This week we are thanking and recognizing the people who make Global Exchange’s work possible.  We’re highlighting a few individuals who represent the thousands who make up the amazing global network of change makers.

In this post, we thank Jenny White, volunteer superstar! To read about others we’re thankful for, click here.

Jenny White, Volunteer Superstar

Jenny White is a volunteer.

Around here, that makes her a superstar.

In the fall of 2011, Jenny ran into her long-time friend Kirsten Moller from Global Exchange at an Occupy Wall Street march in San Francisco.  Jenny was transitioning out of a career at UCSF Medical Center and was looking for something to fill her time.  Why not volunteer at Global Exchange, Kirsten asked.

“It just rang a bell for me.  I jumped at the chance,” said Jenny.

We’re sure glad these two old friends ran into each other.  For the past year, Jenny has been volunteering at the Global Exchange office, tackling project after project with aplomb — all while providing a friendly smile for everyone in the building.

Her first major challenge: digging into Hershey’s supply chain to examine the company’s record on child labor.  From there, she moved on to coordinating the We Want More from Our S’mores campaign, applying pressure on Hershey’s to go Fair Trade (and eating a few goodies along the way).  Now, Jenny has teamed up with our Elect Democracy campaign to investigate the link between lobbyists, corporations, and government agencies.

Volunteers form an essential part of the Global Exchange community, helping to deliver the impacts we care most about to Fair Trade producers, community members impacted by fracking, and victims of the drug war.  Nothing we do would be possible without folks like Jenny.

Volunteers research corporate criminals.  They paint signs.  Take pictures.  Edit videos.  Write blog posts.

In short, volunteers are indispensable.  To Jenny, and the hundreds of volunteers who have pitched in over the years:

Thank You.

P.S. Have you watched our new Thank You video yet?

The following is a guest post by Rae Abileah with contributing writers Sharon Shay Sloan and Eva Lyons. An uplifting and timely read, especially for those who’ve been following our various Occupy Wall Street West posts.

A day of hard rain and wind could not dampen the spirits of activists representing the 99% as they gathered at Justin Herman Plaza (dubbed Bradley Manning Plaza by locals) in San Francisco on Friday, January 20th, 2012, to mark the dark anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision with a day of action. Organized by a coalition of over 55 Bay Area organizations and dozens of OccupySF affinity groups, protestors disrupted business as usual with demands that banks end predatory evictions and foreclosures and that corporations lose the rights of personhood.

The day was called Occupy Wall Street West (OWSW), alluding to the power of the SF financial district and state in the global market – California is the 9th largest economy in the world.  Activists executed plans for traditional nonviolent direct action to block the doors to big banks, effectively shutting down Wells Fargo Corporate Headquarters and occupying Bank of America’s main branch.  And then came a surprise tactic: dance.

A flash mob called “One People” converged on the plaza affront the building that houses Bank of America and Goldman Sachs and commenced with a freeze.  A single dancer called out “Mic check!” and the group responded, “Mic check!” and commenced a piercing scream of anguish, which collapsed into a die-in and then transformed into an upbeat dance.  The dance gave a positive message for our collective future with creative prowess, illustrating a cry of pain against oppression and injustice, and, through street theater, invoking a powerful bridge of reconciliation between the 1% and the 99%. This is a bridge that can only span the chasm of class divide through significant financial reform and the recognition of shared humanity.  The dance finished with a chorus singing “Now is the Time,” words from Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, apropos to the actual time, since Dr. King’s birthday was observed a few days earlier.

“The flash mob gives the opportunity for people across generations and walks of life to voice their rage and dreams for the future through public art,” said Magalie Bonneau-Marcil, who produced the flash mob and founded Dancing Without Borders.  Former world-class athlete Bonneau-Marcil is using the organizing skills she learned from collaborative training for the Olympics to work for social justice.  She started Dancing without Borders in August, 2011, to reclaim the healing and unifying power of free-form dance and flash mob as a ritual, community-building and empowerment vehicle for real change.

The One People flash mob appealed to many who felt an urge to support the message behind Occupy but were not inspired by picketing and marching.  It brought together dozens of dancers between 8 and 80 years old, of all socio-economic backgrounds. For many, this was their first direct action and their first time dancing in the streets.  It also brought together three women-led organizations: Dancing Without Borders, CODEPINK, and the San Francisco chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).  Leaders of these groups believe that the power of the feminine is essential in cultivating this new movement, and sought to emphasize the role of women’s creative leadership through their collaboration on this project.  CODEPINK has started a network of women across Occupies to weave this connection even further (see

“Dance illustrates that it will take creativity and collective action to uplift American society and redirect our precious financial resources away from corporate greed and war profiteering and into green jobs creation, education, health care and renewable energy,” said Rae Abileah, co-director of CODEPINK Women for Peace.   “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  And we’re not waiting anymore!”

