Friday, December 16, 2011

Response to "GET A JOB, LOSERS!"

The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area, in estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2009, had a population of about 1,212,848; approximately one-quarter of Alabama's population. Look closely at statistics.  If we accept the figure of 8% unemployment (more realistically in the teens), this is a rate that has gone down not because the wealthy have created new jobs, but mostly because people have stopped looking for what is considered real employment (full-time job with benefits, 401k, insurance, etc) and are doing odd jobs like lawncare or whatever they can find to supplement their food stamp rations and/or social security/medicare, whatever is keeping them alive.  Alive, but not well. 

8% of 1,212,000 is about 100,000 people whom most 'conservatives', and even snooty moderates and snobby liberals now offer the blessed wisdom of their experience "GET A JOB!" So, the 100,000 are told to their faces, from television or their very own friends and family, every day, that they have no right to complain, organize, unionize, or do anything else about their situation but stand in the unemployment line and fill out apps for another 6 months, or 6 years, and unless you win the lottery, this is the one true path to victory in this materialistic world. 

This is saying to 100,000 Americans in Birmingham alone, "Get a JOB LOSERS! I'm blessed and we're having bloody steak tonight and we're not going to share anything with you stupid lazy worthless scum, especially sympathy".  100,000 people who have just as much a right to exist as anyone. 100,000 who may hear another message, that we want to work to build a better world than this.

Meanwhile, some of us have noticed the trickle-down of charity seems more like pissing and calling it rain.  Those who have been living with the least have been forced to pay for the crimes of the white collar 1%.  More and more are losing the rest of all they have while their lives and families fall apart over what they are told is a moral failure to honor a work ethic defined by the holy temple of Wall Street, a global country club where the priestly caste of CEOs have enshrined the idols we live and die for, name-brand corporations.  And I'm being told just vote Democrat and hope and change again?

Who is to blame?  Bush-Cheney are happy to take all you can waste upon them.  Look in the mirror.  We the consumers have had enjoyed many a merry xmas, and now we complain of austerity, and yet the consumption has not stopped, people are merrily  xmas shopping on credit card.  I swear this is no lie:  I heard a commercial on the radio yesterday for "Occupy the holidays!  Take back xmas with massive discounts!" 

America consumes 25% of the world's fossil fuel.  Now our government is voting to consume the bill of rights (check NDAA).  What can you do when you, as an unemployed person, are labeled shit by strangers and friends alike.  Who do we stand up for?  Can you empathize with the unemployed, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the abused?  Are we the shit that is emerging after the post-WW2 orgy of Suburban gluttony?  Is the Occupy Movement not the shit of the nation hitting the fan of a fully established fascist police state where 93% of the Senate has voted to declare anyone who speaks out can be lawfully detained indefinitely by the military?  The Horror grows ever nearer, to climax in the 2012.  Freedom or fascism.  Which is stronger?  

When you are ignorant, you fear the unknown, then you begin to hate what you fear, because, in the case of hating the poor (and those who for some strange reason want to defend us), what could be worse than being poor?  Perhaps being empty and ignorant and alone with your misery and miserliness will be the silent hell that awaits the greedy and the wanna-be middle class, who gaze down from the balcony holding their champagne glass full of the American nightmare they are shielded from through self-censorship. 

Walter Simon

"‎People do not absorb moral lessons from those who trample on their feelings. Rather, they forever associate the unpleasantness of the spokesperson with the cause itself. " ~ Judith Martin

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

History of Occupy Birmingham, the short story

On September 17th, 2011, a large group of about 100 protestors marched from UAB across southside to Five Points and back. They were led by William Anderson, UAB student and organizer, in opposition to Alabama's anti-immigration bill HB56.  One among them held a sign saying "Occupy Birmingham".  As they passed through Five Points they noticed a single person standing there holding a sign and wearing a "Guy Fawkes" mask, an image popularized by Alan Moore's character from the story V for Vendetta, and taken up by the 'anonymous' hacker culture.  Later that day more would join this masked mysteryman on this first day of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, a daylight 'occupation' that would continue and eventually manifest in the 24/7 encampment at 20th and 5th avenue north in the financial district. 

