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We the 99% Washington, D.C.
LIFE IN THESE OCCUPIED WASHINGTON TIMES
D.C. college students demand education reform
Local universities join national day of action
By Amal Mimish
Last month, around two hundred student activists from colleges and universities around the Washington D.C. area descended on Sallie Mae and the Department of Education. On March 1, they voiced their concerns about exploding student debt, rising tuition costs, and the lack of direct stakeholder input in the education reform process. Responding to a call to action from Occupy Education, the students brought banners, posters, and chants to demand real change through a Students’ Declaration of Grievances. As similar actions were occurring throughout the country, the students in Washington D.C. were met by a heavy Homeland Security presence at the Department of Education, which kept the protest confined to the sidewalk. A representative of the Secretary of Education, Tim Tutan, claimed to have carefully listened to everyone in the group who wished to express their concerns. Tutan was given a copy of the students’ grievances and the books Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn to present to the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
Occupy DC targets corporations, lobbyists in nationwide action
Kelly Canavan demonstrates against anti-protesting laws at an Occupy DC march. Story, page 5. (Coulter Loeb)
By Michael Goldman
Braving torrential rain, police violence, and a sea of red and Walmart. ALEC also counts among its stakeholders 85 paint used for street theater, around 60 Occupy DC oc- members of Congress (of both major political parties), 14 cupiers and their allies blockaded Monsanto’s downtown current or former governors, and over 2,000 members of Washington, D.C. office for almost two hours. The protest state legislatures. These individuals often take legislation was a part of a nationwide “Shut Down the Corporations” written by ALEC and present them directly in their legiscampaign in solidarity with Occupy Portland on the morn- lature. ing of February 29. “[ALEC’s proposed legislation] Occupy protesters around is passed to protect corporate inMONSANTO QUICK FACTS the country targeted variterest, usually at the expense of ous member corporations the working classes,” said Tim Headquarters: Creve Coeur, MO of the American Legislative “Gonzo” Anderson of the AnarFounded: 1901 Exchange Council (ALEC), Consumer product: Roundup weed killer chist Alliance, one of the groups which represents over 300 that planned the action along Sales (2010): $10.5 billion corporations. The protestwith D.C.’s Freedom Plaza and ers were bringing atten- Net profits (2010): $1.5 billion McPherson Square occupations. tion to the policy lobbying “ALEC is a true threat to democLobbying spending (2011): $6.4 million group’s ghostwriting of leg- Watchdog group: monsantowatch.org racy and a true threat to the fuislation. ture of the planet.” The protesters specifical- Sales source: SEC A set of ALEC-authored voter ly targeted the agricultural ID laws has been particularly Lobbying source: OpenSecrets.org biotechnology company controversial recently. Voting Monsanto. “Money, for [Monsanto], comes before public rights groups say the laws could disenfranchise up to five safety and there has to be a line drawn,” said Mike Basillas million voters in the United States. They also drafted Wisfrom Occupy DC, explaining the choice to target Monsanto. consin’s law abridging public union organizing and the There was no shortage of targets. ALEC members in- Florida “Stand Your Ground” deadly force law, which drew clude AT&T, Bank of America, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, national attention with the killing of Trayvon Martin.
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Occupy Faith reaches out to greater D.C. with a message of social justice
By Matthew Santoro
Even before the raids that ended the encampments at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square, Occupy DC’s faithbased community had begun to shift its focus. “After a time, we felt the physical encampment had lost its effectiveness towards the ends of the Occupy movement [such as] ending inequality, corporate power in government, and for us, as Christians, calling out a society that worships money and economies in place of God,” said Jeremy John of Occupy Church. The Christian activist group started out of a prayer tent in McPherson Square, where they offered tea and conversation to passersby and held a weekly service on Saturday night, giving occupiers a space for worship and discussion. Yet as the occupation continued, the prayer space lost popularity and the small group lost faith in the encampment as a means to an end. By the end of December, Occupy Church had left McPherson Square to pursue new goals. Another group, Occupy Faith DC, developed out of the groundwork laid by Occupy Church and Occupy Judaism. Unlike its predecessors, who focused on the political work of the movement, Occupy Faith DC’s mission was to support the material and spiritual needs of the physical encampments by networking with local faith communities. In the aftermath of the raids on McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, Occupy Faith DC played a significant role in helping feed and house dislocated occupiers at affiliated churches. But with the encampments gone, Occupy Faith DC faced a fundamental question of self-definition.
Continued on page 4 Revs. Karen Brau and Suzanna Blume of Luther Place celebrate Ash Wednesday. (Coulter Loeb)
Jill Blazek Natalie Camou Benjamin Daniels Michael Goldman Joe Gray Devora Liss Coulter Loeb Karina Stenquist Jason Woltjen
The politics of paper
Why isn’t this paper on newsprint anymore?
