The Occupy Movement and Its Demands
The Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movements throughout the U.S. and internationally are making history. The anti-corporate focus is powerful and creative and they have zeroed in on the right target—the 1% who control every aspect of our lives.
Every day from Wall Street to LA, the encampments are supporting and giving greater visibility to Verizon union members demanding a fair contract, Immokalee farm workers demanding an end to poverty wages and plantation abuse, community groups marching on the banks to demand an end to foreclosures. .
The expansion of demands to challenge Wall Street’s broader agenda would strengthen the movement. The 99% includes 2.4 million people--1 million Black and 500,000 Latino-- locked up under barbaric conditions in U.S. prisons. Ending the mass incarceration of Black and Brown and all working class youth is a priority. The 99% include 14 million undocumented immigrants facing a reign of terror from local police and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The demand for amnesty for all immigrants is critical.
The Tar Sands pipeline from Canada to Texas in an ecological catastrophe waiting to happen. The demand that President Obama exercise his executive authority to stop the pipeline would place the movement squarely on the side of the planet.
For those in search of jobs that the system cannot provide, doubling the duration and increasing the amount of unemployment benefits and ending the tyranny of work-fare and arbitrary time limits for families with dependant children are demands that would serve the most vulnerable in society.
A complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and the end to drone assassinations would place the movement on the side of the 99% internationally.
Many in the Occupy movement believe that making specific demands will leave the movement open to cooptation and division. But without demands that ask the president, Congress, and Wall Street to make radical changes in policy, there is the danger that they will still carry out business as usual while the protests grow stronger. I have great confidence that the Occupy movement will figure out its next steps to build on its impressive victories.
Eric Mann, a veteran of the Congress of Racial Equality, Students for a Democratic Society, and the United Auto Workers is the director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, a participant in Occupy LA, and the author of Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer.
A version of this was previously published on Atlanta Journal Constitution on October 26, 2011.
About Eric Mann
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