Thursday, 20 October 2011

Occupy Wellington: A focus for the 99%

By Grant Brookes

“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?”
Naomi Klein   

With comments like this, campaigning journalist Naomi Klein has captured the essence of the mushrooming movement against corporate greed which began on Wall Street (

The movement is expressing the feelings of a global majority denied a voice in the media and in the corridors of power.

It spread to Aotearoa on October 15, when occupations began in Auckland, Wellington, Christchuch, Dunedin, New Plymouth and elsewhere.

I’ve been to a lot of protests for good causes”, said Dougal, on Day One of the Wellington Occupation. “But it’s often felt like I was part of an embattled minority. This is different”.

With their broad embrace of a myriad of issues, and organising democratically through general assemblies, the occupations around New Zealand have attracted supporters from all walks of life – even as they confound newshounds looking for figureheads, spokespeople and official media releases. 
Occupy Wellington Circle

Around 300 people marched on the NZX Stock Exchange building on Wellington’s waterfront on Saturday. The protest ended with an open microphone, where people got up and talked about why they had come.

An early childhood teacher spoke of how she suddenly found herself in poverty after being made redundant (!), following the National government’s decision to cut $400 million from early childhood education.

An IT consultant talked about how he and his partner have been earning up to $200,000 a year, but still can’t get ahead. He wondered aloud how those on the minimum wage could get by.

A beneficiary spoke of being unable to get a job, despite her university qualifications. “I can't even get a fucking job as a taxi driver”, she said. “I want a fucking revolution!” (

Celia Wade Brown
Then on Sunday, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown visited the occupation and expressed support.

The occupation has been gifted a whakatauki by local Maori, to express our acknowledgement of tangata whenua as the original occupiers of the land: “Me noho tahi, tena pea ka tika” (‎'Come sit together, and everything will come right').

With backing from such a cross-section of society, we truly are representative of the 99%.

The occupations have shown the ability of people to come together and create cooperative communities. In Wellington, general assemblies are meeting daily at 10am and 6pm, with a different person facilitating each time. Notes from each assembly are being posted at:

A group has been formed to organise food and other supplies to sustain the occupation. A communications and media team has been set up (individuals have produced articles like, 'Multimedia: Occupy Wellington Sets Up Camp In Civic Square' and 'Occupy Aotearoa: A brief summary' A first aid team is forming, along with a roster of people to show hospitality to newcomers, rules for noise control, and a programme of educational workshops and entertainment.

And as we come together, we have also begun to grapple with what exactly is wrong with the world ruled by, and for, the 1% - and to talk about how we can change it, so it works for everyone.

UNITYblog spoke with people occupying Civic Square in Wellington about why they were there, and what they though could be achieved by the occupation.

Nati is from Spain. She followed the wave of occupations of public spaces which began in Spanish cities in May, by the movement known as “The Indignants” (

I came down here to support the movements around the worldpeople that are fed up with everything, basically. I think there are a lot of people who don’t really know why they’re here, but they know that something is wrong and they want to change it.

There are tons of things we can mention – the economic system, the way the world moves, the pyramidal structure that we have. We know that there are thousands of things wrong, so it’s more about coming together to develop a proposal.

We need to focus on solidarity with others, on humanity, going back to the basic needs and basic values that are completely forgotten in our society, like helping each other. And solidarity with the planet, ecological resources. It’s probably going to take years.

But it's good to stand and say, I know that there are things that are wrong, to just stand and say I am seeing this, I'm not blind. I'm coming here to stand in front of others and say, hey, look at this, let's try to change it.

We can think about the power being held by governments, or by corporations as it is now, but the power is from the people, at the beginning. We are the consumers, and we are the workers. So we have the power. We are making the rules here.”

Sarah is a nurse and midwife.

I think the occupation is about raising awareness of the current problems in the world. We can wake a lot more ordinary people up, and get people to actually look at the system that's facing them, and start to think about that more deeply, and about ways in which we can effect change.

And particularly, we're coming up to an election. We've got such a great divide in NZ between the rich and poor. And we know that the bigger the gap between rich and poor, the poorer the society is. There's a lot more crime, and violence, we need to find a way to merge that. There are new political parties springing up, so that's a potential way forward.

There are those who would argue we need to completely collapse the system, and move onto something entirely different, such as a resource-based economy ( The fact is we're all one humanity living on one planet with finite resources. So that's another way.

Some people are arguing we should go back to the gold standard ( So there's lots of ideas, and the more people are involved, the more that evolution can take place. Ideas can join in the giant soup of creation, and come up with something new.”

1 comment:

don Franks said...

"Then on Sunday, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown visited the occupation and expressed support."

I see.

And to underline the happy clappy point there's a nice smily photo of this supportive mayor too.

The same mayor who shat all over the actors union in the Hobbit dispute, first union struggle in this town on her watch.

A few days before sharfting those workers Ceila visited a union rally at parliament and expressed support.

The working class is cursed with pretend friends.

The minute the bosses want the occupiers out of their face Celia will send someone down to kick their arse.

Your promotion of this cynical bosses gopher is a new low for UNITY.