Police Strategy to Silence globalNoise

There were 13O globalNoise events yesterday in at least 42 cities that I know about, ranging from North and South America, East Asia, and across Europe to Iceland and no doubt many other places. There were naked protests in Madrid and Lisbon, thousands on the streets, with poetry, art, music, banners and so on. The chances are, though, that unless you follow social media, you wouldn’t even know. I don’t think there’s a media conspiracy but I do think there’s a set of police tactics that helps produce their desired result: “nothing to see here.”

So just for the record, here’s Madrid:

Madrid 13O

To be fair, organizers did say the crowd was smaller than they had hoped, but still. On to Lisbon, where crowds were substantial:

Portugal dismembered by the Troika

You can almost imagine the organizers thinking “the media can’t ignore this.” But they did for the most part. The relatively small media coverage was not altogether unexpected. Many events, like our own in New York, began at 6pm when most newsrooms are essentially deserted on a Saturday night. I was, perhaps naively, more surprised that the global coordination of the protests was not considered important or interesting, especially as it could have been written in advance. To be fair, there was strong coverage in social media and on the web, which is where most global social movement people probably get their news.

What there was everywhere was cops. In Paris, for example, a crowd of hundreds, diminished by the pouring rain, was everywhere paraded by riot police.

From the accounts of participants, what happened was that the police entirely surrounded the marchers on all sides, preventing them from distributing literature and even from being seen. Unaccustomed to being policed as insurgents, French activists were outraged. It’s hard not to suspect that this was a deliberate, and perhaps co-ordinated, strategy as similar reports came in from across Europe and Japan. Here’s what the demonstration in Tokyo against the IMF meeting looked like:

The men in hats are police and the demonstration is effectively shielded from view. Low-level banners are being carried but can’t be seen.

Something similar resulted in New York, where police on motorbikes cordoned off protestors from the public but couldn’t prevent some fun exchanges into shops, hotels and restaurants. While people were pleased yesterday that there were no arrests, in the light of day it seemed puzzling. Officer Winsky, the long-term OWS super-cop, was beside himself on various occasions but none of the usual random arrests followed. Officers did not carry their usual bundle of plastic zip-tie cuffs. Presumably, there had been a decision not to make arrests. Certainly S17 had shown that even a few arrests make the papers, while none of the more imaginative or creative actions were mentioned.

So between a set of co-ordinated police tactics to keep events invisible and not generate documentable arrests, and the low level of media attention on a weekend evening: nothing to see here. At the same time, all this strategizing can’t help but make me wonder if there isn’t a little nervousness out there as well. In any event, global coordination of protest events is set to continue. Now we have to make sure there’s something to see.

The Global Day Against Debt

On this global day of debt action, OWS had what most people involved thought was one of the best days of action for a while, in terms of targets hit, lots of funs and no arrests:) Oh, and two banner drops at Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Center and a fun afterparty at Times Square.

Debt Is the New Colonialism

The convergence was at 4pm and almost at once a banner was dropped from the current installation surrounding the Columbus statue. It read: “Debt Is the New Colonialism.” It was not up for very long but it was photographed by many of us and far more tourists and passers-by. A session on the “Future Without Debt” from Free University followed and at 6pm an Assembly celebrated the Global Day of Action. I had the fun experience of mic checking the French call for today’s action– in French! The crowd gamely followed and cheered when we got to la resistance.

Yo Soy 132 in New York today

People from Yo Soy 132 in Mexico, the Japanese anti-nuclear movement, and Quebec’s student movement reported on actions in their locations and we heard the news from Spain.

The first action stop took the gathering of about 300 people to Goldman Sachs chair Lloyd Blankfein’s residence.

O13 chez Blankfein

Some of us got inside while casseroling and after the police sealed the building, the gathering mic checked the “vampire squid” CEO. Off to a selection of one per cent destinations across the mid-town area, casseroling all the way. We checked in at the Plaza Hotel.

