On Black Friday, a New Target: Occupy the Malls!

What’s so effective about the Occupy movement is how it makes creative use of public space to get its message across.

For instance, the terrific techno-graffitti unleashed last night in New York, where protesters projected their message on to the Verizon Building without leaving a trace.

I have a idea for continuing this strategy, but with a new target: the great American MALL.

As you know, it’s just one week until Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when all good patriotic Americans are supposed to line up at the big box stores at dawn, credit cards in hand, ready to start the mad Christmas shopping rush.

This year it seems that the whole capitalist enterprise that fueled those crazy Christmas shopping binges has started to crack and sway.

I dimly remember why Christmas is associated with gift-giving–it had something to do with the Three Wise Men bearing gifts to the baby Jesus, right?  But this American tradition of giving mountains of gifts to one another, competing with each other to buy the biggest, shiniest, best gift of all–that has nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas.

Myself, I prefer to celebrate the winter Solstice in this season, the day when the deepening darkness turns the corner of the equinox and we begin the long slow return to light and warmth.

I propose that this Black Friday, Americans should link arms with our family and friends and Occupy the malls of America.  Instead of driving ourselves ever deeper into debt with those credit cards, we should protest the corporate policies of outsourcing that have made it so unusual to see American-made products for sale in American stores.

If we want to put America back to work, we are going to have to reinvent the whole economic model of globalization. It had a nice ring to it, back in the 1980s and 90s when it was being implemented, but it has turned out to be a catastrophic failure on more levels than I can count.

What’s needed now is a re-locallization: a return to locally based economies, all over the world.  Let the Chinese manufacture goods for themselves while we get American factories humming again.

But this time, let those factories be worker-owned cooperatives rather than top-down corporations–just like Gore-Tex or Clif Bar or Eileen Fisher, all big brands that are actually owned by their employees.

Let’s gather in malls and shopping centers all across the U.S. on Black Friday and use the Thanksgiving holiday to push the corporations represented there to do what’s right for America.

When they start listening to us, we’ll all be giving thanks.

Month Three of Occupy Begins: From Class Warfare to Civil War?

Yesterday, the day of the big Occupy protests in New York, I sat in a train most of the day, on the way to Washington D.C.

I’m here for the African Studies Association annual conference, but of course I’m going to head over to the National Mall too, and see what’s cooking with Occupy DC.

The dramatic and powerful protests in New York yesterday, captured magnificently in this NY Times slide show, can’t help but energize the movement around the country, and indeed the world.


I am struck again by how diverse this movement is–the people in these photos are old and young, of every ethnicity, most looking solidly middle-class.  There is really very little of the “anarchist hippie fringe” that Americans tend to associate with protests, at least since the 1960s.

It must be hard for the cops, who are so solidly middle-class themselves, to have to play the bad guys day after day. They must know that their salaries have been shrinking against the cost of living just like everyone else’s, while the Bloombergs and the Buffets and all those Washington politicians have been getting fabulously wealthy.

Economically speaking, the cops are squarely within the 99% and should not be the enemies of the Occupy movement.  But it’s very rarely been the case that police or soldiers break with their indoctrination in submission to authority, and side with the insurgents.

I pause as I type that word–insurgent–because it’s most often used to describe people in other countries who oppose the status quo, and turn to violent means to achieve their goals.  It’s one of those words– “rebels” is another–that treads carefully between the poles of “freedom fighter” (a good thing) and “terrorist” (obviously bad).

The Occupy movement bills itself as a determinedly non-violent movement.  All the violence that has occurred so far has been provoked or perpetrated by the police.

Dorli Rainey, 84, led away from the Occupy Seattle protest after being pepper-sprayed in the face by police on Nov. 15

But for the first time, yesterday, I found myself thinking about the possibility of civil war breaking out again in this country.

 Maybe it’s because of the refusal of anyone in Washington to take the protests seriously, starting with the President.

No one wants violence in this country. We are a nation of shoppers, not fighters.

The Occupy movement has been galvanized mostly by young people whose expectations of joining the ranks of contented shopper-workers, like their parents and grandparents before them, have been frustrated by the economic downturn and the substitution of debt bondage for living wages.

These are very real concerns that are not going to go away because winter is coming.  What we’re seeing here is, as others have noted, class warfare.  Just like in the 1930s, when workers stood firm in picket lines despite the factory owners’ efforts to break them, these protesters are motivated by the absolute knowledge that the current system is unjust and insupportable.

If politicians from Bloomberg to Obama continue to ignore the idealism and the frustration represented by the nascent Occupy movement, it will only continue to grow in numbers and conviction.

Yes, the rich appear to have all the power in this country neatly sewed up.  But never doubt the power of the people to break down barricades and triumph when they know that Justice is on their side.

It’s happened before in this country.  It could very well happen again.

%d bloggers like this: