OWS Needs No Demands

The Occupation does not need Demands.

The strength of this movement is it’s passion. It appeals to the deep seeded feeling that somewhere on our collective journey humanity took a wrong turn, and now is the time to correct our mistake. No one knows exactly which way to go, but we all agree it has to be different than the way we’re heading. To find a future that benefits all of us we must talk, debate, and reason with one another. Our knowledge, like our power, is much greater collectively than individually. Our future needs a forum, a hearth for citizens to gather around and share ideas. Occupy Wall St is that forum.

What cannot happen is a goal or date that, once met, will dissolve the movement. Even if we achieve everything we could hope for, OWS should remain as a reminder and warning of what can happen when we let politicians, lobbyists, and TV personalities do the talking for us. Creating a list of demands will be the beginning of the end. Demands can be marginalized, appeased, and brushed aside. Demands can be twisted and used to demonize and divide us. What can’t be marginalized or misconstrued is a citizenry in the streets demanding our government act in our best interest and that when it does not we will hold those in power accountable instead of looking the other way for the sake of convenience or lack of a viable alternative.

Occupy Wall Street needs to become a place of great discussion and learning, a think tank of the people, by the people, and for the people. From this can grow limitless ideas and movements to tackle the many individual problems facing our country and our world, movements that can set specific goals and demands then disband when they are achieved. In this way we can achieve tangible results without forfeiting our reasons to assemble. Occupy Wall St can be a driving force for an American re-catalyzation, a paradigm shift in our world view.

This movement is not about taxes, healthcare, inequality, the economy, education, corporate power or the police state, though these are all part of it. This movement is about we the people and the society we choose to create. Too long have we passively accepted what has been given to us as the cultural ‘norm’. We know that the ‘norm’ is a distortion, a world where our financial and environmental misconduct have no consequences, production and product are unrelated, and politics is a spectator sport. In silence we’ve allowed these injustices to fester and grow into the great societal sins of our age, believing the propaganda that we are too small and too weak to change the system. This, as the worldwide Occupation has shown, is false. There are billions of people ready to fight for change if we raise our voice above the din.

Recent History Repeated

Yesterday, without warning, Tahrir square was stormed by a hundred or so soldiers who swarmed towards the encampment in the square’s middle, closely followed by a crowd of perhaps a thousand plain-clothes cops/thugs/citizens—who knows anymore. They beat peaceful protestors, destroyed tents and then—once the majority had either fled or been arrested and dragged into the Egyptian Museum compound opposite the square—destroyed the memorial raised for the martyrs of the revolution.

By roughly 9 P.M. we had gathered some of the names of those detained and received eye-witness reports that those inside the Museum numbered around 150, being forced to lie face down on the ground while they were whipped, shocked with stun batons and beaten.

This day of army-led violence happens in the midst of numerous shootings of Christians protesting their unequal and unfair treatment as minorities and the burning of a church a few days ago just outside Cairo. Thugs were present at these attacks as well. The Christians’ calls for dignity and equal treatment under law and in society were met with bullets and other violence. Many reports from the protestors confirm that the dead were shot by the army.

As this was occurring in different parts of Cairo, a demonstration of women in Tahrir Square celebrating International Women’s Day and promoting the cause of civil rights for women in the “New Egypt” was also beset upon by thugs. Women and men standing in solidarity with them were sexually harassed (verbally and physically), heckled and ultimately attacked by thugs as the army stood aside. Calls for help and protection from women being attacked were met by casual shrugs from military police.

More aggression took place outside the interior ministry on Sunday. Protestors, seeking to search the interior ministry for prisoners and evidence of state-led violence were greeted by a salvo of shots above their heads by the army, then a rushing onslaught of plainclothes cops/thugs/citizens throwing rocks, bottles and brandishing swords and machetes.

A new pattern seems to have been established in recent days combining the reckless violence of plainclothes thugs with the systematic attacks, detentions and torture by the army and military police. The coincidence of these two aggressors is too common to suggest anything other than complicity.

The testimony of one of those held last night is below. Others face years in prison after being rushed through kangaroo-court military tribunals for vague and trumped up claims of thuggery and violence.

Testimony of Rami Essam on what happened to him yesterday on the hands of the Egyptian army:

A lot of protesters are still under arrest in a military prison pending court-martial. Their photos are being displayed on TV as “thugs arrested” in Tahrir Square. State TV is trying to portray the arrested protesters as thugs, and by this distort the public opinion and take advantage while they continue to torture the detainees. Please spread and share this news (email this to your local media and to human rights organizations)

For those who don´t know Rami Essam, remember this video? It is of him in the first days of the Egyptian Revolution, singing in Tahrir Square. How can this young man who was nicknamed “the singer of the revolution” by the Tahrir Square protesters be a “thug” attacking people as the army and state TV claim?

Video of Song

“My name is Rami Issam, I´m 23 years old. I was in Tahrir Square with the rest of the people on Wednesday, March 9th 2011. At approximately 5:30 pm we were suddenly attacked by the military and a large group of civilians armed with sticks, batons and bricks. Together they destroyed the tents, tore the banners, beat everybody who was in the middle of the square and started arresting people. A group of soldiers dragged me towards the museum´s building and handed me to army officers who tied my hands and legs up and started kicking me all over my body and face. Then they started hitting me on my back and legs with sticks, metal bars, wires, and hoses. After that they brought the electric taser that was used in demonstrations before and used it on various parts of my body, then they started using more than one taser at the same time. The officers insulted me and stomped with their feet, jumped over my back and face, and threw shoes in my face. Then they cut my hair (it was long) and put my face in the dirt before burying my body neck down.

