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The Birth of Occupy Birmingham

The Birth of Occupy Birmingham
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BIRMINGHAM, AL – On September 17th, 2011, a large group of about 100 protestors marched from UAB across southside to Five Points and back. They were led by William Anderson, UAB student and organizer, in opposition to Alabama’s anti-immigration bill HB56.  One among them held a sign saying “Occupy Birmingham.”  As they passed through Five Points they noticed a single person standing there holding a sign and wearing a “Guy Fawkes” mask, an image popularized by Alan Moore’s character from the story V for Vendetta, and taken up by the ‘anonymous’ hacker culture.  Later that day more would join this masked mystery-man on this first day of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, a daylight ‘occupation’ that would continue and eventually manifest in the 24/7 encampment at 20th and 5th avenue north in the financial district.

A week after the launching of the OWS, the first scheduled meeting of Occupy Birmingham had attracted over 20 folks, so it was decided by consensus to hold the next general assembly at Brother Bryan park, and there the method of decision-making by general assembly was worked out.  A website, facebook page, and twitter account had been created, and with the use of flyers these communication methods served to grow the movement, which had it’s first large turnout at Railroad Park on October sixth.  The statement from Occupy Wall Street was read to and repeated back by the crowd through the use of the “mic check” popularized by the GA’s of Liberty (Zuccotti) Park in New York City.

On October 15th the largest gathering yet for Occupy Birmingham marched from RR park to Five Points, with an estimated 350 protestors.  Since then, many general assemblies have been held, as well as education sessions designed to explain the movement and relevant issues, including, among other issues, the 2008 economic collapse, the Birmingham sewer debt financial scandal which has led to the county declaring bankruptcy, and the anti-immigrant legislation HB56.  Actions against these problems include National Bank Transfer Day, when billions of dollars were transferred to local credit unions, withdrawn from the big bailed out banks who, with the bought-out political establishment, caused the crash of 2008, but no arrests of these individuals have been made.  Yet.

Since November 7th there has been a full time 24/7 presence in front of Regions bank and Wells Fargo, and the encampment has adapted with the weather, to work within building permits, inventing the ‘nonstructure’, a palette/carboard/tarp sleeping accommodation for those who stand for the most elemental statement, ‘this is our public space.’  Visitors are encouraged to show their support in person, as coming out of doors is the first step to real social change.

-Walter Simon-

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