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Acclaimed Journalist, Suzanne Marcus Fletcher, interviews Mark Bray, a key media representative with Occupy Wall Street in this segment of The Body Politic. Bray, a Ph.D student, history wonk, and seasoned politcal organizer, clarifies and distills core political and social messages behind OWS (the 99 percent), and addresses the phenomenon of the movement's mercurial rise since its inception at NYC's Zuccotti Park, Sept. 17, 2011. Also discussed, the much anticipated "Occupy Congress" slated to begin 1/17/12 in Washington D.C.
It's high noon in Los Angeles on this Friday, the 13th of 2011. Welcome to The Body Politic Radio Show for progressive political and social advocacy. I am your host investigative reporter, Suzanne Marcus-Fletcher broadcasting live from Los Angeles. Today's broadcast is focusing on the power and voice of the protester and the almost unprecedented global protest movement now referred to as the occupy revolution, standing of course from a small encampment of protesters who began occupying New York City's Zuccotti Park, on September 17, 2011, who quickly became known as Occupy Wall Street or the 99%. My special guest today is Mark Bray, who is an integral member of Occupy Wall Street's press team and will be joining us in just a few minutes. So, unless you have been living under a rock for the last year or two, you know that Time Magazine's person of the year for 2011 was The Protester. As Time quoted, "No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent", which began with the Arab Spring or Arab Awakening, a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests that began in the Arab world on Saturday, the 18th of December 2011. Our Arab sisters and brothers taking to have their voices heard to democratic change and democratic revolution begin to share their strategies and techniques of civil resistance for every shape and size protest imaginable, marching campaigns, nonviolent sit-ins, nonviolent mass civil organizations, worker's strike, demonstrations, rallies, all of which the protester used global social media to organize and raise world awareness.
Despite of the use of immense force, which resulted and continues to result in a tragic loss of human life and unspeakable violence against civilians. It's not surprising then that there have been many attempts to try and sensor those using social media for updates and news on global protest and demonstrations. So in 2011, protesters didn't just to use their immense frustrations and grievances. They did just voice them. They didn't just say them. They actually succeeded in changing the world. So that said, despite your protocol orientation or even participation in American politics because of what it's at stake in world affair, there is a large consensus and I do mean a large consensus. Both here in the United States and overseas that the most important news story at this moment in time begins and ends with Occupy Wall Street and the related Occupy movements that are fast growing in the United States and throughout the world. So, it is my extreme pleasure to introduce Mark Bray, who is a press representative and media representative from Occupy Wall Street. Welcome to The Body Politic, Mark. Can we bring him on? Are you with us?
Hi! Thanks for having me.
Hi! You know, what I would like for you to share with me is, and share it with the audience, is how did you first get involved with Occupy Wall Street and what was your first initial connection and were you've part of the first people in the encampments in Zuccotti Park?
Sure, yeah that's a great question, I mean, actually I found that about it on Facebook a couple of days before it started so maybe September 15. And I didn't really know what to make up it and I didn't really give it much thought. In fact, I just came out the first day because the plans that they otherwise had that day felt through when I said, "Oh well, this would be a nice state to go out and do something." I was there with my girlfriend and her little sister. We walked around for a while. We participated in the march with approximately 800 people. We hang out for the afternoon, when they started to do breakout general assembly, then we went to get Chinese food and we went home. Because we didn't think that was really good and amount to a whole lot and also, I'm a Ph.D. student, I have teaching and research responsibilities. So, I didn't think that I was gonna get myself into this whole big thing, but I kept sort of keeping an eye on what was going on over the next couple of days. And by the end of September, it started to become apparent to me that this was something that was not just some small little protest movement, not something that was dime a dozen, but was actually an interesting historical movement politically and something that I had to drop everything to participate in. Basically, what I did is I put my research responsibilities as a size for the time being. I came down to the park and then I figured that the way I'd like to get involved is with press relations because I have them experienced with that previously through other political organizing work I've done and that's what I'm doing now.
Okay, terrific. So that's your principle. What are you getting your Ph.D. in?
Modern European history. So, I focus on like late 19th century social movements.
Okay perfect. So how do you -- I mean just pretty quickly, how do you have time to sort of juggling and manage your work schedule and then your Occupy schedule and then of course, the school schedule. How do you juggle all of that?
Right. Well, I am in the third year of my program, which means that it's very research oriented and also the time where I need to read a whole bunch of books to prepare for my major exams. So basically what I did last semester is I just didn't really do any of that which means that this semester, I'm gonna have to sort of catch up a little more, but since it's sort of self-directed, I could just sort of put that aside for the time being.
Okay. So, were you surprised and actually what I think I'm gonna ask is about the validity, I'm sure that it's valid, but to kind of cross check the Adbusters' report that they actually started the Occupy Movement. Adbusters is an anti-consumerism magazine based in Vancouver, British Columbia and that last summer, they reportedly proposed a September 17th occupation of Wall Street and apparently, the idea crossfire. I mean, is that really the way that it started?