Flash mobs leverage the power of social media, art and collective participation, drawing attention to the essential messages of Occupy. A film showing footage of a recent performance of the One People flash mob had 150,000+ views on YouTube within a mere few weeks. Queer activists with SF Pride at Work created the “Occupy Telephone” flash mob in the lead-up to OWSW, to protest Wells Fargo’s role in the economic and housing crisis, and their video has also been seen by thousands on YouTube. From the massive “I Will Survive Capitalism” parody flash mob during the Occupy Oakland General Strike to the “Democracy is Dead” shopping mall die-in flash mob from Occupy Sydney, Australia, footage of flash mob actions is creating a visual declaration of accessible, celebratory, and action-oriented art.

“The Occupy Movement is not a war against evil,” said Bonneau-Marcil. “And if that’s how we frame it, it will never produce the results that we seek. This is a movement that’s about accelerating the shift of consciousness away from separation and scarcity.” The OWSW Day of Action raised awareness by engaging hundreds of people in action; generating major mainstream media coverage of the myriad of colorful protests, arrests, and creative disruptions; and putting big banks and investment firms on red alert.  Many reporters and politicians have asked what the demands of the Occupy Movement are; this flash mob responded to those questions by embodying solutionary thinking and revealing a new narrative of reconciliation.

Dancing is not the answer, but it is an important tool to reveal and amplify the vitality, dignity and resilience of this growing global movement.  As Bonneau-Marcil proclaimed, “You can’t evict an idea that has been embodied.”

This article was written by Rae Abileah, codirector of CODEPINK,, with contributions by Sharon Shay Sloan, Eva Lyons, and Magalie Bonneau-Marcil.  The One People flash mob was organized by Magalie Bonneau-Marcil, founder of Dancing without Borders, who lives in El Cerrito, CA and can be reached at

In ‘Republic, Lost’ academic and lawyer Lawrence Lessig writes:

…The problem with Congress is not just in appearance. It is real. It is the product of an economy of influence that we have allowed to evolve within our government … That economy systematically draws members away from the focus, or dependance, they were intended to have. That dependance … is corruption. It is the corruption that is our government.

The Occupiers have, and continue to, expose corporate greed and demand an end to the overwhelming influence that money has in our systems – economic, political and even social. On January 17, hundreds gathered on Capitol Hill to welcome members back to Congress after the winter break and decry corporate influence in the government.

On January 20, a mass day of direct action will shut down so-called Wall Street West – the financial core of San Francisco. Over 50 organizations have plans for actions throughout the day to “crack the corporate piggy bank” and target corporate power.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Global Exchange, Fellowship of Reconciliation, New Priorities Campaign and others will be present outside the Bechtel headquarters all day, protesting Bechtel’s practice of greed and destruction. Bechtel spends millions on campaign contributions and lobbyists who secure war contracts, undermining democratic process, while directing billions of public dollars to build nuclear weapons and make its CEO a billionaire. Follow the action on twitter at @BechtelAction.

On January 21, the Nationwide Day of Action to “overturn the devastating FEC vs. Citizens United ruling and end corporate rule” – Occupy the Corporations – will call on elected officials to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the two year-old ruling – the impacts of which we have yet to experience in this 2012 election cycle. On this day, across the US, people will stand up and say enough is enough to corporate influence in elections.

But this will not be enough, we’re calling for deep structural changes to our governing systems, including passing laws that place the rights of communities and nature above the claimed “rights” of corporations. Over 150 US communities have already written new rules, refusing to be divided by partisan politics and to staying focused on dismantling corporate rule by taking control of our own structures of government. Rule by the people.

If we can remain united (truly citizens united) in this global revolution it is we — the 99% — that are too big to fail.

A little inspiration? Lessig further states, “…anyone who would resist this system would be a pariah on the Hill. You can just head the dialogue from any number of Hollywood films: ‘We’ve got a good thing going here, Jimmy. Why would you want to go and mess things up?'”

I’ve always thought a little mess made things better.

Every now and then in history, the human race takes a collective step forward in its evolution. Such a time is upon us now.

Renowned water/environmental activist (and Global Exchange ally) Maude Barlow

 As we ring in 2012, let the revolution begin! From Tunisia to New York, from Spain and Greece to Oakland and  ‘Occupies’ everywhere, people have taken to the streets to reclaim what is rightfully ours.

We the 99% seek more than the illusion of democracy… we want government in the hands of the people, not the corporations. We want just, fair, sustainable policies that benefit the majority — not only the wealthy few.

Global Exchange's Zarah Patriana speaking out in 2011

We will no longer stand by and allow banks, oil companies or our political system to place corporate interests above our shared values of justice, equality, good jobs and vibrant, resilient communities and ecosystems. We’re speaking out everywhere to deliver the message: Enough is Enough!