By Benjamin Daniels
For the first three issues, this paper was given excellent service by a sympathetic independent New York printshop, Linco Printing. However, as D.C. issues grew larger and local groups gained interest, it was time for a local connection. The newspaper team quickly realized that it’s almost impossible for a shoe-string publication like this to print both on newsprint and in a union shop. The newspaper committee found that there were almost no union printshops in D.C., and those that could be found did not have the equipment needed for a tabloid or broadsheet - they focused on leaflets, brochures, flyers, and other small press. Eventually, the D.C. Mic Check was put in contact with Doyle Printing and Offset in Hyattsville, Maryland, thanks to friends at the Metro Washington Labor Council. But one thing couldn’t be carried over – the paper. Newsprint was not an option. In general, North American newsprint manufacturers are largely unionized, but few union printers are able to process newsprint paper for publication. This is because newsprint requires “web presses” which need to be fed paper from enormous rolls, not individual sheets. The minimum wholesale order for these rolls is 40,000 pounds of paper – a “truckload” in the industry jargon – and smaller union shops don’t have the equipment, the demand, or the financial resources to produce these large orders. As a result, newsprint jobs tend to be dominated by large printing firms that profit from volume. Instead of roll-fed web presses, small shops use sheetfed presses that use pre-cut sheets of a certain size, like those this paper is now printed on. Though small shops can broker a large newsprint job out to one of the nation’s large union printers, shipping and large minimum print runs drive up the price and make it inaccessible to small publications. This kind of arrangement is common around D.C., since most union business comes from the capital even though the big printers have moved out. A manager at a Maryland paper distributor explained the hurdles facing union print shops in D.C. Mainly, he said, costs have simply been going up as Washington has developed over the last 40 years. Wages are higher, leases are more expensive, and the tax breaks and other considerations that were once available for light industry like printing have largely been shifted to service and housing industries. As a result, it doesn’t make business sense to locate in the District as it becomes increasingly dense and urban. “They are very sensitive to be close to their clients, and Baltimore is not a union town,” said the manager. And that’s why the D.C. Mic Check went glossy: to go union.
Volume 2, Issue 2
Donate online at dcmiccheck.org Conference organized to form alliances on campaign finance
On Saturday April 14, Occupy DC’s Corporate Personhood Solutions working group will be hosting a large, daylong conference to tackle the issue of money in politics and its influence on national and local elected officials. The conference was conceived of as a way to bring citizens, officials, academics, and activists from across the political spectrum together to find common ground on the issue of campaign finance. The conference, entitled “Money Out of Politics Conference: How Cross-Partisan Citizen Movements Can Reform Our Democracy in 2012 and Beyond,” will be held at All Souls Unitarian Church at 1500 Harvard Street NW. The event is slated to feature approximately eight speakers and dozens of attendees from a wide variety of backgrounds and political viewpoints including academics, grassroots activists, and concerned community members. Speakers include Harvard Professor and author Lawrence Lessig and former Republican presidential candidate and campaign finance advocate Buddy Roemer. Members of the working group believe that it is possible to find significant common ground between citizens from the left and the right on these issues. The organizers are putting no limits on what solutions the speakers can propose. “The point of this conference is to have an open exchange of ideas on how we can decrease the influence of money in politics,” said Gene Hummel from the working group. “We want an open platform to exchange a broad range of innovative ideas.” The Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United decision struck down congressional limitations on political
Doyle Printing & Offset 5206 46th Avenue Hyattsville, MD 3000 copies
Printing ~ Credits ~
By Matt Patterson
Special thanks to the Metro Washington Labor Council, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild (CWA Local 32035), and the Communication Workers of America for supporting this publication. Back page photo: Kenneth Randazzo
The D.C. Mic Check was commissioned by the General Assembly of Occupy DC at McPherson Square. Free from corporate advertisers, this paper is dedicated to covering all aspects of the movement for social and economic justice in the D.C. area. Our goal is to show readers that there is real hope for change in D.C. by highlighting what is being done, and showing them how they can join the fight.
contributions on behalf of, but not directly to, a candidate. The resulting rise of influential SuperPACs, often funded by billionaires or corporations, has caused significant concern within the Republican ranks. “Americans across the political spectrum are unhappy with Citizens United. If we wish to move forward, we must cross the aisle and build alliances across political lines,” said Devora Liss of the working group. “[We hope] to start to develop an understanding of how these different groups can agree.” Committee members hope the conference will serve as a forum to learn about, discuss, and plan people-powered solutions to eliminate what they call the “corrosive influence of large corporate and personal contributions in politics.” “Political representatives should be responsive to the citizenry,” concluded Liss, “Citizens United allows such an influx of money that citizen’s voices are drowned out. Or, rather, monied out.”
The event is Saturday, April 14 from 9:15-4:15. Registration is free but required. Sign-ups can be completed at moneyout.eventbrite.com.
by Mike Flugennock
Occupy Education takes root in D.C.
Occupy on Campus
Continued from page1
After students requested a timeline for when their demands would be met, Tutan promised to meet with the Secretary of Education personally and to provide an official response by March 9. The date passed, no response was received, and American University (AU) students were unable to contact Tutan. Student groups continue to reach out to the department for a response. One common concern voiced by the students was the high cost of college. “I come from a poor family … a lot of young people go to the military just so they can go to college,” said Michael Patterson, who recently returned from serving in Iraq. “How many of our soldiers have died trying to go to college?”
Students’ Declaration of Grievances and Demands to the Department of Education 1) Democratize education by giving students, parents and teachers the primary role in the education reform process and implement budget transparency. 2) All persons must have equal access to high-quality education. 3) De-privatize the student loan industry. 4) Remove corporate influence from education to allow for multi-perspective understanding of existing social, economic and political paradigms. 5) States must improve funding for education to eliminate the lack of opportunity amongst impoverished and marginalized communities.
