Tag Archive: ows

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 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.”

Curfew Lifted at Military Park: Occupy Newark Goes 24/7 on Friday

Newark City Council has issued an indefinite suspension of the 9pm curfew in Military Park, the triangular 6-acre park that was once a training ground for soldiers, where recruitment tents stood during the Civil War, drawing young men into battle. The park that was once the town commons for all of Newark, the historical place where people gathered, sometimes to speak their minds.

Occupy Newark will go 24/7 there on Friday, say organizers.

An ordinance banning camping gear is still in place. But it’s difficult to see how police can enforce that. For one thing, the occupation has the general support of at least two members of Newark’s council. Ras Baraka has said he plans to stay overnight in solidarity with occupiers; that may happen as early as Friday. Mildred Crump has also visited and expressed support. I can’t picture Newark police cracking down on occupiers with a Newark city councilman in attendance.

The park, across the street from the brightly-lit NJPAC often has homeless or mentally ill people staying in the park overnight, presumably without much to shield them from the elements.

Occupy Newark has a General Asssembly (GA) meeting scheduled tonight 7pm in Military Park for anyone who wants to attend, find out more, and help direct the occupation in its newest NJ city. Some progressives who organize differently have complained the Occupy movement is still leaderless, without specific demands and not electorally-focused (and there’s a great convo going on in the comments of my last post on all that). For me, I’ve got more of a wait-and-see attitude. Many of the people I’ve met in Occupy are young adults much younger than me. Right now, they lead the news every night. That’s impressive.

Meanwhile, Occupy Trenton – in its 49th day now – is now in two locations, its original spot at the WWII Memorial across the street from the State House, on W. State Street, and in the area they call Tent City on the Battle Monument lawn a mile away.

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.

  • 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  

    NJ Assemblyman (R-1%) Has Some Advice for OWS

    Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Trenton: a guy who represents some of the wealthiest towns in the United States has some advice for you.

    Jon Bramnick of Westfield, who represents towns like Chatham, Millburn, and Warren, has this to say:

    “Blocking traffic and clogging sidewalks creates confusion and disruption, but won’t produce a single job or help the economy.

    “If protesters want to get their point across, they should knock off the stupid stuff and demonstrate without violence and mayhem.”

    He apparently subscribes to the Stephen Colbert theory that linking arms and protesting in public constitutes “violence and mayhem.”

    And, to point out the obvious – the fact that a random state assembly member is putting out press responding to OWS – means that they are getting their point across.

    Thanks for the validation, Assemblyman!

    Princeton’s Chilly Reception for Occupy March

    Didn’t catch this Washington Post piece from a few days ago, about the OWS marchers who came through New Jersey a few days ago on their way to D.C. Apparently, they got a pretty chilly reception when they came through Princeton.

    Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Flock is embedded with a group of occupiers, who are now through NJ and into Delaware. They plan a D.C. arrival Nov. 23, the day Congress considers extending the Bush tax cuts.

    What happened outside the Princeton bar, after the fold.  

    Thursday: #OccupyColleges in NJ?

    We’re hearing via Twitter hashtag #OccupyColleges that there are student strikes, teach-ins and other events planned for Thursday at schools all over the country.

    Students have listed 32 participating colleges and universities at the website www.occupycolleges.org. Unlike other campus-based Occupy solidarity events, Thursday’s actions will be focused on issues specifically impacting students; tuition increases, financial aid and the ‘diminishing quality of education and student services’. You can read more of what’s planned here.

    I don’t see any New Jersey schools listed. If you’re a NJ student planning to participate, we’d love a heads-up.