Luis Moreno-Caballud (University of Pennsylvania. Occupy Wall Street)
Occupy Wall Street is built upon a general resentment against Wall Street, as films as Capitalism: a love story or Inside job clearly show. A new imaginary is created not against capitalism itself, but against obscene wealth of the so-called 1% (the 1% of richest people). There also is a major disappointment after Barack Obama’s election, as many citizens deny the “hope” that the new President was supposed to bring.
There also is another precedent in the march on Wall Street on May 12th, 2011, as others on May 21st 2011, or June 16th, 2011, these latter two against Mayor Bloomberg.
At last, Adbusters creats the meme and calls on September 17th 2011 to “Occupy Wall Street”, a call clearly based on Tahrir Square and the Spanish Indignados’ camps. It is interesting to note that Adbusters made the call, but would not organize any formal movement, infrastructure, camp or whatever.
The New York City General Assembly is the one that takes the commitment to turn Adbusters’ call into something real.
Most of the people around NYC General Assembly and the camp at Zuccotti Park had similar profile: white, educated and politically committed youngsters. This provided a homogeneous culture which made agreements be reached quite easily, but also represented a closed cluster that had serious challenges to get to other citizens outside of this specific group. They notwithstanding succeeded in reaching out to other local processes, like groups fighting racism, groups fighting for labour rights, etc. At this moment, the movement boosts and virally expands into “traditional” activism and many other areas of society, including mainstream media.
It is worth noting two very interesting characteristics of the movement. The first one, the power of self-organization, including self-propagation, P2P help to newcomers, etc. The second one, the ability to replicate a “city” in the camp of Zuccotti Park, setting up the services and infrastructures that are needed to guarantee the habitability and sustainability of the occupation.
Baybars Külebi (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Occupy Gezy Barcelona)
The “Guided” Autonomy of #direngezi
In Turkey there is no apparent crisis. But, there are three pillars of economic growth in Turkey that are harming many people and that can provide an interesting framework for the movements in Taksim.
- Urban transformation projects. There is an important bias towards policies based on construction and big infrastructures.
- Enclosure of commons. Including environmental injustices related to (among other) water supplies and hydroelectric power.
- Neoliberal transformations. Benefiting the “big family” of rich capitalists that act as “dispossession networks”, networks made by the government, media and firms.
Besides this framework, there is a timeline of events that can also help to understand Taksim: the Bloody 1st of May (May 1, 1977), the Military Coup (September 12, 1980), the first celebration in Taksim (May 1, 2010), closing of the square (September 16, 2011), the beginning of construction within the park (May 27, 2013), etc.
On the other hand, there is a strong culture of the Internet in Turkey, deeply rooted in 4chan and its ethos. The ekşi sözlük group thus served, in many senses, as a sort of school of cyberactivism.
After the initial phase in May 27th, 2013, where just 50-60 people camped in Taksim, then the movement quickly gained momentum, especially when other organizations came and joined the general movement. The fact that the demands were very concrete was also helpful in gathering people around clear, straightforward ideas. Though there was some criticism for these demands not being very ambitious. But, again, simplicity played an important role in making the message very clear and easy to endorse.
It is important to note that the movement came in time: just two years before, broadband penetration in Turkey was very low, just improving very quickly after 2011. The role of technological tools has been important, but instrumental.
Bernardo Gutiérrez (Journalist. Riots in Brasil)
There are some minor — but relevant — unrests in November 6, 2012, but it is in June 13, 2013, where the protests end up in violence by the police. This sparks the movement: some activist groups call for demonstrations (among them Movimento Passe Livre, Anonymous, Movimento contra a Corrupção. Many movements answer the call for June 17th, 2013, thus gathering different sensibilities, approaches, demands, etc. and making the movement a very powerful one. It is worth noting that the movement identifies itself not as a major protest in Brazil, but as part of a global worldwide protest. Indeed, this made the local nodes of global networks like Anonymous to increase their relevance and their legitimacy both inside Brazil as outside of the country. On the other hand, #ProtestoRJ is seen as the network of the “poor nodes”, that is, no powerful local nodes monopolized the debate but, on the contrary, the conversation was really plural and distributed.
Political parties did not understand the movement — especially, or not even, left-wing parties — and they tried to enter the conversation with very self-referential and top-down approaches.
The movement succeeded in creating a collective identity and imaginary which has created a whole process of artivism and hacktivism that has permeated all spheres of life.
Ismael Peña-López (to Bernardo Gutiérrez): is it possible to be both a journalist and an activist? where are the red lines? Gutiérrez: it’s difficult. The good thing is knowing the issues in deepest detail, as an insider, and also being able to talk to all parts and actors and see their points of view. The not that good thing is how to keep a distance when it is needed, or how to keep criticism on one’s own side even when one is a convinced partisan of the movement. The final balance is, though, very positive: being both things — journalist and activist — as produced more rigorous and informed pieces in comparison with other media that have covered the citizen movements worldwide.
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