People across the world are saying enough is enough with the global economic and environmental crisis, and we are responding with a massive outpouring of activism and energy. Together we are changing the rules and creating a world that champions people power not corporate power, builds positive alternatives and promotes human rights, peace and democracy.

When a magazine like TIME names ‘Protesters’ the Person of the Year, it’s clear that our movement has truly captured the zeitgeist.

We are so inspired by the growing movement and the millions who have stood up against oppression, corporate exploitation, and environmental ruin. We, the 99%, are changing the rules!

Along with other Occupy activists, Global Exchange is speaking out in DC, New York, San Francisco and Oakland. We’re holding organizing workshops, taking critical next steps to stop the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline, organizing to oppose big banks and corporate greed, mobilizing our members to join us in taking a stand for system change and using all the tools of social media to reach thousands.

We are in the midst of revolution to end inequality. We are making history. The rule by the greedy few is collapsing. We know it.

This is what revolution for building positive alternatives looks like…

Rebuilding local green economies and sustainable, just communities!

Detroit is Ground Zero for the impact of casino capitalism. Shuttered buildings and vacant lots, unemployment and struggling schools are a grim testament to the power of an economic system that destroys entire communities to benefit the 1%.

In Detroit, we aren’t just Occupying — we are hard at work building the revolution.

Our Green Economy Leadership Training program helps rebuild the blighted Detroit community of Highland Park, neighborhood by neighborhood. We are working with local youth and residents to grow sustainable food, use clean renewable energy and create green jobs.

We’re not just theorizing. We’re digging, hauling, hammering and sweating — turning the ideas of local green economies into reality. Together we are demonstrating what economies and communities designed for the 99% look like.

This is what revolution for government by the people, not corporations looks like…

Transforming our laws to protect the rights of our communities not corporations.

Current laws leave our communities at the mercy of corporate greed. Our communities are the battleground for the policies of corporate profit, from mass pollution, to the mortgage bailout, GMOs, fracking and more.

We are not just occupying public spaces, but working to occupy our local government and change laws to put communities — not corporations — in charge.

When the law denies rights of people and nature, we can and must change the law.

Our Community Rights Program is organizing in California, across the country and around the world to pass revolutionary laws that strip corporate protections and assert the right of communities to themselves decide what happens where they live, and at the same time to recognize the Rights of Nature.

This is what revolution for oil independence looks like…

Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline Project!

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport oil from the tar sands in Canada to the United States, is the largest and most disastrous industrial project in human history. And although our determined activism to stop Keystone recently led to a delay in the decision to build it, we’re not out of the woods!

The Pipeline will not only put our communities and ecosystems from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico at risk, it will expand the production of tar sands oil, and in the words of renowned climate scientist James Hansen, it will be “game over for life and the planet.”

Across the country we ‘occupied’ President Obama’s fundraisers, campaign offices and rallies — calling on the President to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

We activated our networks across North America to join the movement to stop the pipeline, through protests, actions, rights-based organizing and letter writing campaigns.

Obama has temporarily heeded our call, and the State Department is once again reviewing its plans — this time without the input of a company closely allied to tar sands interests. But if this catastrophic project is reborn, we will again go state-by-state and work with local indigenous communities, ranchers and community members to shut Keystone down.

This is what revolution for Human Rights looks like…

Standing in solidarity with Mexico’s growing peace movement!

There is a growing citizens’ movement for peace and justice in Mexico. While they don’t term the movement “Occupy,” our brothers and sisters across the border are rising up to save their very lives. They are working to change a system that has left over 60,000 Mexicans dead.

We must stand with them. Global Exchange has joined with Mexican civil society to call for an end to the bloodshed and the policies that continue this brutal violence.

We are organizing our allies on both sides of the border to curb the flow of arms into Mexico, to address drug prohibition and to call attention to and ultimately end U.S. military support for Mexican drug interdiction forces.

We are the 99%. We are the revolution.

We are changing the rules and our future! We cannot let up. Together we can change the rules to build a world that respects human rights, protects the planet and practices true democracy — a world that is not governed for and by the 1%, but democratically led by us all. But we can’t do it without you and we look forward to working together in 2012.

Consider making a special gift and supporting the work of Global Exchange.  Please give what you can today. Together let’s build a movement the 1% can’t shut down.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  ~James Baldwin

“Action is the antidote to despair.”  ~Joan Baez

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  ~Margaret Mead

Tens of thousands of us have stood up this year and changed the global analysis and understanding of inequality, wealth accumulation and corporate greed and power. Ten of thousands of us have said enough is enough and brought change to our communities, cities and countries.

We here at Global Exchange offer gratitude to all those who have stood up to resist injustice, envision alternatives and take action. Together we are part of monumental shift, and there is no turning back.

