MIAMI — Two years ago the Ramos family moved into a small house in the Little Haiti neighborhood here. They did so without a title, a lease, or permission from the property’s owner.
After the father’s construction company shut down, a victim of the housing crash, they couldn’t pay their rent. Their possessions were literally thrown on the street.
“For a time we were basically living in our car or at our friends’ houses — pretty much without a home,” Mr. Ramos said.
Now the Ramos family, naturalized citizens who spoke through an interpreter and asked HuffPost not to use their first names for fear of being kicked out, have succeeded in making the house a home. They cleared out the trash that drug users had piled in mounds. With a leafy lawn and a couple of dogs barking happily, the place looks pretty comfortable.
“For myself as a mother in the United States, this is the place that I’ve been the happiest in,” Mrs. Ramos said. “And in my consciousness this feels right. Instinctively it feels right.”
Many would simply call it squatting. But Take Back the Land, the Miami-based group whose members helped the family move in, calls it a home “liberation.”
According to the Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 1.6 million homes sitting vacant in Florida. A 2010 report estimated that 57,643 people go homeless on any given night. In between that unused capacity and unfilled need stands the law, which protects banks’ and other owners’ property rights.
On Tuesday, Occupy Wall Street will take the group’s unorthodox anti-foreclosure tactics national. Activists will move to “Occupy Our Homes” in a nationwide series of civil disobedience actions, challenging the big banks over the thousands of vacant homes across the country that lie empty even in the midst of a homelessness and foreclosure crisis.
“Here we have a chance to occupy and liberate: it’s a one-two punch and that’s what works,” said Max Rameau, the Haitian-born activist who has braved and sometimes endured arrest while defending families from eviction as part of Take Back the Land, a group that he helped found. The group is now listed on the Occupy Our Homes website as an “ally.”
Rameau’s “liberations” mostly helped people of color. “The Occupy side,” Rameau said, “has mainly happened with young whites.”
Now he hopes that with the help of the Occupy movement, community groups like his can mainstream their fight against the banks. But as Occupiers move into neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, they will be greeted by a confounding knot of problems that Take Back the Land has been wrestling with for years: race, responsibility and property.
Take Back the Land’s struggles in Miami started in a vacant lot in Liberty City. Fed up with gentrification, the group moved on October 2006 to set up a makeshift village of shanties made from shipping pallets and cardboard. They quickly rebranded the plot Umoja Village; the first word is Swahili for “unity.”
They were responding to the human impact of the housing bubble, what Rameau calls a mentality of “gentrification: buy low, fix up, sell high.”
In April 2007 the village burnt to the ground in a furiously quick fire. No one was seriously harmed. Just as it was forced out of its Liberty City lot, however, Take Back the Land was expanding its scope. The group’s playing field had become the whole state of Florida, hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.
In February 2007, even as foreclosure filings dropped nationally over the previous month by 4 percent, Florida’s shot up by 63.5 percent, according to RealtyTrac. It was a harbinger of things to come.
After Mary Trody’s mother stopped making payments on the family’s house northwest of Miami, her family was evicted in February 2009 — but Take Back the Land and another local group that Trody is a member of, the Miami Workers Center, very publicly moved them back in, with TV stations, a crew sent by filmmaker Michael Moore, and the Miami Herald looking on.
The eviction was halted.
“If it’s worth fighting for, yes, I would say the same thing: take arrests,” Trody said. “That’s the only thing that’s going to make a difference. If we organize. If we stand together and try to show the world.”
The struggles Take Back the Land has encountered since late 2007 in legalizing their “liberations” may serve as lessons for the people taking part in Occupy Our Homes. Trody’s family house, for example, has seen a parade of four owners since the eviction defense, none of whom have been willing to settle on terms to let them stay.
Today, Take Back the Land has stopped moving in families to newly “liberated” properties. Rameau and other core members have left or are leaving Miami for other opportunities.
“We haven’t won homes. We haven’t changed people’s lives,” Rameau said. Without more public pressure on banks, he said, Take Back the Land’s successes could only be incremental.
“We were only doing defense,” Rameau said.
On Tuesday, with the help of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Our Homes will begin. Activists in dozens of cities — some members of the Take Back the Land affiliates that have sprouted in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Portland, Washington, DC, and more — will be following the group’s example. They hope to shame banks into cutting mortgage payments or creating a “right to rent” foreclosed properties.
As actions begin, however, Take Back the Land members say the Occupiers should know what they’re getting into.
