We celebrated Occupy Wall Street’s (OWS) second monthly anniversary in small town Sebastopol, with its less than 8000 residents, in Northern California on November 17. We packed a City Council meeting where over two-dozen people spoke in favor of Occupy Sebastopol (OS) and the five-member Council supported it.
Though large cities and police assaults on peaceful occupations fill mass media reports, many smaller and mid-size cities continue with successful, vigorous occupations around the United States.
What follows are excerpts from my testimony to the Council, whose five members I all know. As former mayor Larry Robinson says, “Local government is not the arm of the state but the hands of the people.”
Today is an historic day of action celebrating the two-month anniversary of OWS. There is no turning back this mass movement. It is democratic, experimental, evolving, open-hearted, celebratory, at times angry, magical, amazing, juicy, miraculous, passionate, and imaginative.
Today’s actions around the U.S. began at the New York Stock Exchange early this morning. Actions have occurred at bridges and other public spaces in Brooklyn, Portland, Los Angeles and elsewhere.
I’ve felt more alive and vital in the last two months than I have in decades. In recent years my despair has grown as I’ve watched the U.S. elites’ Death Machine continue its foreign and domestic wars, strangling, robbing and killing its own people and the peoples of the world, as well as further destroying the environment and creating chaotic climate change.
But now? It’s on the run. There’s no turning back the 99%. We’re out of the closet.
There will be difficulties and setbacks. Many of us may be beaten and imprisoned. But a great tidal wave of liberation sweeps across the U.S. and the world. The 99% are standing up to the 1%. We have been having dialogues within the 99%. We are building community and unity. That is our strength.
Even defectors from the 1% are joining us in a spiritual awakening that is our greatest hope for a better future than I have experienced in my nearly 70 years.
I want to make a plea to all of the 99%. Let’s continue to practice strategic non-violent direct action, especially in the face of and in contrast to the violence that comes toward us by the 1% protected by para-military police forces.
Let’s not be provoked by agents, infiltrators, and those who have lost faith in the historic legacy and successful efforts of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and other revolutionaries who helped set their people free.
Lets stay in our town plazas and on city hall lawns. Let’s make music, not war. Let beauty reign over domination. Let’s take back the public spaces and commons that are rightfully ours—here in Sebastopol and elsewhere.
Let Americans once again inspire the world, rather than oppress its people. Let’s replace our shame at what has been done in our name with pride and planetary patriotism.
There has been much talk at city councils about laws, rules, and ordinances. OWS should follow higher, ancient laws, such as Thou Shalt Not Kill & Thou Shalt Not Steal.
The silent criminals and killers within protected Wall Street rooms must be exposed. Those who horde human labor and natural resources for private and personal gain must be exposed.
Let’s continue to reclaim public spaces, resist evictions, and recreate beautiful community. As Code Pink says Reclaim, Resist, & Recreate. You can’t evict an idea whose time has come. However, the strategies and tactics to promote this mass movement need to evolve.
Let me leave you with my favorite memory of Occupy Sebastopol.
It happened on what is now called Veteran’s Day and used to be called Armistice Day—the end of war. We’re at a General Assembly. Sebastopol police chief Jeff Weaver walks toward us. We notice a plate of brownies in his hands. He presents them to us from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), much to our delight. As he leaves, words of praise follow.
Power to the Peaceful!
(Shepherd Bliss works with Occupy Sebastopol and Occupy Santa Rosa. He is a college teacher and organic farmer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)