Friday, January 27, 2012

Swells of Resilience

A week ago today, thousands of committed folks braved the first real rains of the season in the bay area to send a message to those in power. The pundits had been saying that the “Occupy movement” was over, that we have lost our momentum, and that busting up the camps was the end of this resistance. On Friday, thousands poured into the streets demonstrating the resilience of this movement in the face of corporate efforts to beat us back through funding police repression and government efforts against us.

But in the face of that and in the face of rain that at times came in the form of much needed heavy downpours, thousands of people showed up. The financial district in San Francisco was the hub of the actions. And when I say hub, I mean mass coordinated efforts of direct action and targeted protests. To get a better sense of how much was going on check out this link to a map of actions in the Financial District last week. Friday was the 1 year anniversary of the “Citizens United” ruling which gave corporations the same rights as people in the eyes of the law in the US. That's right, Wells Fargo has the same rights as your grandmother. And that's what we were protesting—the fact that corporations are now seen as people in the United States. 
People in "lockboxes" and chained to the Wells Fargo West Coast Headquarters

When I was living in South America, I used to joke with folks down there that my country wasn't really the United States of America, it was the United Corporations of America. After that ruling came down, the joke has stopped being funny. Whereas before, corporate donations holding the purse strings of politicians was under the table and covert. Now it's completely out in the open and within the realm of the law.

God bless America.

But today I'm writing about Resilience. I took a class at the GTU this January called Resistance and Resilience. We read theologians and ethics scholars and dissected the ways in which people and social movements have resisted and how their culture, faith, and practices have led to resiliency. We had visitors from different social change movements share about their work and their theological perspectives in light of everything that is happening today.

On Friday, as I ran around the Wells Fargo west coast headquarters, offering water and food to folks who had chained themselves to the entrances of the building in an effort to shut down the bank and send a message of resistance to this country, I found myself reflecting on the readings from this class and things my classmates said. About an hour after the workers were supposed to start their day, the cops blockaded one side of the street and arrested everyone blocking entrances so that Wells Fargo could make their money. The cops reopened the street and the side was wide open for business. After a quick blessing from tactical, a few of us decided to form a picket line on that side of the building—we had flyers to give to the workers to let them know why we feel that Citizens United is so dangerous, it's worth disrupting their workday. 

I was running around the building trying to drum up support, our numbers were small in total at this point. A lot of people had left to go to an action at the Chevron headquarters a few blocks away. HAVOQ/Pride at Work was hosting an amazing teach in on the other side of the building which was attracting lots of glittery resistance. Two people moved in to stand in the entrance of the doorway with the intention of staying until the bank closed or the cops dragged them away. 

Pride at Work/HAVOQ's "flag core" dancing in the streets

One particularly sour banker who had been yelling at us, and pushing the police to crack down on us, insisting that the exits were blocked and that the action was unsafe, came over to yell at us some more. He was creating different stories first about a man who was inside who needed to leave because his wife was pregnant which later became a story of a pregnant lady who had just gone into labor inside the building. The funny part about the sour bankers insistence of the lack of safe exits is that he made a very dramatic exit first thing in the morning, pushing through the blockade which marked the beginning his tirade of screaming.

The chief of police came over to tell the people in the doorway to move. There was about ten of us in total at this point. The people in the doorway refused to move. The police officer sighed and walked across the street to talk to the other cops with the sour banker trailing behind him rambling about profit loss and damage to the business. I looked around nervously. Our numbers were small and small numbers means higher risk. One of the people on the line was my friend who's undocumented. The cops looked like they were devising a plan. My heart pounded, should we move the picket line? With numbers like this, everyone's at risk.

The group of cops broke off and went to talk to other cops,

“Uh-oh. They're giving orders”, I thought to myself. I took a breath and felt my roots sink into the earth and through that connection, asked mother earth what to do. Suddenly, I heard loud voices. My eyes flew open as my heart pounded in my chest. Coming right at us was a large group of African American and Latino leaders from ACCE carrying a banner chanting, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible!” They filled up the side of the street, there was at least 50 of them. We cheered and greeted them welcoming them with gratitude.
Leaders from ACCE marching in the streets later in the day.

I glanced back at the cops, they had run back to their huddle and were clearly trying to readjust their plan due to the number of people now holding the picket line.

As we chanted, my heart filled with joy and I thought to myself, this is resilience. This is community resilience. This is what resilience can look like when we work together and fight for a common goal. Resilience is people overpowering the efforts of police to prioritize profit and corporate interests over the needs of people and community safety. Resilience is us backing each other up in times of desperation.

Resilience is people coming from all different parts of the city to support Bayview resident Vivian Richardson, who was facing foreclosure. It's hundreds of people turning out to support efforts for her to keep her home. Resilience is the successful resistance in forcing the bank to renegotiate her mortgage and Vivian getting to keep her home. Resilience is the “Occupy Housing” movement that has continued to grow despite the media refusing to report on success stories like Vivian's. Resilience is the hundreds of houses that have been re-occupied despite foreclosure threats throughout the United States over the past few months.

Resilience is pouring into the streets in the thousands in the face of media insistence that this movement is “over”. When the camps were raided and destroyed, the movement took a blow. We took a serious hit. We have been trying to figure out how to regroup and get things moving again ever since the raids. On Friday, as I marched in the rain with thousands of others, targeting big corporations and the unjust policies of the Immigration system in this country, I felt the wind back in the sails of the bay area Occupy/Decolonize movement.

When the people are ready for change there is not a lot that can be done to stop them.

A wave travels thousands of miles through the ocean before it crashes on the shore. It swells up as it draws closer to the shore and curls drawing up the potent energy of the waves that have come before. When a wave is heading towards the shore, there is not a lot that can be done to stop it.

We are that wave. The last wave that crashed were the encampments. Right now, we are drawing up the energy of movements before as we head towards the shore pregnant with potential. We are flowing and we are growing. We are a part of a larger swell of resistance—there are many waves that have come before us and there are many ways coasting through the ocean behind us.

May we always remember our connection with those who have come before and those who will follow long after us.

Grandmothers and Grandmother Supporters against the War

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


So I'm not tech savvy enough to figure out how to black out my webiste in protest of SOPA.  So I'm adding a quick post instead.  Here's a link to a good Op-ed piece about why I'm unplugging from the internet today in protest of SOPA.