At a recent panel in Cambridge following a screening of “Addiction Inc.,” a documentary on tobacco corporations’ scandals, I asked if anyone felt there were parallels between how the tobacco giants and more recently, corrupt financial institutions, fended for themselves in Congress. A representative from Corporate Accountability International on the panel acknowledged some parallels but then added that “that’s what the Occupy movement is addressing.” I was flattered a major nonprofit thought we were doing just fine, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit uneasy. I’m sure folks at Occupy Wall Street are happy to address these issues of economic disparity and corporate greed through mass incarcerations, and Occupy Oakland is happy to take one for the team by repeatedly being doused with teargas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades, but I can’t help but think that from Boston to the Bay, we could use some help.
Six months ago, Occupy Boston held its first General Assembly (GA) in Dewey Square, attended by a conservative estimate of 1,000 people, and immediately pitched tents that night. The encampment was both beautiful and riddled with problems, but I couldn’t stay away. There is something shockingly isolating about American culture and society, particularly in New England, but through the encampment and through nightly General Assemblies, Occupy Boston was building a community where people who shunned by society were lifted up, and spoon-fed populations were forced to confront their privilege. We yelled at each other, we fed each other, we marched through the streets together, and around 2,000 people danced with us in the streets the night we faced eviction. At 5:00 AM on December 10, 2011, our Dewey Square “Tent City” was evicted, and 46 protestors were arrested.
A group of Occupy Boston protestors who weren’t arrested stood outside of jails with a banner that read “We’re not going anywhere,” waiting for the release of their comrades. Did we follow through with that statement? Yes and no. We hosted GAs four times a week since then and held regular Working Group meetings. The media largely lost interest, and now Occupy Boston is being discussed at academic conferences like an extinct species or sociology case study. Over the past few months of hibernation, we faced weak moments of activist cannibalism, in-fighting, unidentifiable frustration, and exhaustion. We lost some major activists who were burnt-out, and the few of us who stuck it out are continually questioning our participation in the movement, which leads me to wonder:
Where are you?
“You are part of a global uprising,” read the first slide in a series of images the Occupy Boston Women’s Caucus projected on the side of a building in Copley Square on First Night, “A cry from the heart of the world.” Currently this world is facing impending war on Iran, daily massacres in Syria, protesters being shot in Egypt’s uprisings, and our own President, who I voted for, signing into law inarguably unconstitutional legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act. Additionally, how did it slip under the American radar that the G-8 was moved from Chicago to the private, secret location of Camp David? Before Occupy Boston, I thought the word “fascism” was needlessly thrown around by “anarchists,” but my six months of protesting have forced me to confront the reality that fascism in this country is no joke, and I’m sure the power-hungry, merciless sociopaths of the 1% are only relieved to watch Occupy let its guard down.
Occupy Boston is tired, and we are doing our best, and like any other activist throwing their heart into this movement while simultaneously working three jobs, I too am exhausted. We are not some abstract group that claims to represent you, Boston, you are part of us. You are the 99%. Part of me wants so badly to crawl back into my college-educated, white girl privilege and ignore the injustices plaguing my neighbors, but what happens when those injustices come to my door with FBI badges and handcuffs? Knowing that I’ll only have myself to blame keeps me fighting for this movement, but I and my dear Occupy Boston friends cannot do it alone. Unless you and the 99% around the world take responsibility for this movement, I question Occupy’s ability to sustain itself. Protesting is the only act of resistance and power we as citizens of the United States of America still have, and it’s time for an American Spring. Are you ready to join us?**Originally published in the Weekly Dig, Boston and on DigBoston.com March 21, 2012**