Monday, October 31, 2011

These workers have got guts...

This is the power and potential of the union movement. 111 workers locked out for 10 days but with the CTU leader Helen Kelly and the solidarity of workers around the country swinging in behind them, $21,000 has poured in to their fund in the last 4 days.

Socialist Aotearoa have given $111 and will continue to organise fund raising and solidarity with the meat workers until we win the fight. The next step is to shut the plant with mass pickets and use secondary pickets and a boycott of companies that are selling the scab meat, such as McDonald's restaurants. The workers united, will never be defeated.

Join the facebook group | Donate: 38-9007-0894028-08 NZCTU

Key slagging John Minto brings an invitation for the 1% to meet the 99%

from John Minto- Mana Economic Justice Spokesperson.

“Instead of slagging off myself and the occupation movement on national television last night Prime Minister John Key should come to Aotea Square in Auckland to meet the people involved in the movement.

“I’m happy to personally accompany Mr Key around the occupation. He would be welcome to come and have a cup of tea and engage in some robust discussion with young New Zealanders and listen to their hopes and fears for this country and the global economy.

“The occupations around New Zealand are part of a global movement which is fighting back against the 1% running the world economy for themselves off the backs of the 99%.

“On this year’s National Business Review rich list John Key was the 56th richest New Zealander with a wealth estimated at $55 million.

“He was among the 150 wealthiest New Zealanders who last year increased their wealth by a staggering $7 billion. And to add insult to injury he would have paid minimal tax on this increase in wealth because most would be capital gains which are untaxed in New Zealand.

“And then just to make sure he’s looking after his rich mates the Prime Minister delivered tax cuts last October with 40% of the value going to the top 10% of income earners.

“Prime Minister Key is part of the 1% who have gained their wealth at the expense of the 99%.

“It’s good to see inequality in New Zealand now becoming an issue of serious public concern. The gaps have always been there but they widened dramatically in the years after Labour’s “rogernomics” economic reforms. In the 20 years after 1984 New Zealand had the fastest rise in inequality in the OECD.

“Mana is fighting the election with policies to turn this around.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Revolution! From an Arab Spring to a Pacific Summer

An evening on the struggle for democracy and freedom in the south Pacific. The winds of the Arab spring are blowing in the south Pacific.

Since the recent massacre of peaceful activists in Papua and the new wave of repression in Fiji, the need for solidarity and collective struggle in the Pacific to end the colonisation, genocide and police states is evermore pressing. Are revolutions in the Pacific on the cards? How can people involved in unions, the student movement and Occupy Auckland aid the Pacific struggles for liberation? What does tino rangatiratanga mean today? What role can the Mana Movement play in the fight for Pacific democracy?

Talks by Nik Naidu, Maire Leadbeater and Tracey Lee.
  • Nik Naidu is the spokesperson for the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji fighting for free and fair elections.
  • Maire Leadbeater from the Indonesia Human Rights Committee has been campaigning for ten years for freedom for the West Papuan people. She played a leading role in the solidarity campaign with East Timor from the 1980s onwards.
  • Tracey Lee is a Mana Movement activist based in Te Raki Pae Whenua (North Shore).
And a film on the 2006 Tongan democracy movement that brought democratic reform to the Kingdom through strikes, protests and riot.

8pm - Tuesday 1 November at Occupy Auckland!

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s

Police crackdown on OWS protestors

Only weeks ago I wrote that it is only matter of time before someone gets killed. I thought that after witnessing police on horses charge into the crowd. Tonight Scott Olsen, 24, still remains at Oakland’s Highland Hospital in a critical condition after being hit in the head by a Police projectile.

On Tuesday the Oakland Police Department decided to raid the Occupy Oakland movement and evict them from their encampment. Initially the City Council was supportive, read tolerant, of protestors presence. However, the current view of the City of Oakland is that the conditions have become unsafe and people have to be removed.

Many were arrested during the morning raid in what was clearly an attempt to break the demonstrators’ resolve and send a message to other occupations around the US. Activists responded by staging a march that evening in a show of defiance. The march ended as riot police showered them with tear gas and stun grenades. In one graphic video of the attacks, demonstrators are seen helping an unconscious woman while a stun grenade explodes right next to her face. It was during this evening’s police crackdown on demonstrators that Scott Olsen was hit by a police projectile in the head, and is still in hospital.

On Wednesday night Occupy Wall Street decided to hold a march in solidarity with Oakland demonstrators who have been arrested and hurt. The news of police heavy-handed tactics in Oakland resounded across the American cities and other occupations. “We stand with Oakland as one” the sign read at the entrance to Liberty Plaza.

During the General Assembly at the park, the people’s mic echoed demonstrator’s concerns for future protests and their solidarity with their Oakland comrades. While people voted on whether to send $20,000 from the OWS donations fund to Oakland, I looked at the metal barricades separating the park from the rest of the city. As numerous voices carried fears of future police arrests to my ears, I wondered about the barricades surrounding the plaza. Grey steel structures locked in place, fencing in the community and restricting access to and from the park. I also wondered about the meaning behind their presence? What is the psychological effect on people sleeping within the fenced concrete paddock? Sometimes your mind wanders during General Assemblies.

Looking around lower Manhattan, it is the heavy police presence that is noticed first, followed by hundreds of infamous FX-7 steel barricades blocking off Wall St and enclosing Liberty Plaza. Protesters themselves are caged in the park, surrounded by police watch-towers, surveillance trucks and stationary cameras. Ironically, this movement is called Occupy Wall Street, but it is actually the police who have occupied Wall St. It is the extraordinary police presence that is restricting the traffic on lower Manhattan and creating a feeling of uneasiness for the locals. It is the police who militarized the movement that started as a peaceful demonstration against corruption and corporate greed.

Briefly my mind wandered off into theoretical land, pondering acquisition of valuable property, inequality, astonishing affluence of a small minority, and authorities in place to protect their interests. I was about to get lost at the left-right up-down intersection when drummers reminded me it is time to march.

Hundreds of people started to march from Liberty Plaza down to Broadway just after 9pm. The general feeling was festive and at the same time defiant. However, things quickly changed when NYPD made their first arrests. When I got to the front of the procession I saw approximately 5 police officers on top of a protestor being handcuffed. For some reason I developed a feeling that there is something different about tonight’s march, something different from the previous ones I attended. I couldn’t put my finger on it as I was too occupied taking photos and avoiding police batons being swung to make room between the arresting officers and the protesters shouting “Shame! Shame!”

I think someone yelled “Keep on marching!” and the people responded in agreement. As several protesters were led to the van, hundreds of others decided to keep on going. That’s when I saw the infamous orange net blocking the entrance into the next street. I read the loud orange message and was about to turn back when I saw a group of protesters rush the nets, trying to get under it to the other side. It is only a plastic net I thought. I guess you can lift it. A meter away from me a lone young man looked straight at me while holding the net above his head, the expression on his face wasn’t aggressive, panicked, but calm. As I looked back at him and accepted his offer to go under the net, it occurred to me why tonight was different.