“Leak in the roof, water, electricity’s out, whatever minor issue — I think it’s something we did not necessarily foresee as becoming our responsibility, in terms of providing social services, which is what it ended up being in addition to it being a political organization. And that’s very stressful,” said Mamyrah Prosper, another activist with Take Back the Land.
The toll on families who move into “liberated” houses, too, can sometimes be taxing. Since Trody’s family defended their house, they have been living in it without any sort of agreement from its owners, under constant threat of eviction or arrest. The Ramoses have had their house broken into twice.
If occupiers are white, meanwhile, they may also end up moving into the black or Latino communities that have been hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis.
Rebecca Wood, a white, 30-year-old self-described anarchist who is a supporter of Take Back the Land, said the group “was very intentionally black-led and focused on working within black communities and working towards self-determination for those communities.”
“I think that that’s a pretty different goal than continuing the occupation through the winter,” she said.
Rameau drew a contrast between the mostly white “occupiers” and the more diverse “liberators.” The occupiers, he thinks, should take actions like sitting down in banks in “direct confrontation with core parts of the system.”
“How does that manifest itself for the liberate side?” he asked. “That manifests itself in home liberations.”
If and when the Occupiers move families into houses that they have not previously inhabited, they will be running up against some very strongly held beliefs about ownership.
The goal of Take Back the Land, Prosper said, was to change the framework: to make people think about “moving away from what’s legal versus illegal into just versus unjust.”
“Some of us just challenged the whole notion of private property, period,” said Prosper. “If you go that route so radically, you’re going to ostracize yourself.”
Still, there is precedent in the United States for squatters taking possession of homes. On New York’s Lower East side, residents were able to eventually gain control of buildings on East Seventh Street.
The Ramos family would welcome any help it can get. At the mention of the Occupy movement, Mrs. Ramos beams. She doesn’t ever want to leave her house, she said, “because as human beings we have the right to live dignified in a home.”
From Occupy Wall Street:
Today, Occupy K St./DC liberated the empty, city-owned Franklin School. The school was closed several years ago and initially reopened as a homeless shelter. Despite widespread public opposition, the city government later closed the shelter. Next — in blatant disregard of social safety net programs that are necessary for the very survival of the people who are most directly impacted by economic injustice — announced plans to turn the building either into luxury condos or a hotel for the 1% lobbyists on K St.
In a move similar to other recent building occupations in Oakland, Chapel Hill, New York, and London, dozens of occupiers entered the building with sleeping bags and food and declared their intent to stay indefinitely. Occupy DC announced plans for an open forum to be held at a church next Monday to discuss uses of the building with the public. Inside, they began cleaning the building to make it usable for the community. From the roof, occupiers chanted “We are the 99%!” as others dropped a banner reading “Public Property under Community Control” over the school. Meanwhile, hundreds rallied in support outside.
Police — including the Metropolitan Police and federal Protective Services — responded with full force. A massive police presence blocked all of 13th St and declared the area a “crime scene.” Police then moved into the building and arrested all inside, carrying out people cuffed at the arms and legs. Some protesters banged on the police vans from inside and outside, while others tried to block the vehicles altogether. Police declared they would charge all those inside with unlawful entry, and threatened others with felony charges if they interfered.
Occupations across the world have recently adopted the tactic of taking over unoccupied buildings. In New York, students and allies occupied New School buildings and dropped leaflets and banners from inside during the N17 Day of Action. They continue to occupy buildings on campus.
In North Carolina and Oakland, protesters occupied vacant downtown buildings. As described by Occupy Chapel Hill:
In the midst of the first general strike to hit the US since 1946, a group of comrades occupied a vacant building in downtown Oakland, CA. Before being brutally evicted and attacked by cops, they taped up in the window a large banner declaring, “Occupy Everything…”
On Nov. 12 at about 8pm, a group of about 50 – 75 people occupied the 10,000 square foot Chrysler Building on the main street of downtown Chapel Hill. Notorious for having an owner who hates the city and has bad relations with the City Council, the giant building has sat empty for ten years. It is empty no longer.
In all four cities, building occupations were met with brutal police action. However, in the U.K., members of Occupy London have occupied a vacant office building owned by a subsidiary of the Swiss Bank, UBS. The protesters have announced their intention to stay in the building under British squatter’s rights laws.
From Tides of Flame
On Saturday, November 19th, a group of about 60 people marched from the occupation at Seattle Central Community College in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and against the police repression and evictions of occupations across the country. At the beginning of the march, it was announced that a building would be taken over at the end of the march.
