Diary of an occupier archived

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I have reverted most of the posts here to drafts but left the retrospective up for the sake of documenting the movement that was Occupy Sydney.

In 2011 I think many of us were far more idealistic and hopeful than it is possible to be now, nearly six years further into late stage capitalism, and living in an even more individualistic, dog eat dog, militarised Australia. I would love to be part of another movement for a kinder, less exploitative world and I hope when that does come about, we can learn from some of the mistakes of the Occupy movement.

I’d also like to acknowledge something that has bothered me since the beginning of the movement: How can people who have suffered under various occupations (I’m talking particularly western imperialist and the ongoing occupation, abuse and subjugation of First nations peoples and their homelands here in “Australia”) feel safe within a movement called occupy? I’d like to apologise for so uncritically joining a movement with such a loaded and uninclusive name and for our ongoing occupation of your home.

Here is to the next opportunity to make the world a better place for our children, may we do better next time.

The implications of social media surveillance for free political expression.

This was an essay for uni…so it is a little limited in what it covers but you can find out more about internet surveillance through your own research :).

Social media sites such as Facebook have become ubiquitous in the lives of young people, raising concerns about online privacy and security. Revelations about internet surveillance by governments and corporations have recently been unearthed, igniting the need for an investigation into the use of surreptitious and explicit surveillance techniques including data mining and surveillance of personal communication and examples of how it could threaten the civil and political rights of young people growing up in a digitised world. 

Since its inception in 2004, over 955 million people have flocked to Facebook (Lee, 2013, p. 217), with 95 per cent of adolescent social media users in America in possession of a Facebook profile, a trend that is probably similar in Australia (PEW, 2011) Facebook users share images, thoughts, geolocation data and even addresses and phone numbers on Facebook (Lee, 2013, p.154). This data is recorded and analysed by Facebook’s algorithms and shared with third parties (Hill, 2012, p. 118). It is possible Facebook users are not always aware of how this data is being used and whom it is being shared with.

 In 2009 Facebook was charged by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for misrepresenting its “data use policy” and thereby violating privacy and putting data at risk (Lee, 2013, pp. 16-17). Facebook was also implicated in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass internet surveillance program, Prism. An internal document leaked by an NSA Whistleblower claims the NSA has direct “backdoor” access to Facebook servers. The unscrupulousness that Facebook has demonstrated in sharing the data of its users with third parties without obtaining properly informed consent could be a threat to the privacy of young people and their freedom of personal and political expression. 

The lines between political dissent and terrorism have blurred considerably since September 11 (9/11) in the eyes of American law enforcement (Chang, 2002, pp. 44-46), while Western democracies have used 9/11 as a justification to invest heavily in the surveillance apparatus (Richards, 2013, p. 1938). When discussing surveillance in Web 2.0, explanations of basic theoretical foundations in surveillance studies are helpful. Foucault’s panopticon is the ideal architectural structure for centralised power applied figuratively to surveillance (Fuchs et al., 2012, p. 6-7). A single surveillant can view everyone else within the structure without showing himself, thereby prompting those in the panopticon to internalise censorship out of fear that they are being watched (Allmer, 2012, p. 126). The idea of the panopticon is a very useful surveillance theory that assists in the study of surveillance but it does not encompass all forms of surveillance. 

In 1984, George Orwell takes the notion of the panopticon further by making it interactive. Although the partnership between surveillance and propaganda is omnipresent in 1984, it is epitomised by the telescreen, which watches the protagonist whilst “bruising his ears” with hegemonic disinformation (Yeo, 2010, pp. 56-57). The telescreen signals an end to privacy and an attempt by authorities to own the hearts and minds of citizens, a pathology that could be compared to the use of algorithmic feedback loops (Otterlo, 2012, p. 2) employed by advertising firms to first collect data then manipulate consumer behaviour through targeted advertising. This interactive surveillance creates a “hegemonic teleculture” (Hill, 2012, p. 109) in which the consumer choices of Internet users can be subtly engineered by advertisers. These interactions are trickling out of a market context and into the social and political lives and decisions of young people living in the digital age.

