Tag Archive: Occupy Trenton

Bread & Roses

There’s a song at the end of this. I’ll dedicate it to women in NJ’s labor movement.

Today is the 100th anniversary of one of the most important moments in labor history, in women’s history, and in American history. From AFL-CIO blog:

The Bread and Roses Strike

On Jan. 12, 1912, some 25,000 workers at the mills of the American Woolen Company in Lawrence walked off the job when the company cut their pay-already a mere $8 a week for the men, and less for the women and children-after the state legislature passed a law shortening the length of their workweek from 56 hours to 54 hours. Workers stayed off the job for months, enduring beatings from police and the Massachusetts militia, who spared not even women and children.

Massachusetts, not New Jersey. Yes, this is outside our coverage area, same as when I took note of the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (NYC). A history professor at University of Massachusetts calls Bread and Roses “the first Occupy”–  “the 99% against the 1% of 1912.” Income disparity drives the Occupy movement, now a crossroads. And Labor is in flux, weakened in some states as historic collective bargaining rights are being challenged to varying degree. Wisconsin. Indiana. Ohio. New Jersey. There’s something in the story of this strike – led by women, and successful – that’s still inspiring. Especially to women.

When I was very young, one of my mother’s friends in the school integration movement outside Detroit (where we lived) gave her a song – Bread and Roses – she said reminded her of me: Bread and Roses. An amazing song, Judy Collins’ silvery soprano and Mimi Farina’s liquidy mezzo. And it’s about the best compliment I ever had.

Late-night musical bonus. Listen – under the fold.

Occupy Trenton Defending Its Rights

“A funny thing happened to the First Amendment on its way to the public forum. According to the Supreme Court, money is now speech and corporations are now people. But when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with the political consequences of this, they’re treated as public nuisances and evicted.” – Robert Reich

The never-ending battle over First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Due Process continues today before Judge Mary C. Jacobson, Chancery Division, Mercer County Court. In November Occupy Trenton successfully obtained a temporary injunction that permitted it to maintain its 24/7 occupation across the street from the State House, but prohibited the use of tents and a generator there. Today the ACLU and lead lawyer Bennet Zurofsky are asking the court to end those prohibitions.  

Occupy Is Dead. Long Live The Movement!

The idea of Occupy as a physical space has been beneficial but has served its time. As a movement that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1% its future is limitless but also uncertain. There was drama and symbolism in occupying space against authorities, but more important it created a message that resonated with Americans and brought supporters to its cause. Soon the sheer amount of work necessary to maintain an  encampment while dealing with external and internal forces overwhelmed the ability of occupiers to promote the reforms in their list of demands. Now not having to defend and manage real estate should be a liberating experience and open up new opportunities, ones they must seize or face irrelevance. Even our NJ Occupy sites which have not been evicted must look to the future and evolve.

The Occupy movement retains its powerful message, equality for the 99%, but it is so broad that at each location participants must hone their issues and focus one-by-one on targets that are practical, supported by membership, and have a chance of achieving success. Those sites which built a strong contact list can set up workgroups approved by a General Assembly to address specific problems. They then review the issues, decide on the changes needed and meet with authorities who in some cases may even agree to make changes. Short of that, they then plan an event or series of events that will capture attention and support of the public, and they proceed to exert pressure.  

Occupy Newark (ON) started with workgroups and with the goal of focussing on local problems. They attracted over 60 people to Sunday’s General Assembly, but Newarkers can be a raucous group, with disparate cultures and agendas. With their energy going to providing a voice to each participant, managing services for a 24/7 encampment, and dealing with police, it is difficult for ON to focus on pushing the demands against the 1%. Occupy Trenton (OT) maintains a presence at the WWII memorial but has not marshalled the energy, desire or support to tackle specific issues. OT is surrounded by our state’s executive, legislative, and judiciary headquarters, the lobbying offices of our most powerful groups, and in a city beset by problems. OT has many specific issues from which to select, and they have an opportunity to seek broader support and boldly press for change.  Both groups remain viable. However, they must be less concerned about real estate and make organizational changes that allow them to concentrate on what will benefit the 99%.