Yeah I mean, they put out this call to put out 'bring a tent', 'what's your one demand', tatty image of the ballerina on the bull. But then as far as I know it, we really got going because a small group of I don't know maybe 30 people over the summer met regularly to try and organize it and so it's important not to overstate the degree to which they had a role beyond sort of the initial idea. And so they had the initial idea then people picked it up started organizing it and then subsequently since September 17, most of the active organizers now are not the people who are involved in the beginning. Although some of the people from the beginning are still involved, but every step it takes, it takes on sort of a new layer of people participating and a new layer of participation.
I see. So, can you talk of maybe about the first days of the movement and how people were so quickly attracted not just to the encampment, but the idea -- but it really caught fire so quickly and then actually, yeah I was actually being covered by the press, we're in a lot of interviews being obtained and though to try to get interview, it seem to get sort of snippets of information that really didn't connect the dots. So perhaps you can sort of take us through those early days because none of us where there, a very few of us, at least for the people in the Occupy Movement.
Right. Well, I mean the first couple of days, there wasn't anything to suggest that this is anything other than a small group of protesters in a public park sort of doing their own thing while the rest of the New York in the world when about is business. I mean to me initially maybe I was a little too jaded, but I thought it would sort of a shallow copy of what was going on in Spain or Greece or Cairo or places like that to the idea of having a public encampment and so that really wasn't the whole lot of press and it wasn't a whole lot of general interest, but there was something interesting I think culturally that people started to pick up on about having this space, this literal space that was open 24 hours a day to artistic, cultural, political kinds of activities in a way that people don't normally have this constant outlet and I think it's hard to draw up people in that way and really, I think what started to get the media attention was the police repression. So, there was an incident maybe a week after it started, where two young women were on the side of the sidewalk and they were pepper sprayed for having done nothing and that ended up being shown on MSNBC and other networks. It went viral across the internet and that started to generate a little attention and then the other thing that really kicked it up was towards the end of September, I think it was like maybe September 30th. There was a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, where more than 700 demonstrators were arrested and I participated on that march, although I ended up on the walkway. I wasn't arrested, but I think those kinds of spectacles got people interested in and then what really got it going -- I mean because obviously those things on their own can't do. What really got it going I think was the fact that over the past years, especially since 2008, I think there has been a latent humoring frustration on a lot people with the fact that when the financial crisis occurred, was working class C who lost their houses, lost their jobs, while those responsible, those bankers and CEOs, pretty much continued with business as usual, got bonuses and so forth, but there wasn't I think a concrete outlet for that frustration.
There was a sense that if people wanted to organize a demonstration, that would be like 60s kind of thing to do. But like that's past now and we've moved on. But when Occupy started, it created a venue, a space for people to come out and share these frustrations and so it wasn't long before that really got going. And then on October 5th, was a big march with the unions down Broadway and between October 5th and October 15th, it was just a media circus and from then, we see how it goes.
Well, in terms of -- with the bill of rights and our right to free assembly and free speech and free press and so on and so forth, what is the response been of the mayor of New York with regard to the immense force that the New York Police Department is seen. You never mind what people are saying. It is seen all over the internet. It is seen on the news. It's just really being -- you can only use excessive force but being very, very inflexible to a large extent just to put more there.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I've been to large demonstrations in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., even in Canada and nowhere have I seen the consistent level of police repression, I guess you could say as in New York City in general even prior to this. So for example, the 2004 Republican Convention, a lot of people are arrested for no reason during a lot of anti-war demonstrations, the similar things. So it wasn't with a lot of surprise that we were met with this extreme police force and it seemed at first like the intention was to try and scare us away to try and associate Occupy with "violence", even though with police violence and in fact, it had the opposite response. It galvanized a lot of people and made a lot of people more sympathetic to what was going on. On a moment to moment basis at the encampment while it still existed, police would just sort stand there, earning overtime and we would do our thing and it wasn't much of issue, but whenever we ventured out, there was a tendency where police seems to be looking for any small sign that their authority was being challenged to respond with excessive force. So for example, on November 17th which was our two-month anniversary, we had a demonstration on Wall Street in the morning and police got so carried away in response that they actually blocked off the pedestrian traffic down Broadway for a while and physically pushed the demonstrators who were on the side while holding signs down the street. So, the degree to which freedom of speech and freedom of assembly has been infringed upon is really extreme and then of course, when we were evicted on November 15th, we weren't given advanced notice because they tried that a month earlier. In October, they would let us know a couple days in advance and we managed to mobilize literally a thousand people at 5 a.m. in the park including unions of teachers, all sorts of people.
So they realized the second time around, they had to just give us five minutes warning at 1 a.m. and then just came in and arrested a bunch of people and bulldozed over people's possession, pepper sprayed people. They even arrested journalists who were on the scene who wouldn't leave and used police helicopters overhead to ban news helicopters from taking aerial images of what was going on. So clearly, it's a terrible pattern and our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is I think approximately the 10th richest American and so a lot of times, I get the question, "Why is it do you think that Mayor Bloomberg dislikes your movement?" and once again, we revert to the question as well. He is the epitome of the 1% and he doesn't like what we have to say so it seems like that. It's coming through and how the police respond.
