#Occupy Your Frontline

We are writing from Oakland (Hilary) and Cleveland (Joshua), where this week police violence and raids attempted to break up city occupations. In the Bay Area, on wednesday just before 5:00am, police raided the #Occupy Oakland site at Oscar Grant Plaza, busting tents with batons and arresting over 90 people. Last night, over 3,000 marched in Oakland in response. In Cleveland, the events were perhaps less dramatic, but the issues were the same. In other places like Chicago, and Orlando, police repression has only fueled more and more people coming out to demonstrate and hold their ground. As the saying goes, “screw us, and we multiply.” A friend, looking at what #OccupyOakland has become remarked, “wow, this is so diverse. This really is the 99%, it’s not just a slogan.”

The 99% has found their frontline.
In Organizing Cools the Planet, our new booklet for climate activists, we discuss the need for organizers to “find their frontline.” “Frontlines” are sites of injustice – people organizing on the frontlines are people who are most directly impacted by an issue and also taking action on it.

Occupy The Big Tent.
The slogan “we are the 99%” is populist. It’s specifically designed to help (almost) all of us feel common-cause with one another in that we are all hurt by our economic system. It helps us develop a shared vision of fundamentally transforming that economic system so that it works for people and the planet, not just the 1%. But not all frontlines are equal. We know that while we’re all hurting as a result of this economy, but we’re not all hurting equally. This is the core concept of our booklet as well – the climate crisis affects everybody and everyone has a direct personal reason to get involved in the fight. But that doesn’t mean that we’re impacted the same way, and a resilient and powerful movement needs to account for that. Just as the climate movement must be led by the priorities, concerns, and solutions from communities on the frontlines, the same is true for a successful #occupy movement.

The intersections are the same. Poor and working class communities, and communities of color have been living in depression and recession conditions for far longer than other social groups in the 99%. Across the country city occupations are grappling with this fact, and finding ways to ensure that their occupations genuinely represent the needs and concerns of everyone locked out of our economy. Different cities are doing it differently, but we are inspired by the questions this raises, and find them useful for our moment in the climate movement broadly, and for climate justice organizing specifically.

Now is a time for unity. We should not allow ourselves to give into political divisions or a more-radical-than-thou purist politic, nor should we dismiss the motion of large groups just because their makeup doesn’t include all the right elements. But in affirming that unity, base-building community groups around the country are thoughtfully engaging occupations to build the power of people hit first and worst by evictions and predatory lending.

Here are some great examples:
Boston shows us how to #Occupy with purpose and political vision.
San Francisco forecloses Wall Street West

Open forums have been posted for folks grappling with this issue, and websites have popped up as clearing houses of critical articles and reflections from people of color.

Toward Collaboration: Align Your Frontline
So how does this political moment allow for different social groups within 99% to find their own relationship to impact, collaborate, and win?

Here are some different questions we pose in our booklet to help organizers examine their frontline:
• What does our frontline have in common with another frontline that we want to align ourselves with?
• What is different about our relation to impact?
• What is our common ground politically? Where can we collaborate?
• How do our differences build barriers? How can we navigate and move with these differences? How can we organize ourselves in ways that compensate for differences?

This movement is an opportunity to do engage new social blocs and help shift the balances of forces in our society. It will be transformational if we take seriously the opportunity to grapple with, and align along frontline leadership.

Download a free copy of Organizing Cools the Planet at, or order a hard copy from PM Press here.

If you work with an occupation and would like to get discounted bulk copies of OCP for your library or community, please let us know at

  1. Great stuff. The internet potentially obsoletes (or leaves free of charge) the need for most of what we know to be government, specifically as a way of organizing information and people (Iceland is an example). The fear is that the statists will no longer to be able to justify an exorbitant lifestyle in the face of the world’s extreme and all-too-forgotten poverty, slavery, and genocide. No need for fear though, the world has an abundance for anyone willing to accept it! Lovely article all-around, thanks for publishing!

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