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FEATURE

Photo by Henry Taksier

The “99 Percent” Awakens General assemblies occurred in New York City, and the attendees proceeded to rally others. #OccupyWallStreet became a popular hash tag on Twitter, followed by #TakeWallStreet, #Sept17, and #LibertySquare. By Sept. 17, up to 5,000 protesters gathered under the shadow of New York City’s financial sector. The mainstream media wasn’t impressed. It was Saturday, after all, and Wall Street wasn’t open for business. Two days later, the International Business Times reported, “The leaderless, generally peaceful protest disrupted Wall Street’s normal activity Monday as police barricades closed off several blocks near Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange for security.” Corporate media outlets portrayed the protesters as naive, aimless college kids, ignoring the presence of military veterans and blue-collar workers. New York City Mayor Bloomberg blasted the occupation for “trying to destroy jobs” shortly after he laid off 700 public workers. Despite hundreds of arrests, thousands of protesters formed a seemingly permanent community on Wall Street, complete with its own newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Unions across the country marched in solidarity with the occupation. General assemblies and subsequent occupations popped up in hundreds of towns and more than a few major cities, including Washington, Austin, San Francisco, Baltimore, Seattle, Madison, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Diego. By Oct. 15, the movement spread into a global “Day of Rage” with demonstrations in more than 80 countries. President Obama said he sympathizes with the occupation’s concerns. Congressional Republicans seem to feel threatened. “We have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Oct. 7 on a conservative talk show. “I’m taking this seriously in that I’m old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy.” But the movement isn’t political, at least not in the traditional sense. The Occupied Wall Street Journal

“Our goal isn’t to be the leaders of this movement,but rather to grant people the tools they need to rise against corporatocracy.” condemns the U.S. corporate sector for essentially buying out the presidency, Congress, Supreme Court, and Fourth Estate over the last two decades. The occupation includes leftists, socialists, anarchists, and environmentalists, but it also includes Ron Paul supporters and even former Tea Party members. Protesters call themselves the “99 percent,” rising up in defiance against the alleged “1 percent” that extract billions of dollars from working people through a crooked system of banking, trade and taxation. They assert that nothing will change in a system that allows corporate money to co-opt movements and purchase elections. Occupy Gainesville Florida is no exception: The movement has spread to Miami, Orlando, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and finally Gainesville. Four general assemblies occurred

downtown before the occupation began. More than 100 people from all walks of life — students, parents, workers, veterans, artists, teachers, radicals, public servants and local business owners — gathered at Bo Diddley Plaza to deliberate, organize and learn from each other. The occupation downtown began Oct. 12 at 8 a.m. Organizers hadn’t agreed on everything, but one of their central goals was to support — rather than stand in the way — of local workers and businesses. Protests took the form of street theater, workshops, open discussions and peaceful direct action toward banks and other centers of corporate influence. As expected, many protesters have lives, families and jobs, and their hope is that a flexible group of people will stay downtown at any given time. “Everyone has their own personal story,” said Maya Garner, 35, the elected facilitator for Gainesville’s general assembly on Oct. 9. Garner, a small business owner and mother of two, envisions a more pure form of democracy in which elected officials, free from corporate influence, can establish incentives for socially conscious businesses. “My main concern is for the environment and how corporations can act without liability for the destruction and bodily harm they inflict on their workers and the world as a whole.” Garner stressed that her personal viewpoints do not speak for the entire movement, which simply seeks to remove money from politics. “There’s this illusion that it makes a difference whether you’re red or blue, Democrat or Republican, leftist or libertarian,” she said. “ It doesn’t matter what side of the line you’re on, as long as we all work together.” Organizers voiced their frustration over a wide range of issues — health care, education, unemployment, budget cuts, tuition, foreclosures, climate change, pollution, labor, imperialism, the Federal Reserve and campaign contributions — and shared solidarity with the protesters on Wall Street. The general assemblies in Gainesville, like those of other communities, may address local concerns as well: the Cabot/Koppers Superfund site, the shortage of transitional Continued on p. 36 Fall 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 23

The Fine Print, Fall 2011  

The fall 2011 print edition of The Fine Print.

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