Proposal: Consider wearing a green armband on November 2nd as a way of showing solidarity with Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement in general, whether you go to Oakland or go to class or go to work.
Explanation: As you may have heard, Occupy Oakland will be holding a general strike this Wednesday, Nov. 2. The 1,607 community-members who stayed for the full four-hour meeting reached this decision through a highly democratic consensus decision-making process that requires 90 percent approval. The atmosphere was welcoming, constructive and most importantly, decidedly peaceful.
Why are they striking? You may ask. Why are they occupying in the first place? What are their demands? The Occupy movement is, at its core, a response to broad systemic problems arising from the enormous concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a privileged few. Because this inequality manifests itself in innumerable ways across society, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distill the aims of the Occupy movement into a short list of demands. However, in this strike in particular, Occupy Oakland is both protesting broad, global issues and specific local issues, such as the city of Oakland’s apparent preference for funding law enforcement over education.
Many of us will doubtless show our support for the strike in a number of ways. To those of us who wish to do so, I have one proposal and one request.
Proposal (restated): Consider wearing a green armband on Nov. 2 as a way of showing solidarity with Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement in general, whether you go to Oakland or go to class.
Request: To those particularly fervent supporters of Occupy Oakland who really want your classmates to join you in the streets, do not succumb to the temptation to disrupt classes full of students who choose not to walk out with you.
A student should not be forced to choose between showing solidarity with the Occupiers and taking advantage of their incredibly precious education. Doubtless many students will walk out of class and perhaps converge in Oakland. Doubtless many more will wish to show their support but do not feel comfortable compromising their education to do so. These two groups are natural allies and should act as such.
To those walking out: Remember the spirit of consensus that drives the Occupy movement. Strive to build solidarity and consensus. To attempt to compel your fellow students into the streets by disrupting their education would be counter to the spirit and the interest of the Occupy movement. Let your fellow students show their solidarity in a way they are comfortable with.
Here are several reasons why I suggest green armbands. Armbands are easy — just tear a strip of fabric and suddenly you have made a statement.
Why green? Green is a color full of positive symbolic meaning. Green is the color of money, undeniably a central focus of the Occupy movement. Green has become the color of environmental consciousness, arguably another important element of Occupy. Green also embodied the peaceful Iranian popular uprising of 2009-10, one of many recent movements worldwide that embodies the same spirit as the Occupy movement. By wearing green, we show solidarity with other popular movements for true justice and true freedom worldwide.
With that said, the solidarity behind the symbol is far more important than the symbol itself. If green armbands catch on among supportive professors and staff and the people of Berkeley, that’s great! Still, we must remember that different people will show their support in different ways, and it is in the spirit of the Occupy movement to embrace all of those forms of support.
In a country with a political process seemingly more concerned with the interests of the moneyed than the interests of the people, the Occupy movement has created an open, democratic space where all are invited to peaceably assemble in an attempt to craft a kinder and more just society. In that spirit, I hope that on Wednesday you take a moment to talk with a stranger wearing a green armband about ways to bring to life the world that you both know could be.
Evan Sherwin is a 2011 UC Berkeley alumnus.