Decolonize Occupy Seattle!

There has been a lot of divisions and redbaiting going on in Decolonize/Occupy Seattle. Although the below statement, presented by the People of Color caucus at Decolonize/Occupy Seattle got passed on Oct 19th, as of today (Oct 21st), it still has not made it on the official website.

*The General Assembly passed this statement on Oct 19th.

**However, the name “Decolonize/Occupy” was not passed. Majority (63/40) of the GA insisted on keeping the name “Occupy Seattle.”

Many people in the POC caucus insist on naming ourselves “Decolonize/Occupy Seattle” regardless because we do not need permission for how WE name OURSELVES.

Apparently some people are organizing internal education groups to teach why it is important for the General Assembly to adopt the name change



AFFIRMATION of Decolonization of Seattle with Northwest Indigenous Peoples

WHEREAS, those participating in “Decolonize/Occupy Seattle” acknowledge that the United States of America is a colonial country, and that we are invaders and squatters upon stolen indigenous land that has already been occupied for centuries, Seattle being the ancestral land of the Duwamish and Suquamish people; and

WHEREAS, indigenous people of this land have continued to resist the violent conquest, oppression, exploitation and victimization by the invaders and colonizers since they first arrived on this continent; and as a result have endured a great amount of trans-generational trauma and woundedness; and that their experience strengthens this movement to expose those on-going inhumane crimes; and

WHEREAS, after centuries of disregard for the welfare of future generations, and the repeated disrespect and exploitation of the Earth, we find ourselves on a violated and polluted planet, lacking the Indigenous people’s wisdom and knowledge to live in balance, harmony and at peace with the community of Life; and

WHEREAS, the term “occupation” has been used by imperialists to colonize indigenous lands

WHEREAS, the term “occupation” has also been reclaimed by militant workers of color from Latin America (Oaxaca, Buenos Aires, South Korea, China among other places) to describe their occupation of factories, schools and neighborhoods, to strike back against the oppressive forces led by racism and capitalism. It is in this context that we use the term “occupy”

WHEREAS the borders of the United States of America are a colonial construct based upon the violent destruction of indigenous land across the continent and therefore illegitimate in our eyes

WHEREAS this land is currently occupied by descendants of slaves kidnapped from the African continent, as well as economic refugees forcibly displaced by the forces of capitalism and imperialism around the world, therefore

AFFIRMED, that we prioritize the involvement of indigenous sovereign people in the redesigning and rebuilding of a new way of living on their ancestral land in the context that there is one mother of us all, our earth mother; and

As a Decolonization Statement to the national “Occupy” movement and to indigenous members who have been excluded by the colonialist language used to name this movement, it is declared that phrase “Occupy Seattle” is reframed to the inclusive cross-cultural term “Decolonize/Occupy Seattle” to affirm the guidance and participation of indigenous peoples; and to affirm the history of militant labor struggles associated with the term “occupy”

Awakening to compassion and extending an open hand of friendship and partnership, we hereby invite indigenous members of the Pacific Northwest and all displaced peoples to collaborate with us in this event remembering and reawakening to our original identity as humane beings – that is now initiated on this continent and worldwide simultaneously.

We intend to facilitate the process of healing and reconciliation and implore Indigenous Peoples to share their knowledge and wisdom of stewardship of the earth, water, fire and air to inspire and guide us restore to pure democracy rather than representative democracy as design failure in governing for collective survival; and to initiate a new era of cooperation and peace that is cross-cultural, intergenerational, inclusive and universal in practical application upon Mother Earth with the original indigenous inhabitants of this land.

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8 Responses to Decolonize Occupy Seattle!

  1. kazuhaga says:

    Greetings from the POC caucus of Decolonize/Occupy Oakland (speaking as an individual, not on behalf of the group). Last night we had a similar proposal at our GA, put forth by the Ohlone people and supported by the majority of People of Color. It did not pass (68%), despite the largest and most diverse GA we’ve had in a long time. The level of disrespect that we witnessed last night was disappointing, though not totally surprising. The privilege, and the lack of acknowledgment for our collective history is frustrating a whole lot of people here in Oakland. But the POC caucus stands united and we will continue to keep this dialogue going. Much love to you all in Seattle.

  2. James Carr says:

    Boots Riley has been circulating this exchange to people involved in Occupy Oakland :

    For some reason,
    this letter that I thought was just sent to my message box has been posted publicly by folks, so I thought that I should post it, and my response, publicly. It is from Darshan Elena Campos re: name change of Decolonize Oakland. My response will follow below it.

