Arbuckle, were in the street blocking traffic, Officer Elisheba Vera testified. The police, on the sidewalk, had to move in to make arrests to allow blocked traffic to move. But there was a problem with the police account: it bore no resemblance to photographs and videos taken that night.”
In an ironic twist, Arbuckle was actually working on a New York University photojournalism project aimed at defending police officers working at Occupy protests when he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
“I felt the police had been treated unfairly on [sic] the media,” he said to the Village Voice. “All the focus was on the conflict and the worst instances of brutality and aggression, where most of the police I met down there were really professional and restrained.”
Occupy videographer and indefatigable live-streamer Tim Pool‘s clip was used as evidence along with the NYPD’s own video footage in the trial. The video shows protesters clearly using the sidewalk like they were asked to. (Watch the arrest around minute 35 of Pool’s video.)
“What’s happening is very similar to what happened in 2004 with the Republican National Convention,” Arbuckle’s lawyer told the Voice. “It’s just a symptom of how the NYPD treats dissent. But what has changed is that there is more prevalence of video. It really makes our job a lot easier to have that video.”
Pool, who has used an iPhone, solar-powered backpack and even a drone to stream Occupy protests, has been central to the movement’s emphasis on transparency and constantly capturing the movement using new media tools. The Nation profiled the visibility efforts in March:
“By embracing transparency and pursuing maximum visibility, the protest on Wall Street provided, in the words of one activist, a ‘virtual template for occupation’ that inspired people around the world to follow suit. …
“But Occupy’s habit of obsessive self-documentation isn’t just pragmatic—it’s a matter of principle deeply woven into its DNA. ‘Without a doubt, a founding principle of OWS is transparency,’ says Carrie, a member of the Occupy Wall Street facilitation and minutes working groups (who asked that I not give her last name).”
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Josh Healey on Thursday, Jan. 19th
As a member of the self-identified “slash profession” – writer/organizer/educator/whatever pays the rent that month – I have learned how to wear multiple hats. How to move between different worlds and code-switch my headgear to meet a particular place and community. Alright, I got this big event coming up tonight…should I wear the Kangol, the fitted, or the yarmulke? (Correct answer: all three.) Sometimes, though, it’s a struggle figuring out which slash to bring out in which situation. Take Occupy.
I got back in Oakland full-time last month, and immediately jumped into the beautiful chaos that is Occupy Oakland. I joined the big West Coast port shutdown on December 12, started attending the alternatively powerful and painful General Assemblies, and connected with the two committees I’ve begun organizing with, Occupy the Hood and Labor Solidarity. It’s been great, and I’ve gotten to stretch some of activist muscles that I hadn’t used in years. (Sometimes literally – holding one side of a 30″ banner with that wind whipping off the bay is harder than it looks.) But while I’ve been bringing my organizing and education experience to the table, sometimes I leave behind the thing I do that I’m doing right now on this laptop. Writing. Telling stories. Creating culture.
Last night, however, some of my cultural comrades and heroes reminded me what it means to be artist in the movement. Artists of the 99% organized a panel/workshop (oh artists, how we even have “slash events”) that dealt with strategies for artists participating in social justice movements. It was a power-packed room: Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop), Favianna Rodriguez (printmaker activist powerhouse), David Solnit (street theater artist/organizer), and Zeph Fishlyn (Beehive Design Collective). Plus 100 or so radical artists who love talking about radical art on a Saturday night. My kind of folks.
Jeff set it off with his thesis that “cultural change precedes political change.” Meaning, we need Jackie Robinson before we get Brown v. Board of Education, Ellen Degeneres before we get gay marriage (at least in seven states). I don’t fully agree with Jeff – I think culture and politics very much go both ways – but overall, yes: people connect deeper on a daily basis with beautiful flash mobs and Youtube videos than with congressional committees and talking points. The question is, how do we get that flash mob’s message to those congressional committees and make the changes we need? (And yes, I know the obvious answer is to do the flash mob IN the committee itself…but I just don’t think Bernie Sanders has the dance moves to pull it off.)
Or maybe the point of cultural organizing is direct our energies more towards the 99% itself, rather than our so-called representatives. That seemed to be Favianna‘s argument, as she explained her work with CultureStrike, a pro-migrant project in Arizona started last year in the racist aftermath of SB1070. CultureStrike organized a pop music boycott of Arizona that was inspired by similar actions targeting apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. At the same time, they actually brought grassroots writers and artists to Arizona — but rather than perform, their job was to see the border walls and mass deportations for themselves and then create and promote artistic work to challenge the anti-immigrant climate of fear spreading across the country.