Big-Brother-Is-Watching-You

Albrechtslund offers more positive viewpoint than Orwell and Foucault, suggesting that online sharing of information including geographical data is an empowering form of social or ‘participatory surveillance’ that strengthens the social fabric and that power dynamics between the watcher and the watched are not unidirectional (2012, pp.190-192). The complexities of modern surveillance systems and methods have outstripped experts’ efforts to neatly define the nature of surveillance. The contemporary ‘surveillant assemblage’ embodies elements of all the surveillance theories that have been discussed and includes many organisations, methods, motivations, technologies and individuals (Fuchs, Boersma, Albrechslund & Sandoval, 2012, p. 7). The proliferation of myriad new surveillance methods and means that accumulate to form the “surveillant assemblage” is creating a situation in which inquiry into the ethics and consequences of surveillance is failing to keep pace with advances in surveillance capabilities.

The Surveillant Assemblage is a dynamic surveillance systems theory without fixed boundaries in terms of place, type of technology, motivation or the form that the watcher takes (Haggerty & Ericson, 2000, p. 609). The dynamics of the surveillant assemblage are so fluid that political and legal action to curb the growth is often fruitless and academic literature fails to keep up. The surveillant assemblage is not confined to any one technology or form of technology. Haggerty and Ericson assert that, because the assemblage exists across innumerable technologies, organisations and motivations, conventional means of fighting the surveillance apparatus are tantamount to trying to “keep the ocean’s tide back with a broom – a frantic focus on a particular unpalatable technology or practice while the general tide of surveillance washes over us all” (2000, p. 609). One of the features of the general tide of surveillance is Big Data. Where data used to be collected surreptitiously by “surveillants”, users of social media sites like Facebook now assemble their own ‘file’ willingly, which is then collected, analysed and stored through algorithms and other means by corporations and governments (Otterlo, 2012, pp. 1-2). Not only is the surveillance apparatus advancing fast, but the interactions between the “watchers” and the “watched” are changing with the aid of social media platforms. 

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claims that Facebook is the most abhorrent surveillance apparatus in history, providing easy access by governments to a comprehensive database of names, addresses, associations and other personally identifiable information (Lee, 2013, p. 202). The extent to which U.S. government, which recently announced more than $200 million in funding for big data research (Lee, 2013, p. 202), has been spying on its own citizens through Web 2.0 sites like Facebook and Google was unspecified until recently, when a National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower leaked documents to The Guardian regarding one of the biggest surveillance operations in history (Greenwald & MacAskill, 2013). The NSA’s Prism program claims to have direct access to Google, Facebook and other sites (Landau, 2013, p. 70) and has used these sites to conduct extensive surveillance on the personal communications of users (Greenwald & MacAskill, 2013). While all this is supposedly done in the name of safety and security, such extensive surveillance without the consent of the governed could have a negative impact on the civil and political wellbeing of young social media users.

Such pervasive Internet surveillance could have monumental and unimaginable consequences for “digital natives” who are too young to have experienced any reality with which to compare their digital lives (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008, p. 2). Kerr et al. suggest that a more appropriate description of ‘consent’ regarding data use agreement is “mandatory volunteerism” because not consenting can lead to social exclusion (2006, section 1).  When young people are aware of surveillance, they may modify normal behaviour, feel scrutinised and move into unsafe online spaces to avoid violation of their right to privacy (Mcahill & Finn, 2010, p. 287). “Social Software” and the information that is broadcast upon it does have the potential to enhance young peoples’ access and participation in local and global grassroots activism and nurture a more participatory democracy, however, whether information liberates or subdues people depends on the latitude that citizens are granted to challenge or reject the status quo without fear of reprisal (Neumayer & Raffl, 2008, pp. 10-11). Young people have access to vast amounts of information regarding their civil and political rights and unprecedented opportunity to ignite global social media initiated grassroots movements but they may face consequences for doing so. 

