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OccupyAustin Mic Checks Arne Duncan

7:18 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Arne Duncan at ACC Austin. Photo by Kit O'Connell.

Originally published on Approximately 8,000 Words.

Thursday, I participated in a ‘MIC CHECK’ confrontation with Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, at a town hall meeting at Austin Community College. Duncan is criticized for many reasons, but he came under fire from Occupy Austin for his support of charter schools and privatization which puts teachers out of work, puts taxpayer money and our students in the hands of 1% corporations with little accountability.

Occupy AISD (a.k.a. Occupy Education) is one of our most effective working groups. They’ve engaged in amazing outreach to schools, teachers, parents, and activists. They led a successful rally earlier this month bringing many non-occupiers on the march. They’ve also had a real effect on our schools, supporting the efforts to oppose IDEA Charter that resulted in only 5 students asking to attend the controversial east side charter school.

I felt honored to support their efforts today with the help of four other occupiers who attended the town hall meeting. Here’s what our mic check sounded like:

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Life Under Occupation (Occupy Austin Flash Mob)

10:00 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Occupy Austin Visiting an Occupation, even a relatively small one like ours, is a little surreal. The energy is so heated. There’s so much passion, energy, even anger. Then you step away and realize the world continues as normal. Despite the global nature of this movement, people everywhere are living life; Re-entry is jarring when one steps from any temporary encampment to the bright lights of a grocery store.

One of my girlfriends has expressed some discomfort about the Occupy movement and we got to sit down together over Pan-Asian snacks late one night and talk about it. Not only is this very different from her family upbringing (conservative, non-activist parents with ties to the oil industry), but I am reminded that before me she dated a police officer. She spoke about how they put themselves in danger for us, and I agreed — I don’t think they are our enemy, but they are the tool of the 1%.

She talked about how she felt like she could not participate because she works for a major corporation in Austin, buys corporate goods, and other ways she participates in our capitalist system. But I responded that we are all forced to do that; the issue this movement has is not with the people working for hourly wages as tech support workers or bank tellers. The problem is the CEOs of those corporations who take home millions a year while others struggle to make ends meet — as she does, between rent, student loans, and other debts.

Of course, I know she also just worries about me and the risk I go through when I go to an encampment. I don’t plan to get arrested; my fibromyalgia makes it all but impossible for me to spend the night and would also make an overnight stay in a prison cell extremely painful — the kind of pain that might debilitate me for days. Yet I have to acknowledge that, with our protests growing more heated, that there is some risk when I take part. It’s a risk I feel is worth taking. Read the rest of this entry →

#OccupyAustin Takes to the Streets

4:23 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Yesterday in Oakland, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to speak up for their rights and to participate in a general strike. Marches and actions took place all around the world in solidarity with the activists. I joined Occupy Austin again for their march, and then attended my first general assembly that night.

It is inspiring to watch this movement grow and spread around the world. As police (and the Department of Homeland Security, by some reports) try to shut us down, it seems like each police raid and wave of arrests only makes us bolder. The Port of Oakland, one of the top ports in the US, shut down for a full 24 hours along with major downtown Oakland branches of banks like Bank of America, Chase and Citibank.

My friend Gyesika joined me at this march, and it was immediately clear that something was different from Sunday — there was a spirit there, a sense that we could take on the world. The Spirit of Oakland was in us, undoubtedly. For the first half of the march, we were orderly and obedient protesters, staying to the sidewalks and mostly waiting for lights to change.

We marched again to the County Jail, to remind the government of our presence and because this is a place where all of our activists can gather. Despite reassurances from the city, all our arrested activists are still banned from City Hall, where our occupation is taking place. These political prisoners must gather on a traffic island across the street which has a curfew of 10pm because it is technically a park.

As we gathered at the jail, we heard from one of those prisoners who talked about what he’d realized while in prison: Read the rest of this entry →