Casseroling at the Plaza

Given a power lift by a passing performance artist, I led a mic check of the global day of debt to the patrons of this prime one per cent venue. New York’s “finest” were not thrilled and used a good deal of force to clear the doorways. So off we went to Tiffany’s, who took one look and closed their security doors (below).

Sorry, Audrey, Tiffany’s is now closed

Perhaps the best received action of the night came when some people managed to hang the Occupy Wall Street banner off the balcony at Rockefeller Plaza, right in front of Rockefeller Center. Sorry the picture isn’t that good, I was on the other side of the skating rink

One of the things that was fun about all this was that, even as stores and restaurants closed their doors, their staff smiled at us, waved support and gave surreptitious thumbs-up. Even at Gucci. It turns out that those who see the one per cent close up have no particular love for them.

So we made our way casseroling to Times Square, where so many gathered last year. A happy afterparty waved at themselves in the Jumbotron and celebrated a successful action that did not put anyone in jail.

If anyone wants to play Where’s Waldo, your correspondent is visible somewhere in this picture.

The easy judgment is that there were of course far fewer people in Times Square this year than during last years O15 mass rally. But if you count it a different way, there were far more. Because people all over the world held rallies and marches today and did so on similar themes and ideas. There were 100,000 in Madrid alone. By way of confirmation, here’s the call from the US, Spain, France and Portugal:

From Strike Debt/OWS

To the financial institutions of the world, we have only one thing to say: we owe you NOTHING!

To our friends, families, our communities, to humanity and to the natural world that makes our lives possible, we owe you everything.

To the people of the world, we say: join the resistance, you have nothing to lose but your debts.

From: Plataforma Auditoria Ciudadana de la Deuda (PACD) España

A las instituciones financieras del mundo, una sola cosa para deciros: ¡No os debemos NADA! A nuestras familias, comunidades, a la humanidad y nuestro entorno natural que hacen nuestras vidas posibles, os lo debemos todo.

A todos aquello@s que habitan el mundo, les decimos: uniros a la resistencia, no tenéis nada que perder excepto vuestras deudas.

From: Democratie Réelle Maintenant! Paris

Aux institutions financières du monde, nous n’avons qu’une seule chose à dire : nous ne vous devons RIEN !

A nos amis, familles, communautés, à l’humanité et à notre environnement qui rendent nos vies possibles, nous vous devons tout.

A celles et ceux qui peuplent le monde, nous disons : rejoignez la résistance, vous n’avez rien d’autre à perdre que vos dettes.

From: Primavera Global em Portugal

Às instituições financeiras do mundo, só temos uma coisa a dizer: não pagamos o que não devemos!

Aos nossos amigos, famílias, comunidades, à humanidade e à natureza que torna a nossa vida possível, devemos tudo.

Aos povos do mundo, apelamos: juntem-se à resistência, não têm nada a perder, apenas as vossas dívidas.

Yes, that’s right: we’re all saying the same thing. We owe you, the financial institutions, nothing. We owe you, our loved ones, friends and communities, everything.

It’s a moment.

A Transnational Communication on Debt

A few days ago, I reported on the European action against debt, which is part of the October 13 Global Day of Action. This falls within the Global Week of Action against Debt and IFIs (October 7th to 14th), which will be observed worldwide. This week of action was established in the World Social Forum at Nairobi in 2007, to denounce the injustice of foreign debt on peripheral states and the submission policies imposed by multilateral agencies like the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

Strike Debt has consensed a communication with Démocratie Réelle Maintenant (Real Democracy Now!), the group formerly known as the Indignés (Outraged) and spokes from the Spanish 15M movement. The Communication may also be agreed to by other global social movements. It’s a statement of solidarity and joint outlook, not a redefinition of either movement or the O13 day of action.

I think it’s an interesting text so I’m pasting it below:

 

October 13 against debt

International communication.  

To the financial institutions of the world, we have only one thing to say: we owe you NOTHING!

To our friends, families, our communities, to humanity and to the natural world that makes our lives possible, we owe you everything.

To the people of the world, we say: join the resistance, you have nothing to lose but your debts.

