Dear Friends and All Those Inspired by Occupy,
The February 28th National Protest to Stand with Occupy and Stop the Suppression is happening. A broad array of people from the arts, legal and religious communities will join together with youth and occupiers to say the suppression of the Occupy Movement must stop. I write today, because in the next 3 days this can be made even more powerful. But, right now this action is not being taken up with the urgency the situation demands.
Mass arrests, rubber bullets, pepper spray, police beatings and tear gas are thrown at the Occupy movement over and over again. Are you pulling out all the stops to make the February 28th national protests against the Suppression of Occupy Wall Street what it needs to be?
The nationwide systematic brutal suppression of the Occupy movement has had a terrible impact on how people throughout the country now think and feel about the possibility for real change, for a different way that people can be. Occupy changed the political conversation. People were asking big questions about the savage inequalities that ravage lives here and around the world. Occupy stepped out of accepting that. It became a badge of honor to be arrested and stand up to police brutality. But all that changed when every Occupy site, when most every protest by Occupy, met more vicious police repression.
When a movement like Occupy which embodies people’s hopes is suppressed and then when that is allowed to stand unchallenged by the whole society, people broadly become demoralized and go back to their lives. The media has an even freer hand to ratchet up its demonization and marginalization of the movement: “they’re just the unwashed misfits who won’t get a job, and they’re violent.” If the suppression of thought and expression is not called out by people from all walks of life for being unjust and wrong, then the lies take hold, the feeling that you can’t really fight the power sets in, and the iced over thinking that had begun to thaw with Occupy begins to ice over again.
What’s just as bad is the government and the 1% it serves get a green light to continue with repressive measures that are immoral and illegitimate—even by their own stated principles and laws.
In Union Square, on February 28th [F28], in NYC — where Occupy began and the first massive military style eviction took place — Wall Street Occupiers will be joined by Rev. Stephen Phelps, Senior Minister at Riverside Church, civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel and musician Peter Yarrow and many others to demonstrate without equivocation that the suppression of Occupy must stop. General Assemblies of the Occupy movement reached consensus to support this action in NYC, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Lincoln, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and San Francisco.
Many within the Occupy movement are throwing heart and soul into February 28. Yet, many people who try to follow the Occupy movement, and even many within Occupy do not know of the F28 protest. There are two reasons for this:  A turning away from really coming to grips with the full scope of the suppression of the Occupy movement and how that is negatively impacting all the positive things that Occupy is doing and planning.  Anti-communist prejudice has caused a few people with access to some of the websites associated with OWS to keep word of February 28 from getting out widely in the Occupy movement and have discouraged people from participating. Compounding this, too many others who do not agree with this prejudice have not vigorously enough denounced it and sufficiently fought for the import of the F28 demonstration.
This is wrong, unprincipled, and harmful.
#1: Failing to mobilize broadly to take on the state’s suppression directly will weaken and not strengthen Occupy and other movements of resistance.
I will not here recount the unrelenting systematic campaign of police brutality. The images: a vet shot in the face, a grandmother dripping with pepper spray, students sitting handcuffed in a line pepper sprayed point blank, reverberate in the mind. From Homeland Security advising mayors and police departments across the country, to a city councilman in Oakland outrageously invoking the specter that Occupy constitutes “domestic terrorism” with all that implies, evidences that dangerous measures are afoot. This is not without consequence.
Many outside of the Occupy movement think it is over. When there is continual police repression against most every protest that even slightly steps outside the bounds of being totally penned in by the police, many outside of Occupy begin to give credence to the media distortion and demonization that this repression might be justified. They think there is too great a risk in becoming a part of the resistance.
Historically, social movements and even whole sections of the people get demonized and repressed. Then, the repression gets invoked to justify even more repression. For example, over the last few decades, all too many people have accepted the legitimacy of the War on Drugs—that drugs were the problem and not the symptom of the oppression of those locked on the bottom of US society. Then, increasing police repression under the guise of “fighting crime” became further justification for all too many to look away while Black and Latino youth have been massively demonized, brutalized and incarcerated.
A dynamic sets in where the unacceptable becomes accepted. That is what Occupy began to crack open last autumn. It became righteous once again to fight against injustice, even at personal risk. This is intolerable to the 1%. The forces of the state were brought in full force and the situation changed for the Occupy movement. Rebecca Solnit, a signer of the Call for February 28 describes this as “a sustained campaign of police brutality from Wall Street to Washington State the likes of which we haven’t seen in 40 years.”