“I am fortunate enough to have parents who can afford to pay for an education that will open up a world of opportunities for me,” said Ashley Weston, a student at American University. “A good education should not be out of reach for anyone. Education is a right, not a privilege, and I stand by that statement.” One protester, a student at The George Washington University, said that she was $66,000 in debt and “was not even done yet.” Some university students involved have already begun to take a proactive approach to solving the problem of narrow educational choices. An alternative education working group, formed by Occupy AU, hopes to design free one-day weekend courses on subjects that are not covered in the university’s curriculum. Occupy AU hopes to open these events to all members of the Washington D.C. community to ensure there are no boundaries between universities and the communities that surround them. Follow & contact the DC student Occupy movement on Twitter as @AUOccupy @OccupyUMD
Top: Students use “book block” shields during the march to the Department of Education. Bottom: Occupy American University mic checks Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. (Coulter Loeb)
The gears of democracy are turning
Closing the gap between the people and the power
By Coulter Loeb
Since Occupy DC was evicted from McPherson Square, I’ve been sleeping in a college house known as Porterhaus a short walk away from American University. I was eager to see how American University General Assembly (AU-GA) functioned since some of my roommates are involved. After months spent standing in the metropolitan assemblies of Cincinnati and D.C., I found myself sitting in a neatly arranged circle of about 25 students in AU’s School of International Service. I watched, listened and, in the end, was impressed by nearly every aspect of the AU-GA. While there is certainly room for improvement, the AUGA runs like a well-oiled machine compared to the open public general assemblies. In only an hour and twenty minutes, they tackled issues so complex that it would take a ‘regular’ GA of equal size hours, if not days, to chew through them. Standards of interpersonal respect were palpably stronger and the group adhered closely to stack - a process which organizes the input of participants. I began to analyze why the student body is well-suited to this form of organization and came up with the following theory. The internet is an information mill: it requires from everyone the same basic sets of rules and etiquette to effectively interface. Current university students are the first to have lifelong immersion in internet patterns of behavior. None in this generation remember a time before their internet browser. In the era of podcast lectures and online textbooks, classrooms have never been this technologically integrated. The internet, a machine of complex social interactions, allows this generation of students to consume and utilize higher densities of information than ever before. Interfacing with a system based simply on 1’s and 0’s requires adherence to a standard set of procedures across the board. Juggling multiple email accounts, blogs, vlogs, and tweets has become part of the everyday experience. Lifelong exposure to these systems builds a strong base upon which students are able to interact and share information. Higher densities of information flowing through this social system allows greater potential for connectivity among ideas. This structure enables student discussions to resonate across more wavelengths. When combined with the standardized rules of a general assembly, just as when combined with the standardized rules of the internet, discussion results in more cooperation among individuals. The machine that is the AU-GA is measurably more complex and capable than the metropolitan assemblies I had stood in on for the past few months. This generation’s technological capacity is only a reflection of how our society is evolving into a digital world. The internet is the only medium across which GA as we know it can be fully explored. There are other student assemblies just as capable as AU’s; they make up the pieces of machinery necessary to form a digital national student body far more powerful than the sum of its parts. Expanding to an online national assembly which reaches beyond students to the community would integrate those previously disenfranchised into the policy process. We must take the first step towards a more democratic system by building the infrastructure for an online national student GA. Students are the stewards of our future democracy; we must embrace our responsibility to this nation. We must defend our rights and see out our visions; we must let those powerful few know that we are here to stay. Across the nation thousands have been evicted from encampments; we the people are running out of time to define ‘freedom’ for ourselves before those in power define it for us.
Students march on Sallie Mae and the Department of Education. (Coulter Loeb)
Taxation without representation: The colony in Congress’ backyard
people across the world – the silencing and overpowering of our voices by the 1% is a form of disenfranchisement,” said a hunger striker. “But we also feel that to exclude 100% of Washingtonians from being represented in government, especially while taxing us, is to commit a direct act of disenfranchisement and colonization.” By Sam Jewler Despite this, there are those who remain content to deny The colonists who founded this country fought a revolu- outside of his district, successfully called for the National the 617,000 residents of Washington, D.C. the same demotionary war against taxation without representation. More Park Service to forcefully evict the two Occupy DC encamp- cratic rights they cherish for themselves. The most common argument against the liberation of D.C. than 200 years later, one of the most absurd American iro- ments. nies is that the people of our capital city pay federal taxes In the context of America’s purported dedication to is Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, which but get no vote in Congress, and are, essentially, colonized. spreading democracy around the world, it is a telling in- gives Congress the power “to exercise exclusive legislation “We have been conditioned to look at ourselves as slaves congruity that we are the only so-called democracy in the in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, and to accept it,” said by Cession of particular D.C. activist Jose- Federal tax revenue per capita States, and the acceptance phine Butler in 1994. of Congress, become the “We have to be willSeat of the Government of ing to show Congress the United States.” that as much as they However, constitutional may try to shackle us, scholars have noted that we still know how to the “Seat of the Governbreak loose.” ment” need only refer to the Butler spoke those National Mall and the parts words just 20 years of Capitol Hill where the after D.C. was grantfederal government builded the right to vote ings are located. Since the for its own mayor and D.C. residents pay the highest per capita taxes in the nation by a wide margin. (Source: IRS) only requirement is that it city council, and 33 be smaller than ten-by-ten years after D.C. residents were permitted to vote for presi- world whose capital is unrepresented in its national legdent. Between 1874 and 1975, U.S. presidents appointed islature. This longstanding injustice and the national lack miles, what is considered the seat of government could be about 100 different commissioners to run our largely black of awareness inspired several members of Occupy DC to shrunken down to solely encompass the federal governcity. All but one was white and all but one was male. embark on a hunger strike, demanding that Congress grant ment’s land, thereby withdrawing the blanket of disenfranchising oversight from the rest of the city. Today D.C. has one non-voting delegate in Congress – El- D.C. full representation and autonomy. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of people in eanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) – and it is the only city that The five members of Occupy the Vote DC took only water has to pass its new laws and budgets through congressio- for different periods of time, ranging from eight to 25 days. D.C. do not work for the federal government – nor are they nal review. Such review is the duty of the House Oversight They were joined by solidarity strikers for 24 to 48 hours even represented in it. Committee – the “overseers,” as one student called them at a time, including Congressmen Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), in a recent teach-in. That committee is chaired by Darrell longtime civil rights activist Dick Gregory, and many othSam Jewler can be reached on Twitter as Issa (R-Calif.), a Republican who represents a district on ers. This lasted for 51 consecutive days, to symbolize the @luddofthefuture and as part of the other side of the continent. He is also the wealthiest 51st state that D.C. should be. @occupythevotedc. member of Congress, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. “As long-time devotees of the Occupy movement we feel Issa, who received 94% of his campaign contributions from that the game is rigged against the 99% of Americans and
What’s in a number?