A week after the launching of the OWS, the first scheduled meeting of OBham had attracted over 20 folks, so it was decided by consensus to hold the next general assembly at Brother Bryan park, and there the method of decision-making by general assembly was worked out.  A website, facebook page, and twitter account had been created, and with the use of flyers these communication methods served to grow the movement, which had it's first large turnout at Railroad Park on October sixth.  The statement from Occupy Wall Street was read to and repeated back by the crowd through the use of the "mic check" popularized by the GA's of Liberty (Zuccotti) Park in New York City. 

On October 15th the largest gathering yet for OBham marched from RR park to Five Points, with an estimate 350 protestors.  Since then, many general assemblies have been held, as well as education sessions designed to explain the movement and relevant issues, including, among other issues, the 2008 economic collapse, the Birmingham sewer debt financial scandal which has led to the county declaring bankruptcy, and the anti-immigrant legislation HB56.  Actions against these problems include National Bank Transfer Day, when billions of dollars were transferred to local credit unions, withdrawn from the big bailed out banks who, with the bought-out political establishment, caused the crash of 2008, yet no arrests of these individuals have been made.  Yet. 

Since November 7th there has been a full time 24/7 presence in front of Regions bank and Wells Fargo, and the encampment has adapted with the weather, to work within building permits, inventing the 'nonstructure', a palette/carboard/tarp sleeping accommodation for those who stand for the most elemental statement, 'this is our public space'.  Visitors are encouraged to show their support in person, as coming out of doors is the first step to real social change. 


Monday, November 7, 2011

SOA Watch, November 18-20, 2011

Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia is not only barracks for up to 120,000 US troops, it is also the site of America's assassin training program, WHINSEC, formerly known as the SOA or School of Americas.  Members of Occupy Birmingham will be attending the annual protest at the gates, 12,000 are expected.  Not only is this an awesome show of nonviolent resistance, it is also a event and protest it is also a huge educational, spiritual, and musical event, with Giant Puppets! See how protests are supposed to look like, this is what democracy looks like!  I was there in 2006, and I guarantee it will also make an impression on everyone who attends.  

Corporate oppression and colonial exploitation of Latin America is well-documented.  Many Latino people have attempted to flee economic disasters now flee for their lives here in Alabama where they came looking for work.  Now that the American economy has hit a wall, minorities are being forced to take the fall as usual.  Since anti-immigrant legislation HB56 passed, Alabama has once again become ground zero for human rights abuses in America.  People have had their very existence declared a crime, this is NOT what democracy looks like, this is the racist fascism of the same sort Alabama has been all too well known for in the past.  If we can resist successfully here in the heart of Dixie, we can fight back the evil trend towards inhumanity and racism.  The General Assembly of Occupy Birmingham has passed a motion to place HB56 at the forefront of the Occupy Alabama movement.  Because of Birmingham's  historical significance in the fight against racism, we of all communities must overcome the forces of hatred and bigotry that have reared their ugly heads, especially 'leaders' like Scott Beason and Luther Strange.  With togetherness, love and justified anger, we SHALL overcome. (More info on HB56)

About the SOA Watch, from  "SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. A U.S. Congressional Task Force reported that those responsible were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

In 1990 SOA Watch began in a tiny apartment outside the main gate of Ft. Benning. While starting with a small group, SOA Watch quickly drew upon the knowledge and experience of many in the U.S. who had worked with the people of Latin America in the 1970's and 80's.

Today, the SOA Watch movement is a large, diverse, grassroots movement rooted in solidarity with the people of Latin America. The goal of SOA Watch is to close the SOA and to change U.S. foreign policy in Latin America by educating the public, lobbying Congress and participating in creative, nonviolent resistance. The Pentagon has responded to the growing movement and Congress' near closure of the SOA with a PR campaign to give the SOA a new image. In an attempt to disassociate the school with its horrific past, the SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in January of 2001.