We thank:

  • The change makers in Egypt: Thank you to the courageous demonstrators in Egypt whose force grew into a movement that brought about the end of Mubarak’s regime and more recently the military offering its resignation We’re inspired by your bravery, determination, and sheer numbers.
  • Those who saw that Chevron was found guilty: Thank you to indigenous community members and human rights and environmental justice advocates who worked together to ensure Chevron was brought to justice in an Ecuadorian court. The battle may not be over, but it took courage and conviction to get this far. We hope that BP is also held accountable.
  • Unionists and allies in Wisconsin: Thank you to the protesters who occupied the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin in attempt to stop the bill that curbs the bargaining rights of most state workers (now signed by Governor Walker). With efforts now underway to reclaim democracy, we support your efforts, voice and action.
  • Climate Activist Tim deChristopher: Thanks for your simple act of civil disobedience to scupper a controversial auction of thousands of acres of land, to protect it from false leases that would have been snapped up by gas and oil companies for exploitation. We send solidarity to you, as you serve the 2 year sentence in jail.
  • Money Movers and Shakers: Thanks to…
    · 22 year old Molly Katchpole who single-handedly launched a successful petition against Bank of America;
    · Move Your Money and other likeminded organizations that helped US bank account holders break up with their bank and move their money from big corporate banks to local credit unions where people are account holders AND owners.
  • Stop Keystone XL Activists: Thanks to the 1253 of you who were arrested in late summer at the White House, the 350 of you who were arrested in late September in Ottawa, the dozens of action teams who followed President Obama this fall, the12,000 of you who surrounded the White House in November, and the massive organizing effort of the Tar Sands Action crew. By making approval of the Keystone XL pipeline impossible to President Obama, we delayed a decision on this pipeline which would have opened up the tar sands in Alberta to an addition 900 000 barrels of oil extraction a day. We know we will stop this.
  • Javier Sicilia and the new peace movement in Mexico: Thank you for building a movement to free Mexico from the spiraling violence of the ‘war on drugs.’ We are grateful for your immense courage, dignity and integrity in the face of unspeakable horrors.
  • Gaza Freedom Flotilla: Thanks to activists aboard the Audacity of Hope and other boats in the Freedom Flotilla for your non-violent efforts this spring to bring needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza while striving to lift the illegal siege of Gaza and achieve freedom for the Palestinian people. 
  • Occupiers of Wall Street and Beyond: Thanks to the 99% who are standing up and taking action to say Enough is Enough. On Nov. 15th Berkeley professor Robert Reich shared with the Occupy Cal crowd these words:

Moral outrage is the beginning. The days of apathy are over, folks. And once it has begun it cannot be stopped and it will not be stopped.

Surely he is correct.

Who are you thankful for? What is the next victory and who will make it happen?

This post was originally sent to our News and Action e-mail list. Be the first to get the latest news and alerts from Global Exchange by signing up to our e-mail lists.

Our rising voices are being heard!
The Mass Day of Action called this week from #OWS is happening, thousands are on the streets today to say enough is enough!

Our rising voices are being heard! 
The action comes as we pass the two month mark since #OWS began and just days after NY Mayor Bloomberg ordered a raid on Zuccotti Park and barred the 99% from returning and re-establishing the camp.

Our rising voices are being heard! 
The action comes just days after teachers and students protested in California. On Tuesday, 5,000 students attended the General Assembly at the UC Berkeley campus to establish #OccupyCal. On Wednesday, teachers and teachers’ aides took a strike vote, and today, students protested outside the Cal State University Trustees offices in Long Beach as Trustees voted to raise tuition by 9%.

Our rising voices are being heard! 
These actions come just a week after a major victory for people and the planet! On November 10, the Obama administration announced it will delay approval of what Bill McKibben has famously called the ‘poster child’ for the Occupy movement – the Keystone XL pipeline. Obama has postponed any decision until 2013 due to concerns about the proposed routing through Nebraska and the Ogallala Aquifer. This, after 12,000 people surrounded the White House at a mass day of action, is a step in the right direction to cancel the project entirely.

Our rising voices are being heard! 
If riot police spend their days evicting occupy sites, we will return and we will continue to grow. Today’s Mass Day of Action is one of many. This week’s remarkable action by students in Berkeley is one of many. Our victory to stop Keystone XL will be one of many. As it has been said, you cannot evict an idea whose time has come.

In two months we have changed the national conversation. From headlines in newspapers to conversations at our local coffee shops, people are now speaking of righting the inequality that exists and creating a just, safe and resilient future.

We have the attention of the 1% and as former US Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich declared at the UC Berkeley, “Moral outrage is the beginning. The days of apathy are over, folks. And once it has begun it cannot be stopped and it will not be stopped.”

Stand in solidarity with the 99% movement. Get your I AM 99% stickers.

Gandhi and spinning wheel, Gandhian Legacy Tour by Malia Everette

Lately Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence, of forceful truth and love, known as Satyagraha, has occupied my heart and mind.