Statutory rates hide the truth about corporate taxes
By Karina Stenquist
President Obama recently called for a reduction of the for Tax Justice broke down the “in practice” rate by induscorporate tax rate, frequently cited as one of the highest try. At the high end were corporations working in retail rates in the industrialized world. But focusing on one num- and wholesale (27.7%), household and personal products ber oversimplifies the issue. There’s more than one way to (24.2%), and food, beverage, and tobacco (23.8%). At the look at corporate taxation. low end were industrial and farm equipment (6.2%), transThe oft-mentioned 35% rate is the statutory rate – think portation (4.3%), and aerospace and defense (1.6%). of that as the “in theory” tax rate. And yes, among the OrIn 2010, U.S. corporations contributed 10.9% to the ganization for Economic Cooperation and Development overall U.S. tax receipts, placing it sixth among the 34 (OECD) nations, the 35% rate of the U.S. is currently the OECD countries. Just one year earlier however, corporate highest. But the statutory rate doesn’t tell us what propor- taxes were 6.9% of total revenues, pushing the U.S. even tion of total profits a corporation actually pays in taxes. The further down the list. effective corporate tax rate is the “in practice” rate. If we look at U.S. corporate taxes as a percentage of the The statutory and effective rates are different because country’s total GDP, we fall somewhere in the middle of corporations have many ways to keep some of their in- the OECD countries. In 2010, corporate taxes made up come from counting as “taxable” income, or the total that 2.7% of U.S. GDP - compared to Norway (9.7%) at the top the 35% rate applies to. Some corporations keep income and Germany (1.4%) and Estonia (1.2%) at the bottom. overseas, and others find loopholes with bizarre industry But again, focusing on one year can be deceptive. In Occupy DC Christians carry an idol of Wall nicknames like the “Double Irish” or the “Dutch Sandwich.” 2009, only 1.7% of GDP came from corporate taxes. The Street’s “Charging Bull” (Coulter Loeb) A 2008 report from the U.S. Government Accountability White House budget figures are even lower: 1.3% in 2010 Office (GAO) measured the U.S. effective corporate tax rate and 1.0% in 2009. at an average of 25.2% in 2004, almost ten points lower So let’s get some historical perspective, starting with the than the statutory rate. The 2008 GAO report found that “in theory” rate of 35%. This rate has been steadily falling Continued from page1 over a third of corporate taxpayers paid effective rates of since the ‘60s, when the top corporate rate was at 52.8%. 10% or less, while only a quarter had rates over 50%. The effective corporate tax rate has also fallen over time. “After the raids, the changes in terms of Occupy [DC] The World Bank’s 2009 Doing Business report on taxes Data from the Economic Report of the President shows it have become more apparent. Before the raids, a lot of peocompares the effective rate to some other G8 and BRIC na- was around 20% in 2009 and 25% in 2010. This is down ple had focused [on] the encampments,” explained James tions and the U.S. comes in lower than several, including from a high of around 45% in the mid-’70s. Lee, a founding member of Occupy Faith DC. “Since that Italy, Brazil and China. Corporate taxes are also contributing less to overall tax time, it’s become clear that there’s been a shift to more acEven this figure doesn’t tell the whole story, because it’s receipts. White House budget data shows that corporate tion, more organizing, more outreach into the communistill an average. There’s a lot of variation in the effective taxes used to be as much as 40% of total tax revenue back ties.” The movements are working to keep Occupy’s mestax rates among U.S. corporations. A report by Citizens in the ‘40s. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data sage alive in local communities of faith. show that payroll taxes seem to have Occupy Church maintains solidarity with members of Share of federal tax revenue filled that gap. Occupy DC, but now focuses its energies on reviving social As far as corporate tax as a percent- justice practices within Christian communities. Their top age of GDP, there’s been a lot of varia- priorities include foreclosure resistance, stockholder activtion, but it’s been a downward trend ism, and supporting the Move Your Money project. since a high of over 7% of GDP in the Meanwhile, Occupy Faith DC is developing its own ini‘40s. tiatives. They plan to host an economic inequality and soEven beyond what has been out- cial justice event the weekend of May 19 that will involve lined above, there are other measures at least 14 houses of worship around the greater D.C. area. (like marginal effective corporate tax In addition to building faith-based support for Occupy’s rate) that add layers to this issue. The core issues, Lee expressed concern over what he called an focus on the 35% statutory rate and its “exploitive” approach to austerity measures and cutbacks. comparison to other nations, without Social welfare responsibilities are being shifted into the taking into account other measures or hands of faith-based communities that don’t have the rea historical perspective, is a choice to sources to handle the overload, he said. see the issue through only one of many “We can’t do it alone; we shouldn’t be expected to do it lenses. alone,” Lee contends. “We’re going to hold them accountable so they cannot shirk the responsibility of attending to Payroll taxes have grown to fill the gap (source: OMB) the general welfare of our society.”