Unlike previous marches, this time (empowered by the plight of their Oakland friends) nobody seemed to be afraid of the police. They were not willing to engage the police, but also not unwilling to disobey.

Police tried to prevent others from passing the net, but were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of protestors. I was caught up in the commotion and fell down. In that moment a thought came to me, it would be regrettable to be kicked or hit over the head right now. However, some of the protestors helped me up and I found myself on the other side of the orange divide.

The streets were full of people with banners and flags, zigzagging through car traffic, shouting “Oakland is New York, New York is Oakland!!” Even though some in their cars appeared shocked to see hundreds of people marching against the traffic, walking past their cars, no one committed any damage to any vehicle nor threatened anyone. I wasn’t surprised that the march didn’t erupt into a violent mob, as protesters often screamed out “this is a peaceful protest”, but I was surprised that taxi and truck drivers were honking in support. Some truck drivers had their fists raised out of their windows. I guess the police crackdown on the Occupy movement has evoked some sympathy from those that were, up until now, sitting on the fence.

Police helicopters above our heads directed the police on the ground in order to block the marches progression into Manhattan. However, every time police on scooters tried to block the street, protestors were jumping through the blockade, even over the scooters. One of the protestors stood in front of a police officer holding a peace sign when 2 policemen pushed him to the ground and attempted to arrest him. At that point a number of protesters jumped over parked police scooters and pulled the protestor to his feet and away from the police.

OWS demonstrators continued their march in solidarity with Oakland through lower Manhattan, eventually returning to Liberty Plaza where those holding the fort met them with applause and cheers. Occupy Wall Street is now a community, a mini-village that is in constant contact with other occupations around the country, and what happened in Oakland on Tuesday night has hit the nerve center of the movement. New York responded in solidarity, echoing “We are all in this together!!”

I wonder if the police will realize that they are only invigorating the movement and strengthening people’s resolve with every show of unnecessary force and brutality.
OWS is growing in popularity while the police are becoming increasingly militant in their treatment of the protestors. Police have even accused the OWS of being responsible for the increase in gun violence across New York City!

First they blamed the protestors for forcing the police to spend millions, now the police accuse OWS of being responsible for the increase in violence around New York City. I think the logic goes something like this: If it wasn’t for the OWS, police could better appropriate their resources and fight crime more effectively. Though no one is asking why there is such a heavy police presence around the park? Why are there cameras, watchtowers, barricades, surveillance trucks, communication trucks, and hundreds of armed police surrounding a few hundred protesters assembled peacefully, as is their constitutional right? Are they really such a security threat? Have they destroyed any property or hurt anyone?

Why is the system so afraid of a few hundred die-hard protestors demanding social justice and calling for regulations on corporate donations to politicians? No matter what happens, OWS has already exposed cracks in the US system and has empowered many to speak out. Last week I was in Harlem at the anti-‘stop and frisk’ march, where dozens of activists were willingly arrested outside the Harlem police precinct. OWS supported the protest against racial profiling and the amendment, which permits the police to randomly stop and frisk people.

As Adam Smith said, “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many”. These days one can see an increase of signs around Liberty Plaza that read, “NYPD protects the rich.” In the face of recent police actions against the movement, why shouldn’t demonstrators ask “who are you protecting?!”

As Hillary Clinton and Obama criticized the police crackdowns in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere, where people took to the streets to demand change, the police in the US are cracking down on Occupy protestors around the country in an attempt to end the occupations. However, protestors in Oakland, and other cities, have vowed to continue protesting and occupying other areas. Here in New York there is talk of occupying Central Park. Somehow I don’t think that the NYPD will be very accommodating if such an occupation is attempted this weekend. ‘Which of us’, said the Lord Hamlet, ‘shall ‘scape whipping?’

-Emir Hodzic, an Aucklander participating in OWS. All photos by Emir.

No consensus with Nazis, no change without struggle

Racism and fascism have no place in Aotearoa. In the UK combating racist groups like the British National Party means confronting them in the streets.

On the 22nd of October, an incident occurred at the Wellington occupation, which elucidates several fundamental issues requiring resolution within not only the local movement but also to an extent the global movement as a whole.

An individual from the occupation was made aware of a nearby rally in Midland Park by the National Front, an openly fascist, neo-Nazi organization and took it upon himself to approach the neo-Nazis in the interest of inviting them along to a talk he was conducting and welcoming them to the occupation. After a number of concerned individuals expressed their discontent with this idea, a general assembly (GA) was called on the basis that one person from the group did not have the right to invite a whole contingent of people openly hostile to the espoused principles of the Occupy Movement. From the start of the GA, several openly queer/transgendered individuals voiced their obvious concerns at welcoming an outwardly homophobic group to the occupation, primarily regarding their concern for their own personal safety and their right to exist in a safe space. Other members expressed their opposition to the occupation openly inviting and associating with a neo-Nazi organization, regardless of whether association occurred on a group or individual basis on the grounds that in principle the proposition ran contrary to the movement’s goals. However, countering the concerns of those opposed to associating with the likes of fascists and homophobes, a sentiment arose within a majority of the GA that if the occupation really wanted to stay true to its adopted line of “We are the 100%” inclusiveness, it was in the group’s best interest to welcome everyone to the occupation, regardless of the hateful and discriminatory nature of their beliefs. Ironically, this dogmatic notion of all inclusiveness extended to welcoming the “1%” as well, essentially undermining the whole reason for creating a space where the masses have a real voice in determining their own future.

The GA went on for around an hour and a half, where a multitude of na├»ve ideas regarding the occupation’s power to change, reform, or heal the neo-Nazis were thrown around in favor of welcoming them, indicative of the low level political consciousness that the group as a whole possessed. The line of complete inclusivity was virtually raised to a tyrannical level trumping all other principles, including the preservation of a safe space for all marginalized groups. At a basic theoretical level, the issue of whether or not to endorse the presence of neo-Nazis derives from a fundamental misconception of the “99%” on the part of members of the GA.

After a great deal of deliberation, it was finally agreed upon that no one from the GA outwardly supported the National Front, and that if they used hate speech at the occupation they’d have to leave. This decision nonetheless left many in the group dissatisfied for totally misconstruing the crux of the issue; namely, how to implement the principle of solidarity in actual practice. Can real solidarity with oppressed groups like queer people, Maori, and immigrants exist in conjunction with the open inclusion of those who actively support the subjugation and extermination of minorities? Do we really expect to create safe spaces for marginalized groups through welcoming neo-Nazis to our occupations? Herein lies the danger of a politically undeveloped occupy movement. In the interests of 100% inclusivity, groups that do not understand the implications of their own empty principles can inadvertently undermine the rights and safety of minorities, creating a situation that leads to the disintegration of the movement we seek to create before it has even really established itself on a truly mass level. In addition to fragmenting the occupiers, it totally negates the principle message of the movement.