Imagine the influence of many Occupy sites throughout the nation promoting the demands of the 99% by targeting local actions on specific issues the participants care most about. The opportunities for the NJ groups are numerous and can be selected from what other groups are doing nation-wide and then refined for the local situation. Occupiers cry out against the greed of the wealthy, so why not support the NJ legislative movement for a higher tax on millionaires? They see the heinous practices used in foreclosures, so why not select one of the most egregious banks and stage demonstrations in front of a key office and on a neighborhood block where the blight of foreclosure is most evident? They do not like how some of our largest retailers take advantage of employees, so why not target a “Big Box” company and push for a specific change? Our “prison industry” seems greedy and corrupt, so why not launch an effort at a corporate headquarters?

Failure to engage is what the 1% hope for, and it’s a path toward extinction. With so many possible issues to select, it is not necessary to labor over the decision, but rather select a few which seem likely to achieve some success and develop a plan. Then get the local press involved, and as Nike says, “Just do it.”

Occupying NJ: Nearing Time for Plan B

All that stuff you’ve got on the wall, that’s abstraction, ‘Stop The Greed” and ‘Eat The Rich’. We’ll see what you do because talking is the easiest part.” – Amiri Baraka, (father, poet, activist and more)  

“People aren’t going to sit out here with no demands. They want to know why they’re here. After the romanticism goes away and it has to be protracted in the long haul, people are going to want to know, ‘Why am I doing this?” Ras Baraka (son and current Newark Councilman) – Newark Patch

With occupation sites being restrained or closed nation-wide (Zuccotti Park lasted 59 days) it is about time for a new paradigm. In NJ we have two sites that Blue Jersey has been following: Newark (since November 18) and Trenton (almost two months.) The difficulties of attracting sufficient people to be on-site for a prolonged period are becoming increasingly apparent. Other past movements typically involve periodic meetings and brief spurts of intense activity. These two groups demonstrate tremendous resilience but dissipate a lot of energy on the routine effort of operating outdoor sites on an ongoing basis. With colder weather and snow it becomes even more of a challenge.

There is a lot of energy, determination, and planning taking place in Occupy Newark (ON) where the goal was not for a full 24/7 presence, but even closing down and reopening a site requires effort, coordination and transportation.  This site, more than most, is focussing not on national or state issues, but Newark ones and is formulating plans to create change. It’s a diverse group with passionate advocates for reforming education, housing, City Hall, job services and more. Angela, for example, obtained from Mayor Booker the large binder of the City Budget. She noted the  high salary increases for top city officials while other city employees are being let go. She also pointed out that the budget includes amounts set aside for specific projects that might bear investigation.

In the meantime the group has been maintaining a presence most days, sparring with police officers who have generally enforced a 9:00 PM curfew, sometimes sneaking back into the site later, providing periodic live streaming, holding GA’s, and welcoming visitors.The curfew issue remains unresolved, but numerous council members are supportive and are preparing a resolution for a permit to be voted on December 9. On Sunday night occupiers were evicted by police who arrived in eight cars (overkill maybe?), but some spent the evening at the PSE&G amphitheater next door. On Monday Councilwoman (and former President) Mildred Crump visited. At 7:30 PM Newark Councilman Ras Baraka arrived with a sleeping bag and Coleman tent, making good good on a promise to stay overnight in support of the movement. Later at night “Officers came to evict occupants but left after they found a City Councilman camping.”

On Monday afternoon in Trenton at the WWII memorial Edward and Dell were working out plans for improvements to the livestream system. There was a spirited discussion among six people on next steps: activities to carry out, how to address national and local issues, and the need for more outreach. A few blocks away their Tent City was unattended with a scarecrow-like figure placed outside to resemble a person. They currently lack sufficient volunteers for 24/7 presence at two sites, and some question the need for both venues. As with many organizations and particularly those that work through consensus there have been disagreements, people who do not carry out what they commit to, and others who get frustrated by the system or a sense of inaction. One core member looks forward to the national occupy meeting in June in Philadelphia to set out a clearer action plan, but he realizes that the meeting may not produce the boost he seeks. In the meantime Occupy Trenton can be proud of its longevity (soon to eclipse that of Zucotti Park), a successful court case, tech-savvy streaming, public education on key issues, and a dedicated core of participants.  

