Category Archives: DisOccupy

Open Letter to The ‘Occupy’ Movement: The Decolonization Proposal

From the accompanying text of the YouTube video:

Open Letter to the Occupy Movement:

This movement has the potential to evolve into something beautiful, something that takes into account the issues affecting all of us—not just the white, college educated members of the 99%.

If you try to hinder this growth because you claim it will destroy the movement, you will only be left behind while a more radical autonomous platform is built. The new platform will center the experiences of people of color, of women, of other groups that have been marginalized by a white majority.

We are not asking for permission to rename the movement anymore. The movement—the wave of empowerment that people are waking up to internationally—does not belong to you. It was around before the occupy movement and it will be around long after it leaves us. Resistance is only truly sustainable if it holds sacred the struggles of the most oppressed and we will call our movements, our resistance, our struggle, whatever we want.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this film and reflecting on what role you wish to play in making movements truly liberating.

In Solidarity,


A note on the footage: this is not an extensive video of the GA, as I was late and did not film everything. there were many white people who spoke in favor of the proposal (I included the one I filmed) and there were a few people of color who spoke against it. The majority of people present at what appeared to be a majority people of color GA voted in favor (68.5 percent) of changing the name to Decolonize Oakland.

As the video shows, the proposal did not pass, however.



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Occupy/Decolonize Oakland: An Exchange

Rapper Boots Riley was a vocal opponent of the proposal put forth the change the name of ‘Occupy Oakland.’ His position lead to an exchange between an activist in favor of ‘Decolonize/Liberate Oakland’ that has since been made public.

Dear Boots,

When I first heard your music, almost two decades ago, I swooned at the political insight, at the beats, at beauty of seeing Black people using the mic to check white power, corporate capitalism, and misogynist shenanigans. You and Pam the Funkstress created a space for me in hip hop at time when I felt sidelined in that movement.

When I first started coming to the encampment at Ogawa/Grant Plaza, I felt a similar sense of excitement. Here was a brother who was making sure that the table was long and wide, welcoming of everyone and especially those of us at the margins of the 99% in Oakland. You made me hopeful that together we were capable of turning that table into barricade against police violence and a platform for liberation, pure and sweet and real. Hearing your comments at the General Assembly last night as we were debating the name change – Occupy Oakland to Decolonize/Liberate Oakland – made me sad and angry; I felt like you stole the table, rearranged the seating charts, and left me at the door.

This is my mic check of a different kind, an open email letter.

When you spoke last night, you mentioned that the name of The Coup doesn’t alienate people from your message. Even though coups are associated with right-wing paramilitary movements, you noted, The Coup is not. There is no confusion over your name, no ambiguity about your message. You then chided supporters of the proposal for the name change for confusing words with deeds and emphasized your support for the name Occupy Oakland.

Boots, your comparison stinks. It overlooks people like me who want a name that better reflects the movement of the 99% as it exists in Oakland. It ignores the voices of the Chochenyo Ohlone and native sisters like Krea Gomez and Morning Star Gali who assert that the name Occupy Oakland replicates the violence of colonialism. It turns the phrase the 99% into an empty sales pitch, and I’m not buying it. Your comparison cuts the movement down to size, recentering white entitlement to the “seats of power.” As if that’s the goal. I didn’t come to this movement to sit down. I came to rise up and decolonize Oakland.

“Life is a challenge, and you gotta team up.
If you play house pretend the man clean up.
You too busy with the other things you gotta do.
When you start something, now remember, follow through.”
– The Coup, 2001

Clean your draws, Boots.

Love, Darshan

My response:

To start, I’m gonna try to ignore the offensive sign off remark.

When AIM took over Alcatraz in the 70s, they said- “We are Occupying Alcatraz”. The same word was used at Wounded Knee, I believe. Throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America- when movements take over a space- they “occupy” it. The word is used in very revolutionary ways. It’s obviously not just about the word.

I honestly believe that even POC movements of the last 30 years in the bay area especially- of which I feel like I’ve been a part of- has been very isolated from communities of color and don’t have their finger on the pulse of what will involve them. The reasons have to do with the campaigns we’ve embarked on and the style that we’ve approached them. The focus on this word is indicative of that.

