If people were worried about the demise of Occupy Wall Street before this past week, they had their heads in the wrong place.
Since mid-May, some of the largest demonstrations in the history of Madrid, Santiago (Chile), Montreal, Frankfurt, and Moscow have risen up in the streets in common call, with people on the ground referencing one another's resistance movements--from the Spanish call to Indígnate to the New York-cum-global call to Occupy. Meanwhile, people have continued to march or rebel in New York, the Bay Area, Bahrain, Gaza, and Syria.
By this past weekend, eyes in the United States had shifted to Chicago, where members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization assembled to discuss the 11-year occupation of Afghanistan and the coercive administration of neo-colonialism the world over.
Officially created in 1949 to counter Soviet influence, NATO has stayed on to perform its real mission: to remain the preeminent military alliance of former empires of Europe, the long-standing imperialism of the United States, and neo-colonial administrations in the so-called Global South. It is used to oust brutal regimes that are out-of-favor with the west, and replace them with brutal regimes that will capitulate to western economic demands.
NATO deserves to see a death akin to that of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The latter could have turned all of the Americas into a free trade zone. Instead, thanks to popular resistance movements, the United States has been forced into negotiating bilateral agreements, often in the public eye, and passing them at a snail's pace. The World Trade Organization spent years struggling to find cities to host their meetings, and, when they did, gatherings of poor and underdeveloped countries at times walked out--suggesting they were no longer interested in neo-colonial relationships.
These were victories for the people in the streets. And those streets were never just the streets outside of the summits themselves: they were the streets of the downtrodden of the world, marching together in lockstep against a tyranny of western markets. When people rise in the streets, it sharpens the contradictions of the strategies of rule by the world's rich until, sometimes, they shift gears away from the most egregious of structures.
In Chicago, organizers worked to plan beautiful acts of resistance. They marched on the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a conservative and hawkish Democrat who once served in the occupying Israeli Defense Forces. They marched on some of the six mental health clinics being shuttered by Mayor Emanuel--half of the city's twelve--much needed by veterans, LGBTQ youth and everyone suffering the psychological effects of our alienation and oppression. In coalition with Occupy Chicago, many Chicagoans recently began occupying some of these clinics in defense.
Activists followed Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans hurling their metals in disdain for the murder and exploitation they were made to commit at the behest of the rich. They marched for the environment, an Earth that the rich use as a spoiled child uses its toys until they are no more, as if expecting another toy planet to be purchasable when this one's all used up. They were joined by thousands of counter-globalization, anti-war, and occupy activists, dissident voices in an age that for too long has been assumed to be saddled with complacency.
Those who rose up in Chicago built infrastructure. They had an office for NATO INDYMEDIA (spawned from the counter-globalization movement and analogous to a more politically cohesive but broad-based version of occupy media working groups). They maintained a convergence center in a near north side church. They operated teams of street medics, complemented by others from across the country, an amazing legal team, and a strong sense of linking the global with the local.
They were met with the police state. City, state, and federal law enforcement did what they have been doing to brown people every day, and what they have done to anti-war, counter-globalization, occupy, union, anti-police brutality, immigrants rights, environmentalist, international solidarity, anarchist, communist, anti-austerity, and every other dissident voice on the left for decades.
There was brutal repression.
A home raid late Wednesday night ended in the detention of eight people planning to protest the NATO summit, three of whom had videotaped a police stop just days earlier where officers were recorded joking about violence against demonstrators. Three of the eight were detained past a Saturday noon bond hearing, where they were to be held at $1.3 million bail collectively. Some say they were simply planning to make home brewed beer, a common hobby in Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times notes that three agent provocateurs had approached the men about using molotov cocktails, a minor incendiary device common in protests in other countries. If this is indeed the case, it stinks of the kind of entrapment operant from the Newburgh 4 to the Ohio 5.
At least three New Yorkers are confirmed to have been among the unknown number who were hospitalized on May 19th--one whose nose was broken, a second who required five stitches, and a third who was hit by a police van in a taped incident, and who has since made a partial recovery. Most were attacked in marches held in solidarity with the three held on bail mentioned above, or later in an anti-capitalist march through downtown Chicago that intermittently broke police lines. Independent livestreamers were visited by police with guns drawn--one of many clear cases of rising intimidation against the evolving civilian press. And in a clear affront to the legacy of Malcolm X on his birthday, police based some of their officers at Malcolm X College.
The "Conflict Zone"
On their radios, police referred to the protests as the "conflict zone." Such usage smacks of the use of "class war" as a right-wing epithet against anyone working for the emancipation of the poor and working classes.
We didn't create the conflict. The rich did. They did when they conquered Africa, Asia and the Americas, and refused to give up their grip as people revolted for political independence. They do when they profit off of the more than twenty million who die each year of hunger and malnutrition. As they sell the derivatives of the debt of millions of students, of millions of uninsured patients, of eight million North American homeowners whose homes have been foreclosed on. When their bank accounts grow with the displacement of hundreds of millions of peasants and indigenous people across the poorest parts of our planet, and those Black and Latino communities gentrified out of their hoods, barrios, communities, public housing projects.
They survive off of conflict, indeed thrive. If they will not relinquish the reigns of power, we will indeed bring conflict. And just as the tentacles of a capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy are global and all-encompassing, reaching into every tuft of earth and internalized into every wrinkle of our minds and hearts, we are everywhere. Fighting back. Inside our bodies, inside our hearts and minds, and on the streets, outside the halls of power, in the plazas, the parks, the abandoned buildings, the closing worksites, the unused lands of the haciendas.
Whatever we call ourselves, with or without some idealized language like occupy or progressive or anarchist, we are everywhere. And like the soft-lock lines in Chicago, we will sometimes be bludgeoned back by the forces of violence here to protect their exploitative system. And sometimes we will break them, and we will march forward. Tomorrow is ours to create.
Palante, siempre palante.