Some of the largest demonstrations in the history of Madrid, Santiago (Chile), Montreal, Frankfurt, and Moscow rose up in the streets in common call this past week. The people on the ground referenced each other’s particular resistance movements, from the Spanish call to Indígnate to the New York-cum-global call to Occupy. People continued to march or rebel, depending on their capacity for struggle, in New York, the Bay Area, Bahrain, Gaza, and Syria.
By week’s end, our eyes have shifted to Chicago, where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an anachronistic western coalition of former colonial empires that was formed officially to counter Soviet influence, assembled to discuss the 11-year occupation of Afghanistan and the coercive administration of neo-colonialism the world over.
Are there divisions in the halls of power? Many. Some have hopes that the moderate “Socialist” president of France, Francois Hollande, may take stiffer stances against austerity and European intervention in other continents. Many have similar expectations of Syriza, the Greek party that was partly born out of the counter-globalization movement, which is now in the lead for the second round of elections. When people rise in the streets, it sharpens the contradictions in the strategies of rule by the world’s rich until, sometimes. And just sometimes, they are pushed from below to abandon the most egregious of structures.
Quebec is witnessing what some say are its largest marches in history, where a student strike (GGi) will wake to it’s 100th dawn this coming Tuesday. Late Friday night, the provincial government passed the emergency Loi 78 (or as one angry assemblyman called it, Loi Fuck) to suppress the student resistance, prompting some legislators to walk out and call for mass civil disobedience. Twenty-five thousand students hit the streets the next day to challenge authorities. Similar movements against austerity have been hitting Chile for years, and this week has seen them flow back into the streets, banging a cacerolazo in a resounding opposition to President Piñera. In Moscow, fraudulent elections pulled tens of thousands into the streets, and though police violence depleted their numbers, still they rise. In Frankfurt, the financial capital of Germany, they too saw twenty-five thousand join Blockupy to prove that austerity is just as unpopular in the power base of the European Union as it is in the smaller economies that it tries to beat into submission.
The Multilateral Agreement on Investment was defeated because people rose up. As was the Free Trade Area of the America, which could have turned all of the Americas into a free trade zone, rather than forcing the United States to negotiate bilaterals, often in the public eye, and passing them at a snail’s pace. The World Trade Organization spent years languishing during its search for cities to host its meetings, and a gathering of poor and underdeveloped countries walked out of some of the meetings, suggesting that they were no longer interested in neo-colonial relationships. These were victories for the people in the streets. And those streets were never just the streets outside of the summits themselves: they were the streets of the downtrodden of the world. Marching together in lockstep against a tyranny of western markets.
NATO should see a similar such death. It was created as an anti-communist counterweight to the fake communists of the Soviet Union (indeed, Stalin killed more communists than anyone save Hitler), and stayed on to perform it’s real mission: remain the preeminent military alliance of former empires of Europe, the longstanding imperialism of the United States, and neocolonial administrations in the so-called Global South. It functions to oust genuinely brutal regimes that are out of favor with the west, and replace them with genuinely brutal regimes that will capitulate to western economic demands.
Chicago organizers planned some beautiful acts of resistance. They marched on the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a conservative and hawkish Democrat who once served in the occupying Israeli Defense Forces. They marched on some of the six mental health clinics that are being shuttered by Mayor Emanuel, half of the city’s twelve, which are needed by veterans, LGBTQ youth and anyone else with psychological side effects from a life of alienation caused by systemic oppression. In coalition with Occupy Chicago, many Chicagoans recently occupied some of these clinics in their defense. They marched with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, who are hurling their medals in disdain for the murder and exploitation that they were sent by the rich to fight for. They marched for the environment, an Earth that the rich abuse as a spoiled child does with his toys, always with the expectation that another toy planet can be purchased. They were joined by thousands of counter-globalization, anti-war, and Occupy activists, dissident voices in an age that for too long was considered to be saddled with complacency.
The people who are rising up in Chicago, some active only since September and others for many decades, have built infrastructure. They have an office for NATO INDYMEDIA (something that was spawned from the counter-globalization movement and is a more politically cohesive but broad-based version of Occupy media working groups). They have a convergence center in a near north side church. They have teams of street medics, complemented by others from across the country, an amazing legal team, and a strong sense of linking the global with the local.
They were met with the police state. City, state, and federal law enforcement did what they’ve been doing to brown people every day, and what they did to Civil Rights, Black Power, anti-war, counter-globalization, Occupy, union, Puerto Rican independence, anti-police brutality, immigrants rights, American Indian, environmentalist, international solidarity, anarchist, communist, anti-austerity, and every other dissident voice on the left for decades. There was brutal repression.
The raid of a home late Wednesday night ended in the detention of eight people planning to protest the NATO summit, three of whom had videotaped a police stop just days earlier during which officers were recorded joking about violence against demonstrators. Three of the eight were held past a Saturday noon bond hearing, where they were to be held at $1.3 million bail collectively. Some say that the activists were simply planning to make home brewed beer, a common hobby in Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times noted that three agent provocateurs had approached the men about using Molotov cocktails, a minor incendiary device common in protests in other countries. If so, the case stinks of the kind of entrapment we've seen from the Newburgh 4 to the very recent Ohio 5. Two more have since been arrested in the case.
At least three New Yorkers are confirmed to have been among the unknown number who were hospitalized on May 19th, one’s nose was broken, a second required five stitches, and a third who was hit by a police van in a taped incident, but has since made a partial recovery. Most were attacked in marches held in solidarity with the three held on excessive bail mentioned above, or, later, in an anti-capitalist march through downtown Chicago that intermittently broke police lines. Independent livestreamers were visited by police, guns drawn, in one of many clear cases of intimidation of the evolving autonomous civilian press. And in a smack in the face to the memory of Malcolm X (in addition to his birthday, 5/19 was indeed the birthday of Ho Chi Minh and nearly of Augusto Sandino), they based some of their officers at Malcolm X College.
The police refer to our fight for liberation on their radios as the “conflict zone.” It smacks of the use of "class war" as a right-wing epithet against anyone working for the emancipation of the poor and working classes. But let us be clear: We didn't create the conflict. The rich did. When they conquered Africa, Asia and the Americas, and refused to give up their grip as people revolted for political independence. They did when they profited off of the more than twenty million who die each year of hunger and malnutrition. They did as they sold the derivatives of the debt of millions of students, of millions of uninsured patients, of eight million North American homeowners in foreclosure, on the displacement of hundreds of millions of peasants and indigenous people across the poorest parts of our planet, including Black and Latin@ communities gentrified out of their hoods, barrios, communities, and public housing projects. They survive off of the conflict that they created, indeed thrive. If they will not relinquish the reigns of power, we will indeed bring conflict. And just as the tentacles of a capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy (in the words of bell hooks) are global and all-encompassing, reaching into every tuft of earth and internalized into every wrinkle of our minds and hearts, we are everywhere. Fighting back. Inside our bodies, inside our hearts and minds, and on the streets, outside the halls of power, in the plazas, the parks, the abandoned buildings, the closing worksites, the unused lands of the haciendas.
If people were worried about the demise of Occupy Wall Street before this past week, when people rose up in Germany, Chile, Russia, Bahrain, the United States, Spain, they had their heads in the wrong place. Whatever we call ourselves, with or without some idealized language like occupy or progressive or anarchist, we are everywhere. And like the soft-lock lines in Chicago, we will, sometimes, be bludgeoned back by the forces of violence here to protect their exploitative system. But, sometimes, we will break their lines, and march forward, for tomorrow is ours to create.
Palante, siempre palante.