OWS: Moves, Counter-moves, Analysis and Action

by Web Editor

It is 3 months since the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has inspired occupations of public space by citizens in towns and cities all over the world – in response to the intensification of inhumane, neoliberal policies everywhere sacrificing 99% of people for the profits of the 1%. Following on from the hugely successful mass mobilization of the indignados in Spain, which occupied central plaza’s all over the country; and the same display of mass resistance in Syntagma Square in Greece, or Tahrir Square in Egypt, and beyond – the “occupy” movement has continued to grow in numbers (despite increasing oppression from state forces attempting to preserve the status quo…)

For the latest analysis of OWS on CITY see:

WHAT SPACE TO OCCUPY IN NEW YORK: A Two-Site Solution? by Peter Marcuse

The purpose of the occupation movement and the danger of fetishizing space, by Peter Marcuse

Open letter to: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, et al., by Peter Marcuse

“You can’t evict an idea whose time has come”

Retired police captain Ray Lewis, protesting the eviction of OWS, 16. November 2011

Retired police captain Ray Lewis, protesting the eviction of OWS, 16. November 2011

The slogan popped up in e-posters all over the internet last week “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come” (as police moved in forcibly to evict / destroy the OWS base in Zuccotti Park). The phrase powerfully captures the nature of the struggle being faced: a crisis of consciousness… That the dogma of “scarcity” and “austerity” being sold to the public as if it were economic science, is actually one of neoliberal ideology; reflecting the reality (true in the US and the European Union) that the interests dominating our so-called democracies are the agendas of corporate lobbyists. And that they will stop at nothing (not wide-spread poverty, or social unrest?), to ensure their profits continue to flow until the last second.

In an email to CITY Chief Editor Bob Catterall, David Wachsmuth, (1) – in New York – describes the attempted eviction from Zuccotti Park:

Hi Bob,

I was down at OWS until 6 am last night. Very intense situation. Eviction happened with absolutely no warning–first anyone heard about it was when the cops arrived in enormous force and surrounded the park at 1 am. lots of people (myself included) came down to try to help defend the occupation, but because of how short notice it was, by the time most people were able to arrive, the cops had already sealed off multiple blocks of the financial district. They ended up shutting down the bridges and the subways, banning all press (including press helicopters from the airspace), and used pepper spray, tear gas and apparently LRAD sound cannons (last I didn’t see for myself, but heard reports–not 100% sure if that’s true). The entire OWS library (5000 books) was demolished and thrown into trash compactors along with everything else.

Now there has been a court order that protesters be immediately allowed back into the park with tents, but Bloomberg has announced he’s going to ignore it. More arrests happening as we speak…

* * * * * * *

I also received the following in an email from friend and activist Stella Caban, who had been participating in working groups at OWS until just a few days before:

Im getting word from Sustainability working group that almost all of the bike generators were also raided – 15 or so… weeks of hard work to get the materials together and finally some them getting powered a few days ago…

5000 book trashed, just thrown away, including the tent for the Library which was donated by Patti Smith. All the medical supplies also gone.”

What’s going on?

Everyone knows the famous lines of Marvin Gaye’s song but they are worth repeating – published in 1971 to capture that political moment, and exactly 30 years in the future still so relevant: “Picket lines and picket signs / Don’t punish me with brutality / Talk to me / So you can see / What’s going on…”

The call to ‘occupy Wall Street’ (indeed, to “occupy everything”) – is a call to citizens to take back their democracies. It results from the growing collective realization that the formal political institutions have failed us, as they have been hijacked by money. Leaving the mass of the public no option but to act outside the official channels to demand change. It is either that, or settle for mass unemployment, homelessness, hunger, impoverished health care and education systems, mounting debts and increasing penial action by the violent forces of the state.

Of course it takes more than protest to transform the concrete realities of our lives on the ground (which we will have more on soon…); but the mass mobilizations begin by raising awareness, by educating and connecting people, which is the essential foundation on which any other alternatives must be based. And there are already many alternatives being built (and with increasing momentum) as ideas and skills come together through the occupy movement (and all the anti-globalization, anti-cuts or austerity movements that existed already, as well as movements for democracy and civil liberties around the world).

It’s also worth checking out this video which was went online this week and has already had over 80,000 views, of retired police captain Ray Lewis (pictured above with his sign “NYPD – don’t be Wall Street mercenaries”) who is protesting the eviction of OWS:


  1. David was trained as an urban planner in Toronto and is now a PhD candidate in Sociology at New York University. He is an organizer with GSOC-UAW, the union for graduate employees at NYU. David is the co-editor of newly published Whose Streets? The Toronto G20 and the Challenges of Summit Protest, with Tom Malleson; published by Between the Lines, Canada.

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