Occupy Solidarity Social Forum
Although it was not reported by US news agencies, the Occupy Wall Street movement managed to create an unprecedented moment in American history earlier this year. The first national occupy movement convention was held in Olympia, Washington Feb 18 – 20th. The Occupy Solidarity Social Forum (ossf2012.org) was organized at the state capitol, and despite the arrival of hundreds of occupy delegations from all across the nation, corporate news media reporters were conspicuously absent from any of the proceedings…
My professional “colleagues” in the news media collectively failed to cover one of the most important events in recent US history. With the exception of my article for the Huffington Post, and a report I helped produce for Free Speech Radio News, you will find no mention of the national Occupy Wall Street movement conference anywhere in the US news media.
Where were the reporters?! Was this a politically motivated boycott, or was the lack of news coverage simply a result of ignorance and incompetence on the part of commercial editors and journalists? In any case, this is exactly why the alternative media exists!
Is it any wonder that even a relatively conservative think tank now ranks the US as 26th on the list of nations in terms of freedom of the press?
This low ranking is not necessarily due to the fact that the media is state-owned. The lack of press freedom in this country results from the complete corporate dominance of our news sources, accomplished through unregulated ownership and monopolistic media consolidation. The FCC may regulate what words can be spoken on the public airwaves, but the agency doesn’t seem to care about who actually owns the broadcast stations! A handful of powerful companies own almost the entire US media market.
Let’s face it, large corporate interests and government agencies now control our access to some of the most important information about the inner workings of our society and government. Thomas Jefferson stated that democracy is impossible when information is kept from the general public. I agree with him whole-heartedly! In my opinion, the “dumbing down of America” has become one of our greatest national tragedies!
The corporate news media has become nothing but one large propaganda machine for the exclusive use of the one percent. Stolen elections, illegal wars and unconstitutional laws are now largely acceptable to the public because the corporate news media tells us it’s all OK. Although most of the truth about our recent history has already been purposefully flushed down the proverbial memory hole, some of us still remember the truth. George Orwell’s “Big Brother” and “doublespeak” have now become simply business as usual for government and multinational corporations.
But there is still hope for a possible societal transformation in this country! In February, the Amtrak coming in from California had so many activists on board that conference organizers in Olympia began to refer to the train as the “Occupy Express”. It was met by an exuberant welcoming party at the station. The feeling in the air was certainly uplifting and joyous. After experiencing several months of political repression (including the loss of their encampments), people from the various occupy groups were just happy to see one another and share common ground. There was definitely a deep mutual sense of commitment and solidarity among organizers and participants at the Occupy Solidarity Social Forum.
This diverse group of folks worked together to create a grassroots conference that was both educational and inspirational. Keynote speakers at the gathering were two internationally recognized iconoclasts – rebel economist David Korten and Occupy Seattle superstar Dorli Rainy.
Korten is on the editorial board for Yes! Magazine. He’s also the author of “When Corporations Rule The World”, a critical review of the abuses of global corporate power. He told those assembled that the occupy movement represents an organized opposition to what many in the US have believed for a long time – that corporate money and power have taken complete control of both our economic and political institutions.
David Korten began life as a typical international globalist, but after working inside the belly of the beast and dealing with predatory financiers at the World Bank and IMF, he eventually had a revelation which changed his entire life. Now Korten is calling for a populist uprising against the corrupt power brokers on Wall Street and in Washington, DC. His goal? - To force the one percent to accept accountability measures that will finally get the dirty money out of politics, out of the elections, and out of our government.
The darling of the occupy movement convention in Olympia was 85 year old Dorli Rainey. SHe became the international face for the occupy movement in 2011 when she was attacked with pepper spray by Seattle Police. The picture of her taken by photo journalist Joshua Trujillo went viral on the web and soon she was being barraged by media requests from all over the world. Rainey told the conference attendees that her personal story is an example of how the efforts of one “small” person can affect people globally.
Dozens of workshops were held during the three days of events. Topics included non-violent civil disobedience training, how to respond to “security culture”, and a teach-in on professional accounting techniques. The subjects were wide-reaching and pretty much all-encompassing. When folks weren’t taking part in the workshops, they were conducting discussion groups, attending music concerts or marching in protests and rallies.