Driving through 280 - (280 becomes Victory Drive, which intersects with Fort Benning Road, where the main gates of Fort Benning are located).  People who are coming from from the North on I-185S to Columbus need to be careful to not miss the Exit 1N/Victory Drive, since it is the last exit before military base (the Hwy goes onto the base) In past years, people have been arrested by military police for accidentally driving onto the open base.  Those who wish to carpool or share a room please visit the forum posting at

Walter Simon
Occupy Birmingham

Saturday, November 5, 2011

OBham National Bank Transfer Day by Walter Simon

This is my personal account of the events of Fifth of November, 2011, National Bank Transfer Day, Birmingham Alabama. 

Tommy picked me up near my apartment and we were among the first to arrive, no one was especially early, but folks started to amass steadily and by 11 their was quite an accumulation of people.  There was a full supply of protest material, signs and public messages, especially the central one, "We!  Are!  The ninety-nine-per-cent!  Banks got Bailed Out, WE Got SOLD Out!" The crowd came to life, people were looking and listening to each other, felt the truth, and the 70 of our ranks solidified and I could see, feel and hear the wave of emotion sweeping the gathered numbers into the togetherness of solidarity as they strode out towards Wells Fargo Bank.  The marchers' chants rang out together in solid rhythm and harmony, as suddenly it seemed to me the emotion, the righteous indignation, the moment, the economy, life itself, had compelled us to react to the undeniable fact that something is wrong with us, and we need to be agents of its correction, not mindless idolaters of personalized corporate corruption.   The chorus reached an angry pitch when I finally set foot directly in front of the bank windows, and a loud voice rose up inside of me, and I'm certain many of my new companions would agree, a fearless call had been heard by all who stood there like Chris Nelson, brave and tall, and heroic poetry seemed, to me at least, had already been living in the air all along, 

Other notable moments occurred during the (roughly25 minute?) protest in front of Wells Fargo:
* Despite having a megaphone on hand (not sure about the law here), amplification was unneeded as evidenced by several rounds of "Human microphone", where words are heard and repeated by the gathering. The mic checks expressed authentic speeches by individual members, not the words of any authority but the consensus.  One particular human microphone, Allyn, included in his address to his fellow resistors the thankful appreciation and sympathetic brotherhood and common cause between the protesters and the Jefferson County/Birmingham Police department, whose pensions, healthcare, and livelihood threatened, they suffer as we are made to, and surely are feeling as we are, so too they are the 99%.  Relations with Wells Fargo security and the police was quite easy-going, and I'm not sure if there were any Birmingham Police at all, come to think of it.  Our organization had met with the City Attorney and everything seems to be open, accepted, and thankfully genuinely friendly, understanding and even transparent by all parties, Occupy Birmingham, the police, and the city government. 
*Here is a flyer I did the art for with a list of Alternatives to the corporate banking system that let us down: 
* Someone from a group who was setting up a table very close to the site of the Bank protest, right at the edge of the Wells Fargo property, in fact, had set up a table with charts, literature, and political quizzes. 
Oh yeah, and I stood there and watched someone from this group from the Libertarian Party claim to have "made" a flyer that actually I had designed with Tommy Bryant.  Not sure of the meaning of the word, "made" here, but it was most likely an honest mistake, perhaps.  I know what I heard, and she looked me directly in the eyes during the time she was explaining the meaning of "her" flyer.  Perhaps she came up with the text material, I'm not sure where Tommy got the information, actually, so we will hopefully get more centralized and/or organized.  If this sounds like petty gossip, then ignore it.  I just like keeping it real, if possible, but I could be wrong about the pettiness of this. Partisan politics, if in the open, honest, transparent, and in mutual interest, can be a great benefit to us all, and we have so much in common, let us keep our eyes on the prize and enjoy the camaraderie.  Peace.