Regarding the Occupy movement, Favianna asked, “What are the strategic stories that we need to tell? Whose stories in the 99% are we lifting up?” The corporate media likes to focus on college students and angry anarchists for a reason. We need to highlight the stories of urban youth activists, immigrant day laborers, Black and brown homeowners — AND the college students, the (former) white-collar workers, and even the occasional anarchist. This is what artists do: shift the conversation, broaden the debate, literally paint the pictures that show both our unity and our diversity.
In that spirit, I was thinking about ways that “slash artists” can do more than just participate but take a real lead in progressive movements, from Occupy to environmental justice to international solidarity. I seem to be into lists these days, so I’m going to focus in on three concrete roles I see for me and my fellow artists:
1. Artists as Questioners
All great art, like all great political movements, starts with a question. I don’t mean marching around in a circle chanting, “What do we want? When do we want it?,” especially when we all know that the answers are deeper than “Justice” and “Now.” Artists have the power to question and critique the many injustices that often go unnoticed or unmentioned in present-day America. Just check the massive reaction, both positive and negative, to the recent “Shit White Girls Say…to Black Girls” videos. Culture, and especially humor, opens people up to ask the tough questions they would otherwise avoid.
Movement artists have a double role to play when it comes to asking questions, though — turning the lens not just on wider society, but on our own personal actions and organizations. When it comes to spoken word, I know the best political poem is when the poet isn’t preaching at me but struggling within themself. If only we saw more humility and self-reflection at Occupy Oakland.
On an organizing level, elements like street theater or marching bands do more than just liven up the crowd — they question the division of protesters and folks just passing by, of message and medium, of serious politics and God forbid, having a good time. To paraphrase Emma Goldman: if I can’t dance to some remixed, radicalized pop songs with you, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.
To read more, visit JoshHealey.org.
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Robyn Gee on Wednesday, Jan. 11th
Vanessa Bahmani, a 31 year-old freelance photographer and artist in Brooklyn, is attempting to capture the faces and messages of the Occupy Wall Street movement in a series of black and white portraits. She launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $17,000 to cover the cost of equipment, photo-processing, and travel between New York and the Bay Area — the two regions she wants to focus on. Turnstyle spoke with Bahmani about the stories she’s heard and her inspiration for the project.
Turnstyle: How did you become interested or involved in the Occupy movement?
Bahmani: I found out about the Occupy movement through social media. I was curious about what was happening so I went down there, and everyone was excited and trying to figure out what to do next. I decided to take pictures, and I got involved with the media group. I was doing interviews with people and that’s how I began my photo project.
One of the things that inspired me to do this was when mainstream media gave Occupy Wall Street attention; it was very negative. [Mainstream media said,] “They’re just crazy, jobless, lazy hippies.” But there was nothing crazy about anyone there. I talked to veterans, pilots, families, students, teachers, investment bankers and even Wall Street employees.
Turnstyle: Can you recall any moments during your photo shoots that stood out?
Bahmani: Sometimes people don’t jump in front of camera; they hover. This man who had been watching came up to me and asked me to write his message for him because he couldn’t read or write. His message was: I want a better world for all mankind. That was really moving because you see the range of people that are at Occupy, the diverse backgrounds, financial backgrounds and religious backgrounds, the different races, ages, and yet the message is all very similar. People just want justice, equality, and fairness.
Turnstyle: Why black and white?
Bahmani: Initially when I thought of photographing this project, I thought I would do 99 photos. But I took those in a couple of hours. So I thought, maybe I would take over 1,000. I was thinking of the final product and I thought making them black and white would be a way of unifying everything, so your eyes don’t jump around between colors, and you can focus on the messages.
Turnstyle: There is a 99 percent Tumblr page – was this project inspired by that?
Bahmani: Yes, I was inspired by that project. I was moved by the messages I was seeing, and I felt that the same thing needed to happen AT Occupy. So I set out to do it.
Turnstyle: What is the artistic value in singling out people from a movement of tens of thousands of people and hearing their individual stories?
