Stage One: Occupy Public Space.
Occupy Together, an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street, has seen tens of thousands of people in cities all over the world reclaiming public spaces.
Stage Two: Occupy Unused Property.
Occupy Oakland, perhaps the most radical — and perhaps most effective — of the occupations has moved on to the logical “next stage,” and movements everywhere should take note.
This is not without precedent in this movement and those that inspired it. Last week in Madrid, a hotel was occupied and opened up to people evicted in foreclosures:
The abandoned Hotel Madrid, which was taken over by an unknown number of squatters on October 16 after a mass rally in the capital organized by the 15-M movement, opened its doors on Monday to the first person to take up the group’s stated strategy of “freeing up spaces for common use.”
Read more here.
In a statement from those who seized the building in Oakland, they wrote:
Last night, after one of the most remarkable days of resistance in recent history, some of us within Occupy Oakland took an important next step: we extended the occupation to an unused building near Oscar Grant Plaza. We did this, first off, in order to secure the shelter and space from which to continue organizing during the coming winter months. But we also hoped to use the national spotlight on Oakland to encourage other occupations in colder, more northern climates to consider claiming spaces and moving indoors in order to resist the repressive force of the weather, after so bravely resisting the police and the political establishment. We want this movement to be here next Spring, and claiming unused space is, in our view, the most plausible way forward for us at this point. We had plans to start using this space today as a library, a place for classes and workshops, as well as a dormitory for those with health conditions. We had already begun to move in books from the library. The building we chose was perfect: not only was it a mere block from Oscar Grant Plaza, but it formerly housed the Traveler’s Aid Society, a not-for-profit organization that provided services to the homeless but, due to cuts in government funding, lost its lease Given that Occupy Oakland feeds hundreds of people every day, provides them with places to sleep and equipment for doing so, involves them in the maintenance of the camp (if they so choose), we believe this makes us the ideal tenants of this space, despite our unwillingness to pay for it. None of this should be that surprising, in any case, as talk of such an action has percolated through the movement for months now, and the Oakland GA recently voted to support such occupations materially and otherwise. Business Insider discussed this decision in an article entitled “The Inevitable Has Happened.”
This move was part of an effective political strategy. The Occupy movement need not see their only goals as opening up public spaces and challenging the role of money in politics. This can and should be much bigger than that. Many recognize that the movement is prefiguring a new way to organize communities. The radical vision of this movement is starting to express the need to challenge private property as a fundamental problem. What better a way to address this than to seize abandoned property.
Those who seized the building in Oakland wrote:
We are well aware that such an action is illegal, just as it is illegal to camp, cook, and live in Oscar Grant Plaza as we have done. We are aware that property law means that what we did last night counts as trespassing, if not burglary. Still, the ferocity of the police response surprised us. Once again, they mobilized hundreds of police officers, armed to the hilt with bean bag guns, tear gas and flashbang grenades, despite the fact that these so-called “less-than-lethal” weapons nearly killed someone last week. The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect one landlord’s right to earn a few thousand every month. Why is this? Whereas the blockade of the port – an action which caused millions of dollars of losses – met with no resistance, the attempt to take one single building, a building that was unused, met with the most brutal and swift response. The answer: they fear this logical next step from the movement more than anything else. They fear it because they know how much appeal it will have. All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages. We understand that capitalism is a system that has no care for human needs. It is a system which produces hundreds of thousands of empty houses at the same time as it produces hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The police are the line between these people and these houses.
Read more here. Video below:
If the second stage spreads, and occupations around the world begin occupying unused buildings and opening them up, what might we propose next?
Stage Three: Occupy Your Home.
I would suggest the next stage following the reclaiming of unused buildings would be to engage in a widespread renter’s and mortgage strike. We could call this Occupy Your Home.