Freedom in D.C. Police bend rules D.C. crime bill to arrest protesters targets protesters
By Kelly Canavan
Occupiers and other political activists are calling for the removal of a section of the current Criminal Code Amendments Act (CCAA) being considered by the D.C. City Council, charging that provisions in the law create unreasonable barriers to peaceful protests. Criminal Code Amendment Acts are typically brought up annually and designed to clean up loose ends related to the existing criminal code. However, the 2012 bill would make it illegal to be “disruptive” inside a building, “block” a park or reservation, or return to a location after being ordered to leave during a protest. “The United States as a whole is taking away all the various rights that we’ve struggled and fought for,” said Sean, an activist who wished to withhold his last name. The bill was introduced by Councilmember Phil Mendelson on January 4, after the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia submitted it to him for introduction into the Council’s Judiciary Committee. According to the Council’s website, the act is intended “to permit a charge ... where one or more persons demonstrate in an area where it is not permitted and remain or return to the area after receiving a warning from law enforcement…to amend the District of Columbia Law Enforcement Act of 1953 in order to prohibit excessive noise and disruptive conduct in public buildings.” The protest-related section of the CCAA could criminalize certain type of peaceful protest. The Council appears to be slipping it into a bill designed to update existing criminal statutes as an attempt to restrict our rights by pairing the protest language with issues that are not only unlikely to meet much opposition, but to garner support. If the CCAA of 2012 passes with the anti-protest language in place, it is likely that members of Occupy DC or other groups will bring suit against the government to preserve our constitutional rights. “This is a clear example of the type of fascist state that the United States government is putting upon the working classes of the United States, because capitalism inevitably fails,” said Sean. “Unless the international working class uprises against it, the United States will become a police state.” The ambiguity of terms like “blocking” or “disruptive” is a major concern for protesters. Many believe this is intended to give police the additional legal room needed to quash peaceful protests at their discretion. Occupy DC is currently organizing a campaign to contact council members and insist that the protest language be taken out of the bill. Several occupiers attended the hearing on March 16 to testify about the possible enforcement implications.
Continued from page 1
By Sam Dukore
Occupy DC took its tents to the streets on February 13 for the first planned “targeted occupation.” The one-night occupations were intended to single out specific entities for particular grievances. The first protest was meant to target Darrell Issa’s connection to Merrill Lynch as a major stakeholder. The protest was met with arrests on the basis of a D.C. law that has not been used in decades. The Merrill Lynch office on 15th street was targeted to highlight the relationship between Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Merrill Lynch – the largest holder of Issa’s money. Darrell Issa used his congressional authority to delay a Treasury Department inquiry into the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch merger. During the 15-day delay, he traded $206 million through Merrill Lynch. “Darrell Issa epitomizes pay-for-play politics, social injustice and crony capitalism,” stated Matthew Kirkland, a participant in the protest. Darrell Issa also receives more money from the oil and gas industries than any other member of Congress. He used his power as committee chair to block an inquiry into the energy sector’s involvement in driving up gas prices. When they set up tents in front of the bank’s offices, the 30 or so protesters made sure to stay within the letter of the law of D.C. and ensured that people could pass on the sidewalk and did not block any entrances or exits. “We consulted with Jeff [Light of the National Lawyers Guild] about ten times,” explained Kirkland. He added that no law was found that forbid setting up tents. Despite this fact, about 30 police officers arrived to ar(Will Pierce) rest the protesters peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. The police cited a law, drafted over a century Some studies have shown that crops grown from genetiago, to justify the arrests. D.C. Municipal Regulation 24- cally modified seeds are potentially harmful to those who 121 states: “No person or persons shall set up, maintain, or consume them. In 2010, a study in the International Jourestablish any camp or any temporary place of abode in any nal of Biological Science demonstrated increased rates of tent ... on public or private property, without the consent of organ damage among animals who were exposed to the gethe Mayor of the District of Columbia.” netically modified seed products. Since the protesters intended leave empty tents there for Monsanto is currently responsible for 90% of genetically about 18 to 20 hours, the law did not apply to the protest- modified seed in the United States, according to the Natuers. There was no intent to make the tent an “abode” by ral Society. The group recently awarded Monsanto with its living in it, explained Kirkland. “A targeted occupation is a “Worst Company of 2011” award. setting up of ceremonial tents to raise awareness.” “Monsanto is killing a generation of Americans,” stated Of the six tents that went up, five went down as people Lacy MacAuley of Occupy DC, “and they are wielding cordid not want borrowed tents to be seized. The two protest- porate power to keep us from knowing about it.” ers who remained entered the lone tent and were arrestThe company is “pushing farmers out and pushing their ed. The charges were dropped after the law was deemed own agenda,” said Basillas. “[Profit over people] is someinapplicable, and the two arrested protesters are now suing thing that is commonly seen in their products. If they’re the police department for unlawful arrest. mindful of people’s health, I’ll support them. Unfortunately, they’re going the other direction.”
At around 7:30 a.m., after protesting at ALEC’s offices on L Street NW, Occupy DC used artwork and chains to block the entrance to Monsanto’s offices at 1300 I Street NW. After attempting to violently shove protesters out of the doorway and ripping signs out of the their hands, police set up a perimeter in preparation to arrest protesters. In total, there were 12 arrests of peaceful protesters, some still seated as they were handcuffed. Monsanto came under fire from several occupations. According to Occupy Portland’s press release on Shut Down the Corporations, Monsanto worked with ALEC to draft bills which strip cities and counties of their ability to regulate genetically modified crops and pesticides like those manufactured by Monsanto.
Syrian community, supporters rally against Assad atrocities
Syrian-Americans rallied in protest near the White House on March 17 to mark the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising. Over a thousand attendees chanted condemnation of the brutal assaults on protesters by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces. Assad is reported to have killed over 9,000 of his citizens. The diverse crowd included devotees of both moderate and conservative religious persuasions, Iranians, Egyptians, and around 20 people from Occupy DC who marched in solidarity. In Syria, activists began protesting one year ago in the city of Daraa, outraged at the torture of schoolboys who had painted graffiti on a grain silo. Sasha Ghosh, who is
By John Zangas
affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force and who recently spoke in McPherson Square, 11 out of 14 provinces in Syria have protests on a daily basis. The impassioned protesters’ cries for Syria’s freedom echoed amidst the beauty of blooming cherry and magnolia trees. Many children and families were present at the protest as well as youth who wore masks to conceal their faces. Several youths expressed concerns that if their identities were revealed, security forces would persecute their family members in Syria. “I have an uncle in Homs and I’m afraid for him. I haven’t heard from him in two weeks,” said Ameeri, a young man with a Syrian flag painted on his face. Like many, he wished to withhold his last name for fear of retribution by the Syrian regime. At one point the protest grew so large that park police told the protest organizers they had to move. The protesters then circled around a huge unfurled Syrian flag before moving to a stage area of the park for impassioned speeches and songs of solidarity. The Syrian protesters say they seek regime change, democracy, human rights, and the abolition of the court system which is used to incarcerate citizens without due process. What a great number of Syrians want from the United States is “more humanitarian aid, more international support, and more media,” according to Ghosh. Syrian media is run by the government, he said, so there are few independent voices to spread the message. Ghosh hoped the rally will help to add to the chorus of voices for regime change in Syria.
