A year ago, when Occupy Wall Street began, people occupying public spaces in large numbers and refusing to go home was innovative and radical, but then those spaces were reclaimed by the establishment — with violence, or through legal machinations — essentially bringing the first phase in this new era of protest and activism to an end.
Anyone thinking that the Occupy movement has gone away, however, is missing the point. Just as the movement introduced a powerful new concept — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent — into political discourse, so the complaints that motivated people to occupy public spaces in the first place have not gone away.
Essentially, we live in a broken system, broken by criminals who have not been held responsible for their actions, criminals on Wall Street and in the City of London and Canary Wharf, motivated by greed on a colossal scale, who, aided and abetted by venal and/or stupid politicians, crashed the global economy in 2008 but then got away with it.
Saved by government bailouts, the criminals continue to live lives of almost unprecedented wealth and greed, while the rest of the people — the 99 percent — are being made to pay for the crimes of these thieves through savage austerity programs that are driven by malignant ideologies and are also, it should be noted, economically suicidal. Read the rest of this entry »
Exactly one year ago today, on September 17, 2011, activists began camping out in New York’s Zuccotti Park, the spearhead of a new movement that soon spread around the world. Known as Occupy Wall Street, and inspiring a movement that became known as the Occupy movement, the New York encampment was inspired by an Adbusters article in July, which was in turn inspired by the revolutionary movements that had swept the Middle East at the start of the year — in Tunisia and Egypt, where two dictators had been toppled by people power.
“#OccupyWallStreet,” Adbusters announced. “Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” they asked, continuing, “On Sept 17, flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and Occupy Wall Street.”
One year on, and the Occupy movement’s novel power — taking over public spaces and refusing to go home — has been defeated, often with violence, and much of the mainstream media is either ignoring the movement or deriding it, but that, to be honest, is irrelevant, as the mainstream media, more often that not, are part of the problem and not the solution. Read the rest of this entry »
The Wealth of Empire: The City of London in the Rain, a set on Flickr.
To describe these photos of the City of London, I used the word “empire” in the title because I believe that, in many fundamental ways, it is apt, although I realise that the British Empire is not, of course, the only source of money and power in the City of London and in its modern offshoot, Canary Wharf. In many ways, the mafia would be a better reference point for what these well-connected crooks have been getting up to as a result of the financial deregulation initiated by Margaret Thatcher (which benefitted David Cameron’s father, who made a fortune through the creation of tax havens) and Ronald Reagan, the subsequent repeal, under Bill Clinton, of the crucial Glass-Steagall Act — which was introduced after the Depression in 1933, separating “domestic” banking from its potentially fatal speculative aspects — and New Labour’s enthusiasm for filthy lucre, and whatever scum happened to have loads of it. The current shower of clowns in Downing Street and the Cabinet are only different from New Labour in the sense that most of them are already rich, millionaires out of touch with the people and thoroughly unconcerned about it.
In particular, the modern money markets are international, and much of the expertise in dodgy financial engineering — of the kind that ought to be illegal, and of the kind that nearly bankrupted the world in the global crash of 2008 — came from Wall Street as much as from the robber barons of the British establishment, although, crucially, it was the long-cherished secrecy of the City that allowed Wall Street bankers to initiate policies in London that were illegal at home. Read the rest of this entry »
There was a point, during yesterday’s Occupy protest in the City of London, with hundreds of people flowing down High Viaduct from Holborn Circus, high above Farringdon Street, and heading towards Newgate Street, Cheapside and the Bank of England, when there was a real power to the message that protestors around the world are sending to their leaders, and to the bankers and corporations they serve — that their greed is still the problem, and that austerity targeted at the poor, the young and the disabled is unacceptable and unforgivable.
With a mobile sound system pumping out pounding militant dub music, there was, for a while, an energy surge that reminded me of the spirit of creative dissent that was such a feature of Britain when I was younger — in the free festivals of the 1970s, the class war of the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher took on the miners, the travellers and the printers, and the late 80s and early 90s, when the free party movement and the road protest movement emerged, and when, most resonantly in an urban context, the theatrical activists of “Reclaim the Streets” started a global movement of occupying high streets in cities around the world.
In the late 90s, until the universal distraction of the “war on terror” conveniently took over, allowing Western governments to clamp down more heavily on the civil liberties of their citizens than ever before, the anti-globalisation movement brought together all the elements of the dissenters from the 60s onwards — anti-capitalism, environmental activism, social liberalism, all driven by utopian, revolutionary and anarchist impulses — which are largely reconfigured in the current movement for global change. Read the rest of this entry »
The weather couldn’t have been better in London yesterday for the day of action organised as part of the “Global Spring,” an initiative by activists from the Occupy movement, representatives from Take the Square, and other groups in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, who have been planning events worldwide for today and May 15, the first anniversary of the start of the indignados movement in Spain. Click on the photo to enlarge.
I arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral shortly after the advertised 1 o’clock start, to find St. Paul’s Churchyard, which was occupied from October 15 until its eviction on February 28, thronged with Socialists, utopians, dreamers, idealists, visionaries and anarchists — from the UK and from across Europe and around the world — filling the square, as speakers addressed the world’s ills, and the need for fundamental systemic change.
Some have argued that the Occupy movement has posed questions but has proposed few answers about how to effect change, but I think that rather misses the point. An unwillingness to be co-opted by the political mainstream, and an effort to make communal decisions, rather than trusting to charismatic leaders, was a bold and sensible way to begin, and, as has been revealed in the last few days, the “Global May Manifesto,” a work-in-progress produced over the last four months by activists from all round the world looks, as I noted yesterday, like a first attempt to create a Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the times we find ourselves in — not the post-World War II community of idealists concerned to make sure that genocide and torture were outlawed (although that, sadly, still remains horribly relevant), but the 99 percent and the indignados faced with governments that serve only the interests of the very rich, whose criminal plunder is essentially unchecked. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, the Occupy movement and allied groups launch a series of actions and occupations on the first anniversary of the launch of the Indignados movement in Spain, which, along with the revolutionary movements in the Middle East — and Tunisia and Egypt in particular — inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began last September and soon spread across the US and around the world.
