Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Give My Regards to Occupy Broadway: Times Square as a Place Where Stories Start (once again)

Times Square used to be a place where stories started – that’s what Jimmy Breslin wrote about Broadway.  In recent years, many have come to suggest the sanitized space is more akin t a dentist office.  Samuel Delany eulogized the cross-class contact he once experienced with strangers in space, while writer Bruce Benderson went as far as to leave town after Giuliani sanitized the culture making high’s and lows of the space, leaving little but the Disney store.  After the 1995 XXX zoning law and subsequent battles over public sexual culture in the streets and stories of the naked city, sexual civil liberties activist Bill Dobbs suggested that if a sailor were to come to Times Square on shore leave, he or she would want to slit her wrists.  

“Don’t move to New York,” my graduate mentor told me when I was living in Chicago in 1997, “Giuliani is killing it.”  Determined to prove him wrong, I settled into the city in September 1997.  At the time, the appeal by business owners to the zoning law, was making its way through various levels of the appeals process.  In the mean time, a sidewalk preacher, named Bill Talen, joined a movement to fight the zoning law.  By 1998 and 1999, all the appeals had exhausted themselves.  It was one of the few First Amendment cases Norm Siegel and the ACLU would lose against the City.  Watching the city padlock a XXX business in the once bawdy Times Square Bill Dobbs would suggest the zoning law had rendered NYC a censorship zone.   Responding to this politics, a group called SexPanic! joined Reverend Billy to take part in a civil disobedience blocking the cash registers at the Disney Store in November 1999, organized by Reverend Billy and a few members of the nascent Lower East Side Collective, including this author.  A few days later, Reclaim the Streets helped organize a raucous street party on Buy Nothing Day before members left to take part in a little demo in Seattle marking the coming out party of the US alter globalization movement.  This new movement aimed to challenging the privatization of public space.   Many of us stayed up all night doing jail solidarity for arrestees, charged with disorderly conduct for dancing in a public street.  For me, that was the last time stories really grew out of Times Square.  Like many New Yorkers, I looked elsewhere for stories.

A few days later, I joined members of Housing Works and ACT UP to take part in a World AIDS Day march.  My friend Keith Cylar was there, as were many of the hero’s of the New York’s AIDS direct action movement.  Now long passed, Cylar and many of those other heroes were on my mind as I rode my bike to Zuccotti Square to meet a similar group of AIDS activists, from Housing Works, Queerocracy, VOCAL-NY and HealthGAP, last week, twelve years for the World AIDS Day events planned for December 1, 2011.  Remarkably absent from the scene at City Hall was the 24-hour reading of names of people lost to HIV, which Housing Works had organized for as long as I could remember.  Still, each AIDS day, I am forced to remember a generation of men, of women, of creative, thoughtful people gone way too soon, too many premature goodbyes.  Three decades into this , AIDS lingers, yet there are some who have come to start talking about this ending, once and for all.

Keith Cylar and ACT UP colleague Harry Wieder, laughing.
Both are now gone, they laughed as long as they could.
Photo by Michael Wakefield

            “This should be over,” a friend from VOCAL mused, talking before the rally was to begin at the corner of Liberty and Broadway. 
            Walking through the crowd, I chatted with friends from various chapters of my life over the last fifteen years.  Andy Birnbaum, of the Yes Men was there.  Long time AIDS activist Andrew Vélez was there talking with several activists.  Vélez, of course, was one of the instigators of Occupy Broadway, a direct action gesture of occupation as creative resistance planned for the next day.  A veteran of an AIDS activist movement which has always used the city as a stage set for street actions, Vélez stood up and suggested we should occupy a bonus plaza on Broadway as we discussed the links between social movements and public space during a book talk on our book The Beach Beneath the Streets at the Brecht Forum a month prior.  People compared notes, planned a meeting, set a date and started organizing.
            “Mic check” a young activist from Healthgap screamed at the corner of Liberty and Broadway.

