If you’ve been following the blog, you know I have some concerns about the Occupy movement being co-opted by those with simpler concerns and a measure of existing political power. Jason has a post on the topic over at Lousy Canuck.
No, I don’t think anyone’s disparaging the middle class just for being middle class. I think the crux of the problem here, what Greg is upset about and what Stephanie is worried will happen, is that the middle class — traditionally comfortable and happy with working and producing and owning their little plot of land — is eroding thanks to the predatory practices of the confluence of government and big business. The underclasses, the lower and lower-middle classes, the hippies, the freaks, the anarchists, were all affected first and all started fighting this new corporatocracy, this capitalist oligarchy, long before the middle class did.
The right-wing, trying to preserve this oligarchy, has smeared these underclasses as being underclasses. The middle class, having not fought any of these imbalances before, is only getting involved now that it’s starting to directly affect them via foreclosures, job loss, bankruptcy after a health issue, etc. And they’re being taken seriously, even though the underlying issues were taken up by the freaks, the anarchists, the Cassandras of society long prior.
While we’re largely focusing on class, others are covering other underserved parts of the 99%. If you haven’t read this Racialicious article about occupation, now is the time.
Occupations on Occupied Land
One of the broad principles in a working statement of unity (yet to be formally adopted) of Occupy Vancouver thus far includes an acknowledgement of unceded Coast Salish territories. There has been opposition to this as being “divisive” and “focusing on First Nations issues”. I would argue that acknowledging Indigenous lands is a necessary and critical starting point for two primary reasons.
Firstly, the word Occupy has understandably ignited criticism from Indigenous people as having a deeply colonial implication. It erases the brutal history of genocide that settler societies have been built on. This is not simply a rhetorical or fringe point; it is a profound and indisputable matter of fact that this land is already occupied. The province of BC is largely still unceded land, which means that no treaties have been signed and the title holders of Vancouver are the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Tseilwau-tuth, and Musqueam. As my Sḵwx̱wú7mesh friend Dustin Rivers joked “Okay so the Premier and provincial government acknowledge and give thanks to the host territory, but Occupy Vancouver can’t?”
Supporting efforts towards decolonization is not only an Indigenous issue. It is also about us, as non-natives, learning the history of this land and locating ourselves and our responsibilities within the context of colonization. Occupation movements such as those in Boston and Denver and New York have taken similar steps in deepening an anti-colonial analysis.
You should also read this one about sexual harassment and assault at the protests–and what anarchy can mean for the more vulnerable parts of society.
It’s not hard to see that the Occupy movement is worried about the bad press such charges might bring. And that’s not only true in New York. Yesterday Derek Hunter reported on the “Security Statement” pamphlet he picked up at Occupy Baltimore. It seems designed to discourage victims of assault from going to police:
Occupy Baltimore’s Security Committee will make every reasonable effort to keep the matters involved in the allegation as confidential as possible while still allowing for a prompt and thorough inquiry. All allegations of abuse will be treated seriously and thoroughly investigated.
If the survivor wishes to involve law enforcement, in order to obtain physical evidence of the assault, you must report the incident within 72 hours or the assault as collection and preservation of evidence is critical.
I’ve watched enough Law and Order SVU to know what kind of evidence has to be collected withing 72 hours. They’re talking about physical evidence of rape and yet the pamphlet says “If the survivor wishes to involve law enforcement.” If?! Should that even be a question in a case of alleged rape?
The good news is that the Occupy protests are working on this, increasing representation in the General Assemblies and putting practices into place to give long-unheeded voices preferential placement. Complaints are making a difference, making a stronger movement instead of tearing it apart.