The group moved through Capitol Hill chanting “Banks and landlords, we don’t need ‘em/ All we want is total freedom!” before plunging down 12th Avenue to the King County Juvenile Detention Center. The group stopped outside the main cell areas and made noise for the children and teenagers imprisoned inside. Marchers chanted “Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons,” and screamed that those on the inside would not be forgotten.
After the noise demo, the group marched into the Central District, one of the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in the country. The term ‘skid row’ was coined here at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Central District was 80% black in 1970. Now it is 15% black, with many new condo developments and apartments having sprung up within the last decade. As the march came closer to the soon-to-be-occupied building, the majority of the drivers passing by yelled and honked their horns in approval.
The group surrounded an abandoned building on 23rd and Alder. A banner reading “OCCUPY EVERYTHING – NO BANKS – NO LANDLORDS (A)” had been draped across the front façade. Someone opened the front door and everyone streamed inside, celebrating the occupation of this new space. People started redecorating with paint and other items while a group outside held an assembly to figure out what to do. At the time of this writing, people are still occupying the building. The current plan is to hold it until Sunday where a public re-furbishing of the building can take place.
From AntiState STL:
November 17th holds as a special day internationally. It’s not just a day against austerity or just a day organized by the new #occupy movement. November 17th is also the date (in 1973) when the dictatorship in Greece was overthrown. And still in Greece, it’s pretty much a holiday. It remains unclear as to how this day of action was chosen by the #occupy movement, but it would be a sin to forget such a moment in history!
It should be clear that before the Occupy movement, there has always been a struggle against the rich, against the 1%, against capitalism, against whatever you want to call it. #Occupy does not occupy new terrain when it comes to struggle. It takes much of its steam from the past and we should recognize, but also, critically learn from it. There have always been those who have suffered from the onslaught of a society based on class struggle. And there have always been those who have resisted and they have a story that we can draw from.
The March becomes unruly… Snitch Peace Marshals and Abandoned Buildings
Last night there was an unpermitted march through the streets to an abandoned municipal court building. This was after a scheduled union march earlier in the day, which had left many people frustrated by how tame it was. Especially frustrated with the presence of Peace marshals in green neon vests (who were a mix of SEIU, Occupy folks and rumor has it that Communist Party folks were also in the ranks), who at the drop of a hat would snitch to the real cops on folks who wouldn’t comply with the set perimeters of the march. When confronted on this, they would often use the tactic of non-violent communication as a way of quelling any rage. Others would just blow up in your face. It was tense.
It soon became harder and harder to determine who was a real cop or a fake cop as people were becoming more and more confrontational with the marshals by the end of the union march. It was humiliating to have to listen to someone with absolutely no authority and accountability tells us what to do. It’s one thing when the police, who actually have the authority to lock someone up or tell us what to do, but it’s another thing when we have start listening to those who have nothing but vests and only have the real police to back them up. It’s clear that things will never change when we have those who are willing to be the worst kind of police (peace police, a contradiction in itself) and stifle the spontaneity and wild energy of those who want a world without police and capitalism.
After the union march, fortunately the peace marshals had not killed everyone’s energy. They left and a march was called to city hall, a building next door to the abandoned Municipal Court building, standing empty since 2002. The march was not an official #Occupy movement march because it was not called by any General Assembly, but anyone was invited to come on the march. As we approached the building, music was blaring and folks were dancing. We circled the block, cops trailing us the whole time. A Blues game (hockey) was just about to start, so there were lots of people out on the street, many of them giving fist pumps and dancing with the marching crowd.
Turning the corner, and coming the front of the building, we saw that two banners had been unfurled, one saying, “Occupy” and the other saying “Everything.” Confetti and fliers were thrown from the roof. It soon became clear that the front door of this huge building was wide open. In that moment, dozens of people ran up the steps with pure joy. Inside were christmas lights and wheat pasted proclamations. A banner was taped over the “Municipal Court” sign on the front above the doors saying “Everything for everyone and nothing for ourselves.” The Police who had been trailing us for most of the march immediately left to regroup, leaving us time to get acquainted with the building. A dance party ensued and a statement was read outside at the top of the steps. People jokingly called the building “our new home.” Others explored this three-story building. The atmosphere was festive for most. Most people were shocked, excited and had no reason to think such a thing was going to happen. Others were critical and called the action unconsensual.