As a result of this situation, queer members of the GA and others that stood in solidarity with them formed a Queer Caucus to address the issue at hand in a democratic setting where unity existed against neo-Nazis. The caucus returned to the GA that night and made some progress towards heightening the consciousness of the occupation, explicating the conditions that led to the total disregard for the rights of the queer members and any others that felt threatened earlier in the day. The ability of the Queer Caucus to develop the political consciousness of the GA demonstrates the vital role political education must play within the occupy movement as a whole in advancing the struggle.

An important lesson to be learned from this example is that such efforts towards 100% inclusivity ironically end up having the opposite effect on those groups whose rights become marginalized in the pursuit of consensus where there simply is none – it actually pushes people away. In the case of Occupy Wellington, no one who is actually familiar with the beliefs and actions of the neo-Nazi movement has any interest in sharing the occupation with them, let alone tolerating their presence. Indeed, some even feared for their own safety in a space that was ostensibly set up as a means combating oppression and discrimination. The idea of 100% inclusivity is clearly problematic in regards to maintaining the cohesion of the Occupation Movement, but where does it derive from on a conceptual level?

A fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of the 99% was the distinguishable factor that led to a near division within the Occupy Wellington movement. On the one hand of the Wellington discussion, individuals with little or no understanding of class struggle falsely conceptualize the power of the 99% as one founded in the transformative power of love and total inclusivity to magically transform our society. In their view, enemies of the masses, like fascists and the rich business elite for example, will simply experience a change of heart, abandoning their terrible ways once they are incorporated into the Occupy Movement through the intoxicating power of the love demonstrated to them, if only we are strong-willed enough.

A more politically conscious analysis of the “99%” is that a majority of the members of society have been oppressed for the sake of serving the interests of a small minority, and that this situation will not change without some kind of struggle; a reclamation of power. It is the conflict of interests itself that gives the “99%” its true power; namely to overthrow the interests of the “1%” by establishing a system in which the basic interests of the 99% are put before all else, privileging freedom from all kinds of economic, racial, and sexual oppression as the core basis on which progression from capitalism takes place. Those with a more thought out political consciousness recognize the importance of acknowledging that the rich upper class will do everything and anything to maintain the current unequal power structures within society. Moreover, standing united against hate groups and in solidarity with marginalized groups in society is essential to preserving the integrity of the movement.

Without political or class consciousness, or at the very least a rudimentary principle of exclusivity from which to build on, it becomes difficult to avoid situations where the rights of minorities are infringed upon in the interest of pursuing the empty idea of total inclusivity. Unfortunately, the apolitical perception that unconditional love and total inclusivity are the solution to the multitude of problems we seek to ameliorate as a movement is much easier and more convenient to engage with than that of political struggle, deriving itself from an ignorance of the complex issues the Occupy Movement seeks to deal with.

The mechanism of political education as a means of advancing the political consciousness of the members of the Occupy Movement is critical if we wish to build the struggle for justice and avert fragmentation from within. If a GA does not at a minimum share a common understanding of who the oppressor is and a willingness to stand united against them, it is irrational to expect the movement to remain cohesive and progress forward.

-Daniel Hockenberry

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tunes for Palestine - Thursday Night gig at Occupied Aotearoa Square!

Tunes for Palestine - 8pm, Thursday 27 October

Come along and enjoy an acoustic concert at Occupied Aotearoa Square to raise awareness and koha for the campaign to end the siege of Palestine.

Headlining the gig is Roger Fowler, who will be leading the next Kia Ora Gaza mission. Roger opened for David Rovics in 2009 and has a history mixing music and activism right back to Jumping Sundays

Also playing will be Paul Brown, a folk artist from Scotland and passionate about social change.

Otis Mace! Otis has opened for Billy Bragg, The Violent Femmes, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, Chris Knox,The Mutton Birds, and the Exponents

And Matt Billington, aka Myth of Democracy, the punk folk voice of Ak City.

In December 2011, Kia Ora Gaza will join an international aid convoy to Gaza led by UK charity Viva Palestina. The convoy intends to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza by linking up with Cairo’s democracy movement and entering the besieged enclave through Egypt’s land gate. This strategy could well lead towards the permanent opening of Egypt’s gateway to Gaza, thus fatally wounding Israel’s siege. That would be a truly world historic event.

Meat companies as greedy as banks

The meat processing companies of this country are as greedy as the zombie banks that ignited the 2008 crash, that's what the Meat Workers Union are saying, as they fight massive pay cuts at a rural meat plant.

The Meat Workers Union are fighting for the survival of their collective agreement down in the CMP Rangitikei meat works near Palmerston North.

A lock out has forced many of the union members back to work as the company seeks pay cuts of up to 25% but a hearty core of trade unionists are standing up to the lock out and are picketing the company's plant daily.

The majority overseas owned company wants workers to work 5 more hours than the current 35 hour week and get paid less than the current rates. The lock out shows that the post-crisis corporate drive to lower wages and break unions around the country which has resulted in industrial action at dairy factories, universities, call centres and casinos is far from over.

This is how the 1% controls and exploits the 99%, by starving unionised workers out of their collective agreements, through lock outs. Strong unions, militant mass action and solidarity between workers is critical to beating the bosses and holding the line.

As the occupation movement holds city centers around the country it is important to send messages of solidarity to the Meat Workers Union members who are fighting for their right to a living wage.

Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui!

"Last season they said they had the best season they'd ever had last year."

The Two Souls of the Workers Movement

a discussion at Occupy Auckland on Labour Day

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zombie workers rise up in post-crisis Auckland

"Going from the Camp of Aotea Square to the Tower of the Sky City, where the evil Tory vampire Lords shall assemble to plot their evil campaign."

"On Sunday 30th October, Halloween's Een,
Together we will shoot
NZ's biggest anti capitalist Zombie movie
set in a Post Crisis Auckland
where minimum wage Zombie workers rise up
against the bloodsucking vampire boss class."

Facebook event here.

Solidarity with Auckland Action Against Poverty's picket of the Nats.

Read: Why We Need A Living Wage in Aotearoa

ANC threatens the life of our comrade Sbu

Global Peace and Justice Auckland condemns the death threats and political intimidation which has continued against a South African shack-dweller’s movement leader who spoke at public meetings in New Zealand throughout September and October. Since that speaking tour S’bu Zikode has faced further threats on his life, again from a senior ANC official.