Bahmani: I think it’s important to highlight the individual messages especially in a movement like Occupy that’s leaderless, because essentially all the messages, all the voices, are saying the same thing. That’s what really strong about the movement . People from around the country, from all different walks of life have the same concerns. In the editing process, I started to see lots of similarities. I grouped the messages and started making collages. I grouped the families. I grouped the students, who were all saying they were over-educated and underemployed. I grouped the teachers, and the children.
What’s beautiful about the children is that their parents didn’t write their messages for them. The children wrote the messages themselves. One of my favorites says, “More money for education not for war.” Another one was concerned about tuition hikes — he’s like 8 or 10, but he’s saying, ‘Tuition went up by 98 percent in the last ten years — what will it be when I’m in college?’
That’s what makes the voices strongest, after you read one by one, it’s all one voice, yet the people don’t know each other.
Turnstyle: What are your goals for this collection of photos?
Bahmani: I’ve photographed over 200 images and the goal is to shoot over 1,000 images between NYC and the Bay Area. The goal for now is to reach the Kickstarter goal and finish the work. As we move into Spring of 2012, we will see the Occupy movement get stronger and bigger, and I want to photograph that. The photos will be featured in the OWS exhibit in the South Street Seaport Museum, regardless of funding. I’ve been approached by publishers about making a book. For now, it’s just making the work and finishing it, and displaying it. Just having the work amplifies the voice of the 99 percent.
Turnstyle: The Occupy movement is morphing dramatically from what it used to be in September. In your mind, where is the movement headed and how does that influence your portrait project?
Bahmani: I think the movement has changed since September. I think the thing that has changed is the police brutality. It has changed a lot of the messages that people were saying. Initially people were happy coming together, expressing concerns, but now I’ve photographed people with broken arms. On their casts it says, ‘The NYPD did this.’ There’s a lot more frustration.
I get permission from people to take pics and publish it, but I won’t publish their names. I don’t think their names are as important as the messages they have.
Check out a sample of Bahmani’s photos below. If you’d like to learn more about this project and help fund the project, check out her Kickstarter page here.
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Brandon McFarland & Alejandro De La Cruz on Thursday, Dec. 22nd
By: Brandon McFarland & Alejandro De La Cruz
In just over three months, the Occupy Wall Street movement has grown from the confines of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to occupiers protesting in over 1000 cities across the globe. Since the Sept. 17 uprising, a surplus of multimedia content has flooded social networks, 24/7 news cycles, and television sets across the world. Turnstyle News has curated a sample of the more memorable images we saw during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 and added a question: What will become of the Occupy movement in 2012? We look forward to your thoughts in the comments section. Video is best viewed with the HD setting on.
Below are video credits and the corresponding news articles to the sourced clips.
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The recently reported story of a looming foreclosure on the home of an Iraq War veteran in Atlanta (below) has a happy ending. Brigitte Walker had been attempting to get Chase Bank to modify the loan on her home since her medical retirement from the army as a result of combat-related injuries in 2007. On Dec. 6, Occupy Atlanta initiated a series of actions across metro Atlanta including protests at county courthouses and occupations at the homes of Georgians in danger of foreclosure including Walker.
Occupy Atlanta conducted two press conferences, a national call-in day, and a march on Chase Bank in the two weeks since December 6. Chase Bank has finally conceded to a loan modification that will enable Walker to keep her home. The news comes just weeks before the scheduled Jan. 3 eviction of Walker and her family.
Original story 12.13.2011:
As more protests on behalf of foreclosed homeowners take place throughout the country, Occupy Atlanta seems to have found a rallying point that is attracting support and participation from a wider spectrum of Georgia residents. A week has passed since Occupy Atlanta began its occupation of foreclosed homes, and for some Georgians, their participation in a protest or occupation is the first time they are engaging in political and economic activism.
“I made a gradual entry into the Occupy Movement,” said Gwinnett County resident Deborah Storm. “I began reading stories and watching the Occupy Atlanta chat live. Then I had contacted Tim Franzen from Occupy Atlanta to ask if anything was going on in Gwinnett County.”
It was through Occupy Atlanta that Storm learned of Kenneth Glover (pictured below) who has been trying to negotiate a review of his recent eviction. “I’ve assisted Kenneth Glover in his fight for his home in Gwinnett County,” says Storm. “I went with him to the initial eviction hearing, which was granted and then filed a motion the following week to review the eviction hearing as well as file an appeal of the eviction.” Glover made payments on a modified mortgage for four months before being notified by Chase Bank that his home had already been sold.