    Dear Boots,

    When I first heard your music, almost two decades ago, I swooned at the political insight, at the beats, at beauty of seeing Black people using the mic to check white power, corporate capitalism, and misogynist shenanigans. You and Pam the Funkstress created a space for me in hip hop at time when I felt sidelined in that movement.

    When I first started coming to the encampment at Ogawa/Grant Plaza, I felt a similar sense of excitement. Here was a brother who was making sure that the table was long and wide, welcoming of everyone and especially those of us at the margins of the 99% in Oakland. You made me hopeful that together we were capable of turning that table into barricade against police violence and a platform for liberation, pure and sweet and real. Hearing your comments at the General Assembly last night as we were debating the name change – Occupy Oakland to Decolonize/Liberate Oakland – made me sad and angry; I felt like you stole the table, rearranged the seating charts, and left me at the door.

    This is my mic check of a different kind, an open email letter.

    When you spoke last night, you mentioned that the name of The Coup doesn’t alienate people from your message. Even though coups are associated with right-wing paramilitary movements, you noted, The Coup is not. There is no confusion over your name, no ambiguity about your message. You then chided supporters of the proposal for the name change for confusing words with deeds and emphasized your support for the name Occupy Oakland.

    Boots, your comparison stinks. It overlooks people like me who want a name that better reflects the movement of the 99% as it exists in Oakland. It ignores the voices of the Chochenyo Ohlone and native sisters like Krea Gomez and Morning Star Gali who assert that the name Occupy Oakland replicates the violence of colonialism. It turns the phrase the 99% into an empty sales pitch, and I’m not buying it. Your comparison cuts the movement down to size, recentering white entitlement to the “seats of power.” As if that’s the goal. I didn’t come to this movement to sit down. I came to rise up and decolonize Oakland.

    “Life is a challenge, and you gotta team up.
    If you play house pretend the man clean up.
    You too busy with the other things you gotta do.
    When you start something, now remember, follow through.”
    – The Coup, 2001

    Clean your draws, Boots.

    Love, Darshan

    My response:

    To start, I’m gonna try to ignore the offensive sign off remark.

    When AIM took over Alcatraz in the 70s, they said- “We are Occupying Alcatraz”. The same word was used at Wounded Knee, I believe. Throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America- when movements take over a space- they “occupy” it. The word is used in very revolutionary ways. It’s obviously not just about the word.

    I honestly believe that even POC movements of the last 30 years in the bay area especially- of which I feel like I’ve been a part of- has been very isolated from communities of color and don’t have their finger on the pulse of what will involve them. The reasons have to do with the campaigns we’ve embarked on and the style that we’ve approached them. The focus on this word is indicative of that.

    I’m all about decolonizing.
    I’m all about fighting capitalism.

    I have only no songs, since 1994 that use the word “capitalism”. I have only 1 song since then that uses the word “communist”. However, everyone knows that I’m a communist and that I want to destroy capitalism. This is because I talk about what we need to do and what’s wrong with this system without using the same terminology.

    Most folks of color have no idea what the term decolonize means. It is not a liberating term to most, it is simply another term that academics use. Similarly, most don’t even have the political connotation with the word Occupy as it relates to colonialism.

    Also, the debate over the name change hasn’t been POC on one side and white folks on the other. There were both POC and White folks voting for the name change, and POC and White folks voting against. Your view about the name change doesn’t make you somehow more on the side of people of color than I am.

    Like I said, Saturday, I canvassed door-to-door in West Oakland. ACCE has been canvassing door-to-door in East Oakland since just after Nov 2. What I hear from the response from folks at ACCE and from my own interactions with folks of color that I know in Oakland, is that people are excited by OO, if a little confused on the ultimate goal, the name is the identifier, and they feel that it is connected to the larger movement and that it actually has the ability to change things through direct action. One of the reasons people feel its connected to the larger movement is the name.

    Of course, the MAIN thing against it that people of color voice- particularly the Black folks I talk to- is “Oh, you mean all the White folks downtown?”

    That doesn’t change with the name.
    It will only change through involving ourselves in campaigns that people feel have the power to affect their material condition in their daily life. This is something that even POC movements in my lifetime have failed to do.

    The real problems of race and racism in this and any movement don’t begin to get solved with a name change. They begin with a movement that actually addresses the material needs of people of color and one which makes space for people of color. Let’s talk about the remedies to those problems.

