No other international protests in recent memory (with perhaps the exception of the global justice movement) have enjoyed the worldwide solidarity of the Occupy movements.
Around 1,500 Occupy chapters have sprung up across the globe, and the Internet permits these groups—that sometimes have tens of thousands of miles and oceans between them—to share information and monitor one another’s progress.
It is this success and popularity that attracted Egypt’s activists, who were at the forefront of the new global justice movement during the Arab Spring, to call for an international day of action to defend their revolution. From the Guardian:
In a statement appealing for solidarity from the worldwide Occupy movement that has taken control of public squares in London, New York and hundreds of other cities, campaigners in Egypt claim their revolution is “under attack” from army generals and insist they too are fighting against a “1%” elite intent on stifling democracy and promoting social injustice.
This is a precarious time for both the Egyptian revolution and global Occupy movements. Constant assaults by the military and police, respectively, leave the uprisings vulnerable to becoming purely defensive rather than offensive actions.
State-sponsored sabotage keeps the groups in constant crisis as they attempt to micromanage things like, for example, dangerous addicts in their campsite, who actually may have been introduced to the protest by police in the first place.
Or in the case of Egypt, state-run television broadcasting that “the Christians” had attacked the army, and “honorable” civilians should come and protect them during the Maspiro massacre that left two dozen dead and hundreds more wounded. Journalist Austin G. Mackell writes that what took place outside the Maspiro state television building was “more a case of the army attacking protesters than Muslims attacking Christians.”
But disinformation is something Egypt and Occupy have learned to deal with, whether it’s the right-wing media using the isolated case of a mentally ill homeless man making anti-Semitic statements to depict the entire OWS movement as being anti-Jewish, or the Egyptian army exploiting historical sectarian divisions to undermine the revolution.
Perhaps it is these commonalities that partly inspired Egypt to call for solidarity from the Occupy movement. Now is a critical time for the young revolution, as fear spreads that ruling generals are working to perpetuate their hold on power.
Many Americans might be surprised to learn about the nefarious workings behind the scenes to undercut Egypt’s fledgling democracy.
The military-appointed Cabinet recently introduced proposals to shield armed forces from any oversight and to give generals a veto over legislation dealing with military affairs. Basically, any proposal to cut military spending would first have to be approved by… the military.
These proposals generated tremendous backlash—to the extent that CBS News said the response threatened a “second revolution.”
The media love the romantic imagery of a popular uprising, but tend to shift their attention elsewhere during the critical aftermath, while the nitty-gritty details are sorted out and actually the most productive work begins. During our interview, Mackell likened the revolution to sex and the aftermath to pregnancy. Everyone loves the sex part—not so much the hard work of being knocked up.
And so Egypt looks to bypass the media, and aims its message directly to the “99 percent,” which of course they can do now because of the Internet.
“Again and again the army and the police have attacked us, beaten us, arrested us, killed us,” reads the statement by Egyptian activists. “And we have resisted, we have continued; some of these days we lost, others we won, but never without cost. Over a thousand gave their lives to remove Mubarak. Many more have joined them in death since. We go on so that their deaths will not be in vain.”
The end calls for an international day of action on November 12. “Nine months into our new military repression, we are still fighting for our revolution. Our strength is in our shared struggle. If they stifle our resistance, the 1% will win—in Cairo, New York, London, Rome—everywhere. But while the revolution lives, our imaginations knows no bounds. We can still create a world worth living.”
It’s not uncommon to hear solidarity for Egypt expressed at OWS, and the group prides itself on its inclusiveness. Part of Zuccotti Park is sometimes roped off for Muslims to pray, and the camp also facilitated a crowded Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur, including festive dancing with a scroll on Simhat Torah.
An OWS protester named Sandy Nurse told the Guardian, “The Egyptian people have changed the face of the regime and the revolution is momentous but unfortunately it is far from over. Changing the face of the regime, getting rid of Mubarak, is like changing the curtains: the military is in control of the country and has been for a long time.”
Nurse, who is on the direct action committee of OWS, expressed her personal solidarity with the people of Egypt and added: “I believe Occupy Wall Street would be in solidarity with the continued struggle of the Egyptian protesters.”
Anup Desai, a press spokesman for OWS, said: “The effort put out by the entire country in Egypt gave us motivation. Egypt has won the first step. I was not aware what was happening so I am grateful for this opportunity to learn and I thank the Egyptian activists. What is happening with the military and the military courts is 100% wrong and we need to share this and tell people about it.”
Desai, who is also a professor of philosophy at City University of New York, expressed solidarity with the activists and said: “We need to keep coming together.”
Part of what makes Occupy so powerful is its refusal to honor the nationalistic divisions of our global history. Young activists are increasingly educated about the west’s brutal subversion of foreign lands, including Middle Eastern and northern African countries, and they are learning about the injustice committed by the United States.
Occupy activists are much more interested in the commonality of causes than in flag-waving and chest-thumping, and it is that reality that makes the movements in Egypt and the Occupy chapters so incredibly dangerous to the ruling class.
Imagine a world in which individuals are more concerned with justice than nationalism.