“You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” That was the message posted on OccupyWallSt.org as early this morning, police began to storm the Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.
To prove it, supporters of the Occupy movement have vowed to pull out all the stops to make November 17 a day of national occupation. That day is the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests that sparked a national and international movement. There were already 303 “We Are the 99%” protests scheduled for that day around the country, organized with the help of MoveOn.org. Now those gatherings have added urgency as a rebuke to the efforts to squelch the occupations and silence their voices. As the OccupyWallSt.org statement says, “This burgeoning movement is more than a protest, more than an occupation, and more than any tactic…This moment is nothing short of America rediscovering the strength we hold when we come together as citizens to take action to address crises that impact us all. Such a movement cannot be evicted.”
This morning’s action against the Wall Street protestors follows similar actions against the Occupy movement in a number of cities, including Oakland, Philadelphia and Portland.
As people in these encampments weigh their next steps, there is unanimity among Occupy supporters in this: The Occupy movement will not go away, and it will not be silent. The movement is not groups of people sleeping in parks. It is millions of people who have decided to resist their own eviction from the economy and the democracy that rightfully belongs to them. It is we the millions who are in the 99 percent who are declaring, even in the face of the pepper spray and billy clubs of the police, that we shall not be moved.
We intend to prove it on November 17.
Many of the November 17 actions will take place at sites that symbolize the ways that we can put people back to work immediately doing work that must be done. While a so-called congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee reaches for a devil’s bargain as it finds itself stymied in its ability to do what should be done—ask Wall Street and those in the 1 percent to step up and contribute more to repair the Main Street economy—the people can send the members of the supercommittee, as well as the rest of the Congress, a clear message: Don’t cut the pillars of economic security for seniors and working-class people, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, so you can spare millionaires and billionaires from paying their fair share of the price of keeping America prosperous for all.
One of the planned actions will be at a bridge that enables government workers and contractors to get to and from their jobs between Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia. The Francis Scott Key Bridge was completed in 1923; today it is listed as one of three bridges crossing the Potomac River and 70,000 such bridges across the country that need immediate repair, according to Transportation for America. The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that it needs $71 billion to help state and local governments repair these bridges, but Congress is on course to not authorize more than about $5 billion a year. We can do better.
Another action is planned at the site of some abandoned storefronts in Olympia Fields, Ill., outside Chicago. Among the losses that this community has endured is the closing of a supermarket and two auto dealerships. “These could be thriving businesses if entrepreneurs could get access to loans,” the organizer of this protest writes. We can do better.
In Pasadena, Calif., an organizer is calling for a protest in front of a local fire station, one of seven in that community that need a total of $56 million in infrastructure repairs. “We will contrast our community’s need for basic infrastructure spending and how it keeps us ALL safe AGAINST the fact that the wealthy in this country pay so little in taxes,” the organizer of this event says. We can do better.
In Austin, Texas, dozens of people have signed up to gather in front of an elementary school that has been threatened with closing because of a lack of funding, to call attention to the need to spend more on the nation’s schools. We must do better.
There is still time to sign up for one of these events, or to organize your own. Select a spot in your community that symbolizes the needs we must address in order to build a sustainable Main Street economy and put people back to work in good, living-wage jobs. Then occupy it, at least for a few hours.
The Occupy movement has already won a significant victory by changing the tone of the national economic debate, forcing even some conservatives to talk about income inequality and the disappearing middle class that their policies helped worsen. Now it is time for those of us who have been with the Occupiers in spirit to say that while you might be able to evict a few bodies from a public park, you cannot evict an idea, and a people’s democracy movement, whose time has come.