Demonstrators gather outside in downtown D.C. to protest the atrocities being committed in Syria. (John Zangas)
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan vowed to help improve the tional investigations can be launched. relationship between city police and journalists during a Quan said the “fake media around Occupy” are hamperFrom The Occupied Chicago Tribune recent meeting with news gatherers and professional or- ing the city’s ability to discern real media from personal ganizations. bloggers and others, but she also questioned Bolton reA little over three years after the workers at Republic The meeting, held in late February at Oakland City Hall, peatedly about officers’ reaction to credentialed media Windows and Doors in Chicago won back pay and benefits was called in an effort to discuss incidents of working re- during protests. from the closing company by occupying their Goose Island porters and photographers being detained and in some Bolton said the incidents the department is aware of are factory in a six-day sit-down strike, they had to do it again. cases arrested by Oakland Police Department officers dur- being investigated and he’s still awaiting the findings. The workers have occupied the same factory, now owned ing several Occupy Oakland protests in recent months. Protestors outnumbered officers during the chaotic me- by Serious Materials, to protest being laid off without no“I think we have OK policies, but can there be improve- lee, he said. tice after the closing of the factory. ments?” Quan asked. “I believe there were most likely mistakes made,” he said. The 2008 occupation was “a perfect parable of all that The police department’s policy currently states that “When I knew there were incidents, I called editors desks, was wrong with the financial crisis,” wrote organizer and “Even after a dispersal order has been given, clearly identi- I sent someone out to pick up Gavin Aronsen (of Mother journalist Micah Uetricht in Salon. “[It raised] the quesfied media shall be permitted to carry out their profession- Jones), I spoke personally with people,” Bolton said. “My tion of whether similar tactics will spread to other parts of al duties in any area where arrests are being made unless point on that is we had an existing policy and an operations the progressive movement in the near future.” their presence would unduly interfere with the enforce- briefing before each operation that clearly said what policy Then, workers led by Robles organized a sit-down strike ment action.” was and what expectations were of our officers. We’re ac- to protest their legally owed severance, accrued vacation Sara Steffens, a CWA District 9 staff representative, said countable for those failures.” time, and temporary health benefits. They occupied the the flaw lies not with the police department’s policy, but Now, the police department’s policy regarding Occupy plant for six days before emerging as victors. “We [were] with its enforcement. and media coverage has been bolstered, Bolton added. A just asking for a little time to find a way to save these jobs,” “Our concern is that our members should be able to be commander, public information officer or Bolton himself said Vicente Rangel, a worker at the factory. out there working and not having to spend the night in jail,” will be dispatched if there’s any disagreement or grievance What sparked the the 2012 occupation, said Uetricht, Steffens said. “We don’t have a problem with the policy, made between the police and working media. was that “workers were told today was to be last day of probut what’s happening in the heat of the moment.” The department also has instituted a temporary press duction. Workers demanded [a] chance to find [a] buyer, Some of the worst incidents occurred last fall, and in- pass policy. Members of the working media who either save jobs … or start [a] worker-owned cooperative. [Sericluded police hassling Oakland Tribune photographer Ray lack credentials or want the additional press badge now ous Materials] said no, so they occupied.” Chavez, ripping the flash from his camera and throwing it can check out a daily press pass from the Oakland PD. to the ground. Comics journalist and Pacific Media WorkCommanders also have been trained regarding the deers Guild freelance member Susie Cagle endured a 15-hour partment’s media policy, Bolton said, and directives also stint in jail after being arrested while covering Occupy have been e-mailed to them. Oakland in November, despite her having identified herBolton said they’re also learning lessons from the less self as a working journalist. contentious Occupy actions, and that pool camera access Cagle also was among at least six journalists, includ- may be pursued more in the future. ing credentialed media from the San Francisco Chronicle, “But that’s impeding on our coverage,” said Jane Tyska, KGO radio news and Mother Jones magazine, detained an Oakland Tribune photojournalist who attended the and plastic-shackled while covering the Occupy Oakland meeting. rally in late January. Steffens, of CWA District 9, said police escorts and pool Officers ignored reporters presenting their press cre- access could have a chilling effect on news coverage. It’s a (Jacob Anikulapo) dentials - some of them even issued by the Oakland and good addition, along with the temporary Oakland PD press San Francisco police departments - and reprimanded them pass, but it isn’t all that’s needed. According to Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Local 1 for not following dispersal orders, according to a letter to “We’d love to see a clear directive go out that whatever member and Huffington Post blogger Kenzo Shibata, the city from Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper happens between an officer and journalist, please don’t in- “Workers and management were close to an agreement. Guild, and other press leaders. terfere with our equipment,” she said. Now management wants to back out.” “Freedom of the press is key to our democracy and must Quan questioned whether it was city officers or other “We are not leaving until we are satisfied,” Melvin Mabe vigorously defended,” the letter states. “Arrests of jour- agency officers called in as mutual aid that detained or ar- clin, a worker at Serious Materials and vice president of nalists and other police interference with reporters and rested journalists during the January protest. That will be United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America photographers cannot be tolerated.” investigated, she said. (UE) Local 1110, told the Occupied Chicago Tribune. Arise The coalition representing journalists included Steffens, Quan also committed to investigating the police depart- Chicago issued an action alert calling for UE members and Society of Professional Journalists Northern California ment’s policy regarding interfering with journalists’ prop- supporters to occupy the factory. Chapter President Liz Enochs, First Amendment attorney erty, better communicating Oakland PD’s media policy to