One of the most recent examples of a Web 2.0. mediated social movement is Occupy Wall Street in New York, which enabled participants to participate in political life but also fell prey to “strategic incapacitation” techniques by law enforcement. The New York Police Department used information collected through social media (Police Executive Research Forum, 2011, p.38), Closed Circuit TV and other forms of surveillance to predict and pre-emptively police the actions of protestors and create “spatial containment” zones where civil liberties, including freedom of the press and freedom of speech were suspended and activists were arrested for exercising their “inalienable” rights (Gillham, Edward & Noakes, 2013, pp. 13-18). While Facebook and other platforms mobilised participants, spread awareness and facilitated involvement in the Occupy movement, protestors faced a loss of privacy and a risk of negative interactions with police in online and offline spaces due to extensive surveillance by law enforcement designed to suppress the civil and political rights of Occupy members. 

Due to the ever-increasing sophistication of the online “surveillant assemblage” (Haggerty & Ericson, 2000), which features data mining, geolocation, direct accessing of personal communications by law enforcement, data “feedback loops” and other techniques, young people are experiencing an unprecedented loss of privacy that they never consented to in a meaningful way in a world dominated by social media. Social media has led to a previously unimaginable volume of political information that young people can access, however, law enforcement has recognised the utility of social media in policing dissent, possibly deterring young people from voicing their political grievances. The consumer choices of young people are perhaps not truly their own either now that data mining corporations have access to their thoughts and desires through social media and feed it back to them through the “hegemonic teleculture” (Hill, 2012) to influence their choices and thereby shape the dominant culture that young adults will subscribe to. The use of social media to conduct surveillance poses a definite threat to the civil and political rights of young people and inquiry into and regulation of extensive social media surveillance is essential to democracy. 

References

Albrechtslund, A. (2012). Socializing in the city: Location sharing and online social networking. In C. Fuchs, K. Boersma, A. Albrechtslund & M. Sandoval (Eds.), Internet and surveillance: The challenges of Web 2.0 and social media. (pp. 187-197) New York, NY: Routledge

Allmer, T. (2012). Critical internet surveillance studies and economic surveillance. In C. Fuchs, K. Boersma, A. Albrechtslund & M. Sandoval (Eds.), Internet and surveillance: The challenges of Web 2.0 and social media. (pp. 124-143) New York, NY: Routledge

Chang, N. (2002). Silencing political dissent. Canada: Seven Stories Press.

Fuchs, C., Boersma, K., Albrechtslund, A., & Sandoval, M. (2012). (Eds.), Internet and surveillance: The challenges of Web 2.0 and social media. New York, NY: Routledge

Gillham, P. F., Edwards, B., & Noakes, J. A. (2013). Strategic incapacitation and the policing of Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, 2011. Policing & Society 23(1), 81-102. doi: 10.1080/10439463.2012.727607

Greenwald, G., & MacAskill, E., (2013). NSA Prism program taps into user data of Apple, Google and others. Retrieved 9 December 2013 from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data/print

Haggerty, K. D., & Ericson, R. V. (2000). The surveillant assemblage. The British Journal of Sociology, 51(4), 605-622. doi: 10.1080/00071310 020015280

Hill, D. W. (2012). Jean-François Lyotard and the inhumanity of internet surveillance. In C. Fuchs, K. Boersma, A. Albrechtslund & M. Sandoval (Eds.), Internet and surveillance: The challenges of Web 2.0 and social media. (pp. 106-123) New York, NY: Routledge

Kerr, I. R., Barrigar, J., Burkell, J., & Black, K. (2006) Soft surveillance, hard consent. Personally yours, 6, 1-14. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abs tract=915407

Lee, N. (2013). Facebook nation: Total information awareness. New York, NY: Springer.

Landau, S. (2013). Making sense of Snowden: What’s significant in the NSA surveillance revelations. Security & Privacy, IEEE, 11(4), 54-63. doi: 10.1109/MSP.2013.90

Mcahill, M., & Finn, R. (2010). The social impact of surveillance in the UK: ‘Angels’, ‘devils,’ and ‘teen mums.’ Surveillance and Society, 7(3/4), 273-289.