On O13, we will mobilise against debt in several cities of the world: Barcelona, Madrid, Mexico, Paris, New York…

The state response to the financial and economic crisis is the same everywhere: cuts in expenditure and austerity measures under the pretext of reducing deficits and the repayment of a public debt which is the direct outcome of decades of neoliberal policies.

Governments in the service of finance are using this pretext to further reduce social spending, lower wages and pensions, privatize public utility and goods, dismantle social benefits and deregulate labour laws, and increase taxes on the majority, while social and tax giveaways are generalized for the big companies and the highest net worth households.

The campaign to subdue the world to public and private debt is a calculated attack on the very possibility of democracy. It is an assault on our homes, our families, our social services and benefits, our communities and on the planet’s fragile eco-systems—all of which are being destroyed by endless production to pay back creditors, who have done nothing to hog the wealth they demand we make for them.

Faced with such coordinated attacks on our social gains, resistance is getting organized around the world, there are national general strikes and the ‘indignados’ movements are increasingly active. In Iceland, the people refused to pay the Icesave debt to the UK and the Netherlands. In Spain, and in Portugal, from the 15th of september, enormous demonstrations against debt have gathered more than 1 million of people, and a movement of major scale is growing around the surrounding of the Parliament in Madrid to demand a Constituant process.

We from the Occupy / Real Democracy Now / 15M movement call for public and private debt resistance and refusal. Debt resistance includes: fighting for free public education, free healthcare, defending foreclosed homes, demanding higher wages and providing mutual aid.

In Europe as in Egypt and Tunisia, initiatives for a citizens’ audit of public debt analyze how much of the public debt is illegitimate, odious or unsustainable, and must therefore be cancelled. Paying such creditors is stealing what rightfully belongs to the population and payments will continue to be the cause of college and hospital closures, pensions cuts, and so on and on. And the debt feed the debt.

We Don’t Owe, So We Won’t Pay! We Are Not a Loan.  Bad laws allowed all this debt. Let’s rewrite them together.

 

It seems that O13 will be a major day in Spain, notable in France, and marked by many smaller actions worldwide. If the global social movements can begin to properly co-ordinate, for example via a current proposal that there be global actions on the 22nd of every month, that could be a very interesting development.

 

 

 

The Global Debt Resistance

 

Another day, another enormous resistance to the neo-liberal austerity regime. Today it was Greece, yesterday Spain. before that Portugal. Now a media and governmental meme is emerging in which it is said that “only” the periphery of Europe are in trouble and that the “strong” countries are doing well. It is hinted that Greece can and should leave the Euro. This is all bravado.

In “strong” France, it was announced today that unemployment has passed the three million mark. Despite the socialist victory in the Presidential elections, French activists see a continuity of austerity. I’m translating below a call to action on October 13 issued by the Paris Assembly of Démocratie réelle maintenant, the French equivalent to Spain’s Democracia Real Ya! Anti-debt groups across Europe and in the Americas are now working to co-ordinate a call for O13. Can what we used to call the left finally get its global act together?

Here’s the French call, translated rather literally, to be true to the original, which centers on the “casseroles” used in Montréal, the banging of pots and pans (all emphasis original):

Citizens! Into the Streets and To the Casseroles to Cancel Illegitimate Debt!

Debt is a racket!

Closure of schools and hospitals, reduction or suppression in social services, increased sales tax, absence of affordable housing…Such politics of austerity, applied for years in Latin America and Africa, are now current in the European Union. No population has been or will be spared, with the most precarious being the first affected. The situation is serious: let’s wake up!

Austerity claims to be legitimate because it results from excessive expenditures on benefits…In reality, sovereign debt comes from both the savagery of private banks since the 2008 crisis and the numerous fiscal gifts to the richest and to corporations for decades.

The debt also results from the excessive interest rates that we pay to private banks from whom the State borrows to finance itself, since it can no longer borrow from the Central Bank. The total debt results from compound interest built up over the past forty years!

