From the parks of Russia to the streets of Chicago, whether it was indignados marching down Alcala on their way to the Madrid Stock Exchange or Occupiers touring the financial crimes district in midtown Manhattan, a globally unified resistance against the fraud of a bankster economy has arisen at the start of summer. In what is being dubbed “The Global May,” hundreds of thousands of anti-austerity protesters in more than 30 countries have retaken public space to demand a sustainable economy that serves people over profit.
The Global May in unofficial terms can be at least partially understood through three interlinked scenes throughout Europe and the Western Hemisphere: dramatic elections, the growing solidarity between working class activists globally, and the important historic breakpoints of 15M‘s (or m15 or #12M15M) one year anniversary and the upcoming NATO protests. All of these historic pieces were inched towards the public conscience by street protest and popular democracy in the most involved sense. This popular democracy often takes the form of determined resistance to “economic austerity”–which generally means cutting already-paid-in social programs so that millionaires and wealthy corporations can continue to grow even richer.
In early May, sea-change elections in France and Greece complemented street-demanded changes in other euro-zone countries like Germany, Romania and England. Encouraged by over a year of world-wide anti-austerity protests, crowds swarmed the public square and the ballot box in country after country, at long last connecting the privileges of the 1% with the live-in rip off that has become life for the other 99%.
“It’s not a crisis, it’s a scam!” chanted protesters on Tuesday, May 15 in Barcelona, Spain, in reference to the nation’s wholesale plunder of public services to cover budget gaps caused by tax breaks for the wealthy and the speculative economy of the 1%–a problem that should sound eerily familiar to state-side activists fighting off attacks on their post office, public education, social security and safety net programs like SNAP.
From a government under the control of Big Business interests to the destruction of the environment in service to those business interests, protesters demanded an economy and government freed from the oligarchical manipulation of Big Business over the course of four days in Spain, as they celebrated the one year anniversary on their 15M movement.
With a touch of bitter humor, the hashtag #OccupyMordor was used to help organize street actions in Spain, while hinting at the craven, imperial nature of their corporate opposition. Despite a heavy police turnout at protests nationwide from May 12th to the 15th, an estimated total of more than 100,000 Spaniards took to numerous public squares in continued resistance. Among the major city squares liberated by los indignados, Puerta del Sol, the original site of the 15M indignados camps, was retaken by a crowd so massive that it spilled out for several blocks in several directions. As Waging Nonviolence put it
Last June, after leaving the encampment in the center of Madrid, people in the 15M movement would say, “We moved from Sol square, but we know the way back.”
But they were not alone. Their neighbors to the west, in Lisbon, Portugal celebrated #12M with a “small” gathering of over 3,000 also demanding a world where need is prioritized above greed. Meawhile, in Slovakia on May 12 as well, hundreds took over the streets of Bratislava to protest austerity and demand an economy that serves people over profits. To the north of Europe, in London, protesters on May 15th carried signs like “Our Future is not For Sale” as they took their fight directly to the banksters’ turf in a day called “Drought of Democracy: Flood the British Bankers’ Association.” Direct action activists announced on Facebook:
This 15 May we will target an institution that has directly contributed to the strengthening of the 1 per cent. We will target an institution that has bought our democracy. One that stands in the way of structural change. The British Bankers’ Association is that target.
“The BBA symbolises a wider problem in our society: money and private corporations have more influence over our politicians than we do.”
The scene was similar at Occupy Russia, as activists used OccupyAbai to signal a meeting spot around the poet’s statue. Russians, much like their British, Greek, Spanish and American counterparts, are dealing with a “show democracy” that mostly seems to do the bidding of a few select businessmen, at the expense of just about everyone else. Hundreds of Russians rallied to demand a people-first economy as well as free and fair elections throughout the day on May 15. But at 5pm Muscovite police surrounded the protesters, encircling the entirety of the park over the course of 20 minutes before moving in to break up the camp. Activists on the ground reported 20-25 arrests
They too were joined by protesters in Germany, who despite recent electoral gains are still taking to the street against austerity. Activists in Berlin held at least four different marches culminating in an afternoon convergence on Alexander Platz in a group of over 3,000.
