As the weather warms across much of the world, Occupiers are retaking public space. Even after we were violently removed from many of our home encampments last fall and winter, we never stopped organizing – and now we are back outside. With the rebirth of spring, re-occupation has begun in earnest.
For a full week, Wall Street – the original target of our indignation – has been #Occupied. Thanks in part to a 2000 decision by a federal court in Manhattan, protesters are legally allowed to sleep on the sidewalk, as long as they don’t block building entrances or take up more than half of the sidewalk. Occupiers have used similar tactics to occupy sidewalks in cities like Tucson since last year, while Occupy D.C were among the first Occupiers to use sidewalk sleeping in front of banks earlier this month. Empowered by the federal court ruling, #SleepfulProtest first came to New York as a way to escape constant police harassment at Occupy Union Square and soon spread to the heart of the financial district. This new tactic allows us to rebuild the face-to-face community and constant public presence that were so crucial to the Occupation of Liberty Square, without the complex logistics of maintaining a permanent encampment. Our new Occupations are mobile, viral, and targeted right at the heart of the 1%’s power.
Like stubborn weeds, we’re popping back everywhere. Continuing the tradition of occupying buildings almost as old as #OWS itself, Occupiers in San Francisco took over a neglected property to create a vibrant community center for the 99%. Although thwarted by police, the #SFCommune has vowed to return this May Day, as part of a nationwide General Strike that will see Occupiers taking to the streets alongside immigrants and all workers in cities and towns across the world. In addition to the on-going campaign to fight back against foreclosures by occupying homes, Occupiers have used re-occupation as direct action to make demands and build on local struggles specific to their own communities. In Boston, Occupiers set up a camp on the steps of the State House to protest cuts to the public transit system. In Chicago, after helping to occupy a school in February, Occupiers joined with mental health advocates and community allies to occupy a clinic slated for closure by the city’s ruthless austerity measures (while the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is given a $300 million rebate, half of all public mental health clinics in Chicago are to be shut down). After initially being removed from the building by police, Occupiers and allies returned and set up dozens of tents on the lawn outside, settling in for a night of workshops, discussions, teach-ins, food, and sleep. Also in February, Occupy Atlanta occupied the headquarters of AT&T to stop mass lay-offs. After months of community organizing and bridge building, Occupy Detroit has opened a new social center while also staging tent city protests against foreclosures and unemployment in low-income neighborhoods.
We are learning, diversifying, and evolving. Some of us make demands, others don’t, but urgent creative 24-hour activism against the domination of our lives by banks and corporations is back, and in many new forms. Along with it, the culture of consensus, mutual aid, and direct action that was cultivated during the best moments of last year’s occupations has returned, from the People´s Library to the General Assembly.
Our horizontal, leaderless movement is built on people power. When the 99% stand together — however we are able — we win. Here are four ways to support re-occupation:
At least 1000 people attending a citywide NYC General Assembly in Central Park last Saturday
1) Go there. Or, start your own.
In New York, Occupiers can be found sleeping on Wall Street between the intersections of Nassau and Broad, directly in front of the New York Stock Exchange. During the day, Occupiers distribute literature or hold meetings around Liberty Square, Union Square, and throughout the city. (Check the NYCGA for a full directory!) As many as one hundred people are sleeping nightly on Wall Street, but with only a few thousand we could lawfully occupy the entire length of Wall Street — and beyond!
In D.C., Occupiers are in front of the Bank of America at the corner of 14th St and Vermont Ave NW. In Chicago, people are encouraged to support the occupied Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic at 6337 S. Woodlawn. In Philadelphia, you can find Occupiers on Independence Mall and sleeping by banks including Bank of America at 16th and JFK and expanding. Occupy Minneapolis has re-occupied Peavey Plaza. Last night, Occupy Raleigh took the Capitol sidewalk. Every Friday, Occupy Los Angeles camps out on Main Street for Occupy Skid Row.
Since we can’t list every Occupation, please list any others in the comments! Alternatively, find a few friends, an affinity group, or perhaps your whole General Assembly and create your own. Pick a bank that has hurt your community, research local laws on sleeping on public sidewalks, grab your sleeping bags and start camping.
2) Stay informed. Spread the word.
Keep up with the latest developments with on-the-ground reports from all of the amazing Occupied media that we have created. The best way to receive the most current updates on new encampments and other events is to use social media. The Wall Street Occupiers use @SleepOnWallSt. For 24-hour protests in other cities, check out #SleepfulProtest and #BankSleep.
Tell your friends. Use social media. Write about it for your local paper. However you do it, make sure everyone knows.
3) Send supplies.
Besides bodies, it takes supplies to keep an occupation going. There are many ways to donate to the movement. If you don´t have money, another easy way to see how you can contribute is to follow the Twitter hashtag #NeedsOfTheOccupiers. Occupiers are often in need of donations of things like food, water, tarps, and camping gear. Occupy SF is currently conducting a supply drive for the May Day reoccupation. To donate to the Woodlawn Occupiers in Chicago, see here.
4) Get (or stay) involved in the movement.
Not everyone can sleep on a sidewalk. There are many other ways to express your indignation and build the better world we seek, and there are many other equally crucial roles to play. To find out what is going on locally and how to get plugged in, attend General Assemblies, working groups, and affinity group meetings in your area. In New York even if you can´t sleep on Wall Street, you can still march on it — every Friday. And of course, you can get ready for the May Day General Strike.