Voices from the Occupation
Occupy is Everywhere
It can be all too easy to see the Occupy Movement as a Western phenomenon, centred on Wall Street and London. However, as the weeks have rolled on, the movement has become a truly global conversation; now with over 2000 occupations, in every populated continent on the planet. Today’s article brings you stories from the Occupations all over the world, from camps you may not have seen in the news or the papers.
Occupy camps have set up all over Asia. Let’s start in China – major camps in Hong Kong, Luoyang and Zhengzhou. In India, Kolkata and Mumbai. In Indonesia, Jakarta. In Tel Aviv in Israel and Tokyo, Japan. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In Pakistan, we have Islamabad. Manila in the Philippines and Seoul in South Korea. Taipei in Taiwan and Istanbul, Turkey. All these camps have been established on or since the 15th October call to Occupy the World.
Occupy Taipei has highlighted the myth of the Asian tigers. On October 15th, hundreds gathered around the world’s second largest building, Taipei 101. People have taken to their streets and their tents. They express a deep frustration that the so called economic miracle of Asian development benefitted the 1% in Taiwan, far more than the 99%. The population there now faces the squeeze of stagnating low wages, limited worker rights, and job losses, while the cost of living has continued to rise. There is also the issue of Migrant workers in Taiwan, who are paid a pitiful wage, have no holidays and zero rights. This practise has been developed into de facto slavery. On December 12th, at least 2000 marchers took to the streets to protest for the rights of these migrant workers.
Occupy Hong Kong set up their tents outside HSBC bank.
Occupy New Delhi, India this week braved physical threat and arrest to Occupy the infamous Plachimada Coca-Cola plant. Protesters and the people of Plachimada have been fighting for decades, for the simple right to fresh air and water in their area. Coca Cola has continued to pollute the air and extract up to 1 million litres per day of water from the local supply, leaving the local population thirsty, as wells run dry. Meanwhile a ‘community owns resources’ experiment has been set up in Hazaribagh to demonstrate an alternative to the capitalist model
Meanwhile in Africa, site of the Arab Spring which preceded and inspired the Occupy movement, protests have spread, almost unreported, across the continent. Centring on South Africa, with occupations in more than 5 major cities, including Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, the occupation has spread to Egypt and Tunisia.
The Occupations across Africa have faced violent responses by both military and police, but have continued and grown in number and voice. People have lost life and liberty to carry their fight for freedom forward.
The Spanish movement Los Indignadoswere bringing tens of thousands of people to the streets of Barcelona and Madrid months before The Occupy Movement event existed, and is credited as the first incarnation of the current movement in Europe.
But Occupy has spread like wildfire across Europe. The UK has over 25 occupations across the country from London to Bristol, Cardiff to Edinburgh, Dublin to Exeter, and Norwich to Manchester. There are multiple occupations alive and kicking in Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
Although the news cameras may start and stop outside St Pauls Cathedral, people all over Europe are talking together; using their camps and social media to discuss ideas of social and economic justice, and a sustainable society for people and planet.
Occupy Stockholm set up camp outside the Swedish Central Bank.
In Croatia, thousands have joined to camp and march against what they see as corporate greed and social injustice.
While the Occupy meme kicked off in Wall Street, the Occupy movement has reached an audience in every state in the US today, and multiple cities in each. There are over 50 protests in California alone, and hundreds more across the country. There have been brutal forced evictions from camps in New York, Denver, Oakland, and Los Angeles to name but a few. A peaceful student occupation, on the University of California Daviscampus saw students pepper sprayed in the face by police, while sitting down. US veteran Scott Olsen was put in hospital in critical condition after being shot in the face by a tear gas canister by police in Oakland. The Denver camp was evicted on 18th December.
This seemingly coordinated action to evict camps up and down the US of A has resulted in a reimagining of the Occupy Movement, with a shift in focus toward direct action. In recent weeks, the Occupy our Homesmovement has seen protesters move from their evicted camps, into the homes of people being foreclosed upon by their mortgage companies in an effort to force concessions and have people keep their homes this Christmas. Ports across the east and west coasts have been partially or completely shut down my thousands of protesters in organised shut downs in recent weeks.
While USA Today is asking if Occupy Wall Street is over, given the camp has been destroyed, people across the US are clear that this is merely the beginning. Human ingenuity being what it is, people find a means to develop the movement around each obstacle that appears in their way.
Australia and New Zealand are also hosting multiple and active Occupations. Occupy Melbourne has seen several altercations with police, but still kept their sense of humour. They are credited with creating the concept of the ‘Tent Monster’, and invited people to join International Wear a Tent Day to support the Occupy Movement. They agreed by consensus at their General Assembly this week, to set expand to multiple sites, including strategic occupations and direct actions.
Meanwhile in New Zealand, the wonderful Auckland Camp on Aotea Square is facing eviction within 48 hours and is challenging this petition in court.
Last but most definitely not least, Latin America has embraced the occupy movement. There are occupations right now in multiple locations across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Occupy Buenos Aires took to the streets in their thousands on 15th October and started a wildfire of Occupations across Argentina.
Occupy Rio in Brazil has taken up specific local issues. It has been voicing popular dissent to prevent the progression of a controversial hydroelectric dam building project. It has also bought attention to the plight of the most impoverished of Rio, as the government attempts the forced eviction of favela residents in order to make way for world cup 2014, leaving people homeless.
Occupy the World Over
What is so striking about this journey around the world of Occupations is the demonstration of how to have a global idea, and retain a local, culturally relevant expression of it. This was the promise of globalisation, the idea of a core set of non-negotiable universal values, but the preservation of local cultures, traditions and heterogeneity. But the current system cannot deliver on this promise.
The global klepto-capitalist system we are faced with today seeks monopoly, homogeneity and economies of scale.
But in its own globalisation, the Occupy conversation has succeeded in maintaining common cause, common tactics, common ideals, but very much a local flavour. Anyone who has visited even more than one camp in one city will tell you that no two camps are the same. I have spent time at Occupy Bristol, St Pauls and Finsbury Square, and each camp has been familiar and alien to the other at the same time. There is something amazing about feeling safe in the knowledge that you are valued, welcome and equal whoever you are and whatever your personal circumstances – while being enlivened by the newness and difference of local micro-cultures. It speaks to me of a world that is possible. A globalised world does not have to be the mono-culture of Coca-cola, McDonald’s, CNN and GAP. It can be globalised promises of how each human being is responsible for treating others and the planet, together with the vibrancy of local custom, language, tradition, festival, and clothing. There are some things which are best globalised and scaled up – science and technology to name but two. However, there are other things which are best managed locally – like government, food production, water and energy supply. It is possible to have conversations locally, which are best held locally – and conversations globally which are best held globally. Occupy is a global conversation, with local action and despite half the world being in winter – it continues to grow. I look forward to being a part of each of its tiny steps forward through a fresh new year.