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

Join the Occupy Movement

We need to be a visible presence at the OccupyChico camp.  The disability rights movement has historically been part of broader social justice issues going back to the 1960’s.  We have been an integral aspect of the historical civil rights campaigns.  With the birth and growth of the Occupy movement, we have an opportunity to embed ourselves into this new movement.  To do so will give us the chance to secure additional rights to employment, housing, living assistance and other necessities of dignified living.

Local activists want change, too.

It seems as though many consumers and service providers are feeling beaten down and depressed after years of fighting the cuts in services from the State of California.  It has been said that activism is the best cure for depression and feelings of powerlessness. Instead of fighting losing battles over the budget cuts all by ourselves, now is the chance to engage in the Occupy movement to secure new allies in the struggle to save our lifeline programs and services.   See you at the encampment.  General assemblies are held at 7 PM nightly on the sidewalk near 4th St along Broadway.

In other cities, disabled people have been active in their Occupy encampments and marches.  ILSNC participated in a conference call this week to learn about the involvement of disabled activists in the Occupy movement in other cities.  We heard from activists in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco.  In those cities, disabled people have taken leadership roles.

Evan LeVang and others from ILSNC have been marching on Saturdays in support of the OccupyChico encampment.  Included is a picture taken at last week’s march downtown.  Our numbers are growing locally, nationally and everywhere else.

The movement needs you and you need the movement.  Join us this Saturday at Noon at the Hands sculpture (4th & Wall St) for a march and rally.

Ongoing Occupation Needs You!

This Saturday, October 15, the next large rally is planned in support of OccupyChico. So far, the disability community has been largely absent from the rallies and ongoing occupation. This is the issue of our time. We absolutely need to be part of the effort.

Occupy Chico gets vocal at 2nd & Broadway 10-5-11

ILSNC director, Evan LeVang, sees hope in the Occupy Movement for re-activating the long-dormant disability community.  “Over the past few years it has become clear that – despite our best efforts at community organizing – too many members of the disability community simply don’t participate in the effort to save disability programs from budget-cutting state legislators.  Sadly, as threatened and actual program cuts have become more severe over the past few years, our local disability community has  actually become less active and less visable.  People tell me that they feel exhausted, beaten-down and powerless in the face of unrelenting cuts made by legislators unwilling to consider alternatives to gutting social programs in order to balance the state budget.  But people need to understand that it’s going to get much worse – and happen very soon – if we don’t start taking action and getting involved.  In the current state budget agreement there are “trigger cuts” to programs like In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) set to take place in December if certain tax revenue levels are not met.  We could be looking at a  20% cut in IHSS services if we simply sit back and hope for the best.  This would be a catastrophic disruption in people’s lives,” says LeVang.

He continues, “IHSS is just one of several programs that people with disabilities depend on that are facing deep cuts.  But rather than becoming despondent about our prospects for the future, we now have a reason for hope – an incredible opportunity to re-engage and push back – through the emerging “Occupy” movement.   I’m calling upon people with disabilities, our families, friends and allies to show up to lend your presence and your support to the Occupy Chico, Occupy Redding or Occupy wherever this Saturday, October 15.”

We must all get out front and center to ensure our visibility. If we fail to show up, we risk being forgotten in all the commotion. Only by showing up frequently and verbalizing our issues will we have the chance to be part of the change we need. This is far more effective than begging legislators for mercy. See you at the  Occupation!

For more information, visit OccupyChico on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/occupychico/

Come Down to Chico’s “Wall Street” on Saturday

You are part of the 99%.  People living with disabilities need relief, too.  Come out this Saturday to join the “Occupy Chico” movement.  We are allied with the national movement to reclaim our power.  Join us at the “Chico Hands.”  Meet at 10 AM @ the corner of 4th & Wall St.  We will “Occupy Wall Street” for a second Saturday.  For updated information, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/occupychico