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For nearly 150 years, May 1 has been an international occasion to celebrate and defend the rights of the working class. This year, with the Occupy movement taking full advantage of May Day’s historic significance, we’re likely to see the greatest explosion of outrage at the excesses of capital since the first mass May Day protest in the United States in 1886, when more than 300,000 workers nationwide walked off their jobs in solidarity with 120,000 laborers striking on behalf of an eight-hour workday.
In her new post, Allison Kilkenny reports on the hopes and ideas behind the day’s action, details the coalition-building that has gone into the many months of planning and preparation and usefully defines what Occupy activists mean when they talk of a “General Strike.”
In New York City, starting at 8 am, Bryant Park will be the site of a “Pop-up Occupation“ featuring free food, a free market, free services, skillshares, workshops, teach-ins, speak-outs, public art, performances, discussions and direct-action trainings. At noon, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello will lead a guitar workshop and rehearsal for the Occupy Guitarmy. At 2 o’clock, activists, led by Morello and the Occupy Guitarmy, are expected to march to Union Square Park. After a concert and rally at the historic site of so many past radical calls to action, participants will leave Union Square at 5:30 for a permitted march to Wall Street with a coalition of organized labor, immigrant rights groups and faith-based activists.
The most militant of the Occupy groups, Occupy Oakland, is planning to occupy the Golden Gate Bridge at 6 am followed by a series of direct actions facilitated at three announced strike stations: the anti-capitalist station at Snow Park, the anti-patriarchy station at 1st & Broadway and the anti-gentrification at 22nd & Telegraph. (There’s also a fourth station that is not being advertised.) All morning pickets, occupations and autonomous actions are expected to leave from these locations from 8:30 am until the reconvergence at noon. The Strike Stations should be active and will offer free sustenance like food, snacks, water, coffee and medical supplies. At 3 pm there’ll be a broad march starting at the Fruitvale BART station.
For a long time, May Day has been a big day for immigrants rights in Los Angeles. That history will color this year’s actions. Occupy Los Angeles is organizing around a “4 Winds” People’s Power Car and Bike Caravan through the urban sprawl of Los Angeles that will culminate with Direct Action in and around the downtown Financial District. The caravans will stop at flashpoints along the way. Flash occupations, food giveaways, and other direct actions targeting the foreclosure crisis and police brutality will be undertaken on a “slow, city-paralyzing, carnival-esque descent” into the center of the city. Check this map to find a “wind” near you.
In Boston, a major coalition will gather at noon at City Hall Plaza; Later people will mass at 7 pm at Copley Square Park to put on costumes, puppets and face-paint and receive instructions on their respective roles in the “funeral procession” that will proceed through areas of wealth and commerce
A major coalition will be assembling at Union Park in Chicago at noon for a march to Federal Plaza.
In Portland, a traditional ‘family-friendly’, permitted event will commence at 3:30 pm at South Park with a march at 4:30, while student activists are planning on rising early and massing at 7:30 am at the headquarters of the Portland Public Schools to protest budget cuts and the falling quality of our schools and to attempt to nonviolently shut down work for the day.
A 9 am march for immigrant rights in Tucson will move from Greyhound Park parking lot to Armory Park for a noon rally with speakers, music, entertainment and info booths.
The Occupy Denver group has created a nifty commercial detailing its plans for May Day in the Mile High City.
This comprehensive directory offers links and info on each of the 126 cities and towns currently planning May Day actions.
No matter where you are, check out The Media Consortium’s group site, mediaforthe99percent.com, on Tuesday. I think it’ll be the best place to turn for careful and comprehensive reporting on what should be the economic justice movement’s spring coming-out party. Featuring a live-stream of the day’s events from Free Speech TV, an interactive map of actions and curated social media coverage, the site will chronicle the day with color, verve and smarts.
Finally, don’t miss this May Day playlist!
Check out “Distractions,” the first single on Talib Kweli’s new album Prisoner of Conscious, a work which the Brooklyn rapper called a “love letter to the Occupy Movement everywhere.” (Kweli explains his motivations and inspirations here.)
Now, read up on “Five Ways You Can Help Re-Occupy America.”
For nearly 150 years, May 1 has been an international day to celebrate and defend the rights of the working class. This year, with the Occupy movement taking full advantage of May Day's historic importance, May 1, 2012 could see the greatest explosion of outrage at the excesses of capital since the first mass May Day protest in the US in 1886, when more than 300,000 workers nationwide walked off their jobs on behalf of an eight-hour work day.