The cops finally came after an hour and kicked us out. People left and stood on the sidewalk. Some screaming hateful things directed at the police (fun police, party pooper, fuck the police, cops-pigs-murderers) and others more tame things. As we were leaving the building a fire truck was gearing up to extend its ladder towards the banners to cut them down. This seemed ridiculous that the only way they figured to take the banners off was to use the most ridiculous means. Instead of finding a possible roof access, they could only imagine using a fire ladder.
Dancing continued and eventually we left and marched in the streets to the jail and danced and chanted for a while longer. Soon the cops showed up at the jail in force, 3 or 4 paddy wagons and lots of rapid response SUVs and regular cruisers. Seeing as a good time to leave, we continued our march back the Occupied Plaza where we started.
What was awesome about this march was that it took something without asking and redefined the idea of space and legality in most people’s minds. It also was in the streets the whole time. There were no demands; there were no appeals to higher powers. There was only us acting together. What happened was illegal, and sometimes it’s scary to break the law. But for most at the march, the law no longer mattered when we were all together. It was irrelevant for a time. Everyone was invited inside of the building and if anyone felt uncomfortable, they had the ability to safely leave. The building, formally being a place where the ruling class judged and locked poor people up was mocked (if only for an hour) by the presence of those who want nothing other than the demise of judges and jails.
So many buildings stand empty in this city and they only sit there because capitalism has no use for them as of yet. They are not profitable to be used by capitalists right now. Capitalism cares nothing for our well being. So many of us outside stare at these buildings and wonder why they sit there; why we are evicted when there is so much space unoccupied; why we are thrown in jail for being poor when there is so much. Capitalism creates false scarcity of space when there is plenty. Capitalism takes space, as well as our time, and makes it into a commodity that we have to struggle and work for. These things are only scarce because they are locked up by money that so many of us don’t have and if we take them without paying, forces of repression will try to stop us (the police, the judges, the prisons, etc).
We stand outside dreaming of ways to use these buildings, to use them as places of joy and a place to call home.
To address some of the criticism….
There are some (in particular some in the St. Louis branch of #occupy movement) who will condemn the march and the action as work of cops, provocateurs, crimethinc, adventurists and damaging to the movement; but it’s unclear if they are right or if they are only speaking from what they personally feel, which can be valid. It seems like there are some who are trying to dictate what gets associated with the occupy movement because they feel like they have ownership of a leaderless movement.
It is also extremely dangerous to claim people are cops just because you might not agree with them or their actions. Especially when you have no evidence to back it up. This is very divisive. It also displays a sort of tunnel vision that seeks to keep every thing in controlled and rigid for the sole benefit of those who want to lead a leaderless movement. And it forgets that there are many different ways to act. We should embrace this.
For others, who are very active in the Occupy here, it was a wonderful moment of collective joy. So it’s unclear if there is any consensus about any feeling. But even that is beside the point because a particular march does not necessarily have to be an occupy movement march per se. It can be as simple as a group of autonomous individuals calling it and inviting others to come. There does not need to be a meeting to allow for a march to happen. One can, if one wants, call for a march and see if the occupy St Louis GA will consent upon endorsing it and if it does not get endorsed, it doesn’t mean others can’t take it upon themselves to march!
– an anarchist
Strike! Strike! Occupy!
Like Vox Populi, the Blocs Multiply!
Occupy St. Louis – Occupy EVERYTHING – N17 – Municipal Courts Building takeover
Text from flier that was thrown from the roof:
As winter approaches, we need a space to stay dry and healthy. We need a place to have a stable kitchen to feed our collective self. We need a space where we can better share our ideas and experiences – rooms for discussions, a library, space for workshops and casual conversations – all of which have become harder and harder to have in the plaza.
The occupation of this building is an act against the structural violence entrenched in our political, economic and social systems. As we move into the space, our intention is to collectively re-appropriate its use. We’re trying to discover ways of interacting with each other as equals. How to talk so everyone is heard; how to make decisions so everyone’s considered and included; how to feed and maintain a shared space; how to make sure work, responsibility, pleasure and ownership don’t fall on some more than others. It’s a hard process in itself, but it’s made even harder by the fact that it flies in the face of how almost everything in this city (the whole world practically) is run.
We know our ideas and actions, while currently small, have already proven to be contagious. They have the power to expose the explicit violence that we see in the police department and the jails. That violence also exists in work-related deaths and injuries, in deportation camps, and in communities that have been promised so much only to be left to rot in poverty and addiction. Our very homes and bodies are pushed to the limit by laws and workloads. Wilderness, which has the chance to exist outside of this madness, is, like the County Parks, slowly being sold off to those who want to drown it in this misery.
