I woke up early this morning to learn that Liberty Square/Zuccotti Park had been evicted under cover of darkness by hundreds of NYPD riot cops and that scores of people had been arrested. This is outrageous. How we respond will be crucial.
The first thing to remember is that the real struggle is not for a particular piece of public space but a political one for the hearts and minds of tens of millions of people in this country. Being able to occupy public spaces is important but should be seen as a means not an end unto itself. The end game – fundamental system change through creating participatory democratic structures at all levels of society that will someday empower millions to come out into the streets to confront the oligarchs who rule this country – hasn't changed one bit. We should always ask ourselves if our immediate actions are moving us toward our larger goals. For example, engaging in petty property destruction won't get us there.
To the extent we can channel our anger and frustration over this eviction and others like it across the country into powerful, non-violent actions that articulate a hopeful vision while underscoring the illegitimacy of the “1%” and their plutocratic rule, the more powerful our movement will become.
Here in New York, there will be plenty of opportunities.
A day of protest was already in the works for Thursday from an attempt to shut down the opening of the New York Stock Exchange to a 5 pm labor union-led mass rally and march from Foley Square across the Brooklyn Bridge that labor and community groups have thrown their support behind. Large turnouts to jam up the Financial District in the morning and fill Foley Square and march across the Brooklyn Bridge in the early evening will highlight the collective power of the 99% and help to dispel the notion that the movement has been demobilized. The contrast between (tens of) thousands of people rallying in lower Manhattan to demand economic justice and the police lockdown at Liberty Park will be striking to anyone who has had their eyes opened by Occupy Wall Street.
OWS organizers in New York have also been quietly planning next stages for the movement. Ideas abound from assisting with takeovers of foreclosed homes to supporting neighborhood-based Occupy movements that have begun to take root in the past two months in communities across the city, many of which have been in economic crisis for decades. The alliances that are built through this kind of patient, on-the-ground organizing will lay the foundation for future mass mobilizations of the 99%.
Evicting Occupy encampments does nothing to address the underlying conditions that sparked this movement. It simply reflects the corruption and the lack of imagination of our ruling elites. Hence, more protest is inevitable especially next spring and summer as the weather warms up and the system's inability to respond to the economic crisis becomes more starkly evident.
At this moment I feel both angry and incredibly hopeful. The struggle to take back Liberty Square in the coming days will dramatize the gulf between the powerful and the powerless in our society. Whether we are ultimately able to reclaim that one particular park is secondary. We have a whole world to reclaim. The battle cry of “We Are the 99%!” is not going to be muzzled and the demands implicit in those five words are not going to go away either.
John Tarleton has been a member of the Indypendent collective since 2001. For more, click here.