WHY (RE)OCCUPYING WON’T WORK
****This is a preview of a short article for a zine I am compiling in response to the current sweeping “occupy” movement. The zine will be released soon….
WHY (RE)OCCUPYING WON’T WORK….
September 17, 2011 hundreds of people answer a call-out from Adbusters maga- zine to “occupy” Wall Street. Today October 14, 2011 less than a week since what is recognized as the initial “occupation” of this continent by Christopher Columbus- the City of Phoenix plans to join the “Occupy…” movement tomorrow Saturday, October 15. Will these new occupiers learn anything from the vicious past of the occupation and colonization of this land better known as OCCUPIED AKIMEL O’ODHAM PI-POSH LAND?
If you had a chance to reverse an oppressive part of history that has left us with a devastating present would you do it? More than 500 years ago the process of the colonization of this continent began. A “movement” of people wishing to resist op- pression came here and “occupied” this entire continent. THESE ORIGINAL OC- CUPIERS WERE PROBABLY THE BEST EXAMPLE OF A GROUP OF OCCUPI- ERS THAT “WANT(ED) EVERYTHING”. These “occupiers” ignored the needs of every original person of this land that conflicted with their desires. This Occupation of the continent now known as North America is still flourishing through the process of colonization.
Today in nearly every densely populated corner of this continent we hear news of a new movement of people re-occupying public places. We see numerous unfortunate similarities between this new group and the original occupiers of this land. One major similarity being not communicating with the original people who have inhabited this land for centuries. The second, demanding everything for themselves and not having the foresight to acknowledge any of the needs of the indigenous people who’s land they are occupying.
The process of colonization has contributed many negative characteristics to this popular dominating culture. Is this new occupation ready to address any of these issues? Capitalism has conveniently relocated people across this continent. In the form of reservations we have seen a vanishing of the original people of this land. The relocating has also taken the form of shipping in people from other continents in the form of slavery for the workplace. We also see the forced relocation of children through the process of international adoption. We are also given borders to divide us from others to better reinforce the process of colonization and assimilation.
The domination of this continent has been all too successful through a system of neocolonial, patriarchal, white supremacy. In almost every crevice of our society to- day we see this still dominating and tearing us apart. What does this new movement of occupiers plan to do to account for this social inheritance of power imbalances’?
On the point of occupation as a strategy are these new occupiers doing anything to learn from the past of other radical occupations? The demands of many of these present occupations match that of a very specific niche in the preexisting capitalist system. Most demands focus on reforming the tools of capitalism that are choking the life out of everyone. Most of these new occupiers lack the basic vernacular required for a true revolution that would begin to reverse the current colonization of this continent.
Any successful tactic or movement takes power back from the system. From most movements we see different divisions of radical theory develop. One sees this with the Black power movement. Their movement saw an evolution in tactics from the semi-weak handed paper tigers, to the Black Panthers to the Black Liberation Army.
The black panthers instituted very successful community programs with clear demands mapped out by their ten-point program. And the Black Liberation Army was successful in acquiring funds to aid programs often through outright armed robbery and the underground organized re-funneling of appropriated funds . The paper tigers slowly fizzled out and are hardly known by many now.
With the American Indian Movement (AIM) we saw many effective applications of the occupation method. From Alcatraz to the BIA headquarters in Washington, DC, Mount Rushmore and many more, AIM was extremely successful in getting their message out through the use of occupation. While many of the current occupations are ending with occupants getting the shit beat out of them by the police AIM usually left their occupations accomplishing much more.
Looking at the November 1971 AIM occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters we see what a successful occupation looks like. The occupation that involved approximately 1,000 AIM members caused $2 million in damages (note this was in the 70’s when a million dollars was a significant amount of money). Recognized as an actual threat by Nixon (president at the time) the group was given $66,000 in transportation monies in return for a peaceful end to the takeover. The group was also successful in leaving with crucial files and records many pertaining to Indian health records and also including treaties, deeds, and water rights records. Nixon was actually forced to meet with tribal representatives in Oregon because of the occupation. Other notable details of the occupation, all this happened in nearly a weeks time. And all of the occupiers were able to leave.
Will any of these new occupiers learn from the past revolutionary occupations that have erupted thorough out the past of this continent? The rest of this zine offers additional insight into present demands of the indigenous people of the area and other radical occupations and direct actions.