Okay, we're gonna just -- we're gonna go on to getting to the politics of it. But with some part of what you just described happened in November and this report team from New York Times that extends from Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!, an incident that happened on December 17th apparently with one of her reporters. Apparently, the New York Times has been covering it and there was an article called, "The rules on news coverage are clear, but the police keep pushing" and today's issue of the New York Times obviously is referring to that day, outlined how New York Police Commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, should do more to ensure that his officers "respect the public's right to know about these events and the media's right to access and report". And apparently, in Democracy Now's coverage, they had somebody named Ryan Devereaux in an exhibit. I don't know if there is a lawsuit at stake. I have no idea. But apparently on December 17th, which is less than a month ago, Mr. Devereaux covered the demonstration at Duarte Square on Canal Street for Democracy Now! It's carried on a thousand stations. Obviously, people know who mainly she is, but obviously know about the show. And apparently, there was a huge, huge surge and the police pushed back. Now I'm quoting, "A linebacker-sized officer grabbed the collar of Mr Devereaux", it's in the New York Times, "who wore an ID identifying him as a reporter and the cop jammed a fist into his throat, turning Mr. Devereaux into a de facto battering ram to push back protesters". So, did you see that there were any kind of take away from the November events and learning curse because this just sounds pretty horrific.
Yeah. I was there on December 17th. It was a demonstration as you said in Duarte Square and when the police started to get frustrated because a bunch of clergymen, bishops, priests, and rabbis were going over the fence into this property owned by Trinity Church as an act of civil disobedience to encourage the church to allow the movement to use it considering the space was fenced off and hasn't been used for several years for any real purpose. When the police realized what was going on, they started to push back the entire crowd which was, of course, peacefully standing on the side walk, I was pushed myself and it is not a surprise that these sorts of actions are being carried out by the police. We had a demonstration outside of Mayor Bloomberg's house a week ago about the police infringement on the right of journalist to cover these events. But there is no indication that I can see that there is some sort of change in policy coming through.
Okay. Have you received any support from other legislators, either local state senators or the senators? Have you received any kind of political support from them, any letters, any documentation, anything that says, "We know you're out there and we're listening"?
Well, I know that we've gotten public committed support from a number of city council people, a number of members of different local neighborhood boards. I'm not sure about state senators off hand, but it's possible. I know that there's a reasonable amount of political support. It's just that -- if you're from the area you know that Mayor Bloomberg makes all these bombastic quotes about how the police of New York are his own private army and he has really an inflated ego so I'm not sure if he is really listening right now.
So I received notes -- I'm just kind of moving on separate in different. I'm just kind of changing the tone here prior to the show. I haven't announced the show, but I've spoken to people and Tweeted about certain aspects of the movement. I received some Tweets and some notes and then recently saying that hip hop is the most important movement since the civil rights protest and related marches and well that may be true for some and I don't doubt that hip hop does not just close the gap in disparity in wealth and political power in this country between the 1% of American who wheeled the lion share of America's wealth and the 99% of Americans who grind the way as you know at one, two, or even three drops daily to try to make ends need meet, pay mortgages that they haven't been foreclosed on, feed families if indeed, they still have a job that has not been outsourced overseas. And those hoping to retire one day, if therefore one case that's not completely been demolished by the stock crash of 2008. Obviously, that was due to the show game involving massive accredited to fall swaps due to Wall Street. So, there is a larger segment, much larger segment, that this is actually the most important movement since the civil right's marches of the 60s of 1965s. And so what do you say to that? What do you say to people who around the world saying "No, no, no". This is actually on the level of a civil right's movement. This is -- these are as they give the marches from sum to the capital. This is bigger than that because this is a global movement. What is the response? Is there, is there any kind of acknowledgement of that or is it just kind of a day-to-day, "this is what we're doing, we're just focused on the moment."
Well, that's a really big question.
For you to break it down into however many pieces.
No, no. I have an answer. So I guess the first thing I would say is that in early October, especially maybe October 9th or October 10th, when the media trending was really picking up, there was an increased sense of awareness among everyone that I've talked to that we were actually living in a historical period of time. And of course, there are historical things happening all the time whether we think about them or not. But that kind of awareness was really something for people to behold. There are people who had come to the park, photographers who would try to just take portrait of people in the park to create sort of a collection of the faces of Zuccotti Park clearly for posterity sake not to mention the fact that question start to coming from journalist about how would you compare it to the 60s or are there people who are currently involved that were also active in the 60s, which they were. And then, to refer back to the article you mentioned earlier Time Magazine Year of the Protester.
Yeah, the main authors said that to some extent you could compare 2011 to 1968, but that he would even go further to say it's more like 1848 and the protester are all the European capital. So, the historian in me with a little upset looking for that because I think that 1968 was a lot more than as he characterized that a counter cultural parade and had a lot of similarities with the movement in Mexico city, in Prague, in Paris, in Milan, around the world, Tokyo there are a lot of things going on and so I guess -- I certainly think that Occupy Wall Street is the most important American social movements since the 1970s, but I think it's also important to throw in the 70s movement gay and lesbian movement, anti-war movement, several other things from the 70s, which maybe didn't have...