Neumayer, C., & Raffl, C. (2008) Facebook for global protest: The potential and limits of social software for grassroots activism. Paper presented at the Prato CIRN 2008 Community Informatics Conference: ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality? Retrieved from http://pep-forums.990086.n3.nabble.com/file/n2539001/2008-Neumayer-Raffl-Facebook_protest_FARC.pdf

Otterlo, M. V. (2012). Counting sheep: Automated profiling, predictions and control. Paper presented at the Amsterdam Privacy Conference (Holland) Amsterdam. 

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2008). Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

PEW Internet and American Life Project. (2011). Teens and online behaviour: Data sets. Retrieved 8 December 2011 from http://pewinternet.org/ Shared-Content/Data-Sets/2011/July-2011-Teens-and-Online-Behavior.aspx

Police Executive Research Forum (2011) Critical issues in policing series: Managing major events: best practices from the field.  Retrieved January 11, 2014 from http://www.policeforum.org/dotAsset/1491 727.pdf

Richards, N., M. (2013) The dangers of surveillance. Harvard Law Review (2013) 1934-1965 Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/pape rs.cfm?abstract _id=2239412

Yeo, M. (2010). Propaganda and surveillance in George Orwell’s nineteen-eighty-four: Two sides of the same coin. Global Media Journal—Canadian Edition 3(2), 49-66. Retrieved from http://www.gmj.uottawa.ca/ 1002/v3i2_yeo.pdf‎

Occupy Sydney Retrospective: The first few months. (Part Two)

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Continued from (Part One)

On the 8th of November, we were pleasantly surprised to wake up, not looking at the walls of a cell, but  at the sky and two of our many targets, the Reserve Bank of Australia and Westpac bank. All we had was a cardboard box saying Occupy Sydney: Here to Stay and a couple of sleeping bags, but later that morning a chessboard and some food was donated by passers-by and by the end of the day, we had an info-desk set up.

The re-occupation wasn’t the only pot that occupiers had on the boil. A small group of Occupiers had squatted a building on the corner of King and Clarence Streets with the intention of eventually opening a Community Centre. The building was becoming derelict after having been abandoned years ago and it needed to be used for something. Unfortunately, on the afternoon of the 8th, their plan was thwarted as security guards noticed some of the occupiers leaving the building. A call for solidarity went out when the police turned up to evict the occupiers (most of whom were homeless at the time due to the astronomical cost of living) and a crowd quickly developed outside. At this point, they dropped banners saying Occupy Sydney, We Are Here, Get Used to It, 120,000 Empty Buildings Across Sydney and Housing Crisis Solved.

Music was blasted out onto the street and the solidarity protest that had materialized despite the pouring rain turned into an exuberant street festival.

The mood became more subdued when the police came out in force to intimidate protestors. Of particular concern was the disturbingly large squadron from the Public Order and Riot Squad, who were fully engaged in a pack mentality and eager to smash some heads. The police had also brought in five members of the Dog Squad, and there were reports that the bomb squad were there on standby.  The dogs were salivating and straining at their leashes to get their part of the action. This is a ludicrous overreaction when there were only five peaceful squatters in the building, leading to jokes like this one:

How many cops does it take to change a lightbulb? I don’t know, but gee, if it takes 120 to get five squatters out of a building…

The solidarity protest moved around the corner to the laneway, where the police were trying everything they could to block the protestor’s and the media’s view of what was going on, even shining torches in the media’s cameras. If that’s not unlawful censorship I don’t know what is. At this point, the Occupy Solidarity Protest chanted “who are you protecting?” and occupiers we love you, don’t let them push and shove you!” We were unable to see what was going on, but the squatters told us that they had not resisted arrest, but were nonetheless tenderised by riot police. Once the riot police had had enough of a go getting at the squatters and they had been taken away, the riot police kettled the lawful solidarity protest and started pushing and shoving the protestors down the hill towards a road. Eventually the Commander realized this looked really bad because the media had been caught up in the fracas, so he called his pigs off and the solidarity protest peacefully moved to Surry Hills police station to wait for our brothers and sisters to get out of the gallows.

