Socialist Worker

Occupy Wall Street: ‘We are unstoppable, another world is possible!’

Leia Petty is a school teacher and a member Occupy Wall Street’s Labour Outreach Committee. She spoke to Socialist Worker.

Issue No. 2279

Leia Petty (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/Guy Smallman )

Leia Petty (Pic: Guy Smallman)


“This Tuesday was the two month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. The mayor and the cops have been doing everything to get rid of us.

They tried to discredit us in the media, but it didn’t work. The message of the 99 percent against the 1 percent really chimed with people.

So they tried other means. The first time they said we had to leave for cleaning. So we organised a people’s clean up. The janitors’ union donated supplies.

The AFL-CIO union federation called on its members to come and defend us. By 5am there were thousands of people surrounding the park. They faced down the cops, and that evening we had a mass demo.

But on Monday of last week they came back. The cops carried out a military-style raid on the camp. They tore up tents and threw everything onto flatbed trucks. They arrested dozens of activists.

A day of action had already been planned for 17 November—and we were really determined to make it massive, despite the eviction.

It was the biggest so far, with about 35,000 people.

For breakfast we blocked entrances to the New York Stock Exchange, stopping hundreds of traders from getting to work.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley set up a hotline for traders who couldn’t make it to work.

For lunch we occupied the subways. There were convergences at major subway stations in the working class areas of New York.

Then we went from train to train chanting and talking to people. And 5,000 students walked out.

Dinnertime saw a massive turnout from organised workers. Everyone was there—teachers, healthcare workers, transit workers, janitors. It was much too big for Foley Park and ended up occupying the surrounding streets too.

We marched together over the Brooklyn bridge, chanting, ‘We are unstoppable, another world is possible!’

It was an incredible day.

There’s a real debate about the next steps. I’m not sure what the answers are. It’s not enough to hold a park. To really challenge the government, the banks and the 1 percent you need to spread it into the neighbourhoods, the workplaces and the schools. That process has begun.

But the occupation was a place where people could join the movement at entry level.

We have to work out what our movement is going to look like without this physical encampment.

As it had got colder and the movement got bigger we’d already started holding working group meetings indoors, in union halls and other places. That can continue.

We’ve taken on a new slogan—‘You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.’

The past two months have done more for the confidence and combativity of the working class in the US than the past two decades.

Occupy means that class is now being discussed in the US. The ‘99 percent’ slogan gives people a new common language and breaks out of the isolation that activists often feel,. And it creates a real sense of solidarity.

At the occupation we started a Labour Outreach Committee, initially to provide material support. But it quickly became a way of getting union struggles involved.

You’re having a general strike here in Britain. I think a general strike in the US has been a long time coming.”


Outrage over pepper spraying

University police pepper sprayed protesting students last week at the University of California, Davis (UCD). Students and lecturers are now calling for Linda Katehi, the university’s chancellor, to resign. Two UCD police officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave


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Tue 22 Nov 2011, 18:25 GMT
Issue No. 2279
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