Soon after his return to South Africa Mr. Zikode, along with 13 others, represented the shackdwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) at a meeting with the new Durban Mayor. This was seen by the movement of the poor as a step towards a meaningful engagement with local government. However, at this meeting Mr. Zikode faced threats of harm and intimidation from Nigel Gumede, ANC’s Chairperson of the Housing and Infrastructure Portfolio Committee. Amongst his threats Gumede said that the ANC is at war with AbM and that he has to go to the bushes for Zikode. In Zulu idiom this is a clear threat – a threat of attack, a threat of ambush.

Mr. Zikode is chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), a shack-dwellers organisation which represents South Africa’s organised poor on basic issues like access to adequate water and shelter, and on broader political issues. His well-received speaking tour throughout New Zealand coincided with celebrations for the 30th anniversary of protests against the racist 1981 Springbok rugby tour.

Global Peace and Justice Auckland joins with others, including Rubin Phillip (Bishop of the Diocese of Natal), the Church Land Progamme, and all participants at the Diakona Council of Churches in condemning disrespectful treatment and political intimidation against the poor and their representatives.

For further information contact Global Peace and Justice spokespersons John Minto (021-447-067) or Mike Treen (029-525-4744).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Organising the world's biggest bank heist

Can we organise the biggest bank job in human history?
Didn't you always dream of doing over a bank or two?
What are you waiting for?

On October 29th be part of the world's biggest bank job.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Defend New Parihaka

The occupation of Auckland's Aotea Square is now at day five and is growing stronger with every passing day. As the City Council threatens eviction, is this the new Parihaka?

Despite Spring storms there are more tents going up in Tamaki Makaurau as the global Occupy movement lifts the spirits of hundreds of millions around the world.

The protests have reframed the debate of the economic crisis around the greed of the 1% and derailed the political agenda of the 1% to push through austerity policies in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

The actions tens of thousands of people around the world occupying and defending protest camps against the 1% and the convergences of millions on October 15 around the world is shaking the ideological foundations of neo-liberal capitalism. The 1% are on the back foot, being forced to defend ideas that the radical left has for decades been attacking. Just take a look at some of the recent media coverage of the Occupy Auckland movement:
Prime Minister John Key says he has some sympathy for anti-Wall Street protesters because much of the blame for the global financial crisis can be laid on Wall Street.

However veteran activist and Mana Party Economic Justice spokesperson John Minto says Key is "one of the one percent" who control much of the world's wealth and use it to make themselves even richer.

Their comments follow protests ignited by the Occupy Wall Street movement which have spread to New Zealand.

A rejection of corporate greed and a call for the rich to pay more tax are at the movement's core.
The movement remains in its infancy and has to begin to draw in more of the 99%, especially those who with jobs, exams and commitments that prevent them from camping with the occupation. The occupation of the University of Auckland on Monday showed that the occupy movement can reinforce current struggles of the 99% and build the protest camp. A march on the downtown office of the MSC shipping company demanding full reimbursement for the Rena spill and the end of Flag of Convenience vessels on Aotearoa's coasts would be good. Actions against the imperialist wars in the Middle East, deep sea drilling and privatisation could help build the movement.

A calendar of events

A show in support of the Aotea Square Occupation
In support of the occupation of Aotea square and town centres across the globe we are putting on a free show, with performances by Tourettes (spoken word), Shit Ripper, Heart Attack Alley, Lubin Rains (The Vietnam War), Jurassic Penguin and Fire For Glory. come down, bring your tent and stay the night.
7pm, Thursday 20 October in Aotea Square.

The World's Final Chance- All Black Bloc vs. The 1%
This Saturday come together on Queen street for the biggest game of rugby anyone in NZ has ever seen. As a massive group of anti-capitalist rugby players we will move against the 1% (who hold most of the wealth in the world). Tiny goalposts for the 1%. Massive goalposts for the 99% the Ball is the World. IMF, World Bank and NATO referees make sure the 99% can't score.
2.30pm to 5pm, Saturday 22 October

And a couple of suggestions for the General Assembly,

Saturday 29 October - #ROBINHOOD GLOBAL MARCH
On October 29, on the eve of the G20 Leaders Summit in France, let’s the people of the world rise up and demand that our G20 leaders immediately impose a 1% #ROBINHOOD tax on all financial transactions and currency trades. Let’s send them a clear message: We want you to slow down some of that $1.3-trillion easy money that’s sloshing around the global casino each day – enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world.

Sunday 30 October - Living wage for living dead
Assemble at camp and march on Halloween for a 'living wage for the living dead'. Raise the minimum wage to $15hr and peg it at 2/3rds of the average wage. As Unite have pointed out, "The growing gap between New Zealand and Australian wages and living standards will not be halted until working people confront the corporate vampires who have been sucking the real value from working people's wages over the last 27 years and demand a living wage for all workers." Details to come...

Saturday 5 November - 130 year anniversary of Parihaka eviction

Monday, October 17, 2011

Videos from Occupy Wall Street

Emir Hodzic has uploaded a bunch of videos from Saturday's action of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Times Square, NYC on October 15.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Two days that saw Occupy Wall Street change the world

In his latest report and photos from NYC, Aucklander Emir Hodzic describes the weekend's events.

Up to now the world was watching Occupy Wall Street, this weekend the world joined in. What started as a small group of protestors occupying Wall St in protest to corporate greed and Wall Street’s grip on the White House is now a global movement. From day one OWS message to the world had been “we’re in this together.” As more cities in the US are seeing similar occupations, cities across the globe are also joining in, in what is turning out to be a truly international plight for justice. In past few days OWS has moved from the brink of eviction from Zuccotti Park to shutting down Times Square.

On the eve of the Global Day of Action, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, New York mayor Mike Bloomberg decided to “clean up” Zuccotti Park. Owners of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Properties, said they were worried about the sanitation, and wanted to send in the cleaners. Plan was to evict the demonstrators the following morning, clean the park, and then allow demonstrators to return under new rules. They wouldn’t be able to lie down or sleep in the park. Its like saying you’re free to go, you just can’t leave the building, or I hate you my love. It made no sense. Protestors knew that if they got evicted that night, occupation of Liberty Plaza would be threatened.

Many at OWS suspected this was an attempt to shut down the protest, like they did in Boston, Denver and elsewhere in US. However, as the news of the imminent eviction spread across New York, OWS sent an appeal for supporters to turn up and prevent that from happening. They knew that the only weapon they have against the police are numbers.

In the meantime, many volunteers were frantically cleaning the park all day, picking up rubbish, scrubbing the stairs and tiles with biodegradable soap, even taking care of the flower garden. Fervent cleaning continued late into the night in attempt to show the mayor that the park is clean, and there is no need for city cleaners in blue to march in.

Even with the knowledge of the impending police crackdown in the morning that was to forcefully remove everyone, the atmosphere in the park was mostly positive and energetic. Despite the heavy rain and cold, spirits were high and people cheered during the heaviest of downpours. Almost taunting the heavens. “I had enough of the summer anyway,” said one of the cleaners gleefully as he scrubbed with determination.