As many of us here at Global Exchange witness and support the nonviolent direct action protests in the US and around the world, from Occupy Wall Street to the Tar Sands Movement taking on the Keystone XL pipeline, I remember the living philosophical teachings of Gandhi as shared and taught by his grandson Dr. Arun Gandhi during the Gandhian Legacy Reality Tour I was so blessed to join in 1999 and 2009.

Dr.Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, leads our annual co-sponsored delegation with the assistance of  his son Tushar Gandhi.  For 14 years now this tour has retraced the footsteps of  the Independence movement and also highlighted Gandhi’s philosophies thriving in diverse organizations, rural development agencies, women’s cooperatives, non-governmental organizations and Fair Trade cooperatives across India.As Arun mentions, nonviolence is a lifestyle, and an active one!

Here is more from Arun Gandhi about his grandfather’s philosophy:

The Gandhian Legacy Reality Tour 2009 by Garth Dyke

Mohandas K. Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence is like the iceberg — what is visible is only a fraction of what is hidden. Scholars have analyzed over and over the part that deals with political conflicts and independence of nations, because they insist that nonviolence is simply a strategy of convenience.  

Gandhi said:  This philosophy is not like a jacket that you wear when necessary and discard when not.  Nonviolence is a life style that one has to adopt which means allowing all the love, understanding, respect, compassion, acceptance and appreciation to emerge and dominate one’s attitude. Then we will be able to build good relationships not only within the family but outside of the family.  We will no longer be selfish and greedy but magnanimous and giving.

It is no longer a secret that official India had abandoned Gandhi’s philosophy upon gaining independence. However, there are many at the grassroots level, young and old, who are still inspired by his philosophy and have put it into action to bring about a qualitative change in the Indian society.  Many have started projects to bring solace to the poor of whom there are more than 500 million in India.

Man Weaving Cotton, Gandhian Legacy Tour by Malia Everette

The Gandhi Legacy Tour explores these projects in the cities and in the villages to see first hand how people have used Gandhi’s philosophy in every day life.  How they are trying to deal with conflict situations constructively.  It is an unusual tour in as much as we visit places where normal tourists do not go, we are hosted by the poor in city slums and in traditional India.  Among the many diversities in India the one that divides the westernised urban India and the traditional rural India is the most odious.  Urban India is not India at all and we shall explore this on the tour, while the traditional India is the true heart of India.  The experience of traveling with the Gandhi Family is both educative and enjoyable.  Come and experience it for yourself.

Singing A Round with Dr. Arun Gandhi, the Gandhian Legacy Tour 2009

Passive resistance and compassion are perhaps some of the easy takeaways from Gandhi’s Legacy.  When I returned from the Gandhian Legacy Reality Tour in 2009 I made a personal commitment to trusteeship.  We each have a talent that we have acquired or inherited. We can use this to achieve our goals, our personal ambitions, and we can use it to be in service to others. I’ve made personal and professional changes in my life because of Satyagraha. Reflecting on the resurgence of social movements I am reminded by other tenants of Gandhi’s philosophy: self reliance and self sufficiency; political and economic decentralization; the minimization of competition and exploitation in society and economy and the enhancement of cooperation; respect for labor and rural life; production based on need and not just profit maximization; and a deep respect for the natural environment.

Take Action! If you need to break away from your day to day, reflect, learn and (re)engage then join Dr. Gandhi on this Gandhian Legacy Reality Tour or consider how Satyagraha might inspire you in 2012.

Shannon Biggs directs the Community Rights program at Global Exchange.

By 5:00 am on October 25, as I was boarding a NYC-bound plane, reports of police forces raiding Occupy Oakland were beginning to filter through the local news, Twitter and Facebook. By the time I arrived at the Liberty Plaza/Zucotti Park headquarters of OWS, events in Oakland were already a main topic of conversation.

As one-day visitors to Occupy Wall Street, my fellow organizer Ben Price from CELDF and I were asked to speak and share stories from the frontlines of the grassroots movement enacting local laws that place the rights of communities and nature above corporate interests. But within me was also a keen desire to be a part of the conversation happening on Wall Street that has inspired Occupy Everywhere: Will history remember Zuccotti Park as a landmark location and this as the defining moment we took an evolutionary step forward for democracy and system change?

Indian activist Premilla Dixit, on whose invitation we had come, greeted us Wednesday morning, and walked us through the encampment, answering our countless questions and introducing us to the Zucotti Park community. Throughout the long day of activities we learned of her journey to occupy both Wall Street and Hudson Valley, NY over the last several weeks, and how she connects to the rights-based framework. Click here to meet Premilla Dixit.

