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Occupy Phoenix Builds

Community In 2012

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One of the many rallying cries of Occupy Phoenix in 2012.
A Little More Than A Year After First Appearing On The Local Scene, Occupy Phoenix Continues To Strive Toward Becoming The Common Front In The Battle For Change

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By Charlie Parke
Special for Modern Times Magazine

Dec. 29, 2012 — The Occupy movement began late last year by bringing people together who were frustrated by politicians and the corporations for whom they appear to work. Unlike many existing groups who are fighting for specific environmental, anti-war, animal rights or migrant rights, saw these issues as intrinsically linked.

Therefore, Occupy attacked a wide variety of issues which unfortunately resulted in corporate-owned media presenting the story that Occupy had no goals. Change is a long, slow battle and Occupy learned they needed to find allies and build a community to make change, and that people had to move from isolated battles to a common front.

The first step was to create a community calendar for progressive groups which appears on Occupyphx.org listing events for many different groups to help people know how to connect with groups around the valley. Those who had been creating art/text for flyers and distributing them moved to a zine. Through this publication, Occupy provided more detail about groups, protests and a print calendar. Outrage at the system needed a creative outlet and this increasingly became about support actions and support through spreading information to wider audiences.

The next step was to put on free public teach-ins with speakers from many of the groups in greater Phoenix area at Cesar Chavez Plaza, where Occupy Phoenix was meeting. The ACLU/Copwatch/and the National Lawyers Guild gave presentations on knowing your rights, how to document police interactions to protect your safety, and more.  The Sierra Club, No More Deaths, Physicians for Single Payer Healthcare, No Loop 202, ASU Students for Liberty, the IWW and many others gave free public workshops about their campaigns and to increase discussion of the problems they saw and let people know about campaigns they were involved in. Progressive Democrats of America, the Libertarian and Green Party, Anarchists groups, Move to Amend (fighting to end Corporate Personhood) were among groups presenting their political ideas for open discussion to see what common ground could be achieved.  As police pressure to leave Cesar Chavez Plaza increased, local businesses welcomed skillshares/speakers and documentaries often with the director or groups involved in the issue speaking with the showing. This became a base for encouraging people to find out about causes and get involved.

Over time, those working on the community calendar and the Occupy Together Zine moved into online indie media. A website, Arizona Community Press, was set up, http://www.azcommunitypress.org/, allowing many groups fighting for change to have a place to publish their viewpoints, with a community calendar featured on the site. Often, equal time is not given by media when regular folks decide to stand up to large corporations or politicians. In some cases, Arizona Community Press has been able to shine light on issues hiding within corporate media dead zones. Teach-ins have been a part of the community media with a chance to discuss video editing, article writing, press releases and how to become an independent journalist.

2012 ended with Occupy Phoenix using its network to stand up to Freeport McMoRan, a mining company which may be the No. 1 polluter of groundwater worldwide which is headquartered in Phoenix. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHZD4SiHIz8).

The IWW, the Sierra Club, Occupy, the East Timor Action Network and Rogue Green agreed to speak in Phoenix about Freeport’s paying the military to break up unions with violence in Asia, about its pollution of air and water locally and its membership in ALEC, a group which seems to include legislators and corporations coming together to make pro-business legislation including what the Sierra Club calls the "Polluter Protection Act" passed this year. The protest was followed by a concert at a local cafe to raise some money for activists to travel to South Bisbee to witness firsthand the effects of Freeport’s mining on an Arizona community. The next day, Occupy Phoenix and other activists traveled to Tucson with musicians to perform at a cafe where the group met with Occupy Tucson who have just put out the first print edition of their online newspaper, the Occupied Tucson Citizen http://occupiedtucsoncitizen.org/ (the group was given 400 copies to spread to Bisbee and Phoenix). The group stopped by Access Tucson, a community media center that provides free classes and access to the community to create videos and talk on the radio about the issues affecting them.

Later that evening, the group arrived in Bisbee to talk to residents, visit the town’s community radio station and to see firsthand an area of land where environmental contamination has led Freeport to begin to force homeowners to leave; some of whom may be experiencing medical difficulties from the exposure. Occupy Phoenix brought music, discussion and discussed the situation firsthand with with residents telling the story of Freeport offering money for residents to relocate (which residents say are lower than comparable properties) if residents sign a medical waiver that absolves Freeport of any health claims. Water samples in the area seem to indicate a degree of copper and lead in the water, one test showed lead http://www.azwater.com/ccr.html exceeding the EPA's action level rules. The EPA rules state, "If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.”  http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/lcr/index.cfm.

Occupy Phoenix views the Freeport event as an important step in building community and independent media around the state while raising awareness of Freeport’s actions.

Charlie Parke is an activist living in Phoenix. You can reach him at firstfridayman@hotmail.com.
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