“Nazi-Free Zone” : Anti-Semitism in the 99%

Ian Anderson

Many readers will have heard about the fascist vandalism at Symonds Street Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Auckland. Swastikas, 88 signs, and the slogan Fuck Israel[1] were scrawled across the gravestones of people who died before Israel was founded as a state. This was not the first time fascists in this country have vandalised Jewish gravestones; similar attacks occurred in 2004.

The weekend after the Symonds Street vandalism, members of the community gathered in the cemetery to state their opposition to fascism and anti-Semitism. Some associated with the Aotearoa not for Sale campaign played a role in organising this event. Placards bore the slogan, “Nazi-Free Zone.”

The following week, three men were arrested in connection with the crimes. One of the accused, Nathan Symington, spoke to the press denying his guilt, stating “I’ve got all my alibis worked out.” For some, the next shock came when it turned out Symington had slept at Occupy Auckland and marched in the Auckland stretch of the Aotearoa is Not For Sale hikoi.

Symington’s Facebook profile features swastikas, pictures of him performing a Nazi salute, and racist status updates. Whether or not Symington is a vandal, he is a fascist and an anti-Semite. When he attended the Aotearoa is Not For Sale march, he bore a skateboard with swastikas chalked on to it; on Facebook he captioned this, “nationalism is the key.” [Read more…]

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Occupy Christchurch Womyn’s group

In recent months a new space has opened up for radical women in Christchurch to hold discussions and organise around social issues.

The Occupy Christchurch Womyn’s group first met several months ago when Occupy Christchurch remained active, but general assemblies had become tense and the safer spaces policy overlooked.

Over the course of the movement, Occupy became a difficult space for many activists to work in with its increasing inward focus, disorganised and poorly attended meetings and individuals dominating the discussion with their own agendas, often unsupported by the group.

For women in the movement, the atmosphere of Occupy Christchurch was discouraging and, at times, openly confrontational.

Though these dynamics were not limited to the movement in Christchurch and were noted by womyn around the country (see  Why Have Women Left the Occupy Movement in the April 2012 issue of The Spark or online at http://bit.ly/HZoOCy), Christchurch activists have worked to create a welcoming space alongside the wider Occupy group to discuss issues specifically impacting on womyn in our communities. [Read more…]

Safer Spaces in Political Organising

“Safer spaces” began in forms such as consciousness-raising groups

Kassie Hartendorp is a Workers Party member, founding activist of the Queer Avengers, and works as a youth worker for a queer youth organisation. This article is adapted from a talk presented at the Workers Party annual conference.

What is a safe space?

As background, safe spaces began in forms such as consciousness-raising groups within the second wave feminist movement. These were spaces which allowed women to openly discuss the discrimination or abuse they were subjected to and strategise ways to fight against issues relating to sexism. The safety of these spaces was important as they provided an opportunity for women to come to terms with issues such as domestic violence or sexual abuse, within a supportive environment. They were also a space that addressed the issue of male domination within wider political groups and as such, often excluded men with the intention to minimise the chances of abuse or marginalization, so that those involved could move forward in their fight against oppression.

Nowadays, safe spaces are often associated with the women’s movement and the queer community. They were formed on the basis that women and queer people were often not physically safe within mainstream groups, and in these environments, people could feel confident expressing their identity or just existing without the threat of violence or verbal abuse. [Read more…]

An oral history of Occupy Christchurch

Byron Clark is based in Christchurch and is the current coordinating editor of The Spark. He has a BA in history from the University of Canterbury. This will be his first oral history project.

Recently I began fundraising for the equipment needed to record an oral history project on Occupy Christchurch, and subsequently publish that project in book which will be donated to Christchurch City Libraries, The Alexander Turnball Library, Archives New Zealand and the Canterbury Museum archive. Of course, copies of the book will be available to the public as well, and the whole project will be published online. The goal is to make the stories of Christchurch’s Occupy protesters as widely accessible as possible.

To raise the funds I am using the crowd-funding platform PledgeMe. Crowd funding provides a platform for projects to raise funds though a large group of people giving smalls amounts. With the money already raised, this project requires just a $5 donation – so long as that $5 donation is made 195 times by 195 people. Crowd funding has been made use of largely by creative people such as filmmakers and musicians, but has also been used for social movements. ‘Occupy the Movie’ is being financed through crowd-funding, as is the documentary adaptation of ‘The Spirit Level’ a book examining inequality.

What is oral history?

