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.
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.
Occupy Wellington ran through three phases, the first lasting three weeks involved the initial creation of Occupy in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, the attitude of the mainstream news was an attempt at ignoring it’s existence, the next six weeks was a forced respect and reporting of Occupy. The third period’s end was undefined, with people slowly leaving and the attitude of the media being what new angle they could make fun of Occupy from.
A big theoretical and practical divide within Occupy was whether Occupy was the physical occupation or a network of people. The physical camp was broken up on the 31st of January. One small group of people attempted to carry on the name as if nothing had happened, taking in none of the experiences.
A large number of people who were involved in Occupy have helped set up 19 Tory St, an open-source venue space for music, film and political events. They recently held a fundraiser for the Kia Ora Gaza project, as well as documentary screenings. The group that has formed around 19 is attempting to grapple with the experiences/lessons of Occupy. Another group of people are involved in organising the Aotearoa Not For Sale hikoi.
A wider number are still trying to make sense of the lessons of Occupy, people are still meeting and networking. The key question that is going back and forwards right now, is how can things move forward even if not under the name ‘Occupy Wellington’.
Occupy Christchurch has moved indoors and is now holding regular general assemblies at the Workers Educational Association (WEA). The group is continuing with the ‘Open Air University’ a day of free workshops which have covered issues like capitalism, feminism, the Arab Spring, mental heath and a whole lot more.
Occupy Christchurch will be participating in the Canterbrians Unite demonstration on May 6th. This demonstration is calling for the resignation of City Council CEO Tony Marryot, mid-term local elections and increased availability of housing. Housing remains an enormous issue in the city as the earthquake has left many people unable to afford rents- current market rates for a garage are $150 a week. Further actions around housing, involving the many no-fixed-abode participants who are still involved despite the absence of the camp, are in the planning stages.
A ‘Women of Occupy’ group has also started, to address issues specific to women in the movement and in wider society.
Like Christchurch Dunedin continues to have general assemblies. The group has launched a fortnightly radio show ‘Occupy the Air Waves’ (you can listen to the first episode and subscribe to the podcast at http://bit.ly/HXbE8a Dunedin readers can tune in every second Tuesday at 6pm on Otago Access Radio 105.4fm).
The group will participate in a protest against oil drilling in the Octagon and initiatives around community gardens are also happening.