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Street Heat Nation | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Street Heat Nation

Three years ago, when the banks took down our economy—and people’s homes, savings and lives with it—we wondered, Why aren’t more people out in the streets?

When the banksters were bailed out with no strings attached—no foreclosure relief, no megabank breakups, no controls on exorbitant salaries—we wondered, Why aren’t more people out in the streets?

And finally when those same corporations returned to record profits but hoarded the cash, keeping credit frozen and jobs scarce—we wondered, What will it take for people far and wide to hit the streets?

It took Occupy Wall Street.

The occupation in downtown New York began with shamefully little and mostly derisive media coverage. But now the pundits, the Democratic Party and the guardians of the wealthy elite are scrambling to keep up with it, make sense of it, challenge it, co-opt it.

They can’t. It’s an exploding star—gathering energy in enormous and potent quantities, and bursting outward to all corners of the country. Occupy Wall Street is now in over 1,400 cities and counting, each grassroots operation reflecting the local culture of protest.

Check out these encampments:

Occupy Salt Lake City

The Occupy Salt Lake City Facebook page has 8,273 members, and the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the number of tents in Pioneer Park has increased from twenty on Friday to sixty-seven as of Monday. The total number of people in the camp was about 150, with the count tripling during daytime demonstrations. Organizers are preparing for a major event on Friday that will include visits from elected officials, speeches from protestors, music and a march.

Occupy SLC marches twice a day—at noon and 6 pm—and then holds its general assembly at 7:30 every evening. They feed homeless people at the camp kitchen, offer a “Free School” to educate people on current issues and have established “a sacred space to worship, meditate and unwind.”

Occupy Austin

In Austin, hundreds of protesters have maintained a twenty-four-hour-a-day vigil at City Hall and demonstrations have drawn as many as 1,300 people.

Occupy Austin’s General Assembly has laid out goals and demands that include: eliminating corporate personhood and limiting monetary campaign contributions; effective reforms to prevent banks and financial institutions from causing future economic crises (think Volcker rule, for example, or breaking up TBTF banks); and tax reforms to ensure that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.

In one action, 600 people marched to a local Bank of America. The Occupy Austin Facebook page now has over 11,000 followers.

Occupy NOLA

The Times-Picayune reports that a diverse crowd of 400 marched through downtown New Orleans last Thursday. Here’s a great video of the march:

Calvin Quinn, a 63-year-old retired public school teacher, perhaps captured the sentiment of so many in this movement when he said plainly that he despises “Republicans and punk-ass Democrat sellouts,” and that the US is no longer the democracy it’s supposed to be.

Occupy NOLA has set up camp in Duncan Plaza across from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office in City Hall. The mayor visited the camp on Friday.

Occupy Salem (OR)

Occupy Salem launched on Monday when 300 demonstrators rallied at the steps of the State Capitol. Yesterday, former Black Panther and longtime Louisiana housing and prison activist Malik Rahim led two teach-ins on collective organizing. @DPetersonSJ, a staff photographer for the Statesman Journal, tweeted that more than a dozen tents were set up at local Willson Park yesterday. Also, @KyleIboshi, a TV reporter at an NBC-affiliate in Portland, tweeted that they weren’t permitted to sleep there and arrests were possible.

Occupy is a spark that keeps on spreading, igniting and may reshape our politics—reshape how people get a chance, get ahead and don’t get shafted. This is a movement that will demand a voice in cities and towns, large and small, throughout our nation. It’s a movement with a moral compass—demanding and striving for a country that is for, of and by the 99 percent.

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