We can't forget that, we can't forget Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug and the Women's Movement, yeah.
Right. And so certainly that the stuff in the 70s may not have always had as much of a visible manifestation, although some of it certainly did and has had the longstanding consequences, but I think that certainly -- if you compare the things that went in the 80s, with the 90s, for the last 10 years this had much more of a immediate big response. So, as my own personal point of contrast, I participated and I guess what we do now consider the tail end of the anti-globalization movement 2001 and 2002 and then also the anti-war movements with the Iraq and then stuff pertaining the students, and immigrants and labor subsequently. But nothing I have ever participated in has had the global popular support of Occupy I mean as an example, an opinion poll in late October about occupying in New York City gave us a 2 starts of approval rating. 67% of New Yorkers said they approved our message and I'm used to people being baffled or confused or dismissive, but this is really something remarkable not to mention the fact that we got this level of approval approximately -- I think 40% or so as of a couple months ago nationally after only a couple of months of organization were at they took the labor movement or the suffrage movement or the civil right movement decade before they got that level of support. So, it could show that what we're saying really resonates with the time of people and that this is something that is going to be look back upon as the turning point in American political history.
If you just joined in, I'm talking with Mark Bray, press and media representative from Occupy Wall Street. I wanna get back to what you're talking about. I have a quick question, I just want to ask you because I'm so curious about this. It something that bothers me just a little bit not a lot, but there is a lot of them and theologians and professors and people who would obviously lived in the 60s who are all sort about this news programs. On cable, on MSNBC, on CNN, we're talking about Occupy Wall Street and have either have not contacted your media department or has not been through your website. And so there seems to be lots of information going back and forth that either has not been cross-checked, has main cross-referenced or they simply haven't bother to call you. Can you just respond to that and why is it people seem to be making it up as they go along even the more horrifying doing it on global broadcast facilities?
Right, well I think that you hit the nail on the head and if an issue that has been frustrating us for a long time now. And you see it with both sympathetic programs and antagonistic program then certainly it's no surprise if some sort of a Fox program is not gonna divide the song, that's not a surprise, but even programs that are sympathetic are often go and invite us. I saw like Belmar has a round table discussion on Occupy where everything have grown on with saying it was very sympathetic, but instead he brings on Thomas Friedman or I don't know, Rachel Maddow or who ever and it wouldn't kill them to just make a phone call. We have tons of very talented, qualified, committed people what we've gone up to come on to express our opinion for ourselves. I think part of it is that the way we organized our directly democratic model, our sort of resistance to the idea of having an official high arch leadership meaning that there isn't that one or two faces that they can put up. Because if we had that, that one or two people would be on off the show, but by virtually the fact that we're trying to make this about the actual 99% about the people that we have networks and groups all across the country and beyond, meaning that they can have that one talking head and so instead they fall back on what's convenient and easy that yours or recognize immediately, which is those talking head that they already have talking. And so it's frustrating and my press team has been working as hard as they can try and form good relationships with the various shows and we have had some people that are gone on some of the major shows to speak for on our own behalf for ourselves, but as you point out that's the problem.
Who has-- on you know sort of-- either CNN, the CNN after they come on or Anderson Cooper or any else of the major anchors?
We had some people go on Piers Morgan I believe. I'm not sure if they were the main guest or not, I never got around to watch that segment. We had a couple of people on the Colbert Report for, that was easier. But we had a lot of interviews with CNN people, but they usually sort of displace and took broadcast. I would gonna go on the Keith Olbermann show, but they put on a civil rights leader from South Carolina for he housing issue and that was of course than even better selection. I was on an Al Jazeera program. So, it depends, we have had some of __26:50__, but for the most part the big shows go with their regular variety of talking heads.
Alright, now that's true, that's absolutely true. I think that there is a certain fear element there that if there is not some of that they have seen before or familiar with, they're not sure where they're gonna or not (crosstalk) their dealing with the -- there's too much of an element to surprise for them as what I'm saying.
Right, but actually now that I think about it Jesse LaGreca is a member of the Occupy Movement who sort of rose to many stardom because he had a YouTube video were he was being interviewed by a Fox News reporter and he basically told them off about how terrible the network is and Fox didn't air it, but since YouTube clip went viral, he became a sensation because he is a very bombastic character and so he is actually got a good amount of air time on some of the major programs despite the fact that he is not actually one of the key organizer, he is not part of the press working group. So, it's funny how the kind of celebrity is stand for approval for somebody's shows.
Oh, no, that is true, that is true. I have to say though that I obviously very much looking forward to this interview. I don't watch Fox News, but I was doing some research for this particular interview and I just wanted to say and or just to look on and see a couple of against past recent episodes were Occupy Wall Street might have come up and some of Fox News' coverage. And I don't mind getting specific, but I was absolutely horrified in some of the things that they were talking about which were not political based, not financially based, not socially base, but that they were actually attacking. This is how desperate, there were actually attacking people individually for either what they looks like or calling them losers and having -- there is no substantiation whatsoever. There is nobody has been down there, there's nobody have been spoken to anybody. I mean there's a lot of worse thing that you can say than calling them a loser. It just went far, far beyond that where there were actually talking about what the "American people think of Occupy Wall Street." Is that they had -- polled and interviewed everybody in the nation and came up with that consensus and since they knew next to nothing about what's going on, it's just the business as usual, same type of hubris that they have always had, that it's just really, really infuriating. I guess you really too busy. I don't watch Fox News but I'm the one or two times I pulled up YouTube. I was pretty horrified because they do have a wide audience and they are responsible for some type of legitimate reporting I would think.
