The Spring Offensive: Dignity and Resistance on Bay Area Streets
What the protest means:
Wells Fargo reported record earnings in the first quarter of 2012: a profit of $4.2 billion. If they were a country, they'd be about the 62nd largest national economy in the world.
Despite its continued stellar performance within an otherwise faltering economy, its spokespeople assure us that its earnings are justified and that much of the bank’s wealth has been duly redistributed. Wells Fargo donated $213.5 million to non-profits last year and modified more than 740,000 home mortgages between 2009 and February 2012. That is more than any other private bank.
However, to many protesters on Tuesday, those charitable donations are merely a public relations ploy meant to detract from the larger fact that Wells Fargo’s record earnings are stolen. Their grievances voice five ways in which Wells Fargo has either stolen from poor Americans or contributed to the greater marginalization of low-income communities.
To many – these five grievances may seem somewhat unrelated. But to people of color, who are increasingly at the helm of Occupy’s actions, they are undeniably related. Let’s take two of these grievances as an example:
Despite all the recent attention focused on home foreclosure the phenomenon is not new. Low income black communities were among the first hit by foreclosures and served as a laboratory of sorts to test predatory loans that would eventually lead to mass defaults and home seizures. While foreclosure has now hit almost every sector of the US, and its effects have even rippled into foreign economies, the hardest hit neighborhoods are still black and low-income. With some two million loans in some state of foreclosure across the US, low-income black communities must reckon with an increasingly dismal economic future.
At the same time, more and more of America’s black and brown population finds itself behind bars in a nation that has currently incarcerated more of its minority population than any other in history. Many are calling mass incarceration and heavier sentencing for drug crimes “the New Jim Crow” because it relegates the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated to a life of poverty, without access to housing, food stamps, jobs and in some states, the right-to-vote. Combined with debt and instability of housing caused by foreclosures, mass incarceration has forced the most depressed US neighborhoods farther and farther to the margins of society.
Wells Fargo leads in home foreclosures and it invests incredible amounts in private prisons. To most people of color organizing Occupy events this year, you cannot attack one without attacking the other.
Tuesday actions marked the start of Occupy’s spring resurgence. And in honor of spring’s rebirth, it has shed some of its older, seemingly monolithic whiteness for a fresher, more nuanced view on race and poverty. Of course, part of this resulted from Occupy’s fracture into several groups that some critics disparagingly label “interest groups” – Decolonize Oakland, Occupy Oakland Patriarchy, ROOTS, Occupy 4 Prisoners and other new factions have coalesced around indigenous rights, women’s rights, race issues and gender issues.
To many outside of the movement, and actually, to many inside of the movement, this has seemed to splinter Occupy nationally into bickering clubs that complicate the simple 99% economic logo. What these “interest” groups have really done however, is force into the heart of mainstream Occupy’s myopic focus on middle-class economics a historical perspective of oppression and how it then translates into economic policy. We are, and are definitely not, the 99%.
We mention this because as May Day fast approaches, we want to encourage MORE people of color into the streets. Occupy’s nascent messages last year have allowed Americans to discuss the failings of extreme free market policy but only broadly. This year, people of color, poor people, women, may have the chance to inject into popular culture the images and ideas we have created in our communities for decades – those that makes sense of the nitty gritty race details of free market ideology. We have the chance to teach the rest of our country what neo-liberal policy means here, at home, and what happened to the vestiges of a racial caste system after slavery that has restructured itself into jails, juvenile prisons, predatory lending and home foreclosures.
But, we can only affect popular culture if we engage with it – by marching and organizing and having America see our brown, black, gay, poor bodies in the streets, leading actions.
In the coming months, there are a number of actions targeting banks and corporate America, and we urge you to join us.
Tomorrow, on Tuesday, Oakland and San Francisco celebrate May Day which this year combines Occupy’s economic focus with an older focus on immigrant and worker rights:
Oakland May Day Schedule:
8:30AM – NOON: Morning picket and strike actions (stations will have resources and info)
Anti-patriarchy station: 1st and Broadway
Anti-gentrification station: 22nd and Telegraph
NOON – 1PM: Mass convergence and rally at 14th and Broadway
1PM – 3PM: Occupy actions in downtown Oakland targeting the banks
3PM: March for Dignity and Resistance, including the Million Hijab and Hoodie contingent. Fruitvale BART station at 3pm. March to San Antonio park for rally. Continue march to Grant-Ogawa Plaza.
6PM – 7PM: Reconvergence downtown to coincide with the march arrival
Nov 27, 2013
Nov 07, 2013
Oct 07, 2013
Aug 20, 2013