As Occupy Wall Street plans nationwide protests marking International Workers Day, or May Day, we discuss the movement with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Chris Hedges; Amin Husain, editor of Tidal Magazine and a key facilitator of the Occupy movement; Marina Sitrin, author of "Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina" and a member of Occupy’s legal working group; and Teresa Gutierrez, of the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights.
“People all over the country are talking about May Day as our day, whether you want to call it 'workers’ holiday' or 'immigrant rights' or 'the 99 percent,'’says Martina Sitrin, who notes Occupy activists hope to use May Day as a way to also build solidarity with the student movement and non-unionized workers as well. "This year is an important year to revive the struggle for immigrants in the wake of a million of our people being deported," adds Teresa Guitierrez.
As the Occupy Movement re-emerges, a debate over tactics has emerged. Chris Hedges discusses his recent column titled, "The Cancer in Occupy," which critiques Black Bloc anarchists who cover their faces during protests and sometimes destroy property. "The Occupy movement expresses what the majority feels. The goal of the security state is to sever the movement from the mainstream," Hedges says. "The way they will do that is by using groups — and some of these people may be well-meaning, but by using groups that will frighten the mainstream away." But "nothing is off the table," responds Amin Husain, who notes that the Occupy movement needs to re-conceptualize how struggle works, how decisions get made through dialogue, and how to build power from within.
Amin Husain and Hedges also discuss how they became involved in the Occupy protests. Husain is a former corporate lawyer who was working on Wall Street when he decided to leave his position of privilege. Hedges went from being a New York Times reporter to getting arrested in front of Goldman Sachs, and challenging the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama.
We end the roundtable discussion with an excerpt of poet, Stuart Leonard, reading his poem, "Taking Brooklyn Bridge," that tells the story of the personal and political awakening he experienced while participating in an Occupy Wall Street march across the Brooklyn Bridge. It is part of the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series published by Zuccotti Park Press.
Chris Hedges, senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He is a former foreign correspondent for the New York Times and was part of a team of reporters that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of a number of books, including Death of the Liberal Class and The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress. His most recent article for TruthDig is called "Why I’m Suing Barack Obama."
Marina Sitrin, postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Globalization and Social Change at the City University of New York. She is author of the bookHorizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina. She is researching global mass movements from Spain to Egypt to Greece. Most recently she co-authored the forthcoming Occupying Language, part of the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series published by Zuccotti Park Press.
Amin Husain, editor of Tidal magazine and a key facilitator of the Occupy movement in August 2011, leading the first General Assembly in Zuccotti Park. He is a co-founder of the Plus Brigade, which has been central to the weekly Friday protests down at the Stock Exchange. Amin Husain is a lawyer who left his job at a corporate law firm in Manhattan representing financial institutions to become an artist and activist.
Teresa Gutierrez, co-coordinator for the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights.
Ryan Devereaux, former Democracy Now! correspondent, now with The Guardian.
Amy GoodmanA coalition of groups spanning the labor, immigrant rights, Occupy Wall Street movements and beyond are joining together today for nationwide demonstrations marking International Workers’ Day, or May Day. Well over a hundred actions are planned for around the country as a day of protest traditionally led by workers and immigrants is joined this year by added numbers from the 99 percent. The slogan: "General Strike. No Work. No Shopping. Occupy Everywhere."
May Day actions are also being held around the world, as many countries observe official government holidays and hold mass demonstrations, rallies and marches to express labor solidarity and celebrate workers’ rights. Protests are planned, and in some cases already underway, in Toronto, in Barcelona, in London, in Kuala Lumpur, in Sydney, among hundreds of cities in North America, Europe and Asia.
Here in the United States, May Day is not a government-sanctioned holiday, even though the commemoration did originate here. On May 1st, 1886, the American Federation of Labor called a national strike to put an end to the 12-, 14-, even 16-hour days that were commonplace then. Two days into the massive strike, the police opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Chicago, killing four. The following day, a bomb was thrown at police officers as they descended on peaceful protesters in Haymarket Square. The bomb killed one police officer, injured many more. The police fired into the crowd, killing at least one, wounding dozens. Although it was never known who threw the bomb in Haymarket Square, the incident was used as an excuse to attack the left and labor movement. Eight of Chicago’s most active labor leaders were sentenced to death, four of them ultimately hanged. News of these executions sparked labor protests throughout the world, and in 1889 the Socialist International declared May 1st a day of demonstrations.
This year’s May Day is the first to occur after the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement last fall. Organizers are hoping a massive turnout today will help relaunch the movement after a winter lull and propel it into the summer months.
To discuss May Day, we’re hosting a roundtable discussion with four guests in our studio.
Teresa Gutierrez is co-coordinator for the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights.
Amin Husain is editor of Tidal magazine and a key facilitator of the Occupy movement in August 2011, leading the first General Assembly in Zuccotti Park. He’s co-founder of the Plus Brigade, which has been central to the weekly Friday protests down at the New York Stock Exchange. Amin is a lawyer who left his job at a corporate law firm in Manhattan representing financial institutions to become an artist and activist.
