The following is a statement by the members of Occupy Ithaca:
ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2011, hundreds of people of all ages, classes, races, and incomes marched on Wall Street in New York City and convened in Zuccotti Park, where they set up a cooperative living space that would allow them the freedom of assembly they needed to being a long-term discussion on how to restore and foster a more equitable distribution of economic wealth and resources amongst American people. This protest was a continuation of a long tradition of occupation style protest and was similar in spirit and tactic to the Arab Spring. All year, similar occupations have sprung up in all over the world in towns and cities of all sizes.
Beginning at 1pm Monday, November 21, 2011, the people of Occupy Ithaca have begun an occupation at Dewitt Park. We have taken this step for many reasons, but all these reasons spring from the same root problem: we live in a world where corporate profit is served as the highest good in all matters, local and global, foreign and domestic. The amount of human suffering and damage done to our environment as a result is staggering and unacceptable, and if not reversed or altered, is likely to lead to imminent global crises that will intensify as time progresses. We intend to spend occupation time reflecting on how the primary and unbridled pursuit of profit as the highest social good affects our community here in Ithaca and how we can plan action to alter this pursuit, change its course, and soothe the wounds it causes in the meantime.
We are occupying in solidarity with the movement which has spread like wildfire across this country and captured the hearts and imaginations of people across the globe. We stand in solidarity with the people of Egypt and the other countries of the Arab Spring who stood together during the January 25th Movement in Tahrir Square and the many martyrs who laid down their lives for freedom. Our hearts are heavy as new martyrs are killed in the square, fighting the military and police who have stolen their revolution.
We stand with the 1st indigenous peoples of the country who have been living under occupation for over 500 years, whoseland was stolen and whose ancestors were all but wiped out. These are the same people who taught our founding fathers about democracy and inspire the horizontal democracy being used by the Occupy Movement today. We recognize that we are guests hear on this land and we seek to honor and respect the knowledge and sacrifice of the Haudenashanee people to whom this land belongs.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Greece, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere in Europe who are about to have severe enforced austerity measures imposed upon them by an initiative known as the Goldman Sachs Project.
We stand with those who live on the margins of our society, from the people who call the jungle their home to the farmworkers who work to grow our food. We stand with those who had to leave their land and their homes behind when they fled militarized violence and political persecution. The unemployed and the veterans who have sacrificed so much only to be forgotten in their time of need by the country they were sworn to protect. We stand with women and children who bear the brunt of budget cuts and violence in our society and with all others who are vulnerable.
We stand with the African American community whose ancestors were stolen from their land and brought here against their will, and the many millions who died on the middle passage before even stepping foot on this land. This is a community that was beaten and murdered in their struggle for equality and raised the powerful example that informs our movement today. Who have seen justice deferred on every front and are the last to be invited to the table, but the first to feel the cruelty of economic stagnation and downturn. Who take for granted that, based only on the color of their skin, they could be the target of detention, arrest, violence or murder by the police at any time. This was brought home last year when Ithaca community member Shawn Greenwood was gunned down by an IPD officer, and again this year when Keith Shumway was killed. From henceforth, we name this park Shawn Greenwood Park.
We invite all to join us in our 24 hour vigil for justice and support us by helping to occupy our park. We also invite those who can’t spend the night with us for reasons of health, employment, criminal record, and family obligations to join the conversation, to bring supplies, get the word out to your friends and family, and bring to bear any the skills or assets that you have to support the movement. It will be a long winter and we will need all the support we can get.
We would also like to ask forgiveness from our new neighbors who have been informed after the fact of our decision to occupy this park. This movement is about empowering people to take action, sometimes action that is not popular, to convey our message and to meet each other’s needs. We will maintain an open door policy and will make ourselves available to our neighbors day and night to address any questions or concerns that may arise. We will do our utmost to maintain the park as a clean, safe and welcoming environment, and we wish above all else to be good neighbors.
The consensus based model of self-governance that has been adopted in New York City, Ithaca, and everywhere Occupiers practice, is an important part of our effort. The fact that only a few thousand people turned out to vote in this last election shows that most Ithacans are not participating in the current electoral and democratic process. We have the highest respect for our elected officials, but a healthy community needs the voices and participation of all its people in order to thrive. The open inclusiveness of the process empowers all people of all backgrounds and classes with representation, a voice, and a true vote that directly affects any action the Occupation chooses to take. Austerity cuts and shrinking budgets mean ever fewer resources will be available to help low-income residents in the years to come, and as such, it is essential that we begin the process of learning to help provide each other with food, education, representation, and sustained social, psychological and emotional support.
We invite the City of Ithaca to join the conversation. We hold our community to a high standard and believe ourselves to be progressive in many ways; however, many of the economic and justice issues being raised by the Occupy Movement are of great concern in our community as well. Over the coming days, weeks and months we will be communicating with you about specific grievances and solutions for residents of the City of Ithaca. Again, we have an open door policy and will address any questions or concerns that arise in an open and transparent manner.
To the IPD, please realize that we are fighting for economic equity for all. We realize that union benefits, wages and pensions are being attacked across the country, and so we feel we are working for you as well. Whether or not you agree with this, please remember that we are citizens and taxpayers, and as such, the nature of your work is to protect us, and as such we respectfully request that you restrain from acts of physical or psychological violence directed toward citizens of Ithaca and those choosing to exercise their 1st Amendment Rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
We proceed with these simple principles: people over profit, human rights over corporate greed. We look forward to the conversations, opportunities, and great changes that await us all in the months and years ahead.