2011-11-03, Pambazuka, Issue 556
Approximately 200 Cape Town residents participated in the call for a World Revolution Day on 15 October, inspired by the growing worldwide Occupy Movement. We arrived at Company Gardens next to parliament in typical Capetonian fashion: mostly late, disjointed, and with a huge array of goals and personal agendas to complete on the first day.
In fact, the majority of ‘occupiers’ arrived so late for the revolution that the clean-shaven undercover security operative (sporting an earpiece and touristy camera) had already deemed the protest to be non-threatening and was long gone. The police barely noticed the relaxed picnic atmosphere that was apparent once the crowd grew to more than 70.
Yet despite the beginnings of #OccupyCapeTown, the day did have #OccupyWallSt potential. Cape Town being one of the most unequal, segregated, and racist cities in the world has hundreds of thousands of angry (though demoralised) youth waiting for real change. The townships are a ticking time bomb anticipating the intersection between screams of Sekwanele! and sparks of hope that a mass-based social movement can provide. Would the 99 per cent actually show up? In the end, those that arrived, with the exception of an entourage from Communities for Social Change, were predominantly in the top 19 percentile of the 99. And yet, there was still potential in this space of mostly white privileged activists. Some were acutely aware how their privilege posed problems for the bottom 80 per cent. Seeking to engage directly with issues of white supremacy, class and patriarchy within the 99 per cent, they tried to create a space of solidarity with poor communities without speaking for them or co-opting their struggles. To these few activists, Occupy Cape Town was an exciting experiment in building radical equality that is actively asserted, not merely assumed.
As the day progressed however, many of us were disheartened by the most vocal of the 19 per cent. Continue reading