The Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in New York in September last year and rapidly spread to hundreds of cities and towns across the United States, continues organising against the greed and exploitation of the “1%”.
Occupy activists are mobilising against home evictions, supporting workers fighting for their rights and taking action against corporate exploitation and environmental destruction.
Occupy El Paso, in western Texas, holds frequent general assemblies in San Jacinta Plaza in El Paso. Occupy El Paso activist Mario spoke to Green Left Weekly's Chris Peterson about the movement.
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What initiated the occupation and how has it developed? What sort of groups and individuals got involved initially?
An open call for action initiated the first general assembly via social networks and word of mouth which has now transitioned into a greater dynamic of relationships. An array of relations have came about within different groups and sectors of the community, including labour unions, farm workers and a legal support coalition.
Initial involvement was predominantly from university student groups. A vast majority of those involved come from high school and university.
What sort of activities have you organised through Occupy?
Occupy El Paso has organised teach-ins about power dynamics and respect, decolonisation, immigration and events for building solidarity. This includes the March for Human Rights on the Day of the Dead in response to the overwhelming amounts of deaths along the US-Mexico border.
One of our most notable speakers was Carlos Marentes for Centro Sin Fronteras (Centre Without Borders), a farm workers centre. Carlos is the founder and director of the Border Agricultural Workers Project, an effort to organise the agricultural workers of southern New Mexico and west Texas to change the agricultural system.
The centre is based on one of the most important gathering and recruitment places for migrant agricultural workers along the US-Mexico border.
What has been the response of the authorities to Occupy El Paso?
Occupy El Paso activist Gabe Jones said in response to arrests on November 15 last year: “We were honored that the police, carrying out the will of city government which carries out the will of moneyed power, came for us. It showed our message was heard and more importantly that our act of occupation is a real threat to the political and economic system.
“When power arrests and evicts peaceful, truth-telling protesters within eye-shot of several criminal banks, the point is made.
“When homeless people are fed and cared for [by Occupy El Paso] within eye-shot of economic institutions that cause mass homelessness, it becomes clear which interests city government and police departments really serve and protect …”
Do you get a sense of people being empowered by the process of Occupy?
I have come to understand that empowerment comes with an individual understanding that they are not alone, but are part of a larger population who are constantly experiencing suffering and inequality throughout their work lives.
Awareness has become key to realising there is a better way that always remains just beneath the surface, in which we can all explore through relationship building, awareness and empowerment.