(un)Occupy Albuquerque, New Mexico
At the Occupy National Gathering this past July, we found ourselves completely in awe of two people who spoke at a group discussion on people of color and Occupy hosted by organizers of (A)GITAT(E), an anarchist convergence happening concurrently. After a long conversation on the grass, we learned Amalia and Maria were organizers with (un)Occupy Albuquerque who had consented to sending them as representatives, and raised funds on their own for travel costs. With the overwhelming feeling that getting to know our new (un)Occupy friends and hearing their thoughts was the the highlight of our time at the National Gathering, we looked forward to visiting Albuquerque on the Radical Resistance Tour more than ever.
Maria told us that when visitors come to (un)Occupy, they almost always ask about “the name-change.” That was easily understandable, since it was one of our first questions to them during our interview. As they often do, and as Amalia skillfully did at the National Gathering, they touched upon several reasons how and why the name-change happened.
- New Mexico has the second-highest national percentage of indigenous inhabitants, and a not-so-distant history of colonization that continues to oppress indigenous communities today. The word “occupy” is something with which people already have experience, and it comes with much gravity.
- We’re supposed to be working in solidarity with one another, sharing struggles, resisting together. Hurtful language to one should be treated as hurtful language to all, so without subverting the word occupy, it will alienate people both in and out of activist communities.
- Establishing a community called Occupy Albuquerque would be redundant because Albuquerque has been occupied for 500 years. Indigenous resistance to this already-existing occupation has been going on for just as long.
- Using the name (un)Occupy immediately identifies the community as anti-oppressive and invites people to check their privilege so they can listen to, and try to learn the history of the land and the community. To understand one another and establish a human connection before organizing together.
When word got around of Unoccupy Puerto Rico, deOccupy Honolulu, and how the three-week old encampment at Yale Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, had changed its name from Occupy Albuquerque to (un)Occupy Albuquerque, it was an inspiring milestone and development for activists with an analysis of colonization and anti-oppression who were organizing with Occupy.
The re-naming happened at a General Assembly (GA) in mid-October 2011, after several six-hour meetings. This was right around the time it was becoming increasingly apparent at encampments like Occupy Wall Street, where the ubiquitous media favored dazed hippies and fresh-faced indebted collegiates–that the image of the new revolution sweeping the country was one that was white and male.
The Occupy movement evolved from the goal to create a new world in which communities and individuals would commit to practicing anti-oppressive techniques, like progressive stack and active listening. It was also presumed that other principles like decolonization, anti-racism, anti-classism, anti-fascism, anti-sexism were shared by the entire community. (un)Occupy’s name-change was a firm display of a commitment to decolonization, and expression that such commitment must be established before enlisting in the struggle of the 99%. There was a handful of folks who had very different priorities and left the community once the renaming proposal passed. For newcomers, the encampment’s different name was a clear indicator that its people shared a foundational mindset and heartset.
(un)Occupy Albuquerque continues to hold GAs twice a week and organizes actions regularly. Their GA operates using consensus, just like that night in October, when the present community nearly unanimously agreed to change their name from Occupy Albuquerque. With the rise of the IdleNoMore movement and local solidarity mobilization, (un)Occupy Albuquerque has no shortage of actions and events to organize. In addition, they participate in annual actions at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a well-known nuclear testing facility, where they commemorate the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in solidarity with a local anti-nuclear organization, Nuke Free Now.
Lately, trial support has been in full swing at (un)Occupy for 6 arrestees at the LANL action last August. Each of the six activists is facing up to 6 months in prison and $1,500 in fines. You can help donate to their legal defense fund here, or show up to support them at their trial tomorrow, January 9th, at 9 a.m., at the Los Alamos Municipal Court.