This squatters’ protest was what the rest of the world woke up to on breakfast news. It alluded to the weighty issues of homelessness, housing affordability and greed. One of the Occupiers reported a surprising reaction from her father, who resides in Greece. He asked if the squat was attributed to “her lot”. After she said yes, bracing herself for a rant about protestors and hippies, he conceded “they have a point”. The action spoke to a vast cross section of society, all over the world, all of whom are fed up with this sorry state of affairs!

After an exhausting couple of weeks, it was nice to be able to go “home” to Martin Place and discuss ideas and actions for a better world.  At this point, we were experiencing incessant police harassment, but something that they hadn’t been able to take away from us for long was the 24/7 presence of Occupy Sydney in Martin Place, a place where anyone could come and express their dissent, their hope, their despair and their love. What the powers that be had underestimated was the pure determination of the Occupiers and the strength of many Occupiers’ convictions that Occupy Sydney was crucial and worth fighting for.  At the occupation, Occupiers set about talking to passers-by, creating weapons of mass (political) expression and learning the skills it takes to live on the street. With a smaller occupation, more limited resources and less occupiers,  Occupying Martin Place was a lot closer to, but not akin to, the experience of homeless people, and a lot of people woke up to the fact that everything you do in your own home takes a homeless person three times as much effort to complete, (e.g. walking to the other side of the city for a shower)and that you really do need to develop skills as a homeless person in order to look after yourself.  Because of this experience, many Occupiers feel a lot more connected to the issue of homelessness, and feel solidarity with the homeless community (which, I would argue is very different to the paternalistic sympathy promoted by charities.) In stark contrast to the isolation often associated with homelessness though, it’s very difficult to feel isolated at Occupy Sydney and most of the occupiers have a hot shower and a bed to go to when they need a break.

Occupy Sydney moved down one block for Remembrance Day (away from the war memorial), which opened up a huge dialogue between the Occupiers about the nature of war, and whether by retreating would be seen as an act of support for the troops,  whether showing support for the troops equated to supporting war or supporting those who had been exploited by the 1%, who always profit from war, and whether a war memorial should continue to be respected in the way it is now. Does it promote a partially fictional, glorified image of the “ANZAC Legend that is just used as a tool to recruit more young, naïve soldiers?

Around the time that we re-occupied, the Occupy Sydney Free School started. Both a commentary on the corporatisation, indoctrination and growing inaccessibility of recognised educational institutions and a free and functional educational space in itself, freeschool has been a hit since it began.  Anyone can teach and learn at freeschool, and the breaking down of the traditional student/teacher hierarchy leads to intelligent, challenging discussions that are less likely to happen in traditional educational institutions. From Activist Legal Rights and the Arrest Process to DIY renewable energy to History of occupation and indigenous struggle in Sydney to a Circus Workshop, anyone can engage with freeschool.  Freeschool continues every second Saturday in Martin Place and once a month at Occupy Parramatta.

Occupy the Suburbs began in November as well, and incorporated one of Occupy the Love’s tactics of handing out flowers to the public as a simple act of goodwill. Occupy the Suburbs was partly inspired by the way the Indignados in Spain took off in the suburbs. Mainly driven by a Parramatta resident who participates in Occupy Sydney who saw a need for Occupy in an area that is deeply affected by the injustices of corporate greed and wealth inequality. Since then, Occupy Parramatta has been more successful in terms of local public opinion than it’s Martin Place counterpart. Occupy Parramatta only occurs on Saturdays, but many honest and inspiring conversations are had.

Occupy Sydney Retrospective: The first few months. (Part One)

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Yesterday was Occupy Sydney’s 150th day of encountering hope, awakening, police harassment, inspiration, adversity, sunshine, torrential rain, ideas, beauty and truth, among many other things that occupy both the physical and metaphysical realms.