The public debt is odious when we are told to reimburse the same people who are responsible for the crisis and who have not ceased to enrich themselves since.

The public debt is not legitimate when it impoverishes us, the 99%, in order to sustain private and unwarranted lenders.

To pay the public debt is just to produce… private debt: that of students, those in precarious housing, the sick, workers, the unemployed, farmers, undocumented immigrants, as well as all those who have to pay the individual price of the dismanteling of public services and benefits.

To continue with growth at all costs imposed by the blackmail of debt is also to increase our ecological debt, which, far more than the public debt, is what’s really at stake in the 21st century.

Where is democracy if we cannot say NO to that which is in the interest only of the privileged and when collusion reigns between them and those who govern us? Where is democracy when all future debate and politics is barred by European treaties, the latest of which, known as the Budget Treaty, is even now in the course of ratification by our so-called “representatives”?

The abolition of illegitimate debt must also be extended to other countries: we demand that the French state cease to shake down other nations in the name of odious debt, which they have already largely repaid, while we continue to pillage their wealth. We won’t pay illegitimate debt, not here or elsewhere! The only legitimate debt that we have is to respond to the call of the African [President] Thomas Sankara to create a global front against debt.

October 13 is a global day of action! Paris, rise up, everyone in the streets with your casseroles for a great unity march from Goldman Sachs to the Assemblée Nationale [Parliament/Congress]: stop the European budget treaty, cancel illegitimate debt here and elsewhere.

After the march, we will meet in an assembly to discuss alternative futures and to build common outcomes from the mobilization.

So there are a couple of points to note here. Obviously this is a more substantive and less media-oriented press release than is now common in the Anglophone world. And the focus is at first more on sovereign (or public) debt. The analysis moves into full agreement with global debt campaigns as it highlights how public debt produces private debt at the expense of developing nations and the biosphere. What might just be happening here is the formation of global anti-capitalist movement with a common theme. I find that idea more than a little intriguing.

 

Que se vayan todos!

It’s time for them all to go. Who? The global neo-liberal Goldman Sachs-dominated financial elite. Around the world, it’s clear that people are coming to this conclusion and for good reason. In Portugal mass demonstrations forced the government to backtrack on cuts and raise taxes instead. In Egypt, workers are meeting in assemblies. What’s happening is a widespread withdrawal of consent to be governed in the name of austerity, cuts and finance. There are alternative programs emerging. The last year and a half was the warm up. Now it begins.

Egyptian car workers

I spent the morning reading about the civil rights movement as part of Strike Debt’s project to think about how to expand and build its campaign. Then I get online to see what’s going on in Spain, and there it is, happening. Today was a day of action 25S/S25 in which the Congress was encircled.

You wanted demands? They have demands:

– The dismissal of the entire government, as well as the dismissal of the Court and the Leadership of the State, because of betraying the country and the whole community of citizens. This was done in premeditation and is leading us to the disaster.

– The beginning of a constitutional process in a transparent and democratic way, with the goal of composing a new Constitution

They want the elimination of all remnants of Franco-ism and the beginning of a new democracy and sustainable employment. Central to that process is the citizens’ audit of debt:

– The audit and control of the public debt of Spain, with moratorium (delay) of debt’s payment until there is a clear demarcation of the parts which not have to be paid by the nation, because they have been served private interests using the country for their own goals, instead the well being of the whole Spanish community

This is the outline of a political alternative, one that could operate state power, albeit in a very different way.

It was in order to visualize that claim that the massive encircling of Congress took place today. It began earlier with a rally in the Avenida del Prado at the center of Madrid. Here’s a video (HT Marina Sitrin):

They’re chanting: “They don’t represent us.” Indeed they don’t with official unemployment at 24% and poverty at 22%.

They moved off to Congress:

To Congress

There were, shall we say, quite a few people there by the time they arrived and established the circle.

The police behaved with typical restraint.

But as often as the police waded into the crowd, they reformed, sat down and held the ground. Their chants reflected the manifesto: ”It isn’t a crisis, it’s a fraud!” and ”This is not a democracy, it is a Mafia.”