My name is Michael Tikili and I work for Health GAP, an international AIDS activist organization aimed at breaking the barriers to access to life saving medication.  I am a member of Queerocracy, an activist youth group here in New York City and also the Queering Occupy Wall St. Caucus.  I am 25 years old HIV + and have never known a world without AIDS!  Several weeks ago Sec. Clinton made an announcement, stating it is now U.S. policy to create a generation free of HIV and AIDS.  However, talk is cheap when there are lives at stake!  There are over 34 million infected people globally and 2/3 of them are in dire need of medication.  To the Obama administration, I pose these questions:  How are you fostering a generation free of AIDS if you not scaling up funding to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria,- as well as the Presidents emergency plan for AIDS relief? How are you fostering a generation free of AIDS when you are signing Free Trade Agreements that strengthen intellectual property rights of Big Pharma companies, knowing that it will block the production of generic medications, which the majority of the worlds medicated HIV + population rely on to survive?  Excuses are being thrown about that we cannot afford to take on this mortgage crisis, yet our foreign assistance is only less 1% of our countries budget.  If we do not pay now we will be paying forever! I have a solution to the problem of where we can get the money to end AIDS! Tax the banks!  Tax the banks! Tax the banks!  I am calling on our leaders to step up to the plate and impose a financial transaction tax on the speculative transactions that placed us in this economic crisis to begin with.  A financial speculation Tax has the potential to raise billions of dollars to end AIDS! We are now at a time where science proves that if we fund treatment, we can end the AIDS pandemic. Access to life saving medication is a human right.  I am calling on our government—Bloomberg and Obama--to do what is right and Tax wall st.—For the good of the people.

Activist after activist stood to share their stores, mic checking with the crowd, sharing bits and pieces of a larger three decade long community struggle against disease, melancholia, and the ongoing cancerous debilitations of poverty and inequality experienced by so many during this epidemic. I am still overwhelmed with feeling when I think about how long this epidemic has lasted and that there are many who have never known a world without it.  Of course, the counter narrative of this often tragic story is one of care, defiant pleasure and gestures of theatrical direct action.  As mic checks ended, we started to march up Broadway.  At Park Place and Broadway, a group stood chained to each other, blocking traffic.  “Bloomberg Billionaire, People with AIDS, he don’t care!” many screamed over the next 45 minutes, as the police busily tried to clear the streets, while AIDS activists blocked business as usual.  Charles King and Eddie Fukui were there, as were several others from Housing Works. “End AIDS Now!” observers chanted.  Walking around surveying the arrests, I spoke with a few people from Healthgap, whose organizer Jennifer Flynn was, for once on AIDS day, not around.  Word later in the day, was that her daughter, Flynn Robert Walker was born at 4:29pm 12/1/11. Seven lbs and one ounce.  Jennifer and I corresponded later in the weekend, musing that hopefully one day, her child’s birthday will be a time when we don’t have to talk about AIDS or AIDS day.  That would be one hell of a story. Riding my bike away from the demo, it was odd not hearing the old names of so many of the names of AIDS heros, passed, read out loud for World AIDS Day.  Memories of those names echoed through my mind just as they once bounced from building to building across the corridors and canyons of Lower Manhattan, their memories reverberating, just as Flynn was making her way into this world.  There they go, here she was coming.

Jennifer Flynn 

Throughout that afternoon, different actions and stories werecrashing, mixing and intermingling.  Ever since the Beach event at the Brecht Forum a group from the Occupy Wall Street Arts and Culture group had been meeting to organize an occupy Broadway event.  A few of us had worked together to form the Shrub Block on November 17th, when we hit the streets as  the Shrub Block.   Monica H and Ben V. collaborated with Claire from the Occupy Wall Street crew to help take the message to Bloomberg that if he kicked us out of the park, that we would take the park and the movement to the rest of the city.  Over the next few weeks, more and more activists would take this message to the rest of the naked city. 

Shrub Block N17 Ben Cerf to the left.  Photos by Peter Shapiro

More and more OWS activists would find their way into the city’s most hallowed grounds.   From Lincoln Center to the Met, audiences throughout the city were speaking up in support of OWS and its activists, now occupying the city’s cathedrals of culture. 