Right. Yeah. Also, the New Yorkers that New York Post -- in a New York Post which is a Rupert Murdoch paper and the same kind of average you get to broadcast here to the New York Post and they even had a headline while they were still in Zuccotti Park. Literally, calling us animals and calling upon the mayor to like sweep us out of the park. I just heard any sort of journalistic justification for that, so it's a common theme to try and basically dredge up the culture work with takes of the 60s as the way to villainized us to try to make us into hippy communist or something.
Alright. Alright. I wanted to talk about the message or messages that is coming from Occupy Wall Street and just a kind of played demographic-- just for a brief moment, so that you can answer critics directly and not have you know Michael Moore do it for you. You know I loved him I think he is great, but I would rather that you do it since you're actually part of the movement. What is the-- there is a lot of people whose you know again who is really not following what is going on, but it seems to be that they are chief conflict with Occupy Wall Street, is that, there's not one clear message. They seemed to be a disparity about what people believe about this movement because every time, you know there is march, there is a different sort of call coming from the march. And I'm not asking you to pair it down to one or two different messages or one or one message. I think when you have that discrepancy of power and wealth between 1/3 of people on this nation that willed the majority are all the wealth in this country and that's all that 99%, then you have a vast range of issues to protest about. So, having said that, what are - say three declarative points right now that Occupy Wall Street is trying or is putting out there from message stand point.
Well. I guess if I were to boil it down to what the simplest way of summing up the message I would say it is economic justice and participatory democracy. It's the idea that first taken the second of those two things that you know since the financial crisis in 2008 it has become even more evident that it was previously that regardless of which political party is in power when the market birth its working class people who suffered, while the 1% continue doing fine and so considering the fact that in order to gain major political power, candidates have to accrue millions in dollars of donations from corporations or financial institution and therefore we certainly can't assume that they are going to be impartial when being called upon to regulate those very same industries. It is right that degree to which, there is the class component and how the government is organized and so then considering that we have still many people in this country who have lost their houses or lost their jobs are in thousands of dollars in debt for what I would consider human rights health and education and we have all this issues or we even have recent statistic shows one in five children living in poverty. We need to address the fact that those economic issues are connected to the political system. So, you know that covers a lot certainly in a few senses but I guess the main thing is they were trying to re-join this economic issues to how we organize ourselves politically because I think previously there was a common sense perception that our candidates and politicians were much more autonomous than they really are that they could just sort of feedback in their office and make a decision without recognizing that they got into the office, they're in and once they're in that office, they are constraint by this larger party system with larger economic set up and so we want the kind of things that most Americans want and when we started out and we told people passing us on the street or protesting Wall Street people generally got it because they have seen what's happened and it's not the popular frustration with Wall Street only started in September. It had been simmering for awhile, so you know jobs, houses, education, health care, basic necessity, the kind of things that regardless of what your political perspective is, we should agree that we should be working towards having accept by all the people and ask things then -- they're not I mean they are more people who want jobs than there are jobs to take one example. So, economic justice and participatory democracy is sort of how I sum up the core values of Occupy.
Well and I appreciate that and its that' is really well said that no matter you know who is in office who takes office although we know who ever wins-- whatever election all obviously there is this usual election year. The federal reserve bailouts this is coming from the government accountability office says that it was on 6 trillion way of -- Wall Street watch agency say it's the bailout are actually closer to US$24 trillion and then there was a report from Bard College, but it has been talking about this issue before was an issue that say, no, no, this is actually closer to a US$30 trillion bailout. Someone is still walking into a 30 trillion or near some let's say be some more between US$16 and US$30 trillion. The average persons can conceive of what that number means not because they are stupid because that's a lot of money. So, I mean you know these problems exist whether they want to acknowledge it or not that the country is you know continues to print money that we may be say thing you know hyperinflation and so on and so fort. They want to take it and hold that direction but the fact of the matter is that you know Bank of America the Martin Sullivan's of AIGs, the Richard Wagoner's of General Motors, the Frederick Waddle's of Northern Trust, the Lloyd Blankfein's of Goldman Sachs, these were all people that got a millions and millions, and millions of dollars and reaps there in some cases, not all cases okay, but some cases reaps their greatest personal profits and bonuses in history and you know what was the greatest recession since the great depression. So, I mean that's why people can easily identify with what your talking about because they're getting you know many of these people had been foreclosed on and they can't get back into their houses. They have no way, you know they have no way to answer the frustration that their feeling because they have no power and no authority to communicate that power, does that make sense?
