Solidarity to occupiers in Chapel Hill

Saturday night, comrades in Chapel Hill occupied an abandoned building in downtown Chapel Hill and made this map of a possible future for the building:

The City of Chapel Hill apparently felt threatened enough by this proposal to send in a SWAT team armed with semi-automatic weapons to evict and arrest occupiers.

We send our love & solidarity to the comrades in Chapel Hill and hope to hear of many more buildings being liberated in the near future! As winter comes, stay strong, stay safe and stay warm!

Contact Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and tell him what you think of this use of force: (919) 968-2714/cell: (919) 360-8458 or markkleinschmidt@gmail.com

Follow the struggle.

 

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3Cs occupies…

3Cs not only drifts through the global knowledge machine, but occupies parts of it as well:

NYC

Durham

Boston

Zaragoza

Buenos Aires

See the Guardian’s map of Occupies & the map of Oct. 15 events around the world.

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taller con iconoclasistas

El mes pasado Liz, quien está ahora en Buenos Aires, participó en el taller de Iconoclasistas: Territorialidades urbanas, corporales y subjetivas en el CIA. Se puede ver fotos y leer el diario del taller acá.

Last month, Liz, who is now in Buenos Aires, participated in Iconoclasista’s workshop: Urban, Corporal, and Subjective Territories in the CIA. You can see pictures and read an account of the workshop here.

And recently two of Iconoclasista’s maps, on the soy and mining industries in Argentina, were translated into English. See and download them here.

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Geografía Crítica en Bogotá

Liz asistió a las jornadas de Geografía Crítica: Teritorialidad, Espacio y Poder en América Latina en Bogotá organizadas por GeoRaizAL. Ver el programa completo. Un día, tal vez, Liz subirá el texto de su ponencia.

También conoció a compañeros Razón Cartográfica.

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3Cs fights ‘studentification’ in Chapel Hill

Local folks will remember the fights, several years ago, over the construction of Greenbridge — a “LEED-certified” monstrosity built right on top of one of Chapel Hill’s few remaining black business districts. When the shovels first broke ground on that building, I had pretty much lost hope that anything could be done to stop the tidal wave of greenwashed capital that was transforming Chapel Hill into a playground of condos and boutiques.

How things have changed!

For the past year or so, we @ 3Cs have been working with folks from UNC-NOW (a student-neighborhood alliance) and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for  Saving and Making History to figure out how counter-mapping could be useful to the continuing struggles of residents of Northside and Pine Knolls. Northside and Pine Knolls are two of the remaining historic African-American neighborhoods in CH; more appropriately they’re the only names left for a cluster of historic neighborhoods on the W edge of Chapel Hill.

We started with a series of open workshops on basic GIS, counter-mapping and the situation in Northside so that we could all be on the same page in terms of basic technical skills and knowledge of the situation. A small group of us kept meeting more-or-less weekly to dig through data, strategize, and make maps. We poured over lists of property owners to determine which ones were investors and which were homeowners. We found out that investors from as far away as Hawaii owned property in Northside, and that the neighborhood’s demographics had shifted from 60% black to 34% in just 30 years. That shift is being driven by ‘studentification’ — as student housing becomes more and more scarce in Chapel Hill, landlords are able to charge outrageously high rents to students (often $500/month for a single room in a packed 6 or 8 bedroom house) . Because the rate of profit is so high, outside investors and developers want into the market, and because Northside and Pine Knolls lack the historic protections of other neighborhoods near campus the best way for them to get in is to convince Northside residents to sell their homes, then either tear them down or renovate them on the cheap to create student apartments.

As we started mapping this process, we were blown away by just how quickly the changeover from family neighborhood to student apartments had taken place in Northside. We remembered visiting friends who had lived in student rentals in the neighborhood in the early 2000s, when it was still predominately black families. Looking at the maps, we could see that most of the change had happened in the past 5 years.

And things were still changing rapidly… if there was a chance to stop the developers, something would have to happen fast.

A few weeks ago, we joined residents and activists in  pushing Chapel Hill’s town council to enact a development moratorium. If it passes, the moratorium would make it stop developers from building any new apartments or renovating any houses for several years, giving all of us some time to organize and figure out how to preserve Northside and Pine Knolls as affordable, family neighborhoods for the long-term. Hudson Vaughan, of the Jackson Center, presented some of the maps we’ve been working on as he made the case that “something needs to happen and happen fast”. To our amazement, Council agreed — unanimously voting to move forward in considering the moratorium, against the recommendations of their own town planning department.