When the police tried to demarcate spectators from OWS participants at Lincoln Center later that night of December 1, those in the audience, including luminaries Lou Reed and Phil Glass, spoke up in defense of the movement.  “I was born in Brooklyn, and I've never been more ashamed than to see the barricades tonight. The police are our army. I want to be friends with them. And I wanna occupy Wall Street. I support it."   When the police caught a glimpse of Reed and Laurie Anderson helping a patron climb over the barricades after the performance, they seemed to throw their hands up in the air.  The movement received similar treatment when they zapped the Met earlier in the week. As John Cassidy blogged in the New Yorker:

Building on this aesthetic linking of art and activism, Occupy Broadway would take place the next day on December 2. ““We’re a big artistic mass; this is the next stage of the movement,” a young activist explained at  a pre action meeting on Tuesday night.  Claire facilitated the meeting filled with some of my greatest heroes in the world of cultural activism, theater types, writers, activists, and what seemed like the whole direct action or “DA” committee from Occupy Wall Street.   Our agenda included discussion of stage management slots, dealing with the NYPD, our scenario/ flow, working group representation, scheduling, and a budget for the action, which was to take place in less than three days.
“This is great outreach to show we’re just disorganized, rabble rousers,” one woman noted.
“No, we’re organized rabble rousers,” another concurred with a laugh.
The DA planned to organize the march lead by Rude Mechanical Orchestra to the undisclosed bonus plaza.  We had another four bonus plazas established as alternate locations if we were unable to get into the first.   Part of the point of the action was to actually make use these barren, often barron spaces.  As Smithsimon and I suggest in the Beach Beneath the Streets:

As icons of modern architecture, urban plazas encapsulate some of the key contradictions of contemporary urban public space. Why is some of the most expensive real estate in North America virtually empty, occupied by plazas that are supposed to be public but are used by almost no one?   Urban plazas offer a case study with which to examine the impact and evolution of public space outlined in the previous chapter.

Throughout the book, we argue:

That most such plazas built in the twentieth century were indeed unwelcoming, harsh environments. Second, we demonstrate that the design of these barren spaces, and the antisocial impact those spaces have are not incidental, but intentional products of social actors. Third, we challenge conventional aesthetic-focused examinations of public space, which hold architects solely responsible for the shape and function of a plaza, recognizing instead that architects’ work reflects the desires of their developer clients. Fourth, we see how urban plazas reflect the social objectives of their developer-owners, and that most often, New York office plazas reflect developers’ desire that the public not use these nominally public spaces..Most mid-twentieth century bonus plazas are harsh and unwelcoming. In a survey of Manhattan’s bonus plazas, the majority were found either to not attract users, or to actually repel them (Kayden et al. 2000).  

 Developers pushed to propel users even as the managers of these plazas, such as Brookfield Properties made huge profits, while failing to pay taxes.  Our job was to put these plazas to the use which they were originally designed, for the people.
            Rumors about the action had invited police to put in a few calls.  We assumed they would be looking for any reason they could find to shut the action down.   “We will perform, no matter what,” one young man chimed in during the discussion of the police. 
            Discussion eventually moved to the topic of the action itself, who would MC, and how we would fill the time if a performer was late.   I would MC after the RMO stopped performing.  Passing the “mic” so to speak to Rev. Billy and Penny Arcade.
Others contemplated our costume choices. 
            “Do we need bowties?” one of the DA crew asked, chiming in about the discussion of costumes for stage managers, actors, and the DA. 
            “Is it really a question of need?” a friend from Circus Amok chimed in as the topic turned to clothing choices: Hats or Elf costumes for the stage managers?  Claire displayed one of the elf costumes, we’d worn in the shrub block.  Other stage managers did not want to dress as elfs for 24 hours.  This discussion went on for a while, overlapping with discussion of Broadway related songs we could sing, such as “One” from a Chorus Line and “Broadway Lullaby.”  Eventually DA decided on top hats, while stage managers went with flapper outfits. And the topic meandered back to the police. 
            “We have the power,” noted one of the first organizers.  “And we are right.  We have a right to do this.  Police love us when we are afraid.  No need to worry about cops.  The worst case scenario is going to be fine.”

