A deep democratic moment, something most of us have never seen and scarcely imagined, turned a small park near Wall Street into the center of a global storm. Everybody knows the deck is stacked. But it turns out not everybody is willing to put up with it.
Without asking permission, hundreds converged on the financial district to stop the machine. People convened open assemblies to think out loud together. Kitchens were built and volunteers served hundreds of thousands of meals. Books were borrowed and lent at The People’s Library with no need for a card. Nobody did it for money. Occupy Wall Street changed not just what we think is realistic, but what is actually possible.
Then the 1% hit back. “If you want to get arrested, we’ll accommodate you,” is how Mayor Bloomberg announced that the very act of challenging Wall Street would be treated as a crime. “Nobody can hear you when everybody’s yelling and screaming and pushing and shoving.” Funny stuff.
In school, we were taught that we are free to speak and free to assemble. Now we’re told we have “First Amendment Rights Areas” located inside steel barricades. Over the last eight months, nearly 7,000 have been arrested and occupations in dozens of cities have been systematically evicted.
Rosa Luxemburg said, “those who do not move cannot feel their chains.” We moved and we felt them. There’s an old saying: water beats rock. Put another way: you can’t evict an idea whose time has come.
It was never about a park. It’s about power.
Moving your money into credit unions takes power away from banks. Planting a garden in the city takes power from agribusiness. Mutual aid takes power from a culture of greed. Democracy is not simply speaking truth to power. It’s something we do, that we can’t ask for. Something like a rebellion.
The idea is simple and yet it seems far off, like a dream. But this is not a dream. And it’s not far off.