As I was getting thoroughly drenched, an older man stood next to me holding a plastic sheet over his head. “You look very calm,” he mumbled under the plastic. I guess some were nervous about getting arrested in matter of hours, and being wet, cold and tired (no one slept that night) didn’t help. “It’s just rain” I replied, circumventing the small issue of the expected raid.

It turned out that the senior is another Vietnam War vet, who for years had been waiting for something like this to happen. He talked about a replica drone he made for display in the park just the other day and made parallels between predator drones and Wall St finance sector. In both cases there is a detachment from personal responsibility.

As the deadline approached, droves of people of New York flooded into the park in solidarity with OWS. By 6am park was full, and people that were still coming in were holding banners and cheering from the streets surrounding the park. At the same time reports were coming in that number of police outside the park is also growing. At that point most of us in the park didn’t have a clue how is all this going to end. Many around me were ready to get arrested in defense of the occupation. As a matter of fact, many have voiced their readiness to be arrested in defiance.

However, just after the deadline had past, message was received that the “cleaning” had been postponed. Police isn’t marching in and there will be no eviction, not today. All those that were worried only minutes before, were now loudly cheering and dancing. “People united, will never be defeated!!” echoed through the Liberty Plaza and surrounding streets. As people were celebrating what they saw as a victory over mayor Bloomberg, announcement was made that we are to occupy Times Square on the Global Day of Action. The announcement was met with shouts of approval and defiant fists in the air.

This victory renewed the sense of purpose, and has given all those present an added boost of energy. The huge turnout in defense of the occupation empowered everyone to fight another day. OWS facilitators that broke the news of delayed “cleaning”, admitted they didn’t expect so many people at 6am. Reenergized, people were getting ready for the weekend.

Saturday's protest drew thousands to the march from Washington Square to the Times Square. Demonstrators were split into two groups marching along 6th Avenue with police escort. Occasionally police would stop the protestors on one side, followed immediately by shouts “let them march!!” from the other side. March was orderly and followed police demands to stay on the footpaths. At times protesters stopped to discuss strategy as reports were coming that the access to Times Square has been blocked. Through megaphones police instructed protesters to keep moving so as not to stop pedestrian traffic, at which protesters replied in unison “we are the pedestrian traffic!!”

The protesters were prevented from moving freely and the access to Times Square has been restricted by barricades and hundreds of police. Tensions rose when one of the “white-shirts” (captains of NYPD are distinguished by white uniforms) rushed at the barricades, and joined by his colleagues in blue started pushing the protestors back, crushing those caught in between. “There is no room!!” panicked shouting ensued as people were pinned against the tide of protesters in 46th street. My leg was caught few times under the steel barricades as police pushed us back.

Standing at the barricades between the police and protestors, I was taken aback by the unfolding chaos. Situation worsened when police on horseback charged into the crowd, knocking people over. “What are you doing!!” and “Someone is going to get killed!!” protesters shouted at the police. As one of the horses fell among the protestors, enraged protestors shouted “Animal cruelty” and “Horses are for Mubarak!!”

As commotion engulfed the scene and thousands of protestors, all traffic into the Times Square was stopped for a while. Through ‘people mic’ demonstrators were encouraging each other by repeating that we’ve shut down the Times Square. New York’s main tourist attraction was shut down on a Saturday while the world was watching. Until that day the world was only watching, today the world was participating.

After being pinned against the barricades as the police charged, I eventually succeeded in getting over the steel obstacles. I encountered a Deputy Commissioner of NYPD, Paul Brown, and asked him about the police actions. He stated that most of the protesters were orderly except a few who got arrested. I asked him how many people got arrested and for what offences. He said he wasn’t sure of the exact number of arrests, but that the number exceeded 50 in total. Some of the people were arrested for wearing masks. Apparently this is against the law.
When I asked him why was the order given to charge into the protestors with horses, he replied that few in the crowd were pushing the barricades and trying to break through. I told him that I stood at the site of the incident and haven’t seen any protestors pushing back, but he maintained his position.

Eventually, the overwhelming presence of the police dispersed the crowd. A few die-hards remained, but most continued to march back to the Washington Square where the announced general assembly was to be held. As I made my way back to the square, I expected to see a hundred or so protesters, but I came to find the park full of people and a jovial atmosphere.

Over a thousand people gathered for the assembly, where calls were made to make a stand and occupy Washington Square, despite the police warnings that everyone has to be out by midnight. Spokesperson for the National Lawyer’s Guild was instructing people what their rights are in case of the arrests. The good people from NLG have played an important role in instructing people and monitoring the protests. However, every time when a member of NLG spoke about what to do if arrested, uneasiness could be sensed in the crowd. Many of them students who don’t necessarily want to spend a weekend with NYPD, and I for one can understand that apprehensiveness.

As midnight approached police buses arrived and hundreds of policemen came into the park. It became clear that the occupation of Washington Square isn’t going to happen tonight. Protestors were leaving the square shouting “This is what the police state looks like!!” One of the protestors was yelling out that the citizens have a right to an assembly “It is in the constitution!”

Once everybody was out of the park, upset protestors used people mic to address the police. “This is a message to all the police, as individuals, not as a whole force. You are like us! You are the 99 percent! Please help us make change!!” I wonder if this message reached any of the individuals underneath the blue uniforms. I wonder if the time will come when some of them will disobey their orders.

If anything, today’s events have again shown that this movement is not going away, but on the contrary gaining in strength and influence, while at the same time state and police repression of it are becoming more violent. As OWS inspired protests are taking place all over the world, those “hippies” are becoming a serious thorn in elite’s behind.

The message from OWS is clear. The rapid spread of the grassroots response to the overwhelming inequalities perpetuated by the global financial and system and transnational banks isn’t going away. More actions are expected and the occupation of the Liberty Square in Manhattan will continue indefinitely.

All photos by Emir Hodzic.

We won't pay for your crisis!

Download the PDF for the Occupied New Zealand Herald.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

See you tomorrow

Message from Occupy Wall Street on the eve of eviction

Police are coming to evict us from the Liberty Plaza tonight - We don't know what's going to happen.

I know you guys are gathering in Auckland this Saturday, and that makes me very proud.
Since I don't know if I am going to be in jail at that time (who knows how this crackdown is
going to end), I would like to send a brief message to all my friends and comrades in Auckland.

In case you get to the mic or megafone or something, maybe read these words bellow?

"I just want to remind you all that you should be very proud of yourselves for being here.
We have been lied to, we have been manipulated and we have been patient. The time
has come for us to stand together for what is right. We don't want big business telling us
how to live, we don't want big business buying our politicians & we don't want big business
deciding on political discourse. We are all in this together. From Athens to New York, from
New York to Auckland. Stay strong, stand together and stay peaceful.