Pizza was delivered to the occupying workers, but the Geoff King and three working journalists. I also was there mutual aid agencies and talking to the police chief about delivery met with some resistance from Chicago police. Acon behalf of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 including Guild and SPJ officials and members as a panel cording to Uetricht, the pizza was let in after chants of “let of The Newspaper Guild. during officer training. the workers eat,” and after one supporter told the police, During the meeting, Sgt. Christopher Bolton, chief of “Sir, you don’t want to be on camera denying workers pizstaff for the police chief, said that he reached out to jourNiesha Lofing, president of the za.” But, according to Chicagoist reporter Aaron Cynic, the nalists he knew were detained during the January Occupy Pacific Media Workers Guild, can be CPD refused to let more food into the building. Oakland protests, but the department needs to be made reached at email@example.com. Occupy Chicago’s labor committee supported the workaware of all other allegations of misconduct so that addiers’ occupation of Serious Materials. Reinforcements from Occupy Chicago arrived at the factory and by 11:30pm had pitched tents along with a banner reading “WORKERS UNITE.” UE union organizer Mark Meinster, who helped plan the Republic Windows and Doors occupation, made a statement on behalf of the occupying workers in which he said that a deal could have been reached hours earlier if the owners had agreed to negotiate in person. Instead, he said, they would only communicate by phone. Workers demanded that the company keep the plant open three more months to explore different options, including looking for another buyer. They also demanded pay for workers during that time. “We had to occupy, that’s why we expect to get everything we asked for this morning,” said Meinster. Workers exited the factory through the main doors around 1 a.m., with the company having agreed to their demands. According to Meinster, “A deal has been struck to try and save the jobs. Serious Materials has agreed to keep the plant operational and people on the job for another 90 days while the union workers and the company work together to find a way to keep the plant open with new ownership because the plant will no longer be part of Serious Materials’ business plan. After 9 hours the occupation has ended with a hopeful workforce.”
National Dispatches Oakland mayor Quan answers questions Serious Materials: about Occupy journalist arrests Workers occupy Goose Island plant
By Niesha Lofing
Nathan Grant (“OccupyEye” on UStream) livestreams arrests at the D.C. Merrill Lynch office. (Coulter Loeb) 6
The Occupied Chicago Tribune can be found on Twitter as @OccupiedChiTrib.
Occupy the SEC proposal draws national attention
Editorials A balanced approach to organizing
Perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in checking one’s privilege is the luxury of not having to recognize its existence at all. Certainly, there are obvious ways in which privilege manifests itself - education, health care, the legal system, etc. But oppression on the basis of sex, race, sexual By Mike Issacson orientation and other factors detriments not only society at large, but also our ability to build cohesion and solidarity within our movement. There has been much debate in the past few months about the relative importance of organizing around economic issues or having an anti-oppression focus. The arguments in favor of the former seem to hinge upon the notion that if we focus too much on anti-oppression we will fail to appeal to the larger public whose eyes are on the economy. But can’t we do both? In our movement, we talk a whole lot about solidarity – we even improvise songs about it. However, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding about what exactly ‘solidarity’ means. When one stands in solidarity with someone else, it is precisely because they do not identify with them outright. Rather, they stand as communities with separate identities, but with a common goal. Thus, feminists, anarchists, people of color, and liberals all stand in solidarity with a social movement like Occupy. The movement is not comprised of a single identity, nor should it be. Rather, it is precisely these identity differences whose social fissures we are trying to overcome. It is why we operate on a non-hierarchical consensus model. It is why we
Anti-oppression and economic justice go hand-in-hand
By C. Elise Van Sant, Occupy New Haven
The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) is the federal agency tasked with financial regulation, including the Dodd-Frank Act. But before the Dodd-Frank Act can be implemented, the SEC is required to seek public comment. And so formed Occupy the SEC – a group of Occupiers with considerable experience in the financial industry. The group produced a comment letter on Section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Act, also called the Volcker rule. The purpose of the Volcker Rule is to regulate proprietary trading by the banks, and to increase transparency. The comment letter is 325 pages long, answering 244 out of 395 questions proposed by the SEC regulators in the request for public comment. The Volcker Rule originally was full of so many loopholes and exceptions as to make it essentially self-castrating. Thanks to the action of Occupy the SEC, however, the Volcker Rule has the potential to turn into a very powerful regulatory statute, should the suggestions be followed. The group has demonstrated an unexpectedly keen and thorough understanding of the section. The letter was extraordinarily well-received. Several prominent financial bloggers and publications gave high praise, including Felix Salmon of Reuters. It’s been enough to make many of the movement’s detractors take a second look, enough to make people question their notions of this movement as just a directionless group of dirty hippies. Now, we are finally able to show the world that we are organized, that we do have a purpose and a goal–several goals – and have the talent and ability to identify the change we’re seeking. Yes, the movement has made other contributions and comments of similar quality and professionalism, but none have been so high-profile. The movement’s reputation is critical to its success, and this letter achieves that. Part of the beauty of this movement is its free-spirited nature. It has drawn independent thinkers, people who are not afraid to be bold and outspoken about their views. It has drawn together true talent and people with great leadership skills. Incisive minds such as those of letter author Alexis Goldstein and her collaborators continue to contribute in vital ways. It is important to demonstrate cohesiveness. We have shared goals. We are now developing the organization and cohesion needed to state our purposes and make demands. Now is the time to rebuild our morale and show the world the power of the 99%. Occupy New Haven can be reached on Twitter as @OccupyNewHaven.