Ugly Naked Man with a sign: “Life Without Hope in Madrid”

The tunes were often ones used at soccer matches, together with classic left slogans like “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido.” These are forms of social connection that Occupy in the US can’t really draw on. Attending professional sport is a luxury event here, as is class activism. The Indignados are activists because they activate such patterns of social life. NFL referees can go on strike–NY state workers cannot.

If Occupy is to follow, it will have to learn how to cross the color lines that still prevent social activism from cohering here. It’s not that social conditions are different. Poverty in New York City, center of global capitalism, stands at 21% and the top 20% make an incredible 38 times the income of the bottom 20%. Madrid’s unemployment rate is 18.6%, while it reaches 13% in parts of New York like the Bronx, with much more stringent conditions and shorter eligibility. Of course, that difference is both  marked by and defines racialized hierarchy in the US. That’s the task ahead on this side of the Atlantic.

For the Indignados, today was simply a step on the road to the Global Day of Action on October 13, preceded by  O12′s celebration of America Latina Indignada or Occupy Latin America! Which makes sense because this refusal to be governed by neo-liberalism follows in the wake of similar Latin American refusals from Argentina to Bolivia and Chile. As so often, resistance moves from the decolonial regions to the former colonial metropole.

Last March, Madrid led and New York followed in September. Can we close the gap this time?

For A Climate Debt Strike

Yesterday I had a bit of a rant about the destruction of the biosphere, ending in a call for action. It was that piece that got tweeted and FBed more than anything. So what does climate-related direct action look like? At the end of a day of Strike Debt meetings, it became clear: a climate debt strike.

How did we get here? There was a full day of Strike Debt discussion. A two-hour meeting looked at next steps for the movement after S17 in long breakouts. The consensus was to pursue greater networking at local NYC level and at national level. Task forces were created to investigate both processes. The immediate target is October 13, or O13, the European day of debt action, when Strike Debt will be doing solidarity actions.

Next, a debrief from S17. A strong sense here that the day went well for OWS in general and Strike Debt in particular, who were in the thick of things throughout. There was some concern that our messaging didn’t get out in the MSM, but no real surprise about that. On the positive front, The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual was a huge hit everywhere from Occupy Tampa to the Brooklyn Book Fair and the Free University.

At the end of all this a group retired to a local Happy Hour just to kick back. Everyone’s kidding around and suddenly a passionate debate about climate justice has started. Perhaps it was no coincidence that people from Panama, India and Palestine got this moving, calling attention again to the privilege that even a protestor on Wall Street has in relation to residents of underdeveloped nations. The daily threats of toxicity, disease, food insecurity (aka hunger), pollution and sea level rise make daily life in many locations a permanent emergency.

Climate justice activists have long highlighted the “climate debt” that the developed world owes to those places it has underdeveloped. That is to say, developed nations should cut cut their carbon emissions sufficiently far as to leave “room” for currently underdeveloped nations to expand their industrial economies in such a way as to mitigate their everyday emergency.

So far, this concept has won lip-service, some green-washing ads from corporations and not much else. Eco-activism has long concentrated on trying to influence national governments or global governance structures like the United Nations. The collapse of the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio earlier this year made it clear that such options are no longer viable.

Just as we have seen with financial justice, the only way that the global one per cent will concede climate justice is if a radical movement forces the issue onto the agenda. We have begun to organize a debt resistance movement in the finance economy. We need to start to organize debt resistance in the climate economy. Which is to say that all debt refusal is also climate debt resistance.

The reason is simple. In order to “pay back” purported “debt” it is necessary to increase the size of the economy. At the present moment that cannot be done without increasing carbon and other toxic emissions, increasing land grabs from indigenous peoples and increasing primary extraction, like tar sands. Debt refusal is not an immoral welching on an obligation. It is at once the political claim that such debts were coerced; and deceptive and the moral claim that the economic growth required to “repay” them must be refused in name of all life.

A debt strike is a climate debt strike. Join the resistance. Strikedebt.org