I’m all about decolonizing.
I’m all about fighting capitalism.

I have only no songs, since 1994 that use the word “capitalism”. I have only 1 song since then that uses the word “communist”. However, everyone knows that I’m a communist and that I want to destroy capitalism. This is because I talk about what we need to do and what’s wrong with this system without using the same terminology.

Most folks of color have no idea what the term decolonize means. It is not a liberating term to most, it is simply another term that academics use. Similarly, most don’t even have the political connotation with the word Occupy as it relates to colonialism.

Also, the debate over the name change hasn’t been POC on one side and white folks on the other. There were both POC and White folks voting for the name change, and POC and White folks voting against. Your view about the name change doesn’t make you somehow more on the side of people of color than I am.

Like I said, Saturday, I canvassed door-to-door in West Oakland. ACCE has been canvassing door-to-door in East Oakland since just after Nov 2. What I hear from the response from folks at ACCE and from my own interactions with folks of color that I know in Oakland, is that people are excited by OO, if a little confused on the ultimate goal, the name is the identifier, and they feel that it is connected to the larger movement and that it actually has the ability to change things through direct action. One of the reasons people feel its connected to the larger movement is the name.

Of course, the MAIN thing against it that people of color voice- particularly the Black folks I talk to- is “Oh, you mean all the White folks downtown?”

That doesn’t change with the name.
It will only change through involving ourselves in campaigns that people feel have the power to affect their material condition in their daily life. This is something that even POC movements in my lifetime have failed to do.

The real problems of race and racism in this and any movement don’t begin to get solved with a name change. They begin with a movement that actually addresses the material needs of people of color and one which makes space for people of color. Let’s talk about the remedies to those problems.

Although you say my comparison stinks, you did not negate it’s analogical validity.

My opinion doesn’t overlook your, or anyone’s opinion. It disagrees with yours.

Please don’t come at me disrespectfully with comments like “Clean your draws, Boots”.

Thank you.

Riley puts forth a problematic defense of the word ‘Occupy’ with the attempted analogy of Alcatraz (for very obvious contextual reasons!) He follows with a sweeping generalization of Latin American resistance movements in addition to other arguments that don’t hold weight. Occupy Oakland, uncontroversially at the forefront of these recent waves of protests, sadly missed an opportunity to deepen the discussion with a true language of resistance informing its future actions.

– DisOccupy

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What UC Davis Pepper Spraying Tells me about the racialized politics of sentimentality, by Occupy White Supremacy

By now we’ve all seen the John Pike memes lampooning the officer who pepper sprayed protesting UC Davis students. Pike deserves no sympathy, but as a ‘flashpoint’ moment in the Autumn of Occupy, the sister in the above video, also a UCD student, asks some very important questions and offers important analysis. The post comes from a Tumblr site that puts a new twist on #OWS by calling itself ‘Occupy White Supremacy.’ In another commentary, since celebratory appraisals of Occupy in the left media say that it has achieved victory by putting the issue of wealth inequality at the forefront, the site asks in that discussion, what is being left out? What is left being unsaid?

So, let’s talk about another OWS….

Occupy white supremacy… and the machinery of whiteness…and structural racism…

When are we going to start talking about why the mainstream media is so ‘horrified’ and concerned, when certain people are ‘victims’ of police violence over others?

Check out the Tumblr site here!

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Occupied Panels, by DisOccupy

Many people undoubtedly tuned into Democracy Now! today and listened to the Nation Magazine/New School panel discussion on Occupy that took place last week in NYC as presented on the program. The participants included Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Patrick Bruner, Rinku Sen, and William Gredier. In the course of the edited broadcast, panel moderator Richard Kim offered up a question to Sen about Occupy Wall Streets being seen, in his words, as an initially white, middle class, college-student thing and the potential for collaborative efforts in wake of the strides made since that time. If the criticism is already to be relegated as a thing of the past, what then of the makeup of the very panel in question? Allow us to break down the demographics: three white men, a white woman, and an Indian woman of color (double bonus score!)

