5 Reasons Why Environmentalists and Animal Activists Should Occupy Wall Street

by Will Potter on October 13, 2011

in Activism & Activists' Response

City by city, it’s growing. If you have been watching the rise of Occupy Wall Street from the sidelines, maybe it’s because you’re not sure if you’re part of the “99 percent” or maybe it’s because you just have other things to do. Here’s the thing: This is bigger than one person, one issue, or one movement.

Here are five reasons why environmental activists and animal rights activists should Occupy Wall Street:

1) Corporations are destroying the planet. And, as Bill McKibben wrote, “For too long, Wall Street has been occupying the offices of our government, and the cloakrooms of our legislatures.” The first official Declaration of the Occupation of New York City articulated some of the many facets of this movement, including environmental and animal rights concerns. Here are a few highlights:

“As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies..

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices…

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil…

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit…”

2) Corporations are attacking you. Since the 1980s, corporations have campaigned to label activists as “eco-terrorists.” They have pushed for outrageous prison sentences of activists like Tim DeChristopher. They have lobbied for federal legislation like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and state legislation to label civil disobedience as “eco-terrorism.” They are doing everything in their power to marginalize and disrupt the environmental and animal rights movements. (In other words, as this clever Greenpeace video depicts, they’re afraid of you.) Rather than protesting bill by bill, arrest by arrest, this is an opportunity to challenge the true problem: unchecked corporate power.

3) You have experiences to share about tactics. Occupy Wall Street has locked arms to blockade the banks, and marched to the mansions of millionaires. Sound familiar? More than 800 1,200 environmentalists were arrested in a massive civil disobedience against the XL Pipeline. And the SHAC campaign brought a multinational corporation near bankruptcy through a diversity of tactics including home demonstrations. This obviously isn’t to say that environmentalists and animal rights activists created tactics like civil disobedience or home demonstrations, but they have, more than any other contemporary social movement, put them to unique and effective use targeting corporations. There are lessons to be shared– good, bad, and ugly– that will benefit everyone.

4) You have experiences to share about dealing with corporate and government repression. Occupy Wall Street has already seen some of the overt tactics used to target social movements, such as the police beating and pepper-spraying activists. As this movement grows, however, so will the proportionate backlash. You have experiences with informants, infiltrators, and corporate espionage. You have resisted grand jury witch hunts and fought back against restraining orders and injunctions. You have defeated draconian state legislation and organized effective prisoner support campaigns. To be clear, ya’ll aren’t alone! Other social movements have dealt with, are dealing with, this as well. But the backlash against the animal rights and environmental movements, the “Green Scare,” is a case study in all the post 9/11 tools available to corporations and those who represent them. I’ve sounded like a broken record on this website, but I’ll say it again. There’s nothing inevitable about any of this. By coming together and sharing experiences, we can coordinate and fight back.

5) This is bigger than all of us. By “this” I don’t mean Occupy Wall Street (although that’s part of it). I mean the task at hand. We all, out of necessity, focus on the issues that are most dear to us. We have limited time, limited money, limited resources. That’s why, for instance, I have carved out the field of work that I have. But listen: there are times for carving out our niches, and times for doing the hard work, the messy and uncomfortable and frustrating work, of trying to connect all of the pieces. Animal rights activists and environmentalists are often pegged by the broader, capital-L “Left” as “single issue,” but I have never found that to be true. This is an opportunity for all of us to share, as the Zapatista saying goes, “One no, many yeses.”

Slavoj Zizek captured this sentiment beautifully in an address to Occupy Wall Street:

In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by censors, he tells his friends: “Let’s establish a code: if a letter you will get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter written in blue ink: “Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair—the only thing unavailable is red ink.” And is this not our situation till now? We have all the freedoms one wants—the only thing missing is the red ink: we feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. What this lack of red ink means is that, today, all the main terms we use to designate the present conflict—’war on terror,’ “democracy and freedom,’ ‘human rights,’ etc—are FALSE terms, mystifying our perception of the situation instead of allowing us to think it.

You, here, you are giving to all of us red ink.

Want to take action? Start at the Occupy Wall Street main website. What are you planning in your city?

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