Occupy Sydney started off with a bang on the 15th of October, 2011.  One thousand people occupied Martin Place and the square was alive with a sense of possibility. Around the world on that day, thousands of other cities and towns had answered the call from Occupy Wall Street to rise up peacefully against the violence and corruption of the global financial system, the tyranny of corporate greed. The Occupy movement is a non-partisan movement uniting under the assertion that corporate greed has gone too far and we need to shift the focus to human need and true democratic awakening. Having such a broad unifying message means that a diverse range of people have been drawn to the movement. Unlike political parties and most organisations, the Occupy Movement does not have a party line, and if you talk to different people from within the movement, they will express different views and hopes about where whey see Occupy taking us. There are those who want the government to introduce policies that regulate the banks more and address corporate destruction of ecosystems. There are those who have become so disillusioned with what some call a “two party dictatorship” in Australia that they believe we need to overhaul the whole system. There are those who believe in no government at all. There are those who believe in a smaller government and many other opinions in between. The Occupy Movement has brought these people together to have a conversation, to challenge each other, and to build consensus for a better world.

I came to Occupy on the 19th of October. I’ve been in and out of social movements all my life, and I, like many other people, found what I’d been waiting for for a very long time, perhaps all my life. Having helplessly watched as a child as governments sold out their people, big business sold out everything and people sold out their people, I’ve been in a constant state of mourning all my life for the physical and spiritual destruction of the Earth and it’s beings. To a degree I’d lost hope for any change, but I came to check out Occupy Sydney for five minutes and I was so inspired I’ve barely left since. Here was a bunch of smart, switched on people who were determined to seek the truth and act on it, together. These people, unlike the powers that be, knew how to share, and they were sharing ideas, dreams, meals, chores and sleeping space with each other. The atmosphere of the Occupation for that first week was amazing. People with polarised views were having respectful dialogues with each other, striving to see things from the other’s point of view. I believe the simple acts of sharing and listening as equals are the most import tools for consensus building.

Unfortunately, the golden period was not going to last if the state had anything to do with it. At 5am on Sunday the 23rd of October, NSW Police, including members of the public order & riot squad, moved in with no warning. For many people involved in Occupy, this was their first real and confronting experience of police brutality.  NSW Police had learnt from the mistakes of their Victorian counterparts, who had shocked most Australians (except for the marginalised groups who have always experienced police brutality) with their brutal eviction of Occupy Melbourne in broad daylight. As @WeAreChangeBriz said, #occupysydney NSW Police have adapted – Strike in the dead of night: no media, no public, no world. #occupyoz. One young woman from Occupy Sydney was assaulted by riot police so badly that her body was covered in bruises and then held overnight in prison where she was tormented, humiliated and strip searched. From this point on, the police made it very clear that their mission was to wage a war of attrition on the Occupiers, employing state terrorism tactics including intimidation, theft, unlawful arrests, abusing the justice system by clogging up the courts with malicious prosecution, kicking protestors awake and making arrests in the early hours of the morning when nobody was around to see. Police the world over have proven the Occupiers right. We don’t live in democratic countries where you are free to express your dissent peacefully. Whether you protest peacefully or violently, you’ll be caught up in the criminal injustice system, and the only people that start and engage in riots at protests are the police, particularly the public order and riot squad. It’s important to note here that certain groups within society have been victims of police brutality and harassment for as long as the police have been in existence, mostly people from racial minorities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in particular, and people from low socio-economic backgrounds. So we can’t go harping on as if activists were the first people to experience police brutality, but we should definitely be using Occupy Sydney’s relative high profile to break down the police’s carefully constructed deception that they are there to serve and to protect. They’re definitely protecting someone, but it’s not the 99%.

After the raid, there was a General Assembly in the afternoon close to UTS. Emotions were running high, but eventually consensus was reached on a rally to re-occupy on November the 5th. A number of people chose to take a member of the Aboriginal community up on his offer to facilitate an occupation of Victoria Park, where everyone could engage in a smoke ceremony. The power of the sacred fire and the symbolic power of the site was enough to make the police back down on their threats to evict the occupiers. Some of the people who occupied the park continued a moving occupation of public spaces, one night occupying bronte beach.