From Wall St to Queen St: Kia Kaha"

- Emir Hodzic

Victoria Uni under occupation

‎"30 to 40 students occupying the Victoria University of Wellington skywalk over Kelburn Parade against cuts to International Relations department and cuts to access courses. Cops have just shown up. Students plan to resist non-violently."

Follow live here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stand with MUNZ

This casino capitalist must go

You can only gamble for so long before your luck runs out. When it does you can lose everything. Whole economies wiped out, eco-systems destroyed, or countries ruined.

The Rena catastrophe is getting worse by the hour and PM John Key, once considered untouchable by the media is now under considerable criticism for his handling of this crisis. The casino capitalist turned Prime Minister has now ruined the Bay of Plenty because of his gamble on the odds of the weather getting worse.

John Key had five days of good weather to get the oil of the Rena with barges that were on offer to Maritime New Zealand:
It emerged yesterday that on the day the Rena struck the reef, Maritime NZ declined an offer of two inflatable barges which could pump up to 100 tonnes of oil at a time.

The offer was made by Ronald Winstone, of Lancer Industries, who said the two barges would have easily emptied the ship of toxic oil in the four days of clear weather after the Rena ran aground.

"It would have taken them 17 trips to pump all the fuel off the ship and three or four days wouldn't have been unrealistic for that to have happened.

"It doesn't make sense why they didn't start pumping the oil earlier when they had the equipment to do it."

A Maritime NZ spokesman said Mr Winstone's offer was logged with its operations division, and "if they needed it they would have followed it up".
Now the situation is getting worse and still the Government squanders time and energy. Labour leader Phil Goff is on the beach, calling for volunteers to defy the Government and join the clean up. Mana candidate for Waiariki, Annette Sykes will lead a group of Mana Movement volunteers onto the Tauranga beaches tomorrow to join the clean up.

The root cause of this disaster is the deregulation of the coastal shipping industry. But what has turned this disaster into a catastrophe has been the environmental recklessness of the National Party that has characterised their party's policies from climate change and Canterbury's rivers to Auckland's inner city rail loop. When the chips are down, Key will choose protecting corporate wealth over the environment and people every time. They are killing Aotearoa. Our streams and rivers are polluted, our air is toxic, our National Parks are at risk of being pillaged, our biosphere is being degraded and now our seas are being despoiled.

John Key must go. Key is a casino capitalist transformed into a smiling puppet of corporate interests who has viciously used state power to attack workers, beneficiaries, students, teachers, the disabled, prisoners, Maori, internet freedom and public services. Meanwhile our SAS are being needlessly killed in the US's imperialist occupation of Afghanistan so our farmers can get a free trade deal that will give unprecedented power to corporations to sue our government.

It is never the casino capitalists who have to live with the consequences of their banditry. Banks that collapse, finance companies that fail they all get bailed out with state money. When the odds run short for workers, we lose everything and lives and communities ruined.

Next he wants to loot the country of its assets by selling off our electricity companies and Air New Zealand and he is no doubt hoping he can turn New Zealand back into a two party state again. He even lies to the media over the downgrading of New Zealand's credit rating, he does fuck all about 155,000 unemployed and 200,000 kids in poverty and the gives the rich $16 billion in tax cuts while increasing GST. But why would those things worry someone who lives in a $7 million mansion? The reality is the millionaire Prime Minister in his Summer Palace doesn't give a damn about New Zealand or the people in it.

We need to bring down this National government and its smiling assassin before they do any further damage to Aotearoa.

On Saturday we will be on the streets of every city and the world will hear our anger and pain at what is happening in our country, "When Aotearoa is under attack? Stand up! Fight back!"

John Key must go.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Monday, October 10, 2011

The maritime free market has failed

The members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand have a long, proud history of being the staunchest fighters for the working-class. In every major labour struggle in New Zealand's history they have shown tenacity and solidarity that inspires workers around the country.

They have played crucial roles in a number of political fights in New Zealand history, using their strategic location and collective strength to stop nuclear ship visits, against whaling, show solidarity with the people of East Timor and help win pay parity for women.

In the 1970s and 1980s the watersiders would take strike action or donate a days pay to protest campaigns against Apartheid or the Vietnam War. They were the most committed fighters for the global working class, against imperialism and ecological destruction.

In recent years the Maritime Union has been campaigning against lax controls on Flag of Convenience vessels like the MSC's Liberia flagged, Rena, operating on New Zealand's coasts.
The term flag of convenience describes the business practice of registering a merchant ship in a sovereign state different from that of the ship's owners, and flying that state's civil ensign on the ship. Ships are registered under flags of convenience to reduce operating costs or avoid the regulations of the owner's country. The closely related term open registry is used to describe an organization that will register ships owned by foreign entities.
In 2006 the MUNZ general secretary said, “Deregulation has failed. The global maritime free market has failed. It will require co-ordinated international action to clean up the monopolistic, unaccountable mess of Flag of Convenience shipping.”

MUNZ's long term campaign has helped expose ships which bring "death, injury and pollution" with them and have helped many crews, especially super-exploited fishing workers, win victories on wages and workers' rights against Flag of Convenience shipping operators.

Yet although MUNZ has provided crucial support to every group of workers that is engaged in industrial struggle in New Zealand from cleaners to retail workers, from young fast food cooks to engineers, the trade union movement, the wider working-class community has done too little to show support back. Ridding New Zealand coasts of Flag of Convenience ships was never a priority. The shipping corporations have got rich, the workers have been treated poorly and a major environmental disaster was only around the corner. The alarm bells should have sounded in 2002 when a Flag of Convenience registered ship, the Jody F. Millenium ran aground in Gisborne and polluted 8km of coast with 25 tonnes of oil.

MUNZ's warnings of the danger of Flag of Convenience shipping were ignored by Labour and National. Flag of Convenience vessels have been involved in many, high profile oil spills as a result of their lax safety and poor conditions. Deepwater Horizon, the oil rig that destroyed the Gulf of Mexico, was also a Flag of Convenience vessel.
The U.S. Coast Guard just released a preliminary report about the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The Coast Guard criticized not only rig owner, Transocean, but the foreign registry in the Marshall Islands (flag below) where Transocean registered the rig. Just like a cruise ship, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was considered to be a vessel which had to be registered.
In fact, avoiding responsibility for oil spills is one of the main reasons that ship owners register their vessels in Flag of Convenience nations,
In 1999, a oil tanker called the Erika sank off Brittany and polluted 250 miles of French coastline. The French government could not penetrate a chain of shell companies in seven countries that stood between the ship and its owner. The owner eventually came forward voluntarily and, when questioned by the BBC about the complex ownership arrangements, said, “That is standard practice in shipping.”
If politicians are serious about preventing more oil spills in New Zealand then they will have to show support for the campaign of the International Transport Workers' Federation and ban Flag of Convenience vessels from our harbours, ports and seas.