Shannon Biggs and Premilla Dixit

By 10:00 am, a drizzling rain ensured many tents remained up, and the number of people walking around remained down.  Still, this is a busy place: information booths in different languages, a considerable library, sidewalk cleaning teams, press tents, and no shortage of drop-in conversations and committees already at work. Click here to see a video clip of the Occupy Wall Street site the morning we arrived. As a tourist, this would be your experience – the earnestness engagement and diversity of those gathered.  But Premilla also pointed us to the deeper human experience of life inside this crowded instant-village.

There is the occasional sign of social strain. We heard that the kitchen workers were on a bit of a mid-morning strike, feeling the pressure of a 24-hour a day operation. And we walked the corner claimed by newly released Riker’s Island inmates, whose presence has raised some security concerns among occupiers (reportedly they are directed there by prison officials).  But equally invisible to passers by, is the direct-democracy experiment at work, coursing through the community like blood to vital organs, to address concerns, meet new and ongoing needs, and organize countless working and moving parts.

By 11:30 we had met with dozens of activists, occupiers and visitors from every walk of life.  Standing at the top of the Plaza steps on the Wall Street sidewalk, surrounded by a crowd of tourists, Wall Street workers, city dwellers and occupiers I took my first words at the People’s Mic in the the staccato cadence it has become famous for. The 360 degree crowd repeats and amplifies your words to the surrounding neighborhood, drawing the curious in for a closer look. Please click here for a blog transcript and video of our presentation.

The rest of the day moved at a blurring pace faster than a New York minute — and our group was growing.  Reinette Senum, former mayor of Nevada City CA and a longtime supporter of rights-based organizing  and Democracy School, was being filmed as a visiting occupier.  She and her videographer joined us for much of the day, as well as new friends met during the presentation.  Click here to see a video clip of Reinette talking about Democracy School. We met an Egyptian student, Shimaa Helmy, who was involved in the democratic uprising in her own country, and was in the US to tell her story in hopes of strengthening efforts in Egypt and in the US. Click here to meet Shimaa. Conversations had to be kept on the move, as we walked to the next activity, and the next. Premilla took us to WBAI radio station to set up interviews, instructed us to grab a pizza slice from a truck and keep walking.

OWS organizing meeting

We were asked to give our speeches again on camera for the OWS web and suddenly it was 6 pm, time to observe and participate in the daily General Assembly meeting, in a formerly empty office directly across the street from OWS, piled with boxes, and a makeshift supermarket of dry goods and a wall rack full of winter gear.  After being on the street all day, the roomy space was quiet by comparison. The meeting itself is informal, run by consensus and a rotating facilitator  and a well organized committee structure to address each item and provide report back.  We linked up with those on the organizing team, about potential next steps.

The day ended with a solidarity march for Oakland, and I vowed to bring the spirit and stories of OWS home with me to the Bay Area.  Whatever you may think about the Occupy Movement, its full of people moving the first conversation about structural change to the spotlight in decades.  This is the most necessary conversation we could be having in our hometowns, and for the sake of system change, we need to have it peacefully, free from excessive force or violence.

Global Exchange is organizing our participation in Oakland tomorrow as part of Occupiers’ call for a citywide general strike/day of action, and if you live in the Bay Area, consider participating for a day, or part of a day or taking action in your community.  Here are some resources:

Shannon Biggs directs the Community Rights program at Global Exchange.

On October 26 I spent a chilly and drizzly day on Wall Street along with my fellow community-rights organizer, Ben Price from CELDF. We had been asked to share our experiences with those occupying Liberty Plaza. Together we spoke on the steps in the now-famous style of ‘the People’s Mic’, an altogether exhilarating experience. Below is a portion of my talk.

Liberty Street - OWS

Greetings from Global Exchange, Occupy Wall Street West, San Francisco and Oakland California, and the land of the Ohlone tribe. I am deeply honored to be here at the US epicenter of the most important thing happening in the world right now — a budding revolution for real democracy.

We the 99% are naturally diverse.
We’re young, we’re old, we cross the political spectrum, we’re urban, we’re rural, we’re the overworked, the underpaid and the unemployed. What unifies us is not just our outrage against the handful of global rule-makers who occupy OUR streets, but a common goal to change the rules.

We the 99% seek more than the illusion of democracy.
We want government in the hands of the people. We want more than the opportunity to elect the next politician to carry out the corporate agenda.

As I boarded the plane yesterday before dawn, hundreds of police forces swarmed our comrades Occupying Oakland, CA. Tear gas, rubber bullets, flash bang grenades and excessive force resulted in dozens of injuries and arrests throughout the day and into the night. I hold them in my heart as I stand here with you all today and ask you to do the same.

Other cities are also being forcibly swept, and as the cold of winter approaches, pundits question the resolve of those holding open this public space. Politicians who initially disregarded us, now desperately seek to curry our favor in an election year, hoping to move our cause from structural change to a few policy concessions to business as usual.