What would our world look like if we decided how our communities and neighborhoods functioned? What would this self-directed process be like, without a handful of people in charge of it all? What would our workplaces look like if those who actually did the work got to control them, too? What if schools were run by those who learned and taught in them, not by the dictates of careers or the economy? What if your own household, whether shared with friends or family, ran the same way?
So much of our lives are decided without our say. It’s made all the more degrading and humiliating by the fact that those who make the decisions claim to do so for our benefit or in our name. We no longer want to continue the farce. If the word of the handful of people who run this city and our lives is to be taken at face value, this is hardly an unreasonable request. They’ve left this building to rot. It isn’t the site of spectacular sporting events or corporate Christmas tree lightings. The city officials have long-since abandoned the building – much in the way they have abandoned us.
We have no intentions of reforming capitalism or improving democracy. We know there is no golden era to harken back to and restore – this country (like so many others) was founded on genocide, slavery and exploitation, and it continues this tradition today. We have only each other to have hope in.
We occupy in solidarity with those who struggle, but will not look towards the empty promises of politicians. We need to think beyond the Downtown Partnership and the Mayor’s ideas about creating condominiums for the elite, and start thinking about using these buildings for collective purposes. As long as we continue to look to politicians to solve our problems and the ruling class to have a conscience, things will only get worse. Power concentrated in the hands of a few will only bring more oppression and exploitation. We want to make decisions horizontally, and to share the little we have. Who knows, we might even surprise ourselves by what we’re capable of.
Come join us if you’re interested in getting to know each other, treating each other with genuine respect and plotting ways out of this mess. We carry a new world in our hearts, one much more fantastic, more empowering, and more just than the current.
By some friends of OO, from Indybay
Last night, after one of the most remarkable days of resistance in recent history, some of us within Occupy Oakland took an important next step: we extended the occupation to an unused building near Oscar Grant Plaza. We did this, first off, in order to secure the shelter and space from which to continue organizing during the coming winter months. But we also hoped to use the national spotlight on Oakland to encourage other occupations in colder, more northern climates to consider claiming spaces and moving indoors in order to resist the repressive force of the weather, after so bravely resisting the police and the political establishment. We want this movement to be here next Spring, and claiming unused space is, in our view, the most plausible way forward for us at this point. We had plans to start using this space today as a library, a place for classes and workshops, as well as a dormitory for those with health conditions. We had already begun to move in books from the library.
The building we chose was perfect: not only was it a mere block from Oscar Grant Plaza, but it formerly housed the Traveler’s Aid Society, a not-for-profit organization that provided services to the homeless but, due to cuts in government funding, lost its lease. Given that Occupy Oakland feeds hundreds of people every day, provides them with places to sleep and equipment for doing so, involves them in the maintenance of the camp (if they so choose), we believe this makes us the ideal tenants of this space, despite our unwillingness to pay for it. None of this should be that surprising, in any case, as talk of such an action has percolated through the movement for months now, and the Oakland GA recently voted to support such occupations materially and otherwise. Business Insider discussed this decision in an article entitled “The Inevitable Has Happened.”
We are well aware that such an action is illegal, just as it is illegal to camp, cook, and live in Oscar Grant Plaza as we have done. We are aware that property law means that what we did last night counts as trespassing, if not burglary. Still, the ferocity of the police response surprised us. Once again, they mobilized hundreds of police officers, armed to the hilt with bean bag guns, tear gas and flashbang grenades, despite the fact that these so-called “less-than-lethal” weapons nearly killed someone last week. The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect one landlord’s right to earn a few thousand every month. Why is this? Whereas the blockade of the port – an action which caused millions of dollars of losses – met with no resistance, the attempt to take one single building, a building that was unused, met with the most brutal and swift response.
The answer: they fear this logical next step from the movement more than anything else. They fear it because they know how much appeal it will have. All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages. We understand that capitalism is a system that has no care for human needs. It is a system which produces hundreds of thousands of empty houses at the same time as it produces hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The police are the line between these people and these houses. They say: you can stay in your rat-infested park. You can camp out here as long as we want. But the moment that you threaten property rights, we will come at you with everything we have.