Throughout the two weeks between the 23rd October and the 5th November, Three people in particular maintained a presence in Martin Place. Bob would come every day, like clockwork, and set up a discussion point where he would share his extensive knowledge of political economics. Peter would hold the space overnight, and Bern would meditate in the space three times a day. As she meditated, she tried to block out the threats of arrest that she was receiving from NSW Police for meditating in a public space. During the two weeks, General Assemblies and Working groups were held in Martin Place.

On the 5th of November, over 2000 people turned up to re-occupy.  Occupiers marched through the sunny streets, chanting. One of the more visible aspects of the march was a funeral procession for democracy.

After the rally, Occupiers knuckled down for a General Assembly (GA) and eventually decided to occupy Hyde Park. The police were moving in and Occupiers avoided confrontation by peacefully moving to Hyde Park. The GA continued and everything went quite well until everyone saw what looked like a scrum of police officers. It turned out that they were pushing each other aside to get at a woman who had pitched a tent. Two other occupiers tried to defend her only to be arrested. It was very clear then that the fight for a scrap of public space was not going to be an easy one. Despite that, spirits were high, Occupiers shared food, there was drumming and a couple of people tried to settle down to sleep only to be kicked awake by cops seconds later.

When more riot cops began to move in, it became clear that the Occupiers would not be safe unless we stuck together. So we all locked arms and that’s how we remained for most of the night, with other occupiers making sure we had enough food and water and a very clever chicken keeping many people entertained:

By the early hours of the morning, it became clear that we were not going to be able to defend ourselves peacefully, many people had left and the number of police was swelling. We made a collective decision to leave and we were followed and harassed by the police while we walked. They told us that we had to separate from one another, showing no concern for more vulnerable members of the group.

A small number of Occupiers then occupied an undisclosed public space at the invitation of the person who mantains it, and had a much-needed debrief about the events of the night before getting some sleep and heading to Hyde Park for a General Assembly in the morning. By this point, a lot of Occupiers were so tired and disheartened that they were unable to listen to other points of view and a lot of heated discussion ensued. I don’t remember what it was about now, but I have the feeling it was about whether or not to Occupy and the process of the GA. Eventually, the GA broke off into various working groups and Occupiers were fairly content to see what Clover Moore had to say on the 7th November, when Irene Doutney would be requesting that Occupy Sydney be allowed to occupy a public space to Kerb the issue of police harassment.

On the 7th November, Just after “hosting” a Noam Chomsky talk at Town Hall, Clover Moore did some fancy political footwork to avoid answering any of Irene Doutney’s questions honestly. She denied claims of police brutality and stated support for any actions carried out by the police. She suggested that she host a “City Talk” as a solution where she would invite business & community leaders to talk about inequality. Not a great solution for a grassroots movement, Clover. Only when the Greens suggested an amendment; that an Occupy participant speak at the city talk did she even let up on that. It was such a copout and an act of contempt for the Occupiers that no occupiers were willing to go near the City Talk.

A small group of people at that point decided not to wait for permission to re-occupy as it seemed that every official channel that we exhausted, we were knocked back. We would just have to assert our right. At about 11pm, 5 people re-occupied Martin Place. And we’ve been there ever since.

To be continued…

Occupy Statement (Australia)

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We are calling for a nation wide peaceful occupation across Australia on November 5. This movement to Occupy Together is in solidarity with people in over 2000 locations worldwide who will also be occupying together for human need not corporate greed on November 5.

We believe the basic needs of 99% of the global population are continually being ignored by governments who instead cater for the richest 1% of corporations who control most of the world’s wealth.

We also believe that in this time of global economic uncertainty people will have to come together to share ideas, food, water and power rather than allow these things to divide us. We are calling on people from all walks of life to walk together and Occupy Together on November 5. All are welcome regardless of their occupations, race, religion, sexuality, gender or political persuasions.

We are not just one political idea or one organisation. We are many ideas and many organisations coming together to call for a better world based on human need not corporate greed. We are the 99%. You are the 99%. Let us Occupy Together on November 5.

Peace. Love. Unity.
Occupy Together.