Some say we’re leaderless. But our truth is we’re all leaders.
The power of this moment lies in our refusal to be divided by partisan politics and to stay focused on dismantling corporate rule by taking control of our own structures of government. Rule by the people. If we can remain united in this, it is we — the 99% — that are too big to fail.

Occupiers, you have shifted the conversation – a feat that can’t be overstated. You have woken up millions of the disillusioned, and inspired them to find their own voice, their own power. We have the opportunity now to shift more than just politicians but the political and economic paradigm that places corporate interests above our shared values of justice, equality, good jobs, healthy resilient vibrant communities and ecosystems. This is our time.

Shannon Biggs speaking at OWS

Our communities are ground zero for the corporate-friendly policies of current law. Everything from the destructive Tar Sands pipeline, to GMOs and pesticides on the supermarket shelves, to big box stores, to unemployment, occurs in a real place on the map, and is experienced by real people living in a community. We are all being denied the right to determine our own quality of life and have become sacrifice zones to corporate plans of one kind or another. But that is changing.

My colleague, Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and I are here today to share our experiences from the front lines of the movement for community and nature’s rights. Over 125 communities (and growing) are taking control of their local government and stripping corporations of their constitutional protections. More than 600,000 people are living under these rights-based laws (and growing) in order to ban unwanted corporate activity in their midst, or to legalize and practice sustainability.

These communities have begun to understand that the specific issues that affect them cannot be solved without dismantling a structure of law, government, and culture that guarantees that corporate minorities will continue to make decisions on energy, agriculture, and environmental extraction.

This movement for community and nature’s rights isn’t about electing the “right” people – it is about exercising our fundamental right to local self-governing authority. As rights-based community organizers we assist citizens to pass local laws that assert their right to decide what happens in their community on issues of local concern, recognize rights of nature, and strip corporate so-called “rights.”

We stand on the shoulders of past peoples movements.
These movements sought to force cultural transformation, social transformation, political and economic transformation. These were movements for RIGHTS.

The Occupied Wall Street Journal

Abolitionists did not seek to regulate slave owners to be kinder to slaves. They fought for equality and to drive the rights of African Americans into law. Suffragettes did not wait for permission, they asserted their rights and broke the law to cast their ballots, as was their right. And while the lunch counter sit-ins are historically remembered in Greensboro, people in over 700 cities asserted their rights in this way, in some places for over two years. These are the defining moments of movements for rights that change unjust laws.

Rights come from creation. By virtue of being born we are all equal, Rights cannot be granted to corporations because corporations are in fact property, a legal fiction on paper, a mechanism for conducting business. Property cannot hold rights.
JUST laws are instituted to protect and uphold rights. When the law denies rights of people and nature, we can and must change the laws – they are OUR laws.

This is a defining moment.
If we truly seek change, we must become the new civil rights movement of our time. Together we can occupy Wall Street, occupy Main Street, occupy City Hall and our local governments — not just today, but everyday.
Thank you, OWS.

We were asked to give our entire 1 hour presentations again indoors for the OWS web network. It is available here in its entirety. (Its worth saying that the speeches, prepared for the format of the People’s Mic, did not feel  the same during taping, and after a few minutes quickly abandoned written text for more conversational discussion.)

The following is a guest blog post by Alli McCracken from our sister organization CODEPINK:

“Assault? Who- or what- did I assault??” I asked the police officer incredulously as I sat in his office at the police station, handcuffed to the wall. “Well, looks like it was Leon Panetta himself,” the officer responded as he flipped through a pile of paperwork.

Me? A 22-year-old mild-mannered peace activist, assaulted the Secretary of Defense? I had simply tried to tell him how I felt about the wars. On the morning of October 13th about 25 activists who are occupying Washington DC, as part of the nationwide occupations, went on a field trip to Congress. We wanted to attend the House Armed Services Committee hearing where Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, and Martin Dempsy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were testifying about “lessons learned by the Department of Defense over the preceding decade” and “how those lessons might be applied in the future in light of anticipated reductions in defense spending.” After all, these hearings are open to the public. And shouldn’t we have a say in where our money is being spent?

As a peace activist with the group CODEPINK for the past 10 months, I have done my fair share of sending letters and emails and delivering petitions to our government representatives, asking them to stop pouring trillions of our taxpayer dollars into the endless cycle of death, destruction and reconstruction halfway across the world. There are so many critical things that we could spend that money on here in America, such as education, healthcare, helping the homeless, the elderly, the disabled, the veterans.

The activists who I have been camping out with in Freedom Plaza since October 6th share the same sentiments. That morning about 25 of us, sporting social justice slogans on pins, hats and shirts, got to the hearing several hours early so we could be first on line to get in. It didn’t take long for the Capitol Police to appear. They began to congregate around us, and several of them were already holding the flexi-cuffs they use now in lieu of traditional handcuffs (they’re recyclable, so I learned).