It is no longer clear who calls the shots in Oakland anymore. At the same time as OPD and the Alameda County Sheriffs were suiting up and getting ready to smash heads and gas people on 16th St, Mayor Quan was issuing a statement that she wished to speak to us about returning the building to the Traverler’s Aid Society. It is clear that the enmity between the Mayor and the Police has grown so intense that the police force is now an autonomous force, making its own decisions, irrespective of City Hall. This gives us even less reason to listen to them or respect the authority now.
We understand that much of the conversation about last night will revolve around the question of violence (though mostly they mean violence to “property,” which is somehow strangely equated with harming human beings). We know that there are many perspectives on these questions, and we should make the space for talking about them. But let us say this to the cops and to the mayor: things got “violent” after the police came. The riot cops marched down Telegraph and then the barricades were lit on fire. The riots cops marched down Telegraph and then bottles got thrown and windows smashed. The riot cops marched down Telegraph and graffiti appeared everywhere.
The point here is obvious: if the police don’t want violence, they should stay the hell away.
(Occupy Everything! Editor’s Note: Also see the article Taking space – Beyond Adverse Possession: Seeking Revolution in Oakland’s squats from Slingshot! and An Open Letter to the Black Bloc and Others Concerning Wednesday’s Tactics in Oakland)
An occupation guide out of Santa Cruz and Baltimore that provides an introduction to consensus decision-making, know your rights info, and contextualizes US occupation in the context of recent international uprisings.
The ultra-rich have us by the throats and they’ve had us by the throats for a long, long time.
While the rest of us suffer through a worldwide economic crisis, the people at the top are just getting richer. In a 2011 study, the richest 20% of the country had 85% of the privately held wealth. For the rest of us, nothing’s getting better: the state is closing schools and libraries, rolling back social services, shutting down bus lines and state parks.
But an international movement has sprung up to challenge the foundations of our global system of corporatism and greed. It’s a protest movement qualitatively different from any that has come before, a uniquely 21st century form. It’s a movement without party politics. It’s a movement inspired by the advances of communication that have allowed us to function without authority, allowing every voice to at last be weighed truly as equal. It’s a movement that doesn’t bring a list of demands to the powers that be but instead suggests that we can build a different society.
The wealth that it takes to get us out of this mess is right in front of us—we know because we are the ones who created it. We designed and built the cities. We # y the planes, crunch the numbers, grow the food, write the software, and do everything it takes to keep this society running. All the wealthiest do is sit there and watch their money make more money.
The wealth is right in front of us and yet they tell us there isn’t enough to feed us, to educate us. They’re lying. Maybe they’re lying to themselves, maybe they’re lying to us—it doesn’t matter. They don’t matter. We don’t need them.
We are the 99% and we are more powerful than they’ll ever be.
By Benjamin Dang, Toward Freedom
Massive buildings tower over Wall Street, making the sidewalks feel like valleys in an urban mountain range. The incense, drum beats and chants of Occupy Wall Street echo down New York City’s financial district from Liberty Plaza, where thousands of activists have converged to protest economic injustice and fight for a better world.
As unemployment and poverty in the US reaches record levels, the protest is catching on, with hundreds of parallel occupations sprouting up across the country. It was a similar disparity in economic and political power that led people to the streets in the Arab Spring, and in Wisconsin, Greece, Spain and London. Occupy Wall Street is part of this global revolt. This new movement in the US also shares much in common with uprisings in another part of the world: Latin America.
This report from Liberty Plaza connects tactics and philosophies surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement with similar movements in Latin America, from the popular assemblies and occupation of factories during Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001-2002, to grassroots struggles for land in Brazil.
Latin America: Economic Crisis and Grassroots Responses
Almost overnight in late 2001, Argentina went from having one of the strongest economies in South America to one of the weakest. During this economic crash, the financial system collapsed like a house of cards and banks shut their doors. Faced with such immediate economic strife and unemployment, many Argentines banded together to create a new society out of the wreckage of the old. Poverty, homelessness, and unemployment were countered with barter systems, factory occupations, communally-run kitchens, and alternative currency. Neighborhood assemblies provided solidarity, support and vital spaces for discussion in communities across the country. Ongoing protests kicked out five presidents in two weeks, and the movements that emerged from this period transformed the social and political fabric of Argentina.
These activities reflect those taking place at Occupy Wall Street and in other actions around the US right now. Such events in Argentina and the US are marked by dissatisfaction with the political and economic system in the face of crisis, and involve people working together for solutions on a grassroots level. For many people in Argentina and the US, desperation pushed them toward taking matters into their own hands.