            By Friday, some eleven hundred people had reviewed the press release for the action, with papers including the LA Times writing previews for the action.  Journalists were calling from across the country.  And it felt like for just a momement, that Times Square really was a place where stories happened.  My first interview of the day was with fashion art icons Andrew and Andrew on East Village Radio at 10:45 AM on Friday.   By the end of the day, I had either completed or arranged for interviews NY Times, New York Magazine, Huffington Post, and KPFK in Los Angeles.   Adrenaline was running out of my ears by lunch time. 
            My big decision before leaving Brooklyn to meet everyone at 43rd and 8th, was how many costume changes.  Monica suggested I have at least two, including a light lycra number as well as my Muppet outfit.  So, I packed three, forgot my water, and jumped on the bike for my second ride across the Manhattan Bridge of the day.  The reflection of the sun was still shimmering on the water, as it began to set while I crossed from Brooklyn into Chinatown.
            Riding up through mid-town, one can really see how close people can be to becoming the Michael Douglas character in “Falling Down.”  There are crazy amounts of traffic, jay walkers, and very little order to the street. 
            Arriving at the 15th floor of the meeting spot on 43rd and 8th, the DA all have their top hats; the stage managers look super duper in their flapper outfits.  The food people are at the space, ready to bring food.
            Its my moment.  Fuck.   The adrenaline which has been pouring out of my ears all day, is slowing.  I rehearsed my shortened version of the POPS manifesto all day.  Now is the moment, as I begin what feels like the longest mic check in history of a movement with many, many of these moments.

Mic Check Mic check, Mic Check

Welcome Police, Occupiers, and fellow New Yorkers.
You are all part of the show.  

In recent weeks,
Bloomberg has tried to convince the world
that the Occupation show is over.

Yet, he’s a bad stage manager. 
Today, instead of sitting on the sidelines,
Regular people around the world
Are tearing up the seats
And rushing the stage
No one can tell the difference
Between spectators and participants.

We are all the show.


The crowd was screaming.  I should have stopped right there. This is getting long.  But went on. 

Why have we decided ?
to perform  in a privately owned public space

Because bonus plazas are
required to be open to the people.

Landlords make immense profits
even as they consistently
 renege on their contract
with the city
by restricting public access.

All too many citizens
remain unaware
that they have a legal right
to access these spaces.
These are public spaces
being consumed by privatization.

Today and forever
we will hold developers to their legal obligation
to provide accessible publicly owned private spaces.
We call for an end  
to the trampling
of public assembly

As Norman Siegel says,
"Last time I read the First Amendment
 it didn't say,
'You have a First Amendment right
to peacefully protest on public streets,
except where Mayor Bloomberg lives.”

Today we perform
in solidarity with occupiers from Tahrir Square to Davis, California
by challenging restrictions
on the public commons
and democracy itself. 

Our occupation is a form of creative resistance.
We are using public space
to create a more colorful image
of what our streets could like,
with public performances, art, and music
Through this open access performance,
 New York re-imagines itself  - as a work of art,
rather than - a retail shopping mall.
With capitalism gone mad,
foreclosures increasing,
and bank crises consuming whole communities,
we are signaling through the flames
that there is another way of living.

Occupy public space.
Reclaim democracy.
Enjoy the show.
We are all the show.