A basic definition of oral history is ‘the collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events’. Beyond that, it is a form of ‘peoples history’ well suited to the Occupy movement. I have been asked on multiple occasions what qualifies me to write the history of Occupy Christchurch. My answer is that I am not writing the history but recording it. As someone involved in the movement I could write down my recollections but that would just be one person’s history, I plan to tell the stories of approximately one hundred people.

I have also been asked if I will be interviewing people who opposed the Occupy movement. I am interviewing people who were involved in the movement, this includes people who left on less-than-good terms and will no doubt result in a wide range of opinions being expressed thoughout the book. But I am not going to be interviewing people opposed to the movement from the outset. This could result in cries of bias or an unbalanced history, but I am not setting out to write a definitive history of Christchurch in 2011-2012, merely to add to the historical record.

Whatever voices are loudest in the present will also be the loudest in the history of this time. Opposition to Occupy came from politicians and media pundits- The Press the largest circulation newspaper in Christchurch printed an editorial stating the protesters should leave the camp site (and reprinted it several weeks later when they were still there) The opinions of the mayor and city councillors were also widely reported. Through no fault of historians, our recent history is already biased in favour of the powerful, whose voices are not just louder, they are amplified.

Local stories

I have also been asked why I am just doing this project about Occupy Christchurch, and not Occupy New Zealand. The main reason is the costs involved; the current fund raising target is to cover a broadcast-quality digital recorder and an initial print run of one hundred books. The travel costs, not to mention the necessary time off work, would make covering the whole country overly ambitious.

A possibility is that money made from book sales could be used for a grant to an oral historian in another city to conduct a similar project; of course this depends on demand for copies of the book.

The earthquakes that hit Christchurch over the last two years also make the story of its Occupy protest unique. With the central city uninhabitable, protesters were able to remain in their chosen location longer than other New Zealand occupations, and the housing crisis meant that the Occupy camp swelled with homeless who became radicalised as they mingled with socialists, anarchists and
others.

If you want to contribute toward this project, you can pledge at https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/Crowd/Details/313 there are ‘rewards’ available such as copies of the book, and the opportunity to be listed in the dedication as one of people who made it possible. If you are not in a position to pledge money, you can help out by spreading the word and helping reach people who can.

Review: Occupy This Album (2012)

Byron Clark

Wired magazine journalist Quinn Norton wrote about the music of the Occupy movement way back in December 2011, stating that “A movement goes nowhere without creating culture as it grows.” ‘Occupy This Album’ seemed almost inevitable. This is the closest thing possible to an official sound track that could come out of this loosely organised and non-hierarchical movement. All proceeds from the album go back to Occupy Wall Street activists.

Ambitiously the album was going to contain 99 tracks, playing on the slogan of “the 99%” that the movement has popularised. The CD version consists of 78 tracks, though the download version contains 99. Big names from previous generations of protest-musicians feature here: Patti Smith, Willie Nelson, Ani DiFranco (singing the union song Which side are you on?), Yoko Ono, and Joan Baez all leant their talents to this project. Even folk legend Pete Seeger- now in his mid-90s appears here, speaking on the track Industrial Park by his grandson’s band ‘The Mammals.’

Alongside those artists are tracks from more contemporary artists. Thievery Corporation and Third Eye Blind are probably the most recognisable names. Leftist punk rockers Anti-Flag, and rapper Immortal Technique are both here, and while the politics is good the heavy punk and hip-hop don’t slot in so well with an album that is mostly folk and progressive rock. Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, now performs ‘World Wide Rebel Songs’ which makes for a better fit. Another great track is English singer-song writer Lloyd Coles The Young Idealists which exemplifies the album’s mood and musical style. Listening to this album you’ll also be exposed to some songs by lesser known artists such as Build the Sun and Jennie Arnau, as well as the novelty of a cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A’Changin’ performed by documentary film maker Michael Moore. [Read more…]

Responses to “why have women left the Occupy movement?”

Our article in last month’s issue (also available online here) looking at why women have left the Occupy movement elicited several responses. They are printed here to continue this important discussion.

As part of our Socialism 2012 conference, the Workers Party will be holding a session on “safer spaces in the left,” concerning how to make left groups welcoming and inclusive. This will be facilitated by Kassie Hartendorp at 11am Saturday the 2nd of June, Newtown Community Centre.

