Occupy JP movement begins

November 18, 2011
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(Image from Occupy JP on Facebook) The flyer for the next Occupy JP meeting.

An “Occupy JP” movement is organizing as a local version of the Occupy Wall Street protest.

Occupy JP began organizing at a Nov. 13 “general assembly” meeting and is still deciding its agenda—including whether it will be an actual occupation.

“There was a lot of discussion about whether we would even want to quote-unquote take over and occupy anything. We already occupy the neighborhood,” said Emily McArthur, one of four Jamaica Plain residents and socialist activists who came up with the idea. But shuttered Boston Public Schools (BPS) buildings or foreclosed homes are possible occupation targets, she added.

The general goal is to make the “Occupy” movement sustainable long-term by rooting it in local communities. Occupy JP could transfer the “militancy” and “visibility” of the national Occupy protests to new and existing activist efforts here, McArthur said.

She said the organizers “intend to take the JP model to Dewey Square,” the site of the Occupy Boston protest downtown, and try to inspire more community-based activism.

The founders of the Occupy JP movement are all members of the organization Socialist Alternative and are active in Occupy Boston. But it is not a Socialist Alternative project, McArthur said.

About 18 people showed up for the first meeting, held at Doyle’s Café. Among them were BPS teachers, Veterans for Peace activists and an organizer from the JP arts nonprofit Spontaneous Celebrations, McArthur said.

Cuts to school budgets and social services were discussed, she said. The Boston branch of Socialist Alternative, which is a national organization, already has activist efforts against such cuts. They include the Boston Parent-Teacher Alliance, which has organized at JP’s Curley K-8 School, McArthur said.

Occupy JP is also drawing support from some opponents of Whole Foods Market’s controversial move into Hyde Square this year. McArthur said she had signed an anti-Whole Foods petition.

“My perspective is, Whole Foods, they’re union-busters,” she said, adding that a community benefits agreement sought from the chain store by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council is “very reasonable.”

But, McArthur said, Occupy JP has not had a “direct conversation on how we might mobilize on that sentiment yet.”

McArthur is a University of Massachusetts Boston student who works at a food truck that happens to be in Dewey Square. She said that Occupy JP was sparked by a sense that the “energy [is] dissipating” in the Occupy protests, especially as winter nears.

One inspiration is the similar “Indignants” protests in Spain, which are moving toward community-based councils of activists, she said. She referred to Occupy JP’s organizers as a “neighborhood council,” which is not the same thing as the longstanding JP Neighborhood Council.

Another benefit of “occupying” a neighborhood instead of a downtown park can be seen in this week’s police rousting of the original Occupy Wall Street in New York City.

“They’re not going to be able to sweep us out of our homes,” McArthur said.

Whatever its agenda ends up being, Occupy JP aims to “unite the two JPs—the rich, perhaps white, section, and the poorer black and Hispanic section,” McArthur said. That includes publicizing everything in both English and Spanish.

The group also wants more than 18 people involved. “Obviously, JP is a much larger neighborhood than that,” McArthur said.

Occupy JP holds it next organizing meeting Nov. 20 at Spontaneous Celebrations. (See JP Agenda.) A flyer for the meeting shows bloody shackled wrists breaking a chain made out of dollar signs.

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