Now we’re getting together more and updated maps to support the testimony of neighborhood residents and activists at an upcoming public hearing, after which the Council will make a final determination. Stay tuned for more…

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Part 2: what is acampada sol?

1. an encampment in the Puerta Sol

consisting of: tables for the different working groups and committees; 3 food stations; 2 infirmaries; a library (with a comfy couch and lots of books); a  children’s space (with matted floors, toys and books); an art space (where people make signs and other artworks for the encampment); a tent offering free massages and “psychological help”; numerous sleeping areas and tents; and a lot of other stuff i’m forgetting. basically, everything one needs to live here (except for showers).

(this is the most recent map i could find, but as it’s a few days old,
it’s no longer exactly accurate)

food comes from donations and the 3 kitchens cook and distribute it

2. “the democracy we want”: decisions in the encampment are made through consensus in the assemblies. all major decisions must be approved in the general assembly. when asked what “real democracy” is, the encampment is the answer. i’ll explain the concept more in the next part of this series, and critiques and problems in the final part.

3. a “meeting-place”, a place for dialogue and debate :

a friend explains to me: “we went to the march because we thought we would be alone, that nobody else would be there so we had to go, the same for the first days of the encampment. and then we saw we were not alone, that there were many other people that thought like us, and we kept going to the plaza so that we wouldn’t be alone”.

the first thing i notice is the strong desire to talk. talking to strangers, not only about why we are angry but what a better world would look like. talking for hours in assemblies with hundreds of people. nobody ever seems to get tired. it’s as if they’ve been silent their whole lives, and now they suddenly realize they can talk, and it’s wonderful. and listening, listening to each other instead of bullshit politicians. and realizing that actually we are just as good at coming up with solutions as the politicians and supposed “experts”.

Traficantes de Sueños organized a presentation of the book La crisis que viene (The Coming Crisis) and a discussion around the causes of the crisis and what we’re calling for (a guaranteed basic income!)

Also, read Marta’s piece: Sol, when the impossible becomes unstoppable

And a nice video about how there is space for everyone in Sol.

4. committees and working groups: one of the constant criticisms from the press and the institutional left is that the 15-M movement is too diverse, there is no one unifying demand or problem, people are interested in too many different single issues. walking around the encampment or looking at the daily schedule, it is easy to see where these critiques come from.

The working groups (charged with generating debate on their topic and developing proposals for discussion in the general assembly): education & the university; culture; environment; economy; social; politics; feminisms; migration & mobility; science and technology; inter-religious dialogue

The committees (dedicated to maintaining the space of the camp and coordinating the assembly process): extension; neighborhoods; infirmary; infrastructure; communication; legal; food; arts; respect; library; dinamization of the assemblies

Most of the working groups and committees where created in the first two days of the encampment in the general assembly. More groups were added as necessary (after approval in the general assembly): neighborhoods after the assembly decided to organize neighborhood assemblies; feminism after a debate about hanging a feminist banner, etc. As they began developing proposals, most of the groups created additional subcommittees (in Spanish).

Sharing the space of the plaza has been one of the major forces holding these groups together – seeing each other, talking to each other and having to collectively live in and govern a common space. Environment organizes recycling; Feminism ensures that gender-neutral language is used & generally intervenes in cases of overly machista behavior; Migration works to make immigrants feel welcome and comfortable in the encampment; etc. Of course this is not enough to create a common project, but it has been a start. And, of course, this space does not have to be a physical space and in the upcoming weeks and months, how we are able to use and share virtual spaces will become increasingly important.

While their physical presence is largely what makes up the encampment, the working groups go well beyond the encampment. They will continue meeting after the tents are taken down and the plaza returns to “normal”.

5. changing: one of the most impressive aspects of the encampment is that it is constantly changing. you’re there in the early afternoon, you leave for class, you come back and there are new structures, new pathways, new posters. in one sense this is super confusing because it makes it hard to find things, but it’s largely exciting (especially when the changes make the space more livable).

for example, the nursery: Originally the encampment had no designated area for children, then a small space was cordoned off in the middle (this was during the days when the camp was super packed and the pathways were narrow so it was almost impossible to reach, especially with small children). Parents were not impressed so they organized a march, bringing their kids and pushing strollers, to the encampment from a nearby plaza. now the nursery is one of the nicest places of the encampment, easily accessible, with cardboard on the floor to make it safer, plenty of toys, a library of children’s books, and lots of arts and crafts activities.