In tribute to all those planning actions for May 1, here’s my stab at the impossible task of naming the best songs ever written about working people. A playlist for May Day, if you will. Please use the comments field to let me know my most egregious omissions.
1. Florence Reese, "Which Side Are You On?"
2. Tennessee Ernie Ford, "Sixteen Tons"
3. Billy Bragg, "There is Power in a Union"
4. Dolly Parton, "Working 9 to 5"
5. Bruce Springsteen, "Youngstown"
6. Pete Seeger, "Solidarity Forever"
7. Hazel Dickens, "Fire in the Hole"
8. Loretta Lynn, "Coal Miner's Daughter"
9. Gil Scott-Heron, "Three Miles Down"
10. The Clash, "Clampdown"
The inimitable singer, songwriter and drummer Levon Helm died today at the untimely age of 71 in the wake of a long battle with throat cancer.
Helm rose to fame in a legendary rootsy rock group, The Band, that featured three extraordinary singers. But you could always tell which voice was his: he was the stern Southern preacher, the broken Confederate soldier and the dirt farmer at the end of his day.
In a beautiful remembrance, Charles Pierce called Helm the “true voice of America.” I agree.
“I want to thank him for the way he sang, and for the throb of his drums, and for the way he helped point the way home for all of us who thought we’d lost our country. He brought us back to what was really important: the fugitive grace of a young democracy, that America, for all its flaws and shortcomings, for all its loss of faith in itself and its stubborn self-delusions, was a country that was meant to rock. For that, I return his salute from long ago. Thank you, neighbor. And godspeed.”
Pierce also talked about Helm’s amazing generosity of spirit, which I was fortunate enough to experience once when, as a teenage Deadhead, I asked him a question after a show at the old Bottom Line in Greenwich Village, which quickly turned into an invitation into a cramped Green Room—and from there a crawl to a local bar and one of the best nights of my life. RIP.
For the first time, America's premiere sustainability event is coming to New York City. Bringing together more than 300 exhibitors, 125 speakers and tens of thousands of attendees for a two-day party, the Green Festival has a very serious objective: expanding popular support for policies aimed at ecological sustainability and social justice. It takes place all day on both April 21 and 22 at the Jacobs Javits Center.
Co-produced by Global Exchange and Co-Op America and co-sponsored by The Nation, among scores of left-leaning groups, organizations and publications, the GF offers one of the best forums for exploring what’s next on the horizon for renewable energy, socially responsible investing, eco-fashions, environmental tourism, green building, organic parenting and the non-industrial food system. There are also serious political sessions focusing on the struggle against environmental racism, the climate change fight, fracking and much more.
The Nation will be at booth #703 throughout the Festival. Meet Nation writers and staffers and pick up free copies of the magazine and buttons! Don't miss a keynote by Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel at 1 pm on April 21 on the Main Stage as well as other featured speakers like Amy Goodman, Van Jones, Helen Caldicott, Russell Simmons and Frances Moore Lappé. Click here for a full schedule and to buy tickets and check out the GF website for info on webcasts.
Empowered by a federal court ruling that allows protesters to legally sleep on public sidewalks, as long as they don’t block building entrances or take up more than half of the available space, #SleepfulProtest is proving to be an effective new tactic helping speed Occupy Wall Street’s re-emergence into the streets and public spaces of the US. (My colleague Allison Kilkenny recently explained and explored this new strategy.)
It’s been so effective, in fact, that this morning at 6:00 am the NYPD, in direct defiance of the 2000 decision Metropolitan Council Inc. v. Safir, which held “public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression” to be constitutionally protected speech, raided the corner across from the New York Stock Exchange where Occupiers have been sleeping. A motion for an emergency injunction against NYPD disruption of the sidewalk protests was filed this morning.
In the meantime, here are five ways you can help support the Re-Occupation of America:
1. Go to Wall Street to join the Occupiers if you can. This is the epicenter of the movement and the inspiration for what has happened across the country. During the day, Occupiers distribute literature or hold meetings around Liberty Square, Union Square, and throughout the city. As many as one hundred people have been sleeping nightly on Wall Street—with only a few thousand more the entire length of Wall Street could be legally occupied.
2. Spread the word. Keep up with the latest developments from all of the Occupied media sources. The best way to receive current updates on new encampments and other events is to use social media. The Wall Street Occupiers use @SleepOnWallSt. For twenty-four-hour protests in other cities, check out #SleepfulProtest and #BankSleep. Like and share this Facebook page. Also follow and RT @occupywallstnyc and @occupycolleges.