Fortunately, due to a sympathetic federal judge, many of the folks who had been banned from state property at previous demonstrations were now allowed to participate in conference events at the state capitol campus. US District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan honored my request for a restraining order. The judge’s order stopped the Washington State Patrol from continuing their practice of banning protesters and press from state capitol property without due process of law.
The WSP has now agreed to rewrite its policies on dealing with protesters and media. Without this successful civil rights lawsuit against the Washington State Patrol, many of the folks from Occupy Olympia and Occupy Seattle would have been subjected to arrest for criminal trespass while attending events at the national occupy conference.
Future of The Movement
The Occupy Solidarity Social Forum has discredited any previous claims by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times that the occupy movement is dead. The truth of the matter was evident for all to see in Olympia. I met delegations from all around the nation and even folks from Europe. There were participants in attendance from the original Occupy Wall Street group in New York City. I also met folks from Detroit, South Carolina, Tucson, Missoula, San Francisco, Barcelona, etc.
I witnessed very little of the kind of dissension within the movement that the corporate news media has tried to stir up. Despite people’s various political, economic, racial or ethnic backgrounds, we all agreed on one thing – the occupy movement is part of a global uprising against the abuse of power and the widespread corruption in financial markets and in the government.
The spirit of the international movement for social and economic justice is much larger than any one individual, group, or nation. I quote Dr. Cornell West who told the occupiers in Seattle – “I agree that this movement is a response to over 300 years of colonialism and economic oppression. It has been a long time coming and it’s not going to go away anytime soon!”
In reality there are currently demonstrations and marches taking place every single day of the week somewhere in the US. Indeed, Dr West is correct - the occupy groups are not going away. In fact, they are getting more organized and effective. Occupiers have taken on local and federal governments and corrupt “banksters” across the nation, from Seattle to Sanford, Florida.
The occupy demonstrators have become very effective in pressuring local political officials to do the right thing on a number of issues including healthcare, education, home foreclosures, tax reform, worker’s rights, police brutality, poverty and the environment. Some local city councils (Seattle, Los Angeles, Eugene, etc.) have supported the occupy movement with sweeping endorsements and legislative proposals. In Washington State, occupy activists are lobbying for Representative Bob Hasagawa’s bill to create a publicly owned state bank.
The movement's current activities include:
1) Efforts to stop home foreclosures
2) Ending the massive outsourcing of US jobs
3) Reversing the deterioration of our industrial infrastructure
4) Stopping the government bail outs of major corporate interests
5) Withdrawal of US troops from foreign military conflicts
6) Major tax reforms including closure of loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest members of society
7) Campaign finance reforms – (getting big money out of politics)
8) Investment in local economies – (including investment of public money in local community and publicly owned state banks and credit unions)
9) Tax breaks and economic relief for the middle class and unemployed
10) Accessible and affordable healthcare and education for all
11) Financial reforms and public accountability on Wall Street
12) Protection of our fundamental constitutional rights and individual liberties
13) Energy independence from fossil fuels including middle-eastern oil reserves
14) Economic opportunity for all Americans;
There are numerous examples of the occupiers’ influence on local government and economics. One of the goals of the occupy convention in Olympia was to bring the groups together to create a nationally coordinated political movement. There are already occupy activists who have declared themselves as candidates for public office. In Philadelphia’s 13th district, Nathan Kleinman is running for congress. He is a self-described “occupy candidate”. Kleinman is receiving support from a retired police chief who has now joined the occupy movement.
Some of the activists who attended the conference in Olympia agreed to travel to St. Louis for the Mid-west occupy conference scheduled for March 15th. Regional gatherings have occurred in Des Moines and Gainesville. There will be more regional and national conferences as the Occupy Wall Street movement develops into a highly coordinated group of organizations. A major national occupy convention is being planned for July 4th in Philadelphia!
One thing’s clear – there is certainly strength in numbers. Imagine how millions of occupiers could affect our national elections, help define our federal budget priorities, or promote the protection of our civil rights... Even our corrupt electoral system and our government’s interventionist military policies could be influenced by large numbers of people who are highly organized and vocal.
It’s happened in other countries around the world – so why not here?