Yeah, that's exactly right and I think another thing that you seemed to be eluding too is that you know are they a lot of working class people especially some of whom may be our immigrants or some of whom don't have a thorough understanding of the way the housing market works. Who have been told that it's their own fault that they have lost their houses because they signed a contract and should have known where is that you actually speak to people who work on the mortgages very often and they would call people out to say you know you have four hours to sign this, otherwise you never gonna get a house again, were giving this great offer and there was a lot of pressure and really bully tactics put upon people. And so, what Occupy is trying to say among other things is that a lot of times the language of expertise around economics that you see on your nightly business shows saying how people are lazy and it is their fault that they have lost their property is political. It serves the function of making ordinary people still know they're powerless and can't possibly understand the bigger picture but we're trying to do is sort of break it down and say look, there are a lot of homeless families out there, they are a lot of empty houses. May be we can just as the community take direct action to put people on houses and address this issues which ultimately get mystified by this larger economic rhetoric.
Right, you know it also-- I just wanna talk about just one point about the bullying tactic. They were also approving people for loans that have five credit scores of you know $475 and $525, which just you know, you know prior to that time you would have been able to get you know a loan for to buy a MAC with that kind of credit score and if they were putting people in to houses that is not like you have a credit score so you are a bad person. It's the fact that they had trouble paying their bills before and they were actually looking at their income statements, which didn't even remotely match what needed to be considered qualified. A qualified candidate for buying a $300,000 home. So, they were literally because of bullying tactics from sort of all arenas it's the direct call, but then it's approving people who say you know things will get better I'll get a better job. I'll be able to pay this somehow you know the __39:21__ moved in. Whatever will happen you know they are going to the dream place where you know they have not been able to pay off their mazy spell. You know what I'm saying, so it's -- there was everybody just sort of took off the years you know and took off the breaks and there was no you know everybody just got in on it and so you know there is culpabilities what I'm saying across the board. Right?
I need to go back to the great depression of the 20s and 30s a lot of that. How do we do with people buying things that they could not actually afford because of the -- you know craze about credits and so the arguments that come from the right that really is the solution is even more unregulated markets and even less government role in the economy. It really just shows you what happens when things are just left open. People are at the mercy of this financial institution so were gonna try and look for any kind of way to squeeze the profit out of people-- even if in the long run, it is kind of productive tool to the very ground they are standing on.
Right and so basically what you've just said and you know and I'm saying it actually is -- I'm certainly-- is that nothing has been learned since you know the great depression obviously. We've gone backwards (crosstalk) opportunity. What's been learned?
Yeah I mean and since World War II, Europe and Unite State have build up this -- to some extent less so in United State but still social welfare provisions, which have been under attack recently and that's not the answer. The answer is not sort of a leaving people how they defend for themselves but instead -- in my opinion to try and think how we can provide things that people need regardless of what other steps going to prioritize the interest of the 99%.
Right very well said. Okay, oh were just four days away from what is being call the biggest Occupy protest to date and that's of course Occupy Congress, which is slated to begin on January 17th and if I understand it and please correct me and will continue until January 21st, January 17th is the first day I believe that the host of representatives will be in session for a 2012. So, that should be great opportunity to bring various Occupy movements you know collective grievances to Capitol Hill. So, can you talk about what Occupy Wall Street's main -- I guess objective or goal is -- for Occupy congress and what you would like to take away to be from those days of action if you will or what you call the protest, those days of action between the 17th and mid 21st of January.
Sure, well they are people coming from I guess all across the country certainly setting a bunch down from New York that are gonna participate and there is the variety of different marches and events and educational things that there gonna go on. Some of the things that they're gonna do I guess are still being informed and -- it needs a lot of stuff going on -- it is base on the point, but I think the larger issue is really it's similar to -- I think how Occupy is going to orient itself around the presidential election which is to say that -- we're focusing on congress or we're focusing on the executive branch and the candidates to emphasize issues that are important to people. Some of the one that I've mentioned regarding you know provision of basic necessities for people, having a political system that's actually representative of the people who are the majority of society those were to think, but what we're trying to do is use the opportunity provided by congress meeting or the opportunity provided by the presidential election to focus on the issues and not get bugged down in the traditional and more conservative partisan politics because people in the Occupy movement can vote or not vote for whoever they want. You know we're not trying to sort of tell people what to do and we're not trying to reinvent a new political party but instead we're trying to say that if we can form a non-sectarian, non-partisan political movement that will act to sort of a watchdog on congress or a watchdog on the president, then in the future if there are policies that enact to that people don't like we already have an instrument in place to try and levers the political system and you know going back to historical comparisons, we can see that for example in the 1960s the American government was not falling all over itself to enact the right for legislation. Right, if not as if changes like that or women suffrage or improvement in minimum wage for the labor movement. What has happened, is there has not been substantial social pressure form the outside by people who felt that in one way or another they were not being listened to by government and so that's the kind of model that were trying to encourage by seeing that you know if someone like President Obama for example will only really have an incentive to prioritize our interest when we push the issues strong enough and simply casting a vote once every four years, is not gonna do that because it sort of replicate the kind of activity that we think the American political system has fallen into and so that I think the message off Occupy Congress is that you know we're here, we're very frustrated, I mean what congressional approval rating for about 9% or something like that. We're very frustrated, but we're not going to let our energy be diverted into a sort of choice be Republican-Democratic game. We're gonna sort of be able to critic it from the outside.
