ON THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT

 Independent Living Services of Northern California 

ILSNC’s STATEMENT ON THE “OCCUPY MOVEMENT”

November 8, 2011

ILSNC sends a message of support to peaceful protesters in Oakland, all other American cities and around the world.  We call upon all protesters to remain steadfast in their commitment to non-violence.  We condemn not only the violence and excessive force recently deployed by the Oakland Police, but also the vandalism perpetrated by misguided individuals who reject the values of the Occupy Movement.

ILSNC believes that public protest and non-violent civil disobedience is often necessary to correct injustice.  It’s a core American tradition going back to the founding of our democracy.  From the Boston Tea Party to the women’s suffragette and labor movements; from the civil rights sit-ins to the Section 504 and ADA occupations by disability rights pioneers, our cherished victories required direct action.

Since long before the economic crash of 2008, people with disabilities have been fighting relentless cuts to our support programs and services. In California, we’re facing even more cuts, including a massive “trigger cut” to In-Home Supportive Services on December 15th.  This planned 20% reduction hangs like an axe over the head of thousands of low-income people with disabilities.  Having been pushed to the limits of human endurance, we clearly identify with the pain and frustration expressed by the new “Occupy” movement.  Many of us feel like the general population has finally caught up with what we’ve been experiencing for a very long time.

Throughout this economic crisis we have asked for nothing more than shared sacrifice. We assert that catastrophic program cuts can be prevented by employing fair, common sense tax reforms to produce desperately-needed revenue.  Tragically, as public treasuries continue to drain, our elected leaders act like obedient servants to the tax-cutting demands of their powerful campaign donors.  The full weight of “deficit reduction” is therefore borne by those already struggling in poverty.

While we live in fear of the next cut, enormous tax breaks are given to corporations who promise to “create jobs” that never materialize. Bankers whose blatant criminality destroyed millions of American jobs luxuriate in billion-dollar bailouts while unemployed protesters are arrested for “camping.” As vital disability programs and services are gutted, we learn that 2/3 of U.S. corporations – particularly the largest and most profitable – pay zero annual income taxes. Fear-mongering politicians bloviate about the federal deficit while pouring trillions of dollars of new debt – not to mention thousands of young American lives – into the bottomless pit of so-called “national defense.”

In today’s “pay to play” political environment, now intensified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s disgraceful “Citizens United” decision, we find ourselves either patronized or completely ignored.  Now is the time for everyday Americans to unite and organize a bold resistance to the onslaught.  We believe that the peaceful protests taking place in over a thousand U.S. cities demonstrate the beginning of a new awakening.

For these reasons ILSNC urges members and allies of the disability community to take action now.  Make a personal commitment to contribute and to persevere for as long as it takes.  Get involved with disability advocates in your community.  Visit and support your local Occupy encampment. While you’re there, educate on disability issues and advocate for inclusion. Help build diverse alliances and think beyond immediate self-interests. Do whatever you can – start today!

Despite enormously powerful forces that stand against us, indifferent to the suffering of millions, we are confident in the power of our unity. Each of us has the ability to make a personal choice to work together for the common good. We will succeed if we can overcome our own apathy, disunity and defeatism.

We are the inheritors of a world made possible by the activists who came before us.  Let’s honor their legacy, change our lives and save our children’s future by seizing this moment to do something great.  Occupy Wall Street can become our best chance to restore fairness and opportunity before it’s too late. There has never been a better time to build the powerful kind of coalition we’ve dreamed about. And we’ll only have ourselves to blame if it turns out otherwise.

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”

– Frederick Douglass

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