As current Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood told the media, "Our view is that the unregulated nature of Flag of Convenience global shipping will be shown to be the underlying cause of what has happened. We have vessels on the New Zealand coast that are not up to scratch."

The Rena oil spill which will devastate the Bay of Plenty appears on the surface to be the story of negligence, drunkenness or incompetence. But beneath the surface are the murky details of a global industry corrupted by corporate power and deregulation. If someone is to blame for the Rena spill, it is Jim Bolger and his National Government of 1994 that passed a law to deregulate New Zealand's coastal shipping industry and open it up to Flag of Convenience vessels. And blame Labour, who for nine years ignored the cries of the foreign workers and the protests of the Maritime Union.

Now is the time to go on the offensive, rally around the MUNZ campaign against Flag of Convenience vessels and tell the world that the maritime free market has failed. Capitalism and planet earth are not compatible.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Occupy Wall Street as a global phenomenon

"Stay strong. Stay peaceful. We're all in this together. I am enthralled that there are so many others around the globe in solidarity with us and I want them to also know how incredibly appreciative of their efforts we all are.”

As I was eating a slice of pizza today, provided by donations to Occupy Wall Street, I couldn’t help but notice how different Liberty Plaza looks in comparison to two weeks a go. Numbers started to grow rapidly since Wednesday, when critics and skeptics who dismissed the movement as a bunch of unemployed hippies were silenced by up to 20,000 citizens marching through downtown Manhattan. Occupy Wall Street movement outgrew Liberty Plaza, there are talks of relocation, and today people are marching to Washington Square.

Prior to the past Wednesday’s march I navigated my way through overflowing park, bouncing off people left right and center, occasionally entering someone’s conversation bubble and exiting again as the current takes me away. Some of the exchanges that reached my ears told me about their struggles with health care (in summary, they cannot afford it), other voices told me how amazing it is to see so many people, another conversation had been about a nasty break-up, but I had drifted away before hearing the juicy bits.

“What made you come here today?” I asked a mysterious masked man once I bounced off the tree and came to a halt. “I have a disabled mum, who gets $400 a month to live off.. I don’t think that’s right. There’s something wrong in this country and we want to change that.” I thanked him for the disclosure and continued downstream. As I navigated through ever increasing number of people and incomprehensible hum of various voices, I passed another conversation: “I was told all my life to go to college, work hard and I will make it. Now I’m in debt and don’t have a j…” I am not sure how that conversation concluded.

Once I ceased moving, I noticed an interesting senior African-American wearing a beret covered with badges. He stood alone resting on his walking stick. As I came closer I noticed he had various army medals on his jacket. I asked him the same question: “What made you join OWS?” He looked up at me, exposed a gentle smile and waited for few seconds before answering. I wondered if he was contemplating the stupidity of the question or preparing an answer. Those few seconds have been enough to notice weariness and pain in his eyes. I have seen eyes like that before.

“I am a Vietnam veteran from '69, and have been in anti-war movements ever since. This is the right thing to do,” he softly replied then paused again, as if to let his words settle, forcing patience upon me that many zealous young people don’t have. Which is kind of ironic, since you would think young people have more time.

“We are spending 300 million dollars a day on war, that could go to hospitals and schools. 300 million a day” he repeated just to make sure I had heard him right.

“I was wounded in Vietnam, I have killed three people – I learned quickly then that what we were doing is wrong.”

This time I welcomed a pause he offered.

“After Vietnam protests we disappeared, and now we’re back. You can’t start a movement with a million people, you start like this, and you build up. If this disappears like we did after Vietnam, I fear for the future generations.” His name is Jaime Vazquez, recipient of the Purple Heart, former Jersey City councilman, former Jersey deputy mayor and a former director of the Jersey City Office of Veterans Affairs.

As I left Mr. Vazquez to rest on his walking stick, a question made itself apparent. How is this going to end? What will be the next move? And end it will. People cannot sleep in the park indefinitely, and winter is already announcing itself. Support for the movement is growing daily, there is no end in sight, but one day the crunch time will come. What happens when there are hundred thousand people on the street? Will the government listen then, or will they send in the National Guard? Will a hundred thousand people follow the police instructions and peacefully and patiently march on footpaths in orderly fashion?

I don’t know the answer, and I am sure no one here really knows it either, politicians also can only speculate. Regardless of the outcome, OWS is already a historical movement. One thing that this movement has achieved, unlike any other, is unite all the leftist parties, organisations and unions – that in the past have been polarized by petty differences – into a single voice: “Enough is enough.”

OWS and the White House
Once I reached Foley Square (home to the US district court), there were already tens of thousands of people gathered in the square, while the influx of newcomers continued for some time. “Look around you people, look at the crowd, this is what democracy looks like!” said the voice through huge speakers. “We’re here to say - no more bailouts for Wall Street!! No more tax breaks for the rich!!”

Judging by the cheers and shouts of approval from the crowd, everyone at Foley square knew what this is all about. I am still puzzled by those who claim that they are confused as to what is this protest is about.

“We need bailouts for health care, we need bailouts for education – I say to all working people, lets not allow the Tea Party to be the voice of working people!!” Thousands of people clapped and cheered, almost drowning the speakers next message:

“We’re going to be growing, and we’re not going to stop!”

At that point I answered my own question. It is premature, and almost irrelevant, to ask what the ending is going to be. Presently we need to take notice of the development, growth and evolution of the movement. Organisational methods, horizontal democracy exercised through general assemblies (or peoples' council), use of technology, and protest’s broad appeal. Numerous observers were surprised by the growth of the movement and unification it achieved..

It isn’t news for these people that the financial institutions have abused their power and caused a lot of hardship for many. They know that the federal government gave interest-free loans to big banks. They know that their tax dollars went to those big banks, while they are struggling to pay the bills and mortgages under heavy interests to those same banks. They know that the richest pay least tax, and reinvest their profits back into lobbying for lower taxes and other legal perks. Basically people gathered here are disappointed with their government, disillusioned with the system that allows big money deciding the political discourse, frustrated that no one is held accountable.

Obama knows the elections are coming, and he needs to raise a lot of money. I doubt that the money will come from the savings of these disappointed people who believed in him, who believed in change. Democrats’ failure to bring about reforms and accountability into the finance sector, have disillusioned many of his supporters. Obama will need to look into the coffers of his wealthy donors again, while at the same time keeping an eye on these people here. His people. People who are carrying signs that read: “Yes we can – but we didn’t.”

Obama finally came out and recognized the OWS as a force to be reckoned with. “I think people are frustrated,” he informs of the fact as if though it just dawn on him. “The protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,” Obama explains. People of this world rejoice, the president thinks you’re frustrated!