In the next occupy diary there will be more on a new paradigm and the need to reduce the labor-consuming effort of occupying space. As Amiri Baraka said, “Talking is easy,” and as Ras Baraka said,”People are going to want to know, ‘Why am I doing this?'” On to Plan B.

Occupy Newark’s compelling on-line rollout

The 3-day old Occupy Newark promises a fuller occupation starting Friday, when Councilman Ras Baraka will pitch a tent and join the occupation of the city he helps lead. That will be interesting. Also interesting, the response – so far – by Newark’s finest. Police Chief Sheila Coley saw occupiers Friday at homebase Military Park (across from NJPAC) and said they had a right to protest non-violently. But Occupy Trenton‘s already been to court to fight for First Amendment rights in the capitol city and goes back again, defended by ACLU-NJ Dec. 19. Given that it was ACLU-NJ’s reports of widespread police misconduct that spurred a U.S. Dept. of Justice investigation of Newark police we will all have to watch out for the Newark occupiers, as for all occupiers’ safety. Police are friendly now, but occupiers have to leave the park by 9pm. We hear City Council may address the ban on overnight stay soon. Councilwoman Mildred Crump also expressed support for Occupy.

Donations of food are gratefully accepted, just like at Occupy Trenton. But until occupation of Military Park starts in earnest on Friday, donated food (non-perishables only) goes to help Newark’s homeless (check out this videovideo, which also features Crump). Later, Occupy Newark will need a lot of what OT’s needed; tents, food, money etc. When they have a process, we’ll let you know.

(By the way, Occupy Trenton, Day 47, would love a pizza if anyone wants to have one delivered – they’re at 125 West State Street, outside).

Meantime, I have to say I’m impressed with Occupy Newark’s on-line rollout: www.occupynewark.org. Weirdly, another website also popped up (with a .com address) which Occupy has nothing to do with, trumpeting “Newark Occupy Movement Resources” but chock-full of commercial sponsored links looking vaguely like things occupiers might want. Cool to see corpo forces try to follow Occupy but go visit the real thing.

Among Occupy Newark’s on-line features:

  • Schedule of General Assemblies (where participants decide group moves)
  • Occupy Together link, with resources, FAQ, how-to info.
  • @OccupyNewark Twitter stream.
  • Blog posts & pictures contributed by an IBEW member.
  • Photo of Military Park historical marker detailing the thousands of men who signed up at recruiting tents there during the Civil War. Tents are nothing new at Military Park.
  • Sharp rebuke of Mayor Cory Booker, who they say camped out in a luxurious tent in ON’s homebase of Military Park as a “PR stunt” in 1999, but now says tenting in Military Park is illegal.
  • Contact page (answered quickly) &  donation link.
  • News pull-out quotes shedding light on the economic imperative of the movement.
  • Videos, including announcement of the Nov. 16 birth of Occupy Newark being spread by human microphone at Occupy Wall Street.
  • Link to the mother-ship Occupy Wall Street.

    Enjoy. And Good Luck to Occupy Newark.

  • “Don’t Drill The Delaware! No Fracking Way!”

    This morning’s anti-fracking rally at the Trenton War Memorial started with words from the Deputy Director of Delaware Riverkeeper. She said, “Politicians view gas drilling as just another political football. We told them fracking is a public health issue, an environmental issue, and a civil rights issue. We thank Delaware Governor Markell who looked at the science and decided last week to cast a critical vote against fracking.” As a result the Delaware River Basin Commission, which was scheduled to vote today in favor of fracking, cancelled their meeting.

    Jeff Titel, NJ Sierra Club, said, “Today is a beginning not a rally.  Next we will march to the State House. The NJ legislature banned fracking in our state, but Governor Christie vetoed the bill. Our message to the governor is to ban fracking in NJ and in the basin now. We ask the legislature to override this veto by the end of the year. If Woody Guthrie were alive today he would be singing, “It’s not just our land but our water that’s made for you and me.”

