Democracy Now roundtable on Occupy May 1, 2012

Rather than try to summarize or list the multitude of media reports describing what happened yesterday, both in the U.S. and around the world, I’ll just tell you what happened to me this morning when I woke up unexpectedly at 5 am and, without thinking and surprising myself, went directly to Democracy Now, yesterday’s round-table discussion with four people about Occupy May Day.

Amy Goodman:

“As Occupy Wall Street plans nationwide protests marking International Workers’ Day, or May Day, we discuss the movement with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Chris Hedges; Amin Husain, editor of Tidal magazine and a key facilitator of the Occupy movement; Marina Sitrin, author of “Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina” and a member of Occupy’s legal working group; and Teresa Gutierrez of the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights. We also get an update from protests on the streets of New York City from Ryan Devereaux, former Democracy Now! correspondent, now with The Guardian.” (See summary, below the video.)

Of the four people at the table, the only one familiar to me was Chris Hedges. I highly recommend this discussion. Lots of context for Occupy, and for its evolving coalition with both immigrants rights and workers’ rights. My favorite part? When Marina Sitrin scolded Hedges for talking down to the Occupy movement, telling them what they “should” do rather than entering into dialogue. “That was not helpful,” she said, politely. Also enjoyed Hedges’ remark that Occupy is a process, not an event. And that he thinks it will inevitably lead to revolution, hopefully non-violent. Look for the soldiers of the .001% (police, military, etc.) to finally cross the line to join with the 99.99%. At that point — as he’s said before, based on his experience as a war correspondent — the game is over, the .001% is done.

The little photo story I posted about Occupy Bloomington yesterday, “Dancin’ with the Police” is my way of encouraging this eventual fusion.

“People all over the country are talking about May Day as our day, whether you want to call it workers’ holiday or immigrant rights or the 99 percent,” says Martina Sitrin, who notes Occupy activists hope to use May Day as a way to build solidarity with the student movement and non-unionized workers, as well. “This year is an important year to revive the struggle for immigrants in the wake of a million of our people being deported,” adds Teresa Gutierrez.

Meanwhile, a debate over tactics continues within the Occupy movement. Chris Hedges discusses his recent column titled “The Cancer in Occupy,” which critiques Black Bloc anarchists who cover their faces during protests and sometimes destroy property. “The Occupy movement expresses what the majority feels. And the goal of the security state is to sever the movement from the mainstream,” Hedges says. “The way they will do that is by using groups—and some of these people may be well-meaning—but by using groups that will frighten the mainstream away.” But “nothing is off the table,” responds Amin Husain, who says the Occupy movement needs to reconceptualize how struggle works, how decisions get made through dialogue, and how to build power from within.

Husain and Hedges also discuss how they became involved in the Occupy protests. Husain is a former corporate lawyer who was working on Wall Street when he decided to leave his position of privilege. Hedges went from being a New York Times reporter to getting arrested in front of Goldman Sachs and challenging the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama.

We end the roundtable discussion with an excerpt of poet Stuart Leonard reading his poem, “Taking Brooklyn Bridge,” which tells the story of the personal and political awakening he experienced while participating in an Occupy Wall Street march across the Brooklyn Bridge last fall. It is part of the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series published by Zuccotti Park Press. [includes rush transcript]

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