use the people’s mic. It is why our ad hoc institutions are based on free association. By amplifying all of our voices, we empower each other to solve problems in the best way possible. Certainly, too many cooks spoil the broth, but at the same time, you’re not likely to find the best soup recipe if you only have three to choose from. Hence the importance of active anti-oppression work. It’s not so much what mostly male, mostly white activists are saying “about feelings.” It’s about addressing the real silencing effect that a culture has when one feels uncomfortable asserting her or his personal identity. It’s about folks getting burnt out not from all the work they do, but from just trying to get people to take them seriously. We must remember that this movement isn’t a party. It is composed of many disparate activists working on issues that they care about as individuals. We don’t engage in actions because the listserv says so, we do it because enough of us say so – enough of us decide to put in the time and energy to make things happen that matter to us. Our strength will always lie in our enthusiasm and our diversity. Does that mean that you have to help organize a black power march if that really isn’t where your interests are? No. But the least you could do is listen.
Occupy DC April Calendar
1: Carnival of Resistance 7: D.C. Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin 11: Criminal (In)justice rally 14: Money Out of Politics Conference 14-15: Training & workshops for Earth Week 16-19: Earth Week activities 20-22: IMF/World Bank protests 24: Department of Justice rally for Mumia Abu Jamal 28: End the War on Women Day General Assemblies (6:00 p.m.): Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays
Protesters meet for a general assembly. (Coulter Loeb)
For a complete listing of Occupy DC actions and committee meetings, visit: www.occupydc.org
InterOccupy forges new connections
As Occupy camps spread throughout Southern California in early October, a small group of occupiers located at City Hall in Los Angeles reflected on our experiences setting up a camp and our first assemblies. “It’d be awesome to see what they do in San Diego,” I remember saying, sitting in the comfort of Occupy LA’s People’s Library. “Do you think the cops will even let them put down tents?” The librarian replied, “We should help them. We should be there so that their first GA isn’t as bad as ours was.” As we would soon learn, both the challenges and the potential of coordinating Occupy assemblies would be far greater than that. After moving the camp to the Civic Center and doggedly resisting pressure to leave, OSD was given an eviction notice. Occupiers were pepper sprayed when they decided to defend one tent in the middle of a public space. I raced down to San Diego to help arrange bail funds that night. A young man claiming to be from Occupy Wall Street suggested that remaining members of OSD break off into smaller groups and spread out around the city. He disrupted the General Assembly several times. I was perplexed, because if this person was really from OWS, he should know how to build consensus rather than cause disruptions. On my way back from OSD I stopped at Occupy Long Beach to check in. There, one occupier mentioned Occupy San Francisco heard 5,000 people were coming from OWS to OSF to prevent eviction. Infiltration was afoot, but I had no direct line to OWS to confirm or deny these rumors. I went back to OLA dismayed, eager to find someone with a connection to OWS on the ground. I thought about sending an email—but to whom, and how would I know their information was reliable? At that time, most emails
By Joan Donovan, Occupy Los Angeles
that were sent around occupations went unanswered for a variety of reasons, including inability to access computers and Wi-Fi at the camps. Fortunately, the brother of someone at OLA, Jackrabbit, was at OWS. Jackrabbit was patient with my paranoia and assured me that there wasn’t a plan from OWS to send anyone to California. In fact, they didn’t even have 5,000 people at OWS. I relayed the info back to San Diego, and the infiltrator disappeared from OSD the next day and never returned. Crisis averted, with just a simple phone call. The last week of October, I received notice that the OWS Movement Building Working Group would be hosting a conference call with other occupations on October 24th. The OLA Occupation Communication Committee set up a speakerphone in the media tent at our camp and dialed in. There were over one hundred people on that call and nearly 40 occupations represented. At the end of it, OWS asked for volunteers to help set up the next call—and thus began the early makings of InterOccupy. The first “Call Planning” meeting happened via telephone the following Thursday, when we decided on some protocols for rotating the hosts of the Monday night general call and soliciting agenda items. Occupy Philadelphia led the charge on the second general call, and OLA took up the third—albeit with technical support from OWS when the bomb squad showed up at OLA that night. After much debate, this small call-planning group settled on registering the domain name InterOccupy. org and started a call calendar. InterOccupy is able to put horizontality at the forefront of its mission to foster coordination across general assemblies and working groups. Any occupation can ask for a
call, and no one agenda is given priority. The content of the calls, therefore, is up to the movement itself, with the goal of aligning strategy and actions, not to efface the autonomy of local assemblies. Because many of us started out traveling and connecting with other occupations face to face, we knew that the virtual network is strengthened, both emotionally and effectively, by physical encounters with one another. Modeled on the communication networks in the American revolution, Occupy Philly designed a network model called Committees of Correspondence. CoCs are encouraged to spread information about the actions of other occupations, inform local working groups about upcoming calls through InterOccupy and arrange face to face regional meet-ups. This model greatly increased the density of ties between occupations and, in doing, the volume of calls through InterOccupy. Occupy SoCal in Long Beach recently hosted the first regional gathering with 50 occupiers from 10 occupations attending. We discussed how to better facilitate our communication, how to work together towards the proposed May 1st general strike and how to combat corporatism nonviolently. A second meet-up for Occupy SoCal was scheduled for Februrary 11, and InterOccupy helped to coordinate it. Others working with InterOccupy have gone on an OWS bus tour, spreading the model of CoCs around the northeast. Because face-to-face communication is as central to this movement as the latest technology, InterOccupy seeks to provide channels that amplify voices and ideas of the Occupy movement, while simultaneously deepening regional networks. As InterOccupy organizer Nate Kleinman says, “We lay the tracks, someone else has to drive the train.”
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?