Will this mic check ever end?  Talen, Shepard and company. by  Erik McGregor
The second half took forever.   And I edited the Artaud line out about signaling through the flames, sadly. Thankfully it finally ended.
“Too long,” a fellow organizer noted.
            “Let the words pour off your lips,” another noted. “Take your time.”  Oy ve. Boy,when you die at the palace, you really DIE at the palace!” Mel Brooks groaned in The History of the World.  I knew what he meant.  But the show had to go on.  I had another two and half hours to MC.  And my voice was gone.  Sing through your diaphragm Ben, I remembered so many other actors advising me through the years.  Still, my first instinct is to scream like a banshee through my throat until no sound comes out (which is sometimes a good thing).
Thankfully, Reverent Billy was there to speak.  He would guarantee take 45 minutes and put us back on schedule.  The second he started to speak, he took me back to those days back in 1999 when I first met him preaching up here in Times Square.   Talen recalled the musicians and sidewalk preachers, those men who thought they were Hendrix, the preachers preaching to no one in particular at all.  When the city swept them off the sidewalks and back into the psychiatric hospitals, replacing Samal Delany’s old XXX movie houses with Disney stores and retail outlets, much  of the energy of the street was gone, lost in a sea of identical details, as the preacher put it in perhaps the first sermon I heard from him that fall twelve years ago.   He’d started started preaching in the space only a few years prior.  In 1994, the last year before the Giuliani XXX Law was the last year that truly relevant theatre found its expression there, not Talen. Twilight, Angels in America, Bring on the Noise, Bring on the Funk, those were plays which captured the conscience of the King and the culture.  After the streets were sanitized in 1995,  low culture was washed away from the streets of the Square; few stories found a foundation on the streets of the Theater district; the high was no longer found inside the theaters of Broadway, such as the Winter Garden where Mamma Mia was playing across from our stage.  Without the low in culture, it is very difficult to find room for high. Without this contrast, we are left with the bland, the coo coo clock, as Orson Wells joked in the Third Man.  In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”  XXX Zoning happened because people did not like the aesthetics of Times Square and the cross class contact this space engendered.  In pushing for this, New York cut off a spicket to creativity which had run since the earliest days of the bowdy, godless Dutch colony.   “I was preaching against sweatshops in front of the Disney Store and I saw Times Square privatized and turned into a giant shopping mall” Talen preached.  Not enough stories could hatch from the Times Square shopping mall.  There wasn’t enough alchemy.  In the years following 1999, we would go back for retail interventions, Starbucks,  and Talen would get arrested at the Disney Store from time to time.  Still, it felt like Times Square had been colonized by Disney and her tentacles were reaching out to the city as a whole.  “Disney runs everything here” David Letterman moaned in 1994 complaining about the corporate welfare deal which brought corporation to the City.
Talen was on fire.  Problem was, he was remarkably short, just ten minutes as opposed to the twenty he was allotted, and we were ahead of schedule.  As Talen finished by 6:45 and we moved to the front of the plaza, where the Labor Chorus performed, not a one of them younger than Peter Yarrow. 

Even the police were part of the show. Photo by Erik McGregor

            As they performed “Solidarity Forever” the police the police pushed to gain egress to the building.  Its cool, a few of us noted, not wanting to fight the police.  That was not the point.  We still had the plaza.  “Out with the jive, in with the love,” I mic checked.   I would MC for the next two hours.  By 7:15, we had cleared our first five acts, and we were a half hour ahead of schedule, where we would stay, scrambling to find story tellers, singer songwriters, theater geeks, hoola hoopers and professors from the crowd to help us hold the space.  In between performers, I changing into my second and third costumes; some performers held the space better than others.   Looking at the crowd, a fear of god feeling set in.  We had twenty two hours and forty-five minutes to go and people were already pooping out.   “We’re going to lose the crowd,” I groaned.   Lets set an intermission I asked Monica, who was well aware we could lose the crowd if we broke for dinner.   I wasn’t sure we could hold the space as one performer chimed in after another, some late, and some thankfully early.  Hunken jumped in and lead everyone in “The Consensus Dance” to the tune of the Hokey Pokey.  And eventually Penny Arcade showed up, holding the space for some twenty minutes.
Fear of God.  We have another 22  hours and 45 minutes to go and we are  an hour ahead of schedule.  
Costume changes two and three.  The show much go on!
photos by Erik R. McGregor 