Chris Hedges is with us, senior fellow at the Nation Institute, former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, was part of a team of reporters that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He’s author of a number of books, including Death of the Liberal Class_.20120116/">Among his pieces, "Why I’m Suing Barack Obama." He’s suing the administration over the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, and was arrested in front of Goldman Sachs recently.
Marina Sitrin is with us, postdoctoral fellow at Center for Globalization and Social Change at the City University of New York, author of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina. And she’s also researching and preparing in—participating in global mass movements, from Spain to Egypt to Greece. Most recently she co-authored the forthcoming Occupying Language, part of the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series published by Zuccotti Park Press.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Why don’t we begin with Amin? I know that you—I don’t even know if you got any sleep last night, but talk about the preparations for today and what you see happening.
Amin Husain: I think it’s been ongoing since we got thrown out of the park, and we started thinking how this movement can exist without physical space, since we became very apparent that the city wasn’t going to let us have it because they recognized its power in how we organize. So we picked out May as another day to kind of build the type of solidarity that’s necessary with other social movements that have already been doing stuff, so that we asked the question, "Where are students? Where is labor in all this?" and that if you want a mass movement, which I am a person that does, we need to create that space within this movement and get to work with each other.
Amy Goodman: Teresa Gutierrez, May Day over the last years has been a mass day of movement for immigrants and people supporting immigrants’ rights. Talk about how—
Terese Gutierrez: Correct. Well—
Amy Goodman: —things are going.
Terese Gutierrez:—in spring 2006, we saw a tremendous upsurge of immigrant workers that took to the streets in the millions, not just once, but several times. And thanks to that struggle, May Day has been revived in this country. I think it’s extremely exciting that the Occupy Wall Street movement has not only just made its effort to organize around May Day, but it’s spent hours in deliberation with immigrant and labor organizations to find ways to come together. The OWS movement has a noble attitude of not applying for permits, for example. But when you are dealing with a vulnerable population such as those that can be—that are undocumented and don’t just spend a night in jail, but could be deported, permits, security, marshaling, those sort of things are very important on May Day. So the OWS movement was extremely—it took a position to be in solidarity with immigrants. And so, the message of the deportations, of legalization, has not been lost, even within the solidarity that we are putting together with OWS and labor. So, this year is an important year to revive the struggle for immigrants in the wake of a million of our people being deported, so this year is very important for us.
Amy GoodmanMarina Sitrin, the last decade has been major on this day.
Marina Sitrin: It has been the kind of—what we see now happening in New York today, you can actually go back for the last decade and see the roots of it. But I do want to say just—not just "Happy May Day," but that today is already a success—I mean, that people all over the country are talking about May Day as our day, whether you want to call it workers’ holiday or immigrant rights or the 99 percent, but that it’s already part of our vocabulary again, that we’ve taken this really important holiday.
But going back to what Teresa was saying, in 2006 millions of the immigrant workers organizing in the streets throughout the entire country, demanding and then continuing to organize for rights—and then that also goes back even earlier in Europe, and coming out of the globalization movement, the kind of post-Seattle-1999 movements where people began to organize Euro May Day. I mean, Euro May Day was a linking of immigrant rights with precarious workers. So, as more and more jobs are not unionized, and workers face uneven, precarious situations of work, people started to talk about precarious work and organizing workers not just in the formal, traditional trade unions. And then also injecting some of what we saw in the global justice movement, of theater and play as a part of protests. So now what we’re seeing planned for today is a combination of the immigrant rights movement working with the traditional labor movement, which is a part of May Day today—and, in fact, in some places there are strikes organized around the country called by unions—and then there are radical caucuses of unions that are participating, and then Occupy organizing direct actions and using theater. So we kind of see the play and the immigrant rights and precarious labor kind of redefining what May Day is, particularly over these last 10 years.
Amy Goodman: Chris Hedges, you’ll be speaking today on the issue of war?
Chris Hedges: Yeah, I mean, I look at what’s happened since September 17th, when Zuccotti Park was taken, as the launching of a process that’s probably quite long. I think of where we’re headed as a revolution. And all revolutions begin long before their ostensible date. The stamp Act of 1765 was sort of the dress rehearsal for the uprising against the British a decade later. The uprising in 1905 in Russia was the precursor, sort of created the system by which eventually the czar would be overthrown. And I think that it’s unfair to sort of pin this movement on a particular day or a particular action. I think it’s begun. I think it’s going forward. I think it could be years in the process. But I think that the power elite, the oligarchic corporate class, is as corrupt, as fragile, and as decayed as bankrupt regimes in the past. 1789 in France was ungovernable. You know, the elite had retreated into Versailles as our elites have retreated into their gated compounds, utterly out of touch with the suffering of the ordinary American. And so, I think that what’s today is momentous, not because of the numbers they may get or not get, but because this isn’t going away.
Amy Goodman: We’re going to break, come back. Our guests are Amin Husain—among his titles, he’s one of the editors of Tidal magazine. Chris Hedges is with us, Teresa Gutierrez and Marina Sitrin. This is Democracy Now!It’s May Day. Back in a minute.