To look past this, to think that Occupy can just keep doing what it has been righteously doing—fighting against and raising awareness of foreclosures, inequality, and much more—without mobilizing people to politically oppose the suppression in its own right and as a part of these struggles, is dangerously wrong. You are deluding yourself to think that new terms have not been set. That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept. But, if people broadly are mobilized in the streets beginning on F28 to say this use of force against Occupy is unjust and illegitimate then we can be standing on new stronger ground.
The Call for the Mass Action on February 28th is true:
“if this illegitimate wave of repression is allowed to stand… if the powers-that-be succeed in suppressing or marginalizing this new movement… if people are once again ‘penned in’–both literally and symbolically–things will be much worse. THIS SUPPRESSION MUST BE MASSIVELY OPPOSED, AND DEFEATED.”
Should we fail to do this, the Occupy protests will likely dwindle and/or become increasingly severed from the millions who it inspired, or, will find itself accommodating to being literally penned in and/or confining itself to political forms of opposition acceptable to the 1% and become irrelevant as a force for real change in that way.
The Call draws an incontrovertible lesson from past struggles:
“. . . this too is true: movements grow, and can only grow, by answering repression with even greater and more powerful mobilization.”
The 1% has no legitimate answers to the havoc they have wreaked on people’s lives. They have no legitimate answer to the vibrant questioning and discourse that abounded at Occupy sites. Even one hour spent talking with people at an Occupy encampment last fall opened new vistas. The stultifying culture and education promoted by and in the interests of this system stood out as being as bankrupt intellectually and morally as it is financially. Capitalism/imperialism has nothing to offer but exploitation of people and the planet the world over, enforced by brute suppression.
But they are not all powerful. We have two things going for us. One: we have right on our side. Two: the broad masses of people who can be mobilized to stand with Occupy against the suppression. February 28 is the first step in doing so.
If you think about it honestly and objectively, it is essential and beneficial for all the future Occupy protests and plans for—from the protests planned for F29 on through the Spring, that there be a powerful protest on F28, rallying many others so that the powers-that-be feel that the political price for continuing to suppress Occupy is too great and people’s strength grows.
#2: Anti-communist prejudice and disinformation will, and always has, weakened and destroyed movements of resistance.
There are some within the Occupy community who have allowed their personal political and philosophical differences to block word of this protest getting broadly out and have encouraged others to ignore this protest.
What is being spread around is that February 28 is an action by the Revolutionary Communist Party USA—that the Call came from the RCP, and some have even said it is an attempt by the RCP to “take over” Occupy. For those too young to know—in the 1950s and ‘60s this was the run of the mill “red scare” stoking of fears emanating from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover of communists surreptitiously “taking over.” This is bullshit and harmful.
The truth is this: A Call for Mass Action Against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement was first published by Revolution, the newspaper published by the RCP. The RCP did not hide this—it has no hidden agenda. The Call was carefully written with the interests of all the people in society concerned about the future in mind, and in such a way that the whole movement could unite with and utilize it. That is why many people have been signing it and going all out organizing the demonstration from their own and differing points of view than the RCP.
The ad hoc committee organizing F28 is made up of people with widely divergent views who recognize the importance of standing up to the suppression.
The RCP is building a movement for revolution based on a new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian—the revolutionary leader of the RCP, to be able to get to a world without all the horrors and inequities that imperialism ravages on the world. From this vantage point it applied its understanding of the situation and the stakes involved so that this new Occupy movement would continue to open up political space for people to struggle and to debate the life and death questions facing humanity. The RCP recognizes that without taking on the suppression, things will be much worse, for Occupy, and more fundamentally for all those suffering under the workings of this system.
The sectarianism—yes, that’s what it is—putting your or your group’s particular interests ahead of what is needed by the people overall, does harm.
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Last, a word to all of you have been inspired by Occupy—who are not “inside” this movement: you now have a responsibility to step up and denounce the illegitimate use of force against this movement. You must not let the government get away with locking Occupy down with impunity. The issues I have written about here do not live only within the Occupy movement. Be out in the streets on Tuesday, February 28. Mobilize your friends, co-workers, neighbors to stand up so that Occupy can regain initiative as part of fighting for a better world.
There is a way forward—the first step is captured in the closing lines of The Call for February 28:
“Thousands and thousands in the streets, acting together, can seize new initiative and change the whole political equation. The urgent questions raised by Occupy—and other urgent questions that have yet to be raised in this movement—can once more reverberate, and more powerfully than before.”
The repression of the Occupy movement must not stand. Act. Be there February 28th.
Revolution Books, spokesperson