And so are there -- has there been any response from individual or you know congressmen, from your senators or you know any response from Capitol Hill as to their -- whether they are going to embrace all of the people of that will be on the doorsteps within four days.
You know I haven't heard specific comments on that and I think you know while figure such as Nancy Pelosi and the others have been very favorable at least towards the beginning, I think that there is a concern among the Democratic or Republican Parties. The Democratic Party especially I think that wear this kind of volatile political commodity that they can simply go up into their party apparatus and that we will be able to upgrade independently and be critical if need be on what's going on. And so, I think that has led a number of politician to maybe remain silent about it because on the one hand they don't wanna alienate occupy people but on the other hand they don't wanna see it, be seen at too close here because that could may be jeopardize their status as being somewhat trying to bring in more moderate conservative voices into their campaign, so I'm not really sure and I think it's sort of a waiting period. I think that that politicians are gonna wait to sort of where we go and we're gonna have to really continue to prove our legitimacy before we get that sort of big response, but we have seen smaller change like for example in New York Governor Cuomo increased taxation for millionaires and decreased taxation for middle and working class people that happened about a month ago despite the fact that during his campaign he vehemently promised that he would not increase taxes for the upper class, so I think there are little things like that even if politicians won't acknowledge it, but I don't think we'll really start seeing way for change until we can continue to do this for a few years because in the meantime I think that some of them will try to wait which is being to really persevere.
And so do you have you know any clear a message from the Obama administration or even perhaps directly from President Obama in connection with Occupy Wall Street as to his receptivity and his thought on the movement.
Well are the two things that come to mind? First is that you know initially he begs and agreed with us about our grievances on the economy, but then sort of unpleasantly said, but you know I'll take care of it. So, you know don't get too carried away and then in the speech in candidates in December I think it was, although it might be little earlier he said that you know what we need to focus on as American is not 99% values or 1% values but American values, so basically adapting the language of Occupy Wall Street to -- I guess in his perspective transcend class and talk about national identity as a whole and so -- I guess the idea is to try and say that -- I mean consider that he is quite in the interesting situation were he asked to balance things that would be beneficial to middle and working class people and not accessibly alienate his financial backers Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan and so, in the past I don't think there was nearly as much of a class issue in the presidential election in that explicit form were he actually literally acknowledge that he is trying to bring this to rhetorical political fields together, but here he does and so, I haven't really got any indication that he is going to do anything but the normal minor confessions in our direction because in my opinion we haven't yet really raise and provoke make him to do that. Because, I mean in my opinion really fundamental social change in a American history have come about when government official have had no choice but to respond to widespread social pressure and that sort of social pressure is what we starting to build and I think -- right now Obama is gonna -- I think try to go with the normal formula. I haven't seen and indicate that he would do otherwise, but I think years down the road may be not 2012, but 2016 or 2020, I think will see the long-term impact of Occupy really shifting how -- especially Democratic politicians orient their rhetoric and a lot of people are being critical of us right now I think that we should really divert all of our energies towards trying to get Obama elected or basically funneling our energies then to the Democrats, but I think our long-term prospect (crosstalk).
And who is saying that exactly. I'm sorry, who is saying that to -- or looking an opinion columns to people --
Opinion column is my uncle, the man on street, you know everywhere I go except -- constantly that we should really just basically became either a third political party or basically voted registration drive for the Democrats but what I try to say is you know if we have -- instead of a six-month window but more like a 10-year window and we showed the Democrats that we're not simply gonna get brought off with anything. I think we could see that paid dividends down the line.
I agree with that. And that was actually very well said, there was you know a lot of information on that I really applaud you for just sort of you know making that very, very clear. I wanted to ask you I think that there is also some confusion, there is a lot of - Occupy Boston, Occupy Austin, Occupy L.A., and Occupy Oakland, I mean this Occupy and my personal favorite Occupy Marines you know. And so there are a lot of you now communities within cities and all over the nation that I believe if I'm not mistaken are planning to come to the extent that they were able to get on the bus, to get on the train, get on the flight, or what have you. What is the connection if any between I mean obviously, there is some you know connection but what is the fact of connection between Occupy Wall Street and these other cities around the nations who are joining you, it is just bothers if you will.
