Dozens of groups came together to stop Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) plan to literally take from the poor to give to the rich. The Occupy Network (of which I am a team member) was a partner in the effort and the act.tv team (I am a co-founder) dug in deeply. Check out a highlight video of the occupation below from our creative director Brad Gans and more on Cuomo’s page on our site:
This action took place in anticipation of the last week of state budget negotiations. It became necessary because our Governor 1% actually had the audacity to propose tax cuts that are specifically for millionaires and billionaires. In the state that is #1 in inequality in the country at that! But the local angle alone misses the broader national context.
Point blank: the 1% has collectively seen the rise of an occupy-inspired progressive populist message that is resonating across the country and is responding full force through Gov. Cuomo.
A telling article in Politico, the power establishment’s favorite outlet, entitled The Rich Strike Back went so far as to refer to him as “Wall Street’s newest hero.” The piece cheered on what they see as certain victory over a movement irredeemably weakened by newly inaugurated NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. And what are his great failures? He is doing a poor job pleasing the 1% and their media enablers, of course.
Moreover, the piece spotlights openly named sources schizophrenically relating occupiers and populists alike to Nazis. Because why wouldn’t defeated political novices also be like the most horrific fascist empire of all time?
Unfortunately these are the elites we have to deal with, and due to their mix of insane logic and cognitive dissonance, good-faith negotiation has become all but impossible. Towards these ends, as Martin Luther King Jr. explains: "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue."
I went down chanting one of the main OWS clarion calls, “All day, all week - Occupy, Wall Street!” I don’t think it could have possibly been more appropriate to boot in light of Cuomo’s newly christened official status as Wall Street’s hero.
More broadly, the direct action was designed to expose the blatant quid pro quo that exists between Governor Cuomo and the 1%. It entailed us blocking the doorway to the governor’s office while a so called "pop-up occupation" commenced with what organizers estimate as 600 more rallying on the surrounding steps and hallways.
Our success here was reflected in the resulting media coverage. This was seen by way of influential local news outlets plugged into the nuances of state politics like NBC Albany, ABC Albany and the Times Union, as well as national media outlets like the AP and Democracy Now. The New York Daily News even went so far as to feature civil disobedience participant Bill Samuels, a prominent activist and Democratic fundraiser, explicitly calling on Cuomo to run as a Republican due to how he has failed not just movement activists but all New Yorkers.
That’s not to say that media coverage on its own (not to mention the 600 tweets per hour the #AllOfUs tag experienced) is by any means emblematic of victory in and of itself. It’s about what the coverage represents.
In that vein, calling out Cuomo no holds barred for being Governor 1% is something that we know can work. Because it has worked before, when he relented on the millionaires tax due to fear of exactly this framing.
Things absolutely have changed in our movements and politics over the past few years though, so there is no resting on laurels here. Rather we must keep moving forward past the hissing of the fat cats, and in so doing, we would do well to celebrate victories like yesterday.
I’m going to get to that, so that’s all for now. Onwards to building a better world, starting right here in New York!