“When does Mike Daisey come on?” the writer from the New Yorker asked.  “Why is he starting so late?”
By eight thirty, more and more regular people were jumping on the stage to talk and itfelt like we could make it.  My co-author Greg’s wife Molly rocked on the hoola hoops and Greg told a story about the owners of the plaza.
And we had the crowd back.  
            By the time Jenny Romaine from Great Small Works arrived, she owned the place.  And so would Reno following her.  One great performance after another until well into the morning hours, some telling jokes, others singing or doing tricks.  We all really were the show. 
            Mike Daisey stood up around midnight.  “On the subway up to the show,” Daisey mused he had no idea of how many people he would be performing for.  He confessed he had no idea what he was getting into.  “And I’m delighted you’re here,” he explained, with a humble gentleness, as the crowd cheered.  He immediately established a rapport with the crowd.  To hold a space really is about connecting with the crowd and hearing what they need, what are their concerns, etc. .  “Its an amazing thing to try to hold a space.  Cause that’s what we do in the theater, we hold spaces.  But one of the tricks they never tell you is, to not hold it at all, but to give it back to the people, to give it back to the audience.  They are the source, the thought, the source.  You don’t do anything.  You take what you are given, you mediate that and give it back to them.”  His monologue really was a highpoint.  In a way, he was talking about what Talen was talking about, the links between audience and self, community and city, the collective experience of stories, dreams, unconscious desires, reflections on the tragicomic continuum of human experience, all of which is necessary to truly say we are living democratically.  It was that contract of experience which produced Kusher in Times Square out of the AIDS crisis. 
Writing about the Greek stage and democratic living, Johnathan Lear points out:

To a degree, this obsessive use of rationality to justify irrational means is part of what Mike Daisy was talking about when he described the mayor Friday night. More than this, this expression, dialogue, community sharing and debating is part of what used to propel the stories of Times Square.  And it could be in the future.  “Call me if you want to do something else like this,” he told me after his show.

            As I left Friday night, a group was performing Ben Johnson.  The 3-5 AM shift for the people’s stage, open mic  turned out to be a huge success.
            As I taught that morning at CUNY, the Hungry March Band performed, turning the plaza into a dance floor.  And the General Assembly declared the Plaza, “the People’s Performance Plaza.”  Many on hand would call for more shows in similar plazas.
            By the time I arrived the next day after lunch, the show was still chiming along.  Monica and Ben looked a little tired, but they seemed to be running on a second wind.
            “Every time we would sit down, the police would come up to us and make sure we were not sleeping.”
            Ben had been speaking with the Huffington Post.

I would speak with the same reporter later in the day. With two hours to go, Andy Vélez stood smiling, recognizing we were really going to do it.  He’d battled Bloomberg before.  And he was more than happy to see a counter narrative to Bloomberg’s New York by and for the 1% take shape.  My friend Peter filmed Vélez talking.  Vélez explained that when he met a representative from the City after he’d helped organize a zap at the Mayor’s house, he was taken by how uptight the man seemed to be.  “Don’t’ worry, I am only attracted to heterosexuals,” Vélez declared attempting to put the man at ease. From Occupy Broadway to ACT UP, Vélez has made a career for standing up for what is right in this world, through direct action, play, and a little fun.

Reading the First Amendment at 2 PM Saturday.  We'd read it over and over  each and every hour for 24 hours.
Photo by Diane Green Lent

The next few hours of the final stretch were some of the most fun moments of the event. 

Singing, performing, and catching a second wind.
Top three photos by Erik McGregor.  Bottom by Yet Men.

            By this point, Monica had found yet another wind, helping lead the crown reciting the First Amendment, inviting us all to join in some Occupation anti-consumer carols, which were later interrupted by the Yes Men, and later in a dance on bikes routine with her dance troop Heelz on Wheels. Occupy Broadway was like a dream.  I have never done something like that.  It was lovely to watch the action take shape as a public performance, which generated story after story about democracy, public space, and the ever expanding movement.  After it was over, Hunken would reflect on the action.

Thank you everyone for making this happen.  Occupy Broadway was another example that occupation is creation. and when police and government push us out of public spaces they are not only attacking a creative act of the people, they are attacking our democracy. The more we make clear our intentions, this "building" of something together, the symbol itself becomes indestructible. There is an unspoken protection of the ritual of performance. You must let the show continue. We will continue to create together in our commons. The Show Must Go On!

This photo has nothing to do with Occupy Broadway.  I just love it. Photo from OWS San Francisco .

The next couple of days after the action were a haze.  It was like coming up from a dream, a space where we performed in between this reality and next.  Sunday, we dropped by the Farmer's March at La Plaza Cultural Community Garden in the Lower East Side.