Well, when they all started which was usually I think for the most part in October, but you know we started earlier there wasn't much of a connection at all except for the fact that in the beginning some individuals started to perform bands where we would share information give advice with one thing from each other, but certainly by late October and to November we managed to develop what we call "Interoccupy" which is basically an online communication nexus for the different Occupy to communicate whether that is around specific issues pertaining to like food or technology or political strategy or what have you. And so, now at this point we in New York and I think many of the other Occupies have a really extensive list of contacts around the country and even around the world so that if you need to get in touch with an Occupy we can do that pretty quickly but that doesn't mean that we're you know in the traditional since part of the same "organization" what it means is if that we're a network can we work together, so is not is if New York for example is telling people in Austin or Los Angles what to do and I think that has been one of strengths of our organizational model is that from the start there is full initiative for people in Connecticut or people in Florida to make Occupy into whatever they wanted to be and focused on the issue that they think are important and in that sense in my mind replicates what a really vibrant democracy should be which is that people articulate themselves in the political language that make sense to them. And that's why I think Occupy growth grew really fast whereas if we had followed the kind of model that a lot of critics will have as follow where we have a very strict leadership and disseminate you know political plans all throughout the country and a lot of people would have walked at us and __53:09__ and said no thank you. So, that's pretty much how we organized ourselves in relation to the other Occupies and more and more were trying to organize national date of action and I think that plans are already underway for May 1st to have a really big day with labor and immigrant right stuff and so I think we'll start to see a really paid dividends then.
Oh! For sure. And you talking about a lot of the big union as well, right. Around the country. Obviously that's a part of labor, but I know that the initial protest involved union participation, as well. Is that still going on New York or have they sort of splintered off into their own Occupies?
No, I think they still support and New York, we still have not come out to events and I have gotten so many thank you's from rank and file members of union was saying that they have a sense that the Occupy has sort of reinvigorated the momentum of labor movement at least for them, in a larger sense that the labor movement cant simply be content to donate money to political campaigns but should also put even more of a renewed emphasis on organizing and you know resistance to the attempted cut-backs on workers right. So, I guess what I sometimes say to people is that even if Occupy doesn't amount to a whole lot more than creating momentum for all sorts of community and labor, and environmental organizing that already existed that's still pretty works well.
I think it's very worthwhile. You know people are going to be listening to the show you know once it is announced and once there's press on it post haste at which I would certainly will do. People gonna want know how they can some people certainly are gonna want to know how they can truly get involve and who do they call or how they -- may be they are not as text savvy as they were on Twitter or what have you. If they are -- they are probably know just want to do if not can you talk to them in this moment and tell them how they can get involve with you know there are local Occupy.
Sure, well I mean I guess the best thing to do is to if you live close enough to trying to go down attend to some sort of a general assembly or a meeting say hello to a few people and find out way that whatever sort of experience or skills or interest or amount of time that you have to commit can be useful for the group because you know that the intention was never-- from the start to have everyone sleep outside on the ground that was a tactic to sort of get the momentum rolling to get people and to encourage people to participate, but you know certainly people has families have had only a limited amount of time to give but even so even a few couple of hours a week you can go to a march or by another there's a lot that can be done. And I guess depending on where you live you might wanna do search for-- the name of your city or town into Occupy and see what's around, but even if there isn't an Occupy nearby even if you could only get five people together and hold the demonstration outside of you city hall or outside of a branch of Bank America every now and then it raises the issue and I think what Occupy has been most successful at so far is raising the issues so that -- even people that disagree are called upon to discuss and if we gonna have anything resembling a true democracy at that level of civic discourse that's important so I guess to see where local is up to and see what kind you have and take it from there.
Okay, well I promise you and you've been really so kind and so generous, I wanted to thank you before I do all the closing information and forget to thank you, but you have been just so articulate and generous with your time and I really appreciate it. I think this has really been an extraordinary interview and I did promise you the floor and time to cut just say anything that you wish for people on behalf of Occupy Wall Street, any confusion or misunderstanding that you think that's public might still have it this time. Anything you wanna share is you know you have this -- whatever time you need and watch to say what you will?
Sure, okay well I guess what I would say is that -- it is a popular misconception that the way that social change really happens is when you select the politician who has a good idea and that politician brings it to congress or an accident to law, but instead I think if you really go back to the history you'll see that. When you have fundamental social change it happens because people create a strong base of popular opinion a strong base of popular mobilization and creates the atmosphere of public opinion that compelled politicians to have sort of get with the program or otherwise be left behind. And you see that with the suffrage movement with the labor movement, civil rights movement, feminist movement all sorts of movements like that and so there has been I think in some quarters an intentional effort to try and minimize political activity to casting a ballot to the point where we're even told vote or die as if that is really the beyond end of the identity of being an American citizen and so while certainly we're not time people not to vote, we're trying to say that there is so much more that you can be doing on the daily basis to influence that political amateurs where you live to get people involve to affect your community and to ultimately try and put the issues that you think are important out of the forefront and if we can kind of walk beyond the 24-hour news cycle of CNN or MSNBC towards a longer long-term changes and realize really how recently in this country's history singing so different for the worth that in that same regard things to be so much better 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road. I mean 100 years ago you know women didn't vote African-American didn't have civil rights, workers had no right and 100 years sound like a long time to some people but historically it's really kind of a snap of the finger and so 100 years from now if we really push on it, I think we can have a new United States. And so that's really the message I'm trying to get across.
And you did, and you did an excellent job and I hope that -- once they get involved really mix the movement and does so. Thank you so much Mark Bray from Occupy Wall Street. You can listen to the show on the body politic on ITunes or BlogTalkRadio/the body politic. You can contact me on Twitter at politic body. Thank you so much Mark Bray and I hope you come back and talk to us in a few months' time and give us an update. Okay thank you much.
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It's good to talk.