Not to be outdone by their activist sisters and brothers in the German capital, starting May 16
“ Blockupy Frankfurt, a coalition of social movements including Occupy, trade unionists, and the ATTAC network organizing for the #GlobalSpring in solidarity with the 15-M movement, plans to occupy downtown Frankfurt and shut down the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB). “
The popular struggle continues in the United States as well, with democracy being practiced increasingly in vivo instead of only in the ballot box.
In Philadelphia, activists took took to the street as part of numerous efforts including #decarcerate, Occupy and a direct protest of Governor Corbett’s assault on public schools. In Chicago at around 8pm Central, Occupy protesters who had marched through the city throughout the day were joined by locals as they brought together a Mic Check in the middle of a busy street. They held a speak out about numerous issues including the importance of participating actively, the constant threat of police harassment and the importance of tying local struggles to global struggles.
In Albany, California activists had reclaimed local urban space for community farms (a tactic also seen in Spain), despite the constant and very physical oppression of local law authorities. At the ten acre parcel of land known as the Gill Tract, hundreds of local activists reclaimed the unused land for community benefit as they planted seedlings throughout April.
“We are reclaiming this land to grow healthy food to meet the needs of local communities,” the occupiers say in a statement on their website. “We envision a future of food sovereignty, in which our…communities make use of available land – occupying it where necessary – for sustainable agriculture to meet local needs.”
This past Monday, May 14 they were thrown out in a violent expulsion by over 100 law enforcement officers that led to 7 arrests.
In New York City, #AnotherNYC brought a week of rallies and protests to a head on May 15 as over a thousand occupiers, peace-activists and unionists converged on Times Square at 6:30p.m. Earlier in the day, occupiers gave a tour through mid-town explaining which major financial firms had been responsible for which chunk of the economic rip-off. A rally in commemoration of the 64th year of the Nakba (which had gathered an hour earlier at Union Square), as well as at least 3 other smaller marches, joined in the mass 6:30 pm convergence that all but shut down one of the world’s most famous intersections.
Surrounded by some of the world’s most powerful financial players and the apex of American consumerism, the mass of humanity (families, students, occupiers, after-work supporters) filled the evening air with booming chants of “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible.” Disney Store, tourist junk and high-priced hotels be damned–New Yorkers want a better system.
No more than 25 feet from the CNN building (which as of this story being filed had not yet reported on state-side #15M protests) a massive “solidarity” sign drifted among hundreds of occupiers as a peace activist and an Anonymous-sympathizer held a large, tattered American flag with the stars replaced by corporate logos. At around 6:30, the crowd, which now numbered half its earlier size, suddenly sat down. Times Square now went from a site of mass protest to a sprawling sit-in and conversation about the way forward together.
All of this could be viewed, for free, from your home, through dozens of live-streams, thousands of instantly shared photos and millions of crowd-sourced messages.
It’s the new nature of popular democracy. We’ve come to figure out that a global corporate media has no reason to cover a global anti-corporate movement other than to vilify or misconstrue the movement. We have instead become the media we wish to see.
We’ve come to discover that even parties we ourselves vote for and elect are by the nature of auction-democracy beholden to financial puppet masters once they’re elected, and must constantly be reminded that they are public servants, not elected princelings. A phone call won’t do. We have instead become that constant, embodied public reminder.
We’ve come to find out that when one community does occasionally win in a major struggle to make life fairer, the billionaire loser of that struggle (the “exploiter” in classic labor terms) often takes his toys and makes life miserable for some other community. Mass Capital, Big Business, or just call them banksters–they have a world-wide mobility that can leave an “unwelcoming” area for one that’s more desperate and thus more likely to put up with the economic, political and labor abuse. When we win and forget to look out for our community, the banksters will surely rip off our neighbors: whether next door, in the next state,or in Barcelona, Bogota, Frankfurt or Athens. We’ve come to find out, or perhaps we’ve just remembered, that the only response to a global wave of “austerity” is a global wave of solidarity.
Image: Occupy Wall Street