“No government can exist for a single moment without the cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people withdraw their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.” —Gandhi
Originally appeared at HyperVocal.
The Occupy movement is now a genie that cannot be put back in its bottle.
While it has certainly gone through growing pains, and will continue to do so, the adversity faced has only forced the movement to adapt and re-focus.
After their first eviction, Occupy San Francisco decided to occupy sidewalks around the downtown financial district (the original strategy for Occupy Wall Street before the 17th, I should add.) Can’t have an encampment? Adapt and take public sidewalks. There is now a nationwide movement to also throw the gauntlet at major banks like Bank of America, and re-occupy foreclosed homes for families thrown out by the financial criminal class. The move has even prompted BofA to fire off an email to its employees. And yes, the email’s existence has indeed been confirmed by a Bank of America representative.
The financial elite are not the only ones concerned about this nonviolent peoples’ movement, of course. The Department of Homeland Security has had its feathers ruffled too. As Mayor Jean Quan mystifyingly stated during a BBC interview, DHS and other federal agencies are now coordinating raids on Occupy through the use of Orwellian “fusion centers” which collect intelligence on encampments and then share that information with local law enforcement, who are often heavily militarized and disproportionate in their response to peaceful protesters.
The contempt and cruelty often displayed by police towards this movement is shocking. Here’s what Patrick Meghan, a writer for the sitcom “Family Guy,” experienced at the hands of the LAPD:
I was arrested at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with 291 other people at Occupy LA. I was sitting in City Hall Park with a pillow, a blanket, and a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Being Peace” when 1,400 heavily-armed LAPD officers in paramilitary SWAT gear streamed in. I was in a group of about 50 peaceful protestors who sat Indian-style, arms interlocked, around a tent (the symbolic image of the Occupy movement). The LAPD officers encircled us, weapons drawn, while we chanted ‘We Are Peaceful’ and ‘We Are Nonviolent’ and ‘Join Us.’
It gets worse.
When the LAPD finally began arresting those of us interlocked around the symbolic tent, we were all ordered by the LAPD to unlink from each other (in order to facilitate the arrests). Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protestor’s legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protestor’s left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protestor’s right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protestor, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor. It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us.
The police state will continue to use terror to coerce this movement into backing down. It will not work, however. Myself and over 50 others were arrested the night of Occupy Philadelphia’s eviction.
My resolve, as well as those who were arrested or were outraged at the way the police handled the eviction, has only strengthened. And this movement must use love and persistence to fight back. There is no other way. The state knows only violence and fear, and this can only continue for so long in the face of what the Occupy movement offers as an alternative. This movement must continue to struggle for what dissident playwright and later president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel calls “defending the everyday aims of life.”
As Mark Kurlansky writes of Havel in Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea:
Organizations were formed to support the families of those persecuted by the government; alternative ‘universities’ taught the things excluded from official education; environmental groups were formed and cultural activities established…Increasingly citizens could live life apart from the one established by the regime. Though the actions were small, the goals were large.
Kurlansky goes on to write of Havel’s strategy:
…if people lived their lives parallel to the state system and not as a part of it–which he [Havel] termed “living within a lie”–there would always be a tension between these two realities and they would not be able to permanently coexist.
The Occupy movement has for months now been engaged in creating the very same “counter-society” Havel and the Solidarity movement used to eventually bring the Soviet empire to its knees. Occupations across the country have been stepping up to offer free food, shelter and healthcare because the state has failed to do so. There are plans underway to offer free college education in Philadelphia, as I’m sure there are similar initiatives to do so in other parts of the country.
And the movement is now standing–physically–with American families trampled on by banks who knowingly committed fraud and tossed people out of their homes.
Welcome to Occupy 2.0. What are YOU going to do now?
Originally appeared at HyperVocal.
Dustin Slaughter is the creator of The David and Goliath Project, a website celebrating and commenting on protest culture. He is a photojournalist and activist residing in Philadelphia, PA. If you would like to contribute to The Project for future research trips as the #Occupy movement continues, please consider a small donation here. Read his “What I Learned from the Occupation: Lose the Fear” here.
—Photo of the last night of Occupy Philadelphia by Dustin Slaughter