At the same time republicans are scorning OWS for inciting a “class war,” or as Herman Cain unashamedly spewed out; don’t blame Wall Street, if you’re not rich it is your own fault. Cain is a multi millionaire who built his fortune making pizza, and thinks OWS has been orchestrated by Obama (same Obama that protesters are unhappy with). So it seems that Obama’s PR machine might still use this popular movement to present him as an only alternative standing in the way of big business taking over the White House.

How much is enough?
For a very long time those from the margins of society have waited to be heard. For a very long time the poor and struggling have waited to be empowered and regain a sense of dignity. Now they are being heard, joined by the disappearing middle class who also want to be heard. When you are in the Liberty Plaza you are standing next to the unemployed, students, construction workers, university professors, nurses, artists, musicians, and war veterans. You are one of the people. Not as a Marxist (as many right wingers love to attribute any form of collectivism and calls for fairness and accountability to Marxism, with their fingers forming the sign of a cross and making hissing sounds while doing so), but rather literally as one of the people, one of the 99 percent.

While the people are quoting the constitution, calling for justice, those in the minority are sitting in their towers (in downtown Manhattan financial district you are literally surrounded by towering concrete structures) discussing cost cuts and layoffs. To them the nation state, flag, constitution, the people, is all of secondary importance in comparison to the one true object of admiration. Money.

How rich do you have to be? How many planes and boats do you have to own? People that are struggling to pay the bills, losing their jobs and homes, are simply asking why did their tax dollars go into the banks that are charging them so much interest, and whose bosses have kept their private planes and boats?

What’s wrong with being super rich, you might ask? What’s wrong in wanting to own huge crewed boats that you visit once a year, and a couple of private jets to freely fly around without having to mix with common people? What’s wrong with owning an army that your friends can hire out? According to evolutionary psychology there is nothing wrong with you. You’re just instinctually selfish and acting out your animalistic drive for dominance.

Unfortunately, majority of the population cannot afford discussing theories on human nature anymore. When you realize that in the race to the top only few remain, and millions share your place, you might just start asking questions. When the majority realizes the causes of inequalities, unfairness and oppression, they just might act.

Who the f*** are you protecting?
Once the people demonstrated their numbers in front of the US District Court, we all descended back to the Liberty Plaza, where Michael Moore was already present. He had some messages of support, believing in what demonstrators are doing and so on. I am not sure if he had finished using the people mic when calls to “March on Wall Street!” came from somewhere at the back. Calls for another unannounced march created bit of a commotion, but soon there were hundreds of people already on their way. Once people reached the Wall Street, they were greeted by dozens of police officers behind the barricades. Access to Wall Street has been blocked.

“Who are you protecting!” frustrated with the blockade people screamed out. “We are the 99 percent - and so are you!!” they erupted while pointing at the police.

I was taking photos of the blockade and continuous influx of more and more police. As I thought to myself, “Jeez, the cavalry has arrived” (literally police on horseback), all of a sudden the police charged from behind the barricades. Batons swinging, pepper spray flowing, people screaming, utter bewilderment. Part of me wasn’t surprised by the police reaction, yet I was perplexed by what I had seen. Those closest to the barricades were thrown to the ground, while their colleagues with batons pushed and beat other citizens back. As I was taking photos of what was happening, I felt a determined baton against my stomach convincing me to step back. With a quiet ‘ouch’ I complied obediently.

Crowed booed and shouted repeating assertions, “Shame – shame…!” While camera flashes illuminated the arrests, people helplessly watched on. “Who the f*** are you protecting?!” yelling ensued during the baton and mace combos. Indeed, who is being protected from peaceful protestors, who patiently walk along footpaths and continuously announce that this is a peaceful protest?

The following day I found out from a credible source that works on Wall Street, that while this was happening there was a big cocktail party held in the financial district. I kid you not. No one could get in or out without an ID proving you work there. Life is full of interesting coincidences.

As I was changing the settings on my camera, someone next to me pointed at the window above. A lone figure stood by the window of BNY Mellon building on Wall Street looking down at us. Even after some from the crowd booed and laughed, the figure didn’t move. Sure, he could be a nicest guy, with adorable children and a cat called Fluffy. Just because he was wearing a tie and standing in the window of a bank, while people below were being clubbed, doesn’t mean that people wanted him prostrated on a sacrificial table. It was just one of those moments that encapsulates the overall feeling in that instant. Very Orwellian I thought as I looked up. The ominous shadow standing by the window in the tower, smell of pepper spray in the air, and people relocating their bodies away from batons.

My attention quickly returned to the street level when I received another shove. Luckily, things calmed down a bit after 5 people were arrested and the police pushed demonstrators away from Wall Street. I kind of expected someone to say “Nothing to see here people, move right along.” I guess police only say that in the movies.

OWS goes global
While reports are coming in that there are global solidarity demonstrations planed, including New Zealand, it becomes evident that disillusionment with neo-liberal capitalism isn’t an American only disease. The global economic crises infected everyone from New York, to Athens, to Auckland. As John Key himself said, New Zealand is not immune to the economic slowdown. “It is a time of global uncertainty,” John informs us. Cutting business taxes and overhauling regulations to reduce costs to business and consumers, National assures us, is the way to crank up the economy.

I think New Zealanders need to decide if return to “business as usual” is in their interest. If the new surveillance law is a good idea, if rising costs of education is in their interest, if excessive food prices in a farming country is acceptable. Just some of the questions that maybe people should contemplate during half time. While New Zealand differs to US in a lot of ways (and in my opinion some of those differences should be celebrated i.e. we can have an agnostic PM and a transgender MP, poor can still access healthcare, NZ police aren’t as militant as say NYPD, and so on), now is the time to examine our own economic policies and think about the road ahead. Now is the time to take note of cracks appearing on Wall St, and think about if we’re backing a right horse - is neoliberal capitalism a platform that will really benefit all New Zealanders?

On 15th of October similar occupations and protests are going to take place all over the world. From Bosnia to Canada, from Australia to – yes you guessed it – New Zealand.

When I spoke to Patrick Bruner, who is OWS outreach facilitator, and told him I am from New Zealand, and that people of NZ are following what is happening here with interest, he wanted to send this message: "Stay strong. Stay peaceful. We're all in this together. I am enthralled that there are so many others around the globe in solidarity with us and I want them to also know how incredibly appreciative of their efforts we all are.”

Believing in righteousness of their cause, and realizing that the world is watching, OWS knows that what they achieve here is going to ripple across the globe. They know that some of the world’s most powerful are here on Wall St, they know that those responsible for the global economic crises are here on Wall St (recent evidence links Wall St with the Greek debt crisis. According to former financial regulators, Goldman Sachs made a dozen derivative deals with Greece, writing its debt off its balance sheet for years). They want the world to watch, and the world should. We are all in this together. We have to remind ourselves what some people had figured out centuries ago, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men” (Plato).

-Emir Hodzic. Emir is from Aotearoa and rolls with the Unite Union. He is currently in Manhattan participating in Occupy Wall Street.