A Congressional staffer came out into the hallway and barked at us: no demonstrating, no protesting, no outbursts, no signs. Not even before the Chairman of the Committee hits the gavel, marking the start of the hearing. We were surprised that we couldn’t even hold up our signs before the hearing began, as we are usually able to do. “So you’re taking away what little shred we have of free speech in these pubic hearings?” asked Medea Benjamin, a CODEPINK cofounder who has been to many a hearing. “I thought this was a democracy!” The staffer ignored her and walked away.

We were even more upset when we learned that the room was already stacked with seats reserved for staffers, and that only 15 members of the public would be allowed in. So much for a “public hearing.”

Soon they started letting people into the hearing room- but only 5 at a time, and the police escorted us in under a careful eye as if we were unruly children. They told us any form of demonstrating would result in immediate ejection from the hearing and possible arrest. One man asked, “You mean even if I do this?” and held both his arms up, making peace signs with his fingers. Absolutely, the police responded. We laughed at the absurdity.

A few minutes after all the Congresspeople had slowly made their way to their seats, Panetta and Dempsey entered the room flanked by several staffers. Media cameras crowded around them at the witness table as they sat down, about 15 feet away from me.

Quickly I sprung up out of my seat, pulling out my homemade sign that read: FUND MY EDUCATION, NOT YOUR WARS. I had been in Congressional hearings many times, and I had never come so close to risking arrest, but I was determined to get my message out. “Secretary Panetta, when are we going to stop funding war and start rebuilding America? We have been at war for almost half my life and guys my age have PTSD. My generation deserves better!” I continued to shout as Capitol Hill police dragged me out the door.

Outside were about 15 people who were not let into the hearing and together we chanted the Occupy Wall Street slogan, “We! Are! The 99 percent!!”

The next person to speak out inside the hearing was Michael Patterson, from Anchorage, Alaska, who has been sleeping out in McPherson Square in DC for 8 days and nights. Michael is a 21-year-old vet who was an interrogator in Iraq- at the age of 18! He has been extremely affected by what he saw there and as soon as Panetta started speaking, Michael denounced U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. “You are murdering people. I’ve seen it. You are murdering people,” he shouted as the police tackled him.

Michael was overcome with emotion and as a result his disruption was the most intense- and hopefully the most effective. Some reports mention that members of Congress seemed startled by his message. When asked about his motivation for this action, Michael responded, “Certain elements of the American government are accomplices in genocide. These wars have caused the death of up to a million Iraqis, an unknown number of Afghans, and  thousands of US soldiers. They have ruined the lives of millions. The truth is out there and people are just choosing apathy. It’s time to hold those accountable for what they have done and when the time comes, the excuse ‘I was just following orders’ will not be acceptable.”

After Michael, six other individuals stood up during the hearing and expressed how they felt about these wars, whether by holding up peace signs silently, or speaking softly, or shouting and holding up a sign. After each person was arrested, the rest clapped in support, and the other activists still waiting in the hall chanted continuously calling for an end to the wars.

The eight of us were rounded up outside the building, then hauled off in a paddy wagon to the police station, where I spent over 6 hours being processed and narrowly avoided spending the night in jail. They gave us all citations, and everyone was charged with disrupting Congress, except for me. I was charged with simple assault of Leon Panetta.

It’s funny more than anything, because I was nowhere near Secretary Panetta during my outburst. It turns out that my charge, “simple assault”, is a crime that causes “a victim to fear violence”. It is a sad day when a government official feels endangered by a citizen practicing her freedom of speech. Is our highest military official after the President frightened by a young woman with a sign calling for our funds to be spent on education, not war?

A little while after the activists were thrown out of the hearing room, Representative Pingree put Secretary Panetta on the spot. She wanted to know what he thought about the protests inside the hearing, since they reflect the views of the majority of people throughout the country who want to see an end to the wars. He responded by acknowledging our frustration after 10 years of war and talking about the timelines set up to withdraw the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The fact that the Secretary of Defense was forced to acknowledge and respond to our concerns is in itself a victory. The strength our messages carried did not just come from us, or the people in the hallway supporting us, but from people rising up all over the country- and it is clear that our government officials are starting to feel the heat.

Since the story of the seven arrests hit the news, I have received a surprising amount of support from friends and strangers. Several of the messages are actually from active members of the military who told me our actions inspired them to seriously think about what they are doing overseas. A few mentioned that it sparked discussion among the people they are serving with. For the most part, they were struck by people’s willingness to risk arrest for something they believe so passionately about.

We are part of the growing Occupy movement sweeping the country, and we are becoming much stronger than the sum of our parts. Drawing strength in numbers, both seasoned and new activists are feeling an incredible sense of empowerment and are taking more risks- including arrestable offenses- so that our voices will be heard. We are determined that our policy makers listen to the sentiment of the people, as expressed in the chants that were echoing in the hallway: We are the 99 percent and we say no to all these wars!!!