Reports from Occupy: 10/26

October 26, 2011

The Occupy movement has spread from a small protest encampment in the financial district of Manhattan to a mass movement across the U.S.--and now the world--with supporters in over 1,000 cities, towns, campuses and more. Here, SocialistWorker.org is publishing reports we receive from activists around the country, describing the actions they're organizing and the discussions they're a part of. If you want to contribute a report, use this "Contact Us" page.

Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

by Damian Reyes and Steven Wyatt, with Leighton Christiansen

THREE HUNDRED and fifty spirited occupiers marched through downtown Champaign, Ill., on October 15, in solidarity with the Global Day of Occupy actions.

Chanting "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" and "Money for jobs and education, not to bail out corporations!" protesters attracted sympathetic thumbs-up and honks from motorists as they marched through intersections.

The marchers then gathered at West Side Park to hear speakers from Champaign County Health Care Consumers, Jobs with Justice (JwJ), International Socialist Organization (ISO), Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), Iraq Veterans Against the War, Illinois Education Alliance, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and several others.

Many speakers drew the connections between the gathering in Champaign and the Occupy movement around the world, and all called for a redistribution of society's wealth to answer important needs, such as universal health care, affordable education, living-wage jobs and more spending in the public sector.

Protesters march in support of labor at Occupy Austin
Protesters march in support of labor at Occupy Austin

For a substantial number of the marchers, this was their first experience participating in a public demonstration. The mood of the crowd was both enthusiastic and bitter, a mixture of anger and a willingness to "do something."

Among the newly politicized people who showed up to their first collective action was 21-year-old Kira Yager, who was fired from her job two weeks ago. She came to the Occupy rally to "see what everybody else felt and to tell other people how I feel."

Kira is "extremely concerned" about the fate of her generation: "I would love to get a psychology degree but it is impossible to do it without going into debt: my family is too poor. I want a future. I don't want to be in debt for my whole life."

For people like 24-year-old Jacob Yette--who has been unemployed for three years and is a father in a family of five--the stakes are high. "I'm here for my kids' future. I don't want them to live through what I am living," he said.

The October 15 event was the second march and rally held in Champaign in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

On October 8, nearly 200 marchers made their way through downtown Champaign to the Chase Bank branch, where they occupied the lobby, demanding a withdrawal of $97 billion--the amount Chase received in tax-payer bailout money.

Even amid the anger at Chase, the banksters and their Washington cronies, the Unity March took time out for a moment of silence for the recently executed Troy Davis, and for Kiwane Carrington, a 15-year-old African-American youth shot to death by Champaign police two years ago.

The Occupy Champaign-Urbana movement got off to a slow and somewhat confused start, with at least two Facebook groups and one web page appearing in early October calling for "some type" of action.

In the run up to the Unity March, organizers of the annual march--JwJ, CU-Citizens for Peace and Justice, SEIU, GEO, the Socialist Forum, and the ISO--called on the various Occupy CU web organizers to join the demonstration, and then hold a General Assembly (GA) after. This call helped get the Occupy CU groups together, and the GA was held on October 5, which began laying the groundwork for the October 15 action.

Most of those attending these General Assembly meetings have never been involved in political organizing before, but are devoting a great deal of time and energy and are excited about the prospects of the movement.

In the coming weeks, Occupy CU will need to build better communication structures and links to other groups in the area, such as organized labor, African Americans and students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where Occupy organizing is just getting off the ground.

When asked why he spontaneously showed up on the UIUC campus to leaflet about the Occupy movement, Jacob Yette said Occupy Wall Street has struck deep into his convictions: "We've been divided on class, race, religion...but there is a uniting energy in Occupy that drove me to get involved: People coming together. It is so strong that you can't deny it."

As many others who have joined the movement, Jacob is resolute in his aspiration to "take this country back for us--as in 'We, the people' and not as in 'We, the corporations.'"


Austin, Texas

By Brian Coalson

MEMBERS OF the labor movement from all over Austin came out for a march in solidarity with Occupy Austin on October 23. Some 250 members of the Communication Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), Education Austin and Amalgamated Transit Union, as well as nonunion participants, came out to join in the fight for the working class against vicious austerity here in Texas and union-busting going on throughout the country.

The general feel from many union leaders and rank-and-file members was that there is a need for solidarity between unions if workers are going to mount a fightback. Ken Zarifis, co-president of Education Austin, emphasized the need to work together especially with NALC and other unions in their current struggles in order to win the fight for labor.

Chants of "We've got the Wall Street fix: Tax, tax, tax the rich!" and "We are the 99 percent" emanated from the crowd.

"One thing to remember about the wealthy is that they are wealthy off of the labor of working men and women like us. They did not earn their wealth," said Jim Branson from the Texas State Employees Union to loud cheers.

The march was a hopeful start of something that may continue. It is crucial that the unions stick together, especially in an area where most unions have non-strike clauses and little power.

One further development in the coming together of Occupy Austin and unions is that many service industry workers are realizing the power that can come from a unified working class in a union. Another service industry workers march was scheduled for at 3 p.m. at Republic Square Park on October 25. There have been many calls by service industry workers at Occupy Austin of possibly forming a union here. This could shape up to be a large battle in the coming year here in Austin.

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