The rally was followed by a march to Zuccotti Park.  Photo by Jamie Leo

Public space, its all about space for talking, sharing, creating ideas, art and new ways of thinking our lives and democracy.  For our democracy to thrive, there has to be art, theatre, and space for people to access them.  The theater as a public commons for ideas, expression, and reflection, this is perhaps the most important element of the public theater.  As I finish writing this long story about some of the many stories which have grown from OWS on Broadway, I am left wondering where they will take me.  I just maped a bike route to East New York to meet a group of OWS and Organizing for the Occupation Activists to challenging the foreclosure crisis.  Today is national Occupy Our Homes day.  It’ll be another New York story.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sam J. Miller
Date: Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Subject: [PTH Friends] Occupy our homes, TOMORROW.
To: "Homeless, Friends of Picture the"

"The cops treated Occupy Wall Street the way they've been treating homeless
people for years." - GKM, Picture the Homeless Leader

*TOMORROW, *December 6 will be a big day of action for the Occupy Wall
Street movement... and for Picture the Homeless and our allies in the
housing justice movement.

If we can't occupy Wall Street, we'll occupy our homes. #OWS will join the
struggle of families and communities that have been on the front lines of a
struggle for economic justice. They'll stand in solidarity and ask our
fellow occupations to join us for a national day of action on the
foreclosure crisis. We are fighting Wall Street's reach on every block,
every farm, every house in America with sit-ins at foreclosed properties to
right this moral injustice.

Join us on December 6 for a national day of action to fight back against
the housing crisis and be part of the continuing movement to Occupy Our

In 2008, we discovered bankers and speculators had been gambling with our
most valuable asset, our homes--betting against us and destroying trillions
of dollars of our wealth. Now, because of the foreclosure crisis Wall
Street banks created with their lies and greed, millions of Americans have
lost their homes, and one in four homeowners are currently underwater on
their mortgage. Not only do we have thousands of people without homes, we
have thousands of homes without people. Boarded-up houses are sitting
empty--increasing crime, lowering the value of other homes in the
neighborhood, erasing the wealth that lifts families into the middle class.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, the housing justice movement, and brave
homeowners around the country are coming together to say, "Enough is
enough." We, the 99%, are standing up to Wall Street banks and demanding
they negotiate with homeowners instead of fraudulently foreclosing on them.

*Meet us at the corner of Pennsylvania and Livonia, in Brooklyn, at 1PM
(2/3/4/5 to Pennsylvania Avenue)*

Follow hashtag #D6

‎"Our homes areunder attack, we've come to take them back!!!" we chanted as we moved fromforeclosed home to foreclosed home that rainy afternoon.  Eventually, the group of several hundred occupiers would move to take the wood off an abandoned home, helping move in a family from the community.  Just riding through East New York, there were so many potholes on the streets, I got a flat. Walking my bike to the subway, I saw people sleeping under bridges, rats, and an image of a neighborhood neglected for far too long.  Hopefully, the movement against foreclosure is getting stronger. 

While we don’t’ know where this is going, most of us seem to know the game changed.  Already Cuomo, who until now has served as governor of the 1% seems ready to represent the rest of us.  For months now, labor has collaborated with OWS to dub Cuomo a supporter of the rich.  The movement occupied his office demanding and extension of the Millionaire Tax.  And today, it appears a deal is under way to increase taxes on the 1%.  "Under the proposal announced Tuesday, for married couples filing jointly, income from $40,000 to $150,000 would be taxed at 6.45 percent; from $150,000 to $300,000 at 6.65 percent; from $300,000 to $2 million at 6.85 percent, and over $2 million at 8.82 percent."  At first  glance Cuomo's proposal would look like a major win for the movement.  Yet, with a little more scrutiny, it would be more of a lower case victory, in between the Governor's smoke and mirrors.

Who knows, maybe a new New York story is taking shape?  Already we are hearing Brookfield Properties plans to shut down and fence off Zuccotti for repairs, not unlike the battles of Tompkins Square Park a generation ago.  This movement no longer depends on one part.  Its an idea, action, and evolving story. 

From LA back to NY back to the first shut down of the Port of Oakland since 1934, the  Occupation  Movement is taking amazing, unsuspected curves and turns.

1 comment:

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