    Although you say my comparison stinks, you did not negate it’s analogical validity.

    My opinion doesn’t overlook your, or anyone’s opinion. It disagrees with yours.

    Please don’t come at me disrespectfully with comments like “Clean your draws, Boots”.

    Thank you.

  3. Boots,

    How long did it take mainstream amerikkkka to stop calling our people “negroes”?
    Likewise, the “decolonize” brandinng will take an equal to or greater amount of time.

    This learning curve can be shortened with an all-out assault on economism (and rank opportunism); which your point about the “decolonize” name seems to miss.

    Do you bear witness to the principle contradiction in the world today; that the whole population of the 1st world exploits the whole population of the 3rd world? You’ve been to Africa, the answer is crystal clear.

    It is easy to promote a “socialism” (a social fascism, really), that denies the central role that so-called ‘minorities’ in amerikkka and 3rd world peoples (the MAJORITY of the world’s workers and the REAL proletariat) play in the larger struggle v.s. capitalism and white supremacy in amerikkka and globally.

    This is why the astute (aka the ‘vanguard’ element) at Occupy sites across amerikkka pushed for the name change.

    At this point, it has been my observation that the Occupy and decolonize names are now used interchangebly; at least in Seattle, due in large part to the astute (aka the ‘vanguard’ element) going hard to put that in everyone’s mouth. This is a noteable improvement over the usual stale “take my country back” line that is still predominant at most Occupy sites, including Oakland.

    This name change is no small thing, for it is also an opening salvo in a larger two-line anti-colonial/anti-racist struggle happening in the u.$. Occupy movement right now; a struggle that hasn’t happened in as large a scale in amerikkka since at least 1975 (even with the decline of the black power movement), but desperately needs to.

    In light of all of this, your line smacks of bourgoeis revisionism, workerist economism, and a general “dumbing-down” of the politics of an [increasingly] popular movement.

  4. Donny1020 says:

    I wonder if those who call themselves the “vanguard” understand that they have little or no support outside of their small group. As far as Seattle, the “vanguard” has alienated the working class. Good job at turning a economic justice movement into a cartoon strip. This why those that participate now are old hippies trying to relive their youth and the sons and daughters of the bourgeois.

    Good job, you were able to do what the bankers and Fox news wasn’t able to accomplish. You got the working class to reject the OWS movement.

    • Fray says:

      First of all, I support the Decolonize statement and am part of the “radical” wing of the Occupy movement overall. And I certainly don’t call myself the “vanguard”. That word also doesn’t appear in the original post. So don’t put words in other people’s mouths, please.

      Second, can you back up your statement that the working class has rejected the OWS movement? What do you make of the West Coast port shutdown on December 12? Low wage workers and unemployed folks from all over came together to participate in that action. Are we not part of the working class? Are native folks whose land has been occupied for hundreds of years not part of the working class?

      Sons and daughters of the bourgeois are in the Occupy movement. Many of them don’t agree with the decolonize statement. My own experience, in Seattle, has been that the more middle class folks in the movement have been against the statement, not for it. But let’s not get into privilege baiting. Because there are also sons and daughters of the bourgeois who are realizing that they will never have what their parents had, and some are joining sides with black, brown, and white working class folks for whom this recession started way before 2008.

      And, MORE IMPORTANTLY, folks from these most oppressed layers of the working class: unemployed people, low wage & precarious workers, immigrants of color, queers, people with disabilities, other working class people of color, homeless youth, ARE taking up leadership and are pushing this movement to take strong positions against white supremacy and patriarchy within the movement. We are also starting to challenge ablism in the movement, though we need to do much more. This has been what I’ve seen in the movement. The working class isn’t rejecting this movement. Some of the most oppressed and also most vibrant layers of the working class are taking this movement up and transforming it into something better. No, the movement isn’t perfect, but it has grown and changed in ways that continue to inspire me. And our “small group” just keeps getting bigger.

  5. mamos206 says:

    Sorry noone from BOC has been able to respond to this important unfolding debate with our own perspectives. We have had our hands full with the port shutdown and the necessary follow up. We’ll weigh in as soon as we can. Thanks everyone for posting, we encourage folks to continue discussing and debating here if you’d like.

    • Fray says:

      Thanks for (the attempt at) sharing! Try it without the https:// part? I’m not sure what might be going wrong.

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