Occupy Change- Links?
By John Johnson
As the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads throughout the world, I’m reminded of the Civil Rights movement. Through recent years and decades the world has suffered many wars and, per recent statistics, the transfer of nearly forty percent of the world’s wealth to 0.1 percent of the population.
Until the Fifties, rich US Southern whites held most of the region’s wealth and police powers, which were used to beat down African Americans, keeping them in poverty and servitude. In the middle Fifties, brave young people began to resist and fight back, nonviolently. I remember watching some of those scenes on TV. Viewers with conscience were immediately moved to help in some way.
Civil rights groups formed in the South and opened branches throughout the country. In 1960, students in Greensboro, NC, occupied Woolworth lunch counters where they were repeatedly refused service. This led to boycotts of Woolworth stores. Following six months of struggle with white citizens and police, and continuous loss of revenue for Woolworth, the lunch counters were desegregated. I was inspired, at the time, when my father and I joined a CORE picket line in a local mall, proud of him and elated that I could participate in L.A.’s fight against injustice.
I joined the 1964 campaign against Prop. 14, which sought to overturn the Rumford Fair Housing Act in California. The proposition prevailed. California was not ready to desegregate its neighborhoods.
The Civil Rights movements became the template for the anti-war, anti-draft and soon the anti-monopoly-capitalist movements. Feminist and Gay Rights movements emerged. Since then we’ve had many other movements and struggles, in Latin America from Chile to El Salvador, the anti IMF and World Bank protests around the world, millions marching in 2003 to oppose Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Obama finally called an end to that, leaving a ruined country and over 600,000 unnecessary deaths. But our President has now sent troops to Uganda. Speculation is that the US wants to halt China’s growing influence and the very large financial investments being made there.
Lately, groups of mostly young folks have drawn from Civil Rights history and started a sit-in on Wall Street. By now most people know that the crashing economies resulted from the trickery and crimes committed by Wall Street, banking and lending institutions, insurance companies and many major corporations. They are sitting on around 7 Trillon dollars (and should be arrested and their monies confiscated) and they continue to shift jobs overseas and pay stateside workers as little as they can get away with. So the sit-ins rang a bell to millions who are now joining in.
We have seen the same police brutalities in these occupations that we witnessed in the Southern US over half a century ago, blatantly influenced by these corporations. We have learned that the current national security apparatus is extensively mobilized, far beyond anyone’s knowledge, consisting of private companies populated by thousands of former ex-government employees and elected officials. The government lavishly funds these huge companies to spy on the rest of us. They have collected so much information that it’s become impossible for anyone to read it.
While these funds support the National Security apparatus, forty-three percent of families with three children are poor. Fifty million children live in poverty, the majority of whom are people of color. Fifty million do not have decent health care. Cities are crumbling. Prisons are exploding, again overwhelmingly populated by people of color.
This new movement will grow. You don’t have to agree with everyone on everything. You don’t have to be “politically correct.” But you should be committed, you should be in it for the long haul. Because at the moment it’s one of the few hopes we have.
This is also a good time to take stock of that endangered and fast-disappearing species: The Independent Press. Change-Links could use the kind of energy and passion which drive these occupations. Please consider channeling some of that hope and determination, as well as some of your volunteer time and dollars, in our direction.