His video testimony is being edited and will be posted soon as will a more in depth analysis of the recent state (read army) led violence.

 

 

source: Recent History Repeated | http://www.occupiedlondon.org/cairo/?p=369

Latecomers crash the party

The readers of this blog, what few may remain, have surely longed for an update on events in Occupied Cairo. Because, yes, it’s still quite occupied. Even from the beginnings of celebrations of Mubarak’s resignation, groups were chanting “this isn’t an end, this is just the beginning.” The myriad labor actions in the past week give this chant credence, if nothing else. We now find ourselves in the midst of a strange occupation by the Egyptian military and military police, and the demands of those who went out in the streets are now caught between the military’s paternalistic calls to go home and keep quiet and the murmuring of others who seem to just want things to go “back to normal.”

A lot has been written on the Egyptian military recently, and as far as this post goes it should suffice to say that they’re not to be trusted as benevolent protectors. The other danger though, is more peculiar, not marked by any uniform and not even as confrontational or identifiable as the Baltagiya that we saw roaming the streets with weapons and posters of Mubarak a couple weeks ago.

It seems now that you’ll inevitably find at least one troublemaker milling about Tahrir and any given Labor strikes/demonstrations, all basically the same type. These troublemakers generally seem to be on last week’s news cycle courtesy of State TV, and from their words and accusations you can tell they’ve not spent a day in Tahrir. In the middle of a group of people all calling for the same thing (better wages, a change in government structure, etc.) you’ll find one of these types pick on someone in the crowd–sometimes a journalist, a foreigner, but not necessarily–and start making wild accusations about foreign agents, journalism ruining Egypt’s reputation abroad, or whatever. It’s as if they were paid provocateurs how effectively they distract and rile up a crowd, but the fear is that these are autonomous cretins who sat out the past three weeks and now feel like it’s time for them to get their say in. I’ve had several friends (all of them Egyptians) targeted in these sorts of situations, and while they’re generally resolved without violence they’re an absolutely disgusting spectacle, preventing participation by some and the transmission of the exact sorts of images that have given the Egyptian people the admiration of the world in past weeks.

It’s uncertain how these types are best dealt with, one suggestion has been just to fight fire with fire and accuse them of being National Security or Intelligence (they are, after all, doing the same work gratis). Solidarity and shared understanding amongst those protesting and demonstrating will also be a primary mechanism of fighting this sickness, preventing it from getting a foothold within the crowds. While these may work to diffuse an immediate confrontation, the bigger question still points back to the culpability of the Egyptian state media in propagating these lies and suspicions, and their failure–even after their apparent change of heart–to actively rehabilitate all the propaganda they put out. State media still needs to either be shut up, taken over by revolutionary forces or effectively countered by distribution of alternative information, etc. The latter is currently being attempted by many fronts with some efficacy (this could be seen when protestors outside the state TV building shouted “Where’s Al Jazeera? The Liars are right there!”) but stronger remedies may still be needed.

The second group, called only half-jokingly “the cleanup thugs” or “the chic thugs” are the groups of youth cleaning up downtown and Tahrir. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to see the city sparkle (excepting the dust) but this isn’t just some apolitical adopt-a-midan program. We saw this first as almost all the anti Mubarak and anti-regime graffiti was painted over, washed out or otherwise erased. Also the stones that people had pulled from the pavement to defend the midan were suddenly carted off, where others had plans to make a monument of them. As symptomatic of the rest of their work, these groups basically sought the disappearance of all traces of the revolution, its battles and its calls for liberty and dignity. To so carelessly push aside this recent history because it somehow violates Egyptian middle class propriety (keep quiet, eyes forward) is dispiriting. A revolution was born in the square just as people were dying in it, and it’s not hardly the time to say “yalla let’s get back to cairo traffic.”

Apologies for the scattered quality of these thoughts, gentle readers, but the post-Mubarak scene and reorganization is still a work in progress, making writing a bit confusing.

source: Latecomers crash the party | http://www.occupiedlondon.org/cairo/?p=339

A short update after great disappointment

Last night in Tahrir Square there were thousands of people waiting to hear the presumed resignation speech of a fascist dictator on his last legs. Instead we heard a condescending old man tell us he was not going anywhere and that we should all go home and get back to work. The cries of outrage lasted for hours afterwards and, if anything, the speech served to galvanize the protest movement. We heard immediate roars of ‘get out, get out’ then calls to remember the dead, ‘my brother’s life is not that cheap’.

Group calls shortly afterwards responded to the speech by calling for a march the next morning to the Presidential Palace. Others, inspired by rage immediately started to move towards the palace and the state TV building, Maspero. Surprisingly, both groups arrived at their destination without bloodshed. As I write there are 10s of thousands moving towards the Presidential Palace and around 15000 in front of Maspero demanding it cease broadcast.

People on the square widely presumed that this speech was designed to cause anger and ultimately violence so that brutal repression could be justified. Demonstrators have so far kept their calm despite the murderous response of the police force to the early days of the revolution and the terrible images we have seen since the internet was switched back on.

The thousands on their way to the Palace will find a few thousand already there, a field hospital already set-up in anticipation of violence and tents and blankets arriving to accommodate the occupation of the grounds. In the same way we took Tahrir and Parliament we will take the TV building and eventually the President’s Cairo residence.

The resilience of the Egyptian people to all the tactics of propaganda, physical violence and murder has been steadfast. We will not stop until this regime falls.

source: A short update after great disappointment | http://www.occupiedlondon.org/cairo/?p=335