Why (un)Occupy?

(un)Occupy Albuquerque, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, indigenous peoples, and colonized peoples worldwide, realizes that language has historically played a powerful role in social transformation. Given the “occupation” of native lands across the Americas since 1492, the colonization of Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world, and the continued “occupation” of Iraq and Afghanistan, we resist the term “occupy” or, for that matter, any language that is connected to the oppression of people.

We believe that by ignoring the dynamics of privilege, this monumental social movement will repeat the very structures of injustice it seeks to eliminate. The United States is a colonial and imperial nation built on stolen indigenous lands and the institution of slavery. It is our strong conviction that a movement to end economic injustice must have at its core an honest struggle to end racism, colonization, and all forms of oppression.

(des)Occupar Albuquerque, en solidaridad con el movimiento Ocupar Wall Street, los pueblos indígenas y los pueblos colonizados en todo el mundo, nos damos cuenta de que históricamente el lenguaje ha desempeñado un poderoso papel en la transformación social. Dada la “ocupación” de tierras indígenas en las Américas desde 1492, la colonización de África, Asia y otras partes del mundo y la “ocupación” de Irak y Afganistán, nos resistimos a usar el término “ocupar” o, en este caso, cualquier lenguaje que esté vinculado a la opresión del pueblo.

Si permitimos que la dinámica de privilegio siga sin ser cuestionada, este monumental movimiento social repetirá las estructuras injustas que pretende eliminar. Estados Unidos es una nación imperialista y colonialista construida sobre tierras robadas a los indígenas y la esclavitud. Es nuestra firme convicción de que un movimiento tendiente a ponerle fin a la injusticia económica tiene que tener como eje central una lucha honesta para acabar con el racismo, la colonización y la oppression en todas sus formas.

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Brief Albuquerque movement timeline:

A woman put out a call Monday, September 26 for an Occupy Wall Street solidarity march in Albuquerque on Saturday, Oct. 1. After hundreds of facebook responses, she called an organizing meeting Thursday, Sept. 29 that 10 people attended. On Saturday there were 350-400 people at the march. At the Bank of West (San Mateo/Central) that afternoon, 30-40 people helped make a decision to encamp at Central/University at the edge of the UNM campus. We had our first General Assembly there that evening.

Almost immediately we began thinking more deeply about the use of “occupy.”

Oct. 4 email exchange among Occupy Albuquerque participants:

C: The word “occupy” in general is offensive to most Native Americans and indigenous people and people of color in general – again in general. Occupations have displaced us for generations by Europeans. I understand that the use for this word was to “flip” it back onto Wall Street because they have occupied and held the people financially hostage. I get it. Each city has a different tone in they are inserting into the bigger movement – how the robbery by the banks are affecting their cities. I think this is important. In addition I REALLY want to stress, that Occupy Albuquerque (Burque) make a statement about the use of the language.

For example: “Albuquerque is in solidarity with the rest of the world. We are the 99%. That being said, Albuquerque wants to make it clear that we are uncomfortable with the word “occupation” – not uncomfortable with the acts coming out of the movements across lands. The word “occupation” for Native Americans, indigenous people and people of color in general is problematic because this land that we now live on has been occupied since 1492.We simply want to bring awareness to this fact and have more conversations in this regard.”

D: I agree! I think we should change Occupy ABQ to something like; Squatting ABQ or if folks still want to use the word “occupy,” Maybe Occupy and Liberate ABQ or at least use both words Occupy(squatting)ABQ. I have heard at least 10 people of color including a few Native people who belong to the land of New Mexico say they are uncomfortable with the word “occupy.” Us using a different word shows our commitment to an anti-racist praxis!

J: The word “occupy” needs to stay, only for the pure fact that we are in solidarity with New York, and the rest of the world who use “occupy” as their name. The second we drop the usage of that word then we cannot say that we are within full solidarity with the global movement. I understand the Native American stance, but they need to take their issue up with the national group at large. Changing the word will only hurt our stance with the global community because we won’t have the same support because we won’t be able to be on the OccupyTogether.org site because we’re no longer with them. We also need to not be apart of this war on semantics. If all we do is semantically argue about everything, we’ll get nothing done because we’ll be doing nothing but focusing on words instead of the actions we need to be taking for this global movement.

H: I read what One Woman wrote originally as a challenge/invitation for us to talk and think critically and deeply about the use of the word “occupy.” I imagine this is the same thing folks all over the country who are in solidarity with OWS are talking about as well. I would like to have the discussion brought to a specific camp meeting to hear many more voices.
You probably had the chance to rethink this, Two Man, but if not, there is not a “their” in this issue – racism, colonization, invasion and occupation are issues for all of us.

T: While I am sensitive to the idea, this is my homeland – I was born here – and regardless of what my ancestors did, I am also reoccupying my home. This is my home, and it has been hijacked by special interest groups driven by the wealthy elite. I find “occupy” to be powerful terminology, and I believe offense derived from the term is due to misunderstanding rather than actual issue. This is all of our home, today in 2011, and we are all in an effort to reoccupy it – natives and those with European descent alike. Just my opinion. We should work together in a new friendship – not find separation in an old wound. We must overcome that, find unity, and work as a whole. I do not mean to sound insensitive, this is highly important. I would like to discuss this issue further, as well. It is definitely sensitive, and I think the name we choose is extremely important. I think this discussion is best had at a Sunday meeting.

Occupy Albuquerque General Assembly Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011: Around 130 people in attendance. People made arguments for and against the name change. We read Occupy Boston’s Indigenous Peoples solidarity statement. People who were against the name change felt that any move to amend the name would (1) signify that Albuquerque was not in sync with protesters in Wall Street, (2) would confuse the media and people were were trying to find us, and would ultimately (3) divide the movement. And then there was the issue of the website; someone had already bought an occupyabq URL and wanted the name to conform to it. Amalia, accompanied by indigenous and white allies, made a powerful statement about the enduring legacy of colonization and how the language of “occupation” breathes life into that legacy. The dialogue lasted four hours; there were 85 of us when we considered consensus on the name change – 76 of us agreed, 9 people blocked. Those who had blocked were asked if Occupy Wall Street changed their name to “Decolonize Wall Street,” would they agree to it here? The unanimous reply was “yes.”

We consensed to use “Occupy Wall Street — Liberate Albuquerque” as an interim name until the coming Sunday, when the discussion would resume.

Occupy Wall Street Liberate Albuquerque General Assembly Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011: Our second ‘name change” GA. Many people said they didn’t want to be a part of discussion – it was getting in the way of the work. Sixty of us began the discussion and 3 hours later had four names under consideration: Occupy Wall Street Liberate Albuquerque, Occupy Albuquerque, Decolonize Albuquerque, and (un)Occupy Albuquerque. Thirty minutes later, a straw poll narrowed the options to Occupy Wall Street Liberate Albuquerque and (un)Occupy Albuquerque. After listening to the powerful queer people of color and white allies voices about the importance of un-occupying colonized spaces, the group consensed to change our name to (un)Occupy Albuquerque.