Solidarity in Action
Last fall, the “Occupy” movement struck like a bolt out of a clear blue sky. After years of bail-outs for big corporations and austerity for everyone else, the discontent simmering under the surface in the United States boiled over. From the most unlikely of sources, Adbusters, an alternative magazine from Canada, came a call for 20,000 people to flood Wall St and stay there until major changes were made. Underlining the disparity between the haves and the havenots, the slogan was simple, yet powerful: “We are the 99%”
On September 17th, the first day, 1000 people turned up. Police presence was heavy. The New York Police Department (NYPD) refused to allow protesters to set up tents, citing loitering laws. They arrested anyone who wore a mask, citing an obscure law which dates back to 1845. Over the next few days, constant police harassment made organizing difficult. On September 24th, the protesters decided to hold a march through the financial district of New York City. Though the demonstration was entirely peaceful, police brutality was rampant. Many people were beaten or pepper-sprayed and at least 80 were arrested. Within hours, videos of unprovoked attacks by police started to surface online. They went viral and helped to boost the Occupy movement.
The Occupy movement, fuelled by earlier uprisings in Spain and the Middle East, started to spread internationally. Occupations emerged in parks and public squares across North America and around the world. On October 1st, when the occupiers, joined by organized labour, tried to march across the Brooklyn bridge, they were met with more police brutality. The police strung nets across the bridge, trapping the peaceful demonstrators. Over 700 were arrested. This put Occupy back on the front pages and only served to build the movement and outrage the public. By October 15th, there were occupations in over 1,000 cities worldwide. When the Canadian Union of Postal Workers held its convention in Toronto, we passed a resolution in support of the Occupy movement and, as an expression of solidarity, organized a march with Occupy Toronto. Six hundred postal workers marched through the financial center of Canada behind a banner that read “Capitalism Doesn`t Work for Workers.” Through these types of actions, CUPW reaches out to the wider social justice movements and builds effective solidarity.