    Josh Fox, author and producer of the famed anti-fracking documentary Gasland, said with great emotion, “We won this round, but like an orchestra, we are  just tuning up. There is more to be done regarding fracking, deep water oil drilling and coal.”

    Actress Debra Winger, more quietly but in a heartfelt manner, said, “We are celebrating a moment of victory. However, we know that while electricity through coal in our house may be clean, extracting it is not. We need to carry our message further.”

    At the end of the speeches an audience member reminded participants that Governor Christie does not support this movement. He uttered the words, “This is not the Governor’s river. It’s our river.” And with that, the group marched to the State House to continue the rally.

    Throughout the event there were references to the Occupy movement. Occupy Trenton provided continuous live streaming of the entire event and plans to add it to their video library here.

    TODAY – Tell Our Governor To Oppose Fracking And Stand Up For Clean Water

    Today on Monday residents from across the Delaware River Basin will gather outside of the Trenton War Memorial (1 Memorial drive, one block from the Trenton Marriott Hotel) at 11:00 AM and then march to the nearby State House to protest against fracking. Sponsors and invited speakers include Josh Fox (Gasland writer and producer), Mark Ruffalo (actor, director and founder of WaterDefense.org), Deborah Winger (actress), Maya van Rossum (Delaware Riverkeeper), Jim Walsh (Food & Water Watch), and Jeff Tittel (Sierra Club NJ.

    Occupy Trenton attacked overnight

    Last night, at around 1am, a young woman occupier at Occupy Trenton’s new Tent City was hit in the shoulder as a car with four men in it drove by shooting paintballs at

    In the diary just under this one, Bill Orr detailed the ways in which Occupy Trenton is growing, and solidifying new avenues of outreach along  

    Occupy Trenton: Slowly But Deliberately Moving Forward

     

    While OWS was demonstrating throughout lower Manhattan yesterday, with over 200 participants arrested, the Mid-Jersey Move-on Council joined the Nationwide Day of Action for Jobs and Economic Justice in sponsoring a peaceful rally on the steps of the State House.  One of the eight speakers, Occupy Trenton’s Alex Higgins, said “We need to spread awareness of why OT is here.” He urged the rainy day audience of about 150 people to support OT and join its cause. This event marked  a “coming out” for OT participants – the first time they worked together with other local groups in organizing a substantial event.  

    The theme of “Jobs Not Cuts” ran through the message of the other labor union and anti-war speakers. Carol Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council, said, “More cuts won’t help; we need more jobs programs.  There has to be an end to attacking the social safety net. We need to reinstate the millionaires’ tax. The occupy movement is shining a light on greed and inequality.”  Rev Robert Moore, Executive Director, Coalition for Peace Action, had as his theme,”Jobs not war.”

    Occupy Trenton participants have steadfastly maintained a policy of not aligning themselves with only one specific political group. Nonetheless, there is a growing realization that to increase their supporters and to achieve goals envisioned in their message they must participate with others and organize events that capture public attention. After the speeches Alex Higgins pointed out that while other occupy sites have members with experience in direct action activities, OT does not. They need people with this expertise as well other talents to sustain and grow their embryonic movement.

    Now with two venues – at the WWII Memorial and a nearby Tent City –  the logistics for 24/7 operation require more on-site volunteers and people who can participate regularly in their workgroups and GA and not only plan projects but carry out the specific tasks. Individuals are wearing too many hats, with Edward maintaining the “face” of OT at the Memorial, Maureen stepping up the publicity, Sam planning the Tent City community, and Alex interacting with other organizations. Their involvement yesterday with local progressives was another step in their process of maturation. The need for jobs and economic justice today cannot be clearer.

    While Occupy Trenton’s efforts in our state are ongoing, another occupy venue in NJ is just beginning. You can join today’s debut of Occupy Newark and read about the event here or on facebook. You can also learn more about Occupy Trenton at their website.