In London, where protestors occupied the land outside St. Paul’s Cathedral for over four months until their eviction on February 28, the day’s events will begin at 1 pm outside St. Paul’s, although no attempt will be made to reoccupy the site. Instead, there will be speeches followed by something of a magical mystery tour, as protestors will be led — or directed — to various banks, other financial institutions and lobbying forms, identified on a “Meet the 1%” map, published above. Speaking to the Guardian, Ronan McNern of Occupy London said, “It’s time to hit the financial targets. If we’re evicted, fine, but we’ll come back. There will be comparison with what happened before, but we’re in a different time and a different place.” Please click on the map above to enlarge it, and also on the key to the map, posted below.
As I explained in an article yesterday, since January, Occupy activists, representatives from the Take the Square movement and other groups in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, have been working together on a “Global May Manifesto,” a self-identified “work in progress,” which, yesterday, I described as “hinting at a Universal Declaration of Human Rights for here and now, when we face an existential threat from the unreformed elites who bankrupted us in 2008 and since then have been making us pay.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Wednesday, the coalition government delivered a dud Queen’s Speech demonstrating that they have run out of ideas, apart from insisting, like deranged automata, that their inflexibility and lack of vision is actually helpful. In the House of Commons, David Cameron claimed that the Queen’s Speech was “about a government taking the tough, long-term decisions to restore our country to strength, dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy and building a society that rewards people who work hard and do the right thing.”
That is ridiculous, of course, as the Tory-led government’s mania for austerity has pushed Britain into a double-dip recession, and rewards are the last thing being visited on “people who work hard and do the right thing.” Instead, the ordinary hard-working people of Britain are being squeezed financially and besieged by ministers whose only message seems to be to tell people to be permanently insecure, while the only people who really matter to those in power — those rich enough not to feel the squeeze — continue to get richer through their dubious investments in property, their exploitative ventures around the world, and their shareholding in private companies profiting or preparing to profit from the destruction of the state (as with the NHS, for example).
In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins did a good job of kicking the government, as they deserve to be kicked, in an article entitled, “George Osborne’s growth policy is turning British cities into Detroit UK.” Jenkins began by noting, with reference to the pan-European obsession with austerity over the last two years, that “Europe’s collective response to the 2008 credit crunch ranks with the treaty of Versailles and German reparations among the great follies of history.” Read the rest of this entry »
May 1, which is celebrated as International Workers’ Day in numerous countries worldwide, has long been marked by workers’ groups in the UK, and, before the great distraction of the “war on terror,” was a focal point for dissent during the international anti-globalization movement that sprang to life in London and Seattle in 1999, and became such a huge force that the authorities began responding to it with murderous violence (in Genova in 2001, for example), setting a precedent that enabled police in London in 2009 to kill a passer-by, Ian Tomlinson, during a violent suppression of peaceful demonstrators at the G20 Summit.
As I mentioned last year in an article, The Year of Revolution: The “War on Tyranny” Replaces the “War on Terror”:
The J18 [the protest in the City of London on June 18, 1999] drew on a long tradition of protest dating back to the 1960s, but with particular reference to the anti-road protests, the Reclaim the Streets movement, and the protests against the Criminal Justice Act, which had galvanized dissenters in large numbers from the early 1990s, and which, in turn, were influenced by the travellers’ movement in the 1970s and the 1980s, and the anti-nuclear protests focused on Greenham Common and Molesworth.
After a boisterous May Day in 2000, featuring “guerilla gardening” in Parliament Square, the placing of a green Mohican, made of grass, on the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, and the sacking of a branch of McDonald’s, the Metropolitan Police introduced kettling for May Day 2001, which they used to detain hundreds of people in Oxford Street and Regent Street, including many, completely unconnected to the protest, who had, for example, just left their office to get a sandwich, but who found themselves held for hours. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, the Occupy movement, which grew out of Occupy Wall Street last October, and swiftly established itself across the US and around the world, is holding May Day events, or joining existing worker-based events, in numerous countries.
As the movement signals its reappearance, many observers have been wondering where its focus will be. In fact, even before the coordinated wave of evictions of Occupy camps across the US last November, and the later eviction of Occupy London outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, questions had been raised about where the movement should direct its attentions next, and empty property had arisen as a regular focus.
In the US, activists began to examine the foreclosure crisis, and the disgraceful situation whereby a vast number of houses are empty because those living there and paying mortgages couldn’t keep up with their payments or were swindled by unscrupulous lenders, even though there are no buyers for most of these properties, and homelessness is reaching epidemic proportions. In December 2011, Amnesty International reported that “approximately 3.5 million people in the US are homeless, many of them veterans,” and, “at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.” Read the rest of this entry »
Since March 2006, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have analyzed the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.
As recent events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo have shown, this remains an intolerable situation, as Guantánamo is as much of an aberration, and a stain on America’s belief in itself as a nation ruled by laws, as it was when it was opened by George W. Bush on January 11, 2002. Closing the prison remains as important now as it did when I began this work nearly six years ago.
Throughout my work, my intention has been to puncture the Bush administration’s propaganda about Guantánamo holding “the worst of the worst” by telling the prisoners’ stories and bringing them to life as human beings, rather than allowing them to remain as dehumanized scapegoats or bogeymen.
This has involved demonstrating that the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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