3. Donate to Occupy Wall Street through its website. If you don´t have money to spare, another way to contribute is to follow the Twitter hashtag #NeedsOfTheOccupiers. Occupiers are often in need of donations of things like food, water, tarps and camping gear.
4. Get ready for the May 1 actions. This is expected to be a major day of resistance on many fronts and of many forms. Do something!
5. Help save Chicago’s Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic. Dozens of people who use Chicago’s mental health clinics along with other advocates have barricaded themselves into the Woodlawn Clinic at 6337 S. Woodlawn. This is one of six clinics slated for closure in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s austerity budget. They intend to remain there until the mayor agrees to keep all of Chicago’s direly needed public clinics open, fully funded and fully staffed. Check #SaveOurClinics for info on how to help. If you’re in Chicago, go to the clinic!
Please use the comments field below to let me know what I’ve missed.
The people scored a major victory this week when Coke announced it had "elected to discontinue its membership with" the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Kraft Foods quickly followed suit, and it was revealed that Pepsi had quietly withdrawn earlier.
The tide is starting to shift but there are still numerous prominent companies helping to fund and legitimize ALEC's extreme activist agenda, including Wal-Mart, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer and State Farm.
The Nation is asking readers to implore one of ALEC's corporate benefactors with which they may do business, AT&T, to follow Kraft and Coke in severing ties with a group that that has worked to suppress voter turnout, privatize public schools, Medicare and Social Security, promote concealed gun legislation and gut minimum wage laws. Join the campaign here.
Since Occupy Wall Street emerged last September, debates over its impact have roiled both liberals and conservatives confused by the fact of a (successful yet) leaderless movement lacking concrete demands.
But something seems to be working. The 99% Spring is just the latest recent example of OWS's influence. An impressive coalition of liberal-left groups and organizations, led by MoveOn.org and including the AFL-CIO, Greenpeace, the Working Families Party, 350.org, Campaign for America's Future, United Students Against Sweatshops, CodePink, Global Exchange and Color of Change aims to recruit and train 100,000 Americans “to tell the story of what happened to our economy, learn the history of non-violent direct action, and use that knowledge to take action on our own campaigns to win change.” A cross-section of the country—from carpenters and stay-at-home moms to business people, students and farmers—has signed up for hundreds of sessions so far, according to an AP report.
To me, the simple fact that the cream of the liberal-left establishment is promoting direct action trainings in the six-months before a presidential election rather than focusing all its energies on the electoral horse race is dramatic testimony to Occupy's impact.
After the trainings, a series of actions—referred to as "Shareholder's Spring"—are planned to disrupt the shareholder meetings of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and thirty or so other leading multinationals along with a series of student-lead actions against Sallie Mae and other corporations that have profited off the student debt crisis.
The campaign's kick-off will take place from April 9 to April 15 when more then 700 trainings are expected to be held in all fifty states as people gather in homes, places of worship, campuses, libraries and the streets to train themselves in non-violent direct action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country.
Digital activist Sara Haile-Mariam sent me this extremely powerful video she created, which chronicles the 911 tapes that preceded and followed the death of Trayvon Martin and highlights the pervasive violence that plagues black youth nationwide.
The video calls on viewers to tell their own stories and provides them with a hashtag for amplifying their voices—the contemporary equivalent of a soapbox.
#Plan4Trayvon is growing quickly and Plan4Trayvon.com was built as a reaction to that response. This site will chronicle the movement that is not just demanding justice for Martin but also honoring his legacy through individual acts.
As disgraced ex-Governor but really smart financial/political analyst Eliott Spitzer recently wrote in his syndicated column:
"The root causes of Wall Street's violations are really quite simple to catalogue: conflicts of interest built into business models that promote violations of fiduciary obligation; easy access to "OPM" -- other people's money -- coupled with fee structures that reward selling bad products because others are left holding all the down side risk; and the certainty that institutions that are too big to fail will get bailed out when things really get tough, again insuring the socialization of risk while gains are privatized and held by the fortunate few who are properly situated to take advantage of the aforementioned conflicts and fee structures."
Tonight, Tuesday, at 7:00pm, tune in to a live, streamed conversation from Washington, DC featuring Spitzer, Matt Taibbi, Van Jones, Ron Suskind, Heather McGhee, Jesse La Greca and Dylan Ratigan talking about the role the financial and corporate elite played in creating the economic crisis in the United States, and how those same elites impede the flow of democratic life in the country today. Hosted by The Culture Project with FORA TV as part of its invaluable Blueprint for Accountability series.