“The motion to review the eviction hearing was denied, but the appeal was granted, which allows him to save his home for the time being. I actually wrote up the motion to review in my own handwriting with Kenneth approving and signing. Kenneth also filled out a form to see if he could be granted an appeal with no fees since he should have qualified due to income and expenses, this was denied,” said Storm. In the meantime, it appears that by lending Glover a hand with his own housing woes, Storm inspired him to join her and small group of Occupiers in a recent protest at a their local courthouse.
Riverdale, GA is another new front for the movement in Atlanta. Its home to Iraq war veteran Bridgitte Walker. Walker, whose spine was crushed in 2004 by mortar rounds, was forced into medical retirement from the army due to the limited mobility caused by her injuries. “[The retirement] drastically reduced my income and so I was not able to maintain as I was before,” says Walker. “As I was facing my hardship I’ve been in contact with Chase [Bank] since the very beginning [of the foreclosure] and for some reason they just won’t help me.”
When the bank notified Walker that they would take her home on Jan. 3, she wrote a letter to Georgia Senator Vincent D. Fort who in turn called on Occupy Atlanta spokesperson Tim Franzen.
“One of the things that has happened over the last 10 or 11 years since I’ve been [investigating] predatory lending and foreclosure eviction issues is I get calls,” says Fort. “I get two or three calls [from homeowners] a week and they’ve increased over the past few weeks because of what Occupy Atlanta has been doing. I feel like it’s my responsibility to get them all the help that I can. I said ‘OA, Occupy Atlanta, this is something we’ve got to get with.’ So we met with Ms. Walker.”
When asked what the support of Occupy Atlanta means to her, Walker responded, “I’m proud that they’re willing to support me. I think it’s power in action. And their actions are very powerful.”
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On a practical level, farmers have been involved in Occupy Wall Street almost since the movement’s emergence. As soon as tent cities sprung up in parks and plazas across the nation this past September, small farmers in the Northeast, California, and elsewhere were making donations, trucking in excess produce to keep protesters fed.
It was only recently, though, that their involvement became political. On Sunday, December 4th, farmers from throughout the country descended on lower Manhattan and joined Occupiers to protest what they view as an excess of consolidation and corporate control in American agriculture. More than 500 farmers, foodies, chefs, and activists who took part protested things as varied as natural gas drilling and genetically modified organisms, but their overarching message was clear: the U.S. farming and ranching industries are stacked to benefit the largest and wealthiest corporations at the expense of most food producers.
“Corporate abusers are harming us all,” said David Murphy, founder and president of the nonprofit group Food Democracy Now, who organized the Farmers March in partnership with Occupy Wall Street members. “The control of policy by agribusiness is the main thing impoverishing small farmers. Wall Street has Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, both of which have bent the laws in their favor. Agriculture has Monsanto, Cargill, and Smithfield. They write the regulations to benefit themselves.”
The march was the most significant attempt yet by OWS to ally itself with the so-called “good food movement,” and it raised questions about whether food activists and small farmers will use Occupy Wall Street to advance their causes as they head into a fierce battle over the next Farm Bill early next year. That bill, which is the nation’s largest piece of agricultural legislation, governs crop subsidies, farmland conservation, school lunch programs, and more. It is due to be amended in 2012, and sustainable agriculture advocates are already lobbying hard to reinstate poorly funded conservation programs, limit subsidies to the largest producers, and insert provisions to help young and beginning farmers get started in an industry dominated by large corporate farms and food processors.
To date, no future collaboration between farmers and OWS has been made public, perhaps because food activists are fighting for concrete policy proposals while the broad-based OWS remains characterized more by discussion than narrow political demands. Nevertheless, farmers and activists across the country predicted further partnership between the two groups. “Right now, we are focusing on things that can be easily solved,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, head of the National Young Farmers Coalition and the lead author of a recent report detailing the challenges facing the next generation of agrarians in the U.S. “Farmers haven’t totally fleshed out how we could merge together [with OWS] but we have a lot of solidarity with groups like that.”
