(This blog was published the same day the police raided and dismantled the Occupy Boston encampment)
I spent some time wandering about the Occupy Boston campsite last Monday and was greeted by several folks, who were happy to answer my questions. One woman gave me an orientation, a badge (“I am the 99%”)and a copy of their newspaper. I was surprised to find out that they maintain a diverse schedule of activities, including community meetings and lectures by academics. On the schedule for today was the arrival of a large winterized tent, which was the first step in preparing the camp for the cold weather. They were expecting opposition from the police, who were blockading any shipments coming into the site. In fact the tent was turned away, but the protesters took the opportunity to turn the occasion into a media event. Generally I was told that the police have treated the demonstrators well, compared with other cities.
A young man explained to me that the Occupy movement is about forming a different kind of community where there is no domination, nor exploitation, by the few. All major decisions are brought to the General Assembly (like the old New England town meetings). Medical care and shelter and food are provided to all who need it, in contrast to the way capitalist America exploits these basic human needs. I was impressed by the 9 foot replica statue of Mahatma Gandhi which greets everyone who enters the encampment, with the quote, “The world holds enough for everyone’s NEED but not enough for everyone’s GREED.” Nearby is the sacred space meditation tent which hosts the meetings of the faith and spirituality group and provides a place for prayer and meditation. A recent edition of the Boston Occupier listed several issues on which there is near universal agreement amongst the occupiers: stricter regulation of big banks, more accountability of the Federal Reserve, election reform to stop the influence of corporate money, a progressive tax code so that the rich and corporations pay their fair share, investment in clean energy, and protection for unions and workers.
The General Assembly of Occupy Boston passed the following Declaration of Occupation on the evening of November 29, 2011 ( http://www.occupyboston.org ):
We, the people of Occupy Boston, have occupied Dewey Square in the heart of the financial district, in order to express dissent over the state of our political and financial systems. We are practicing a form of horizontal participatory democracy in the shadows of anti-democratic institutions that dominate our government and our lives. Through our occupation, we are creating an exemplar society in which no one’s human needs go unmet.
The Occupy Movement has started a nationwide conversation about the realities of economic inequality and the meaning of Constitutional rights. We are committed to living the values of transparency, equality, accountability, awareness, sustainability, and compassion as we struggle against corporate predation, injustice, and oppression. We are actively seeking to include the diverse voices of the 99%. Together, we set a precedent and provide a foothold for people to demand a truer, more horizontal democracy, in which greed has no influence.
Regardless of media spin, police brutality, or sub-zero temperatures, we will continue to peacefully exercise our first amendment rights by occupying, holding general assemblies, and planning for the American Spring. Our goal is a society that prioritizes the needs of all before the profits of the few. We are the 99%.
It seems that the forces of reaction will sometime soon cleanse Dewey Square of this untidy and makeshift encampment. I doubt the argument that the right of assembly includes the right to camp on public land will hold up in court. But I hope that the principles for which the Occupy Movement stands will continue to grab headlines in our news media and lift up conversations in our coffee shops and influence how we vote. Their cry for justice rings true to the Bible: “For I the LORD love justice and hate robbery and wrongdoing.” (Isaiah 61:8)