 Still supporting the movement

How do you know they left the Occupy Movement to even start asking the question? Has there been some kind of research done? Occupy Auckland was, after all, in the CBD, so naturally it comes with the regular experiences that come with transients and those who drink and take drugs in and around the city, I had one frightening experience one particular night I was there, but it didn’t stop me supporting the Movement or going back, sleeping in the middle of the city poses its risks, irrespective of whether a person in an occupier or not, it’s all just part and parcel of sleeping rough, though I admit, the safer spaces policy did kind of go out the door during the latter part of the occupation.

-Alison Withers  [Read more…]

Occupy New Zealand: where are they now?

On March 25th the last tent came down at Occupy Christchurch, the only remaining Occupy protest in the country. It would be a mistake to think that the end of these camps means the end of the movement in New Zealand. The Spark went to find out what the movement is up to now its activists are sleeping indoors.

Auckland
In the United States and other northern hemisphere nations the “99%” is regrouping and gearing up towards a general strike on May 1st. Closer to home Occupy Brisbane is regrouping and taking space again in the face of their city administrators. Here in Auckland and across the country we are gearing up for the next spate of purges on the workers, the poor and our environment. April 28th was a day of action against Asset Sales, The TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and Off shore oil drilling. The day was the beginning of the ‘Aotearoa not for Sale’ Hikoi. Occupy Auckland participated, bolstered by enthusiasm from watching the “Occupy Spring” taking place in North America.

We joined the fight in support of the future dispossessed residents of Glenn Innes as the demolition of state housing strips people of what have in some cases been homes for generations and pushes the poor further away from amenities and job opportunities in Auckland. [Read more…]

Why have women left the Occupy movement?

Byron Clark, Coordinating editor of The Spark

The Occupy movement began as a movement championing the “99%” united against the 1% of the world’s population that control a disproportionate amount the worlds wealth. A possible flaw in this is that oppression is not as simple as a 99:1 ratio and exists within the working class and even within social movements. A movement that saw an even gender balance when it arrived in New Zealand last October saw the number of women involved dwindle to just a hand full. The Spark asked women currently or previously involved in the movement why they thought so many women left. Their responses are printed here. Some names have been changed for privacy reasons. [Read more…]

Occupying an impasse: learning from mistakes?

All great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice… first as tragedy, then as farce.

-Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

October 15th has a double significance in this country, as both the day of the 2007 invasion of the Ureweras, and the day the global ‘Occupy’ movement arrived here in 2011. On October 15th 2011 thousands were mobilised across the country; turnout in Auckland was particularly impressive, while the hundreds who showed up in other centres were largely new to ‘the usual suspects’ (such as myself.) Smaller occupations cropped up in New Plymouth, Marton, Invercargill and elsewhere, showing the resonance of this new political language.

Numbers have fluctuated since. Commentary by Socialist Aotearoa accuses the left of ‘vacillating,’ however the reality is that occupiers have vacillated in general; while Occupy Auckland mobilised thousands on its first day, its current battle with attempted eviction involves a relative hard core. We have to learn from this downward trajectory: what happened and why? [Read more…]

Occupy Christcurch open university

day of free workshops on Sunday, February 12th in South Hagley Park.

An initiative of Occupy Christchurch

10am: Occupy Movement and Local Issues

How can we develop the Occupy Movement to be an effective political and social force in Christchurch and Canterbury?

11am: Situationism & post situationism

The Situationist International, having been cited as an inspiration for  OWS, deserve a second look. While aspects of the SIs’ pre-68 analysis and even modified lessons from the May-June ’68 “evenements” themselves have been seamlessly integrated into OWSs’ processes, as the general assembly, strictly mandated “working group” sub committees and so on, using information readily available on the web, I think there are lessons in the underreported years ’69 to 2010 that haven’t been looked at yet.

12pm: Cooking with Bartman

A cooking lesson from one of Occupy Corners resident chefs

1pm:Breakforlunch.

2pm:FacilitatingConsensus.

A workshop to develop skills and understanding of the role of facilitation in consensus based groups. Discussion will cover decision-making tools, active listening skills, hierarchy, participation, and working together. Facilitator – Joanna Wildish.

3pm:Feminism

The issue of the oppression of women in our society is one that every social movement should be engaging with. This workshop will be a space for discussion of feminist issues.

4pm: Mental Health

With mental illness effecting one in five people, mental health is a topic we need to engage with. Discussions on the relationship between capitalism, activism and mental health, and sharing of information to challenge stigma and discrimination onsite will be the basis of this workshop.

5pm: The Mechanics of Capitalism

How does capitalism work? Topics covered will be the class nature of society, exploitation, hegemony and more.