Shute’s group recently helped author new legislation aimed at assisting young and beginning farmers, which she hopes to work into the revised Farm Bill next year. One of her principal collaborators is Severine Von Tscharner Fleming, a farmer, filmmaker and activist from upstate New York who was a speaker at the Farmer’s March on Dec. 4th. To Fleming, it seems clear that farmers and OWS protestors ought to be natural allies. “A lot of us have gotten involved in agriculture because we see it as a kind of activism where you are walking your talk,” she said. “Farmers have economic self-determination, which is what Occupy Wall Street protestors want.”
For his part, Farmer’s March organizer Dave Murphy has continued to engage with OWS–on a personal level. Reached in Oakland a week after the New York event, Murphy had just attended a conference on genetically modified organisms, but shortly thereafter he joined protestors with Occupy Oakland on their mission to shut down the city’s ports. Just as farmers who have learned to engage directly with urban consumers are faring better economically, Murphy believes that farmers who want their voices heard must now engage politically with urban dwellers. “[OWS] is really an organic movement, so it’s hard to predict what will happen, but we’re not going to win unless we take to the streets,” he said.
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Robyn Gee on Friday, Dec. 16th
GOP candidate Newt Gingrich, who is expected to come out on top during the Iowa Republican caucuses at the beginning of next month, was interrupted by Occupy protesters yesterday in Iowa city during a speech. After being introduced by Natalie Ginty, a member of Students for Newt and head of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, audience members shouted, “Mic Check,” as seen at Occupy Wall Street protests all over the country.
Several Occupy sites have steered clear of the political sphere intentionally, but not so in Iowa, where people are gearing up for the earliest caucuses in the country.
According to the Occupy Iowa Caucus website, on December 27, the group will hold a “People’s Caucus” to jump-start a week long “Occupy Iowa Caucus” campaign, which will include a gathering of people hoping to adopt resolutions about issues concerning the 99 percent.
According to the OIC website:
“The resulting document will be introduced into the national public debate as one proposal for how the Occupy Wall Street movement should voice its grievances, turn sentiment into action, and take the power back from the greedy corporations. The final document could be introduced into the Iowa Caucuses as a resolution on January 3 by Iowans who participate in the caucus process.”
According to the Occupiers, the statement is not aimed at the candidates themselves, but at the entire political system in America.
The group has already held a nonviolent civil disobedience training to prepare for these events. After the People’s Caucus, Occupy Des Moines is organizing protesters to visit the candidate’s campaign headquarters, including President Obama’s re-election headquarters.
Local papers said protesters from Kansas City, Chicago, and New York plan on attending the caucuses, and the call has been put out via Twitter to request a presence from Occupy Oakland.
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Thousands of protesters halted a 6 p.m. evening shift at the Port of Oakland on Monday, and an early morning shift at 3 a.m. Tuesday, which resulted in 24 hours of stalled work. The port closure was the largest event Occupy Oakland had organized since its encampment was evicted nearly a month ago on Nov. 14.
Protesters took the Port of Oakland without confrontation yesterday morning at 5:30 a.m. and last night around 6 p.m.
“Attention please, the 6 p.m. shift has been cancelled,” a self-identified anarchist named Matt shouted into a megaphone. “We won! Please head to the general assembly to decide whether or not to extend the shutdown.” SF Gate reports that “a small band of activists” successfully shut down the 3 a.m. shift as well.
An hour before the general assembly, Oakland Occupiers seemed to be in a celebratory mood. As some protesters smoked against palm trees, a dad played tag with his son and a live punk band entertained the crowd.
“We f!@#ing won!” The front-woman for the band screamed into the mic.
“What’s next though?” the singer continued. “I’m for some campaign finance reform. Are you guys familiar with Citizen’s United? Corporate personhood? We need to get money out of politics. We need to take our system back.”
A few feet away from the band, Jason Wallach was manning True Justice Bike Repair. Wallach has offered free repairs to bikers since the beginning of Occupy Oakland actions.
“The movement has always been about more than occupying a physical space. It’s about creating a conceptual space for a utopia. Like in my utopia, people should have access to transportation that doesn’t kill the planet.”
Wallach noted that the original Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa plaza was a helpful way to mobilize the movement.
“I’m an advocate of trying to figure out how we can occupy a space again. But while we’re in this phase we need to demonstrate our power as a movement. And this, tonight, is a great way to do it.”
Photos provided by Rachel Krantz and Ethan Stark.
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