It is impossible to capture all of the emotions that returning to the courthouse brings forth in me today. We are here to remember. To remember A fallen defender of the earth, David, “Gypsy” Chain, and to remember a year spent engaged in the struggle to defend human dignity here on this space. Because he was brutally murdered by corporate society I never had the chance to meet Gypsy but the world is a poorer place for his absence.
One year ago today some of us were watching as the world erupted with a new movement. People by the score were arriving at Zuccotti park in the heart of the financial district in New York city. Gathering to share their disgust with the state of life in the land where they lived. We had seen this happen throughout the middle east and northern Africa. They had called it the Arab spring and now we were bearing witness to what had been dubbed the American fall.
The capitalists oligarchs had restored the system for the wealthy. The 1% had looted the treasury to pay their bonuses while the poor were under the boot of an oppressive regime of teabaggers swept into congress by the failure of the hope and change corporatists, For them austerity was a religion.
Occupy was a continuation of the teachers in Wisconsin taking to the streets, of a Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi self immolating in the square. A reaction to millions being thrown from their jobs and their homes.
We called ourselves the 99% and came from all walks of life. Students buried by debt training for jobs that no longer existed. Jobless people, houseless people, the disenfranchised, the despised, the derelicts. The artists and engineers, musicians, teachers and nurses and well I think you get the picture.
We came with more then our complaints we came with a process. We were foolish enough to believe that everyone in their midst had value. That everyone in a group has the right to be heard and to put their ideas out there. That instead of a few rich men going behind closed doors to decide the fate of the rest of us that we would gather in open general assemblies that everyone took their turn to speak at. That we were All leaders and Nobody Was.
I am proud to have been part of that last year here at the courthouse. We were one of thousands of groups that sprang up around the world in solidarity with the Occupy Wall street movement. We came down on the 7th of October and hung up some banners and held the first of many General assemblies of our own.
We have come a long way since that day and that is what we are here to commemorate and I hope move forward. Because that is the true legacy of occupy. We have shown the world that we are not going to take it. We have changed the conversation in America and become part of the long history along the road to a more perfect union.
The process was for me transformative. I had always been an activist, or so I thought but for the first time in my life I was involved in the struggle every waking hour. I was able to see that for many of those around me were transforming as well. You cannot experience a true community with the type of aspirational goals that we had growing and not be changed.
We pitched a tent or 2 that grew to a camp that grew into a community and that was not what the capitalists wanted. When they do it in Tahir square they sent the secretary of state out to praise it. When it happened at UC Davis they sent the militarized police out to pepper spray it.
We affected a response throughout the nation from those in power. Violent repression. We scared the fuck out of those people inside the courthouse. The failure of capitalism could not be displayed to a docile public they were paid so highly to keep appeased. They tried to label us terrorists and a security threat. They smiled and nodded and made nice in public then all the sudden they struck with an Iron Fist in the form of riot troops. We were no different here then the rest of the country with our comrades going to jail cells and to hospitals.
Our comrade Hans sent this message. “They can break my ribs but the can't break my spirit.”
When I am speaking I like to try and stick to the principle that less is more so I will not try your patience rehashing the litany of police misconduct and abuses of power that we were subjected to. That is for another time perhaps but I am going to ask you to indulge me for a for a short walk down memory lane.
Many of you are familiar with the assassinated leader from India Mr. Gandhi, and something he said rings true of what we have done. First they ignore you, The root of the problem began here. For decades society has ignored the plight of those at the bottom. That group that must be sacrificed to their Capitalist God “Market Forces”
Then they ridicule you; Who pooped and peed on the bank became a meme with Defegate becoming national news. When a member of the media came it was to find the weirdest person in the crowd to get a 5 second sound bite of the crazy hippies and their hobo camp. Those inside the building tried to play us off and hoped we would go home.
Then they fight you; 7 November rolled around and the Chief of EPD had a plan and the DA gave the order to, “Go Get Em” That night they arrested dozens, injured a few and stole the property of those that have the least. What followed was a calculated series of attacks on the members of Occupy Eureka. Unjust imprisonment, Theft of property, destruction of signs, bogus arrests. The complete disregard for constitutional rights and of human rights.
Then you win; We went to court and kicked their ass, Hung Jury, case dismissed in the interest of justice, decline to prosecute, Not Guilty On All Counts. When they ginned up some AstroTurf group to “take back the courthouse” We turned out the power of the people and the power of the people don't stop. We sent them packing back to their sad little lives of hate for anything different.
We held our vigils out here in front of the courthouse and the Sheriffs were forced to drop their heads as they walked sheepishly by having been taught that we the people were the sovereigns
Janell filed a lawsuit to overturn the ordinance 2477 and I am confident she will prevail. We outlasted the fence around the grass and have gotten some of the more odious sections of the ordinance on the chopping block. We forced them to return our property and our signs and we forced them to stop arresting us. To some extent the problems I was just speaking about were side issues. Once the police state sent out their military arm, EPD we were engaged in the fight for the right to protest. We fought to hold the space because that was a large part of the message. If as many wanted we had given up that fight nothing else would have mattered. They fought like hell to prevent us from getting out this message.
You have saddled us with a system that is wrong and we will not sit quietly by while you continue to destroy our communities. No you will not cut down old growth to widen a road so you can pull your tanks into our front yards. We will not become slaves to the company store and we will not allow you to give million dollar bribes from the head waters slush fund.
Human rights are most in need of defense for the powerless in society. Sleep is as much a necessity as food and water. We endured in the cold winter rains in the hope that soon no one would have to.
We are raising the wages of working people in Eureka. Many of you have little faith in government and less faith in the ballot box but as Malcolm X once said by any means necessary.
We are gathering signatures for the Eureka Fair Wage Act to force Walmart to pay a $12 per hour minimum wage. Please sign it if you live in the City of Eureka and can vote.
We continue to fight for justice against laws that criminalize poverty and dissent.
This last year has been exhausting for many. The godfather of our little occupy was worn down and I am glad to see Jack here today and in improved health.
I say to you We only lose when we quit. I am truly fortunate to be a part of this action. I have met some special people that I am proud to call my comrades. Men and women that are willing to stand together and say no more.
You had your chance to run the world and you fucked it up.
Now it is time for you to go away and to let us try and fix it.
You are Capitalism
You are Fascism
You are totalitarianism
You are globalization
You are finalization
You are Hatred and You are Greed.
You will not poison our air and our water and food supply and our minds. We will not tolerate your wars against other countries and against the environment. We are human beings and you will treat each of us with the dignity that that accords us.