Being New York City and all, I’m sure it mustn’t have been hard to have found Black, Latino, Indigenous people or Persons with Disabilities to offer their perspectives and experiences on not only a single question of inclusiveness, but of general points of view overall. That wasn’t this case in this instance of ‘occupied panel discussions’ (and it surely isn’t the sole, either)

– DisOccupy

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Flotilla controversy within Occupy Wall Street shows Palestine continues to be a fault line, by Ben Lorber

Tel Aviv, but not Gaza?

“Occupy Together” has since the beginning noted solidarity with Tel Aviv. The  J14 protest movement in Israel have been problematic in purposefully not extending their solidarity to occupied Palestine. Given this backdrop, it was surprising to see a tweet earlier this month by Occupy Wall Street in solidarity with humanitarian vessels attempting to reach Gaza’s shores. Hours later, however, as Ben Lorber writes:

…Occupy Wall Street’s tweet mysteriously disappeared from its home page on Twitter. The Twitter-sphere was instantly taken aback- “didn’t realize #OWS is non-political!!” remarked one tweeter, while another insisted that “If #OWS can not support #FreedomWaves and #Gaza then they should not compare themselves to #ArabSpring or #Tahrir.” The Canada Boat to Gaza, who earlier had nodded in satisfaction, now, shook its head in disappointment, offering, in the face of Occupy Wall Street’s fear of involving itself in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a few words by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Full post here!

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Occupy Where? What’s In It For Black and Brown People? by Bruce Dixon

Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report asks what would have been the case if OWS was a heavily dominated people of color initiative from the onset (read block quote below) before looking onward towards possibilities. Based out of Atlanta, Dixon mentions how race issues are met with resistance and dismissed as ‘divisive’ while also noting how gentrification in the city can be addressed by activists who bend the influence towards the everyday concerns of black folk.

If the first occupiers in Zucotti Park had been young and black, they’d instantly have been branded a street gang and arrested en masse, with or without violence, but certainly with little media play or sympathy. If the first occupiers were black, and blathering about the ravages of finance capital and how neither of the two parties were worth a damn, they certainly would not have been endorsed by what passes for the preacher-infested local leadership of black communities. Tied as they are to corporate philanthropy, corporate financing, the corporate-run Democratic party and its corporate-friendly trickle-down black president, our black misleadership class would have run, not walked away from black occupiers who failed to identify as staunch pro-Obama Democrats.

What if the occupiers had been brown? Here’s a clue. In the last few years, hundreds of thousands of immigrants at a time have stayed away from work in near general-strike proportions to march on May Day, no less, for their human rights. The anecdotal evidence is that ICE agents raided many workplaces in California, Texas, New York, Arizona, Illinois and elsewhere, and that without much notice in the corporate media, a wave of retaliatory harrassment, jailings and deportations ensued. Certainly, the Obama administration is on track to deport a record 400,000 immigrants for the third year in a row, already far outstripping Bush’s eight year total. There are in fact, gang injunction-type laws in many states which make it a criminal offense for young people in designated (black and brown) neighborhoods to assemble in groups in public places for any reason.

Full post here!

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Occupy the Ghetto, by Bryan K. Bullock

In this piece, lawyer Bryan K. Bullock takes a look at how the “Occupy” movement has failed to articulate a racial justice agenda on behalf of its own contradictions. The frame is “Main Street” vs. Wall Street, but what about King Drive?

I went to a meeting of a local “occupation” group, which was, predictably, attended mainly by liberal whites. I walked in just in time to hear a young white man suggesting that confrontation with the police was the logical next step because drastic measures were needed. He obviously has had a different life experience than I have had in dealing with the police and therefore didn’t know what he was asking for. I spoke and expressed my sentiments to the group, namely that we in poor black communities need grocery stores, economic investment and jobs, and that the “occupy” movement was not addressing these fundamental issues. I told them that unless they were willing to address these issues, I personally, would not want to “occupy” with them. They listened. Most, though not all, agreed with my thoughts. Then they began to say that they were concerned about the “big” issues like Wall Street and wars and that they probably needed to also be concerned about the people who live in places like Gary. I was insulted by their arrogance. Living in a food dessert IS a big issue. Living in an economic wasteland IS a big deal. Having one’s school system privatized IS a big issue. Rampant crime, underground economies and police brutality ARE big issues. Not having jobs that one can walk to or that are located in one’s hometown, IS a big issue.

Full post here!

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