Inside the movement

Ella Henry - From College Hill to Parliament Hill (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Right now I’m outside city hall, where Occupy Fredericton is having a general assembly meeting after a day-long protest and an evening march.

Fredericton is one of hundreds of cities where people have occupied public spaces in protest of inequality and an economic system that puts the profits of the one per cent ahead of the needs of the 99 per cent.

Gandhi once said about organizing for change: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

And that’s what’s happening at Occupy Wall Street and in hundreds of other cities.

First, they ignore you. Although Zuccotti Park in the financial district of New York City has been occupied since Sept. 17, only recently has the mainstream media started to acknowledge its existence.

It wasn’t until well after Keith Olbermann called out other mainstream media for refusing to cover the occupation that it began to appear on the evening news.

Then they laugh at you. There are attempts to dismiss Occupy Wall Street as a bunch of hippies, lazy people, and angry youth who don’t even know what they are protesting. The criticism that comes up over and over about Occupy Wall Street is that the group doesn’t have clear demands.

People are outraged at an economic system that creates huge profits for the top one per cent and poverty, unemployment and oppression for 99 per cent.

To dismiss their anger because they do not have a clear list of realistic reforms is a convenient way to discredit a growing movement that more and more people are identifying with.

The lack of concrete demands scares the ultra-rich in whose hands wealth is concentrated.

It is possible that the protesters won’t settle for a bit more regulation of the banking system. The idea that the occupiers might want the end of capitalism, and a new economic system that extends democracy to the economy is a threat to those.

It’s not about a bigger piece of the pie – they want an entirely different pie.

Then they fight you. In New York, the police kettled protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. As someone who has been kettled by the police, I can say it’s no fun. Police quickly surround a group of people, sometimes keeping them there for hours or violently arresting everyone. In Denver, San Diego and other cities, police forcefully evicted protesters from the park they were occupying.

Then you win? We still have a long way to go.

In the Wall Street Occupation, and in others around the world, including Fredericton, people are forming general assemblies to make decisions about what the occupy movement is demanding.

There are many legitimate criticisms and concerns that the occupy movement needs to address if we want to win, from recognizing that indigenous land is already occupied to clearly articulating our demands.

But by forming general assemblies to have these debates and continuing to organize, we’re moving in the right direction.

Come join us.