The #OccupyWallStreet movement continues to spread with more than 1,500 sites. More and more people are speaking up for a society that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.
Here are 10 recommendations from the YES! Magazine staff for ways to build the power and momentum of this movement. Only two of them involve sleeping outside:
Use this link to find the Facebook page of an occupation near you. If you can, bring a tent or tarp and sleeping bag, and stay. Or just come for a few hours. Talk to people, participate in a General Assembly, hold a sign, help serve food. Learn about the new world being created in the occupied spaces.
Use this Meetup site. Or call together friends, members of your faith group, school, or community group. Reach out to people from parts of your community you don’t normally work with. Unexpected alliances keep the movement from getting labeled as partisan or representing only some people.
Most sites need food, warm clothes, blankets, tarps, sleeping bags, communications gear, and money. Many need people to do loads of laundry, to help with medical care, to provide legal support, to serve food, and to spread the word. Some people call in pizza orders from nearby vendors. Support the folks at Liberty Square in New York here, or check in with your local occupiers to see what they need.
Many occupation sites have workshops and discussions on critical issues of our time. Get into the discussion. Bring your expertise and reading materials to share. YES! Magazine is offering free copies of the current New Livelihood issue to occupied sites (request them by emailing JobsIssue@yesmagazine.org). Bring the discussions to other groups you are part of. Listen to perspectives you haven’t heard before. This process represents a critical, but under-reported side of the movement: People are shifting from being passive, frustrated observers of politics to active, powerful players. Instead of waiting for our leaders to do the right thing, people from all walks of life are becoming leaders. It makes us unstoppable.
Post how you’re part of the 99 percent on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or in print. Through this movement, people are discovering others who are also losing jobs and homes, who are overwhelmed by debt or working a dead-end job. Through this sharing, humiliation turns into compassion and self-respect. And it builds understanding of the sources and the impacts of our crisis: A Wall Street system that funnels wealth to the top 1 percent is leaving the rest of us behind. Community plus insight makes us powerful.
Show up with your video recorder, camera phone, or laptop and share the stories of the occupation. You can download a selection of posters donated by graphic designers and spread them around. Highlight the human dimension of the protests. It is harder for critics to disparage a movement when people see the faces of those involved.
What will make the world better for the 99 percent? How has the power of the 1 percent gotten in the way of your hopes and dreams? Make a sign, write a blog, update your Facebook page, or speak out on the issue that means the most to you. Include the phrase, “I am the 99 percent.”
The eviction of the Liberty Square occupation on Wall Street was averted by massive public resistance from those in the square and from others. Other occupations also need support. The 99 percent don’t have the money, political access, and media empires of the 1 percent; the occupations are one of the few ways we are building power. Ask your local officials to respect people's right to assembly.
There are many examples of outside provocateurs who spark violent incidents that can discredit nonviolent movements such as this. The corporate media is hungry for violent images. (There’s already been an example of an admitted provocateur from the right-wing "American Spectator" who provoked pepper spraying at the National Air & Space Museum). Learn how to lovingly and firmly interrupt and contain violence, and teach what you know. Here are some resources.
This movement is here for the long term. Some efforts may fade because of cold weather or harsh police responses. Others may self-destruct through faulty process or violent outbreaks. The movement may be idealistic, but it won’t be ideal. Don’t get disillusioned; the demand for a society that serves the 99 percent won’t go away. The movement may morph, but it has become unstoppable. Help it evolve.
The genie is out of the bottle. People will no longer accept the systematic transfer of wealth and power from we the people to the 1 percent. In this remarkable, leaderless movement, each one of the 99 percent who gets involved helps shape history.
Sarah van Gelder is co-founder and executive editor of YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.
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