6. #acampadasol: the encampment also exists in a very real way on the internet. the website, the tv station, the radio, the twitter, the facebook page. not only does this allow people far away to see and learn about the camp, but it also means that campers are always in the encampment even when they’re not physically there. You follow the tweets about it when you’re in class, watch the live broadcast when you’re at home. In this way, the camp spreads, takes over the space of the city and our daily lives. This explains it better.

I remember one of the first days of the occupation of the plaza (before it had really consolidated into the encampment), people started chanting: “we’re not on facebook, we’re in the plaza”. I look over at the kid next to me, one of the loudest chanters, uploading a picture to facebook while chanting. This isn’t as much of a contradiction as it might appear to be. Of course, we’re in the plaza, and we’re also in facebook, and the plaza is on facebook and we’re in the facebook plaza. Our power lies in that we can go from facebook to the plaza and back again whenever we want. Our power comes from not needing a political party or a trade union to tell us when to go, from not having to rely on the corporate-controlled media to get our story out. Of course they can block and censor things on the internet, but we already know how to get around that.

7. and much much more.

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Cartographies of a “#revolution” (1)

(The first in a series about the protests in Spain. Disclaimer: I’m in Madrid, therefore my posts are from the perspective of Madrid. There are marches, camps and assemblies in cities and towns across Spain – I would love to hear reports from more of them. Also, the pictures are not mine but have borrowed from other sources.)

I had the good luck to arrive in Spain on May 14, the day before the “#spanishrevolution” was to begin. Of course, it wasn’t entirely luck, I had been inundated with tweets and FB posts about May 15 for months, mostly by friends from Barcelona. That was enough to get me to pay the $40 extra and very quickly move out of my apartment to get to Madrid by the 15th. (point 1 about social media: if it got me to go to Madrid from the US, think how many people were encouraged by social media to travel much shorter distances.)

The May 15 March was largely organized by a diffuse internet-based coalition Democracy Real Ya (Real Democracy, Now), supported by Juventud Sin Futuro, mostly made up of university students, and other groups. You can read the DRY manifesto in English. Of course, it also comes out of a long history of organizing in Spain – elements of the global justice movement, the anti-war movement, autonomous organizations working around migration and precarity, etc.). This conceptual map gives a good overview of the earlier organizing 15-M builds on and the relationships between 15-M and other movements. Also, a piece from Madrilonia examining the genealogy of the movement.

The call was simple: “real democracy now,” “we are not commodities in the hands of bankers and politicians”. A call against a government that insisted in going along with austerity measures, drastically cutting social services, while bankers and finance capitalists continued getting rich and corrupt politicians continued to go free. It was a march as much against the governing socialist party as the opposing conservative party (a common chant was that the 2 parties are the same piece of shit). The comment sentiment that led people to the streets was a sense of anger at this state of affairs, not only at having to bare the brunt of a crisis they did not cause, the massive level of unemployment, the cuts to pensions and health care, but also that all of this was happening under a “socialist” government many of them had at one time voted for or at least not totally despised.

The march in Madrid was march larger than most of us had expected and coincided with large marches in cities and towns across the country. (The event’s facebook page lists most of the participating cities) While most of us slowly left the Puerta del Sol where the march had ended, a few people stayed around, leading to clashes with the police and arrests.

A call was made for a concentration in Sol the following evening in support of the people arrested the night before. I was with a friend who got the call via text message (point 2 about social media: it does not preclude, but in fact works wonderfully with other forms of communication, including face to face communication). We hurried to the plaza to find a small but growing crowd and the first assembly of the Acampada Sol. That night we made the first committees, based on different issues and needs of the movement.

I headed home around 2am, with the plaza still occupied by a small group of people planning to spend the night. A few hours later, there was another confrontation with police and the campers were kicked out of the plaza. As a number of plazas around the world show, once people have decided to occupy a square, they won’t easily give it up: a march to retake the plaza was called for the following evening.  This time, we had more than twice as many people as the night before and, despite our worries, entered the plaza without any trouble from the police. We had no idea at the time, but from that moment on the plaza would be known as the Acampada Sol.

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