Baton Rouge Press Club Presentation

November 28, 2011 in General Assembly by Bryan

Today, Monday, November 28, 2011, representatives from Occupy Baton Rouge spoke at the Baton Rouge Press Club.

There was a camera from LPB, a second news camera, and several reporters in attendance. I am still searching for the LPB Press Club schedule, but I think their website should have the video up after they air it.

Below is a transcript of the statement:

Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting us.

My name is Sophie Kunen. This is Bryan Perkins. We were chosen by the Occupy Baton Rouge General Assembly to speak at this event.

As autonomous individuals—unless we explicitly state that what we are saying has been brought before the General Assembly—we can only speak for ourselves—not the movement as a whole. In the same vein, Occupy Baton Rouge cannot speak for Occupy Wall Street or any other solidarity group around the world.

Occupy Baton Rouge defines itself as a leaderless, non-violent resistance movement. We see that money, not voting, shapes public policy; that the extremely rich are bailed out while the lower and middle classes are forced to bear the brunt of a failing economy; and that the needs of society are placed behind the profiteering of corporations.

The first Occupy Baton Rouge General Assembly was held on October 22nd. Since then, we’ve held General Assemblies twice a week: Saturdays at noon and Wednesdays at 6. Minutes for the General Assemblies are posted on OccupyBR.com to ensure complete transparency.

In solidarity with other cities in the Occupy movement, we are organizing an encampment. A permit was applied for, but it was denied on the grounds that, and I quote:

“The area being requested (and all Capitol Park grounds) are not equipped for overnight camping of any type” and “this activity would require a security presence that our Department of Public Safety is not staffed or equipped to provide the necessary manpower.”

In addition to the permit being denied, our legal advisors were out of town, there was an obvious police presence, the courts were on holiday, and all of the media attention was directed at LSU’s campus, so the General Assembly decided that the announced date of Black Friday was not the best day to start the encampment.

Our next direct action event is scheduled for December 10th: The Alternative Day of Action in celebration of International Human Rights Day.

Some detractors of the movement claim that we do not have a unified goal, but that is only because they refuse to listen. In general, the Occupy Movement feels as though the government and the corporate world have failed us—both morally and economically. However, this only touches on some of the reform we are demanding. The following are 15 points of unity that have been agreed upon by the Occupy Baton Rouge General Assembly. Keep in mind that these points are not in order of importance.

1. The Collusion Between Government and Corporations Must End: In order to move towards reducing money’s influence on politics, the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. the FEC must be overturned. Money is not speech and corporations are not people.

2. The Government Must be Transparent and Accountable to the People: Every person should have the right to participate in the decisions which affect their life. All processes of the three branches of government should be accountable to the people, should be transparent, and should follow the rule of law.

3. Elections Must be Fair and Equitable: We call for massive election reform. The influence of money must be taken out of the election process. All candidates should be mandated equal media time, by law. Voting should shape public policy, not money.

4. The Financial System Must be Reformed: We must end policies that foster a wealth divide. Speculation and irresponsible banking practices were big contributors to the financial collapse. Much of this stems from a lack of corporate accountability and the erosion of proper financial regulation, such as the Glass-Steagall act.

5. Labor Rights Must be Protected: All working-age people must have the right to unionize. Workers must be guaranteed the right to safe working conditions, paid leave, and fair, sustainable wages.

6. Environmental Sustainability Must be a Priority: We must adopt policies which effectively move toward a carbon-free and radioactive-free energy economy. In order to conserve the natural ecosystem and to protect the rights of future generations, we must reduce pollution and deforestation. Those who violate environmental regulations must be held accountable.

7. The Military-Industrial Complex Must be Dismantled: We must prevent the privatization of our military. We must reduce the national security state, end the weapons export industry, and reduce military spending. War crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace must be addressed, and those responsible must be held accountable under international law.

8. Human Rights Must be Protected: To ensure equal rights for all people, exploitation and discrimination of all forms must be eliminated.

9. The Prison-Industrial Complex Must be Dismantled: Everyone deserves the right to effective representation and due process of the law. And all prisoners deserve the right to humane and just conditions. The focus of the prison system should be on rehabilitation and reintegration into society. We must put an end to private, for-profit prisons.

10. The Education System Must be Reformed: Financing of education should be a priority. The paltry funding of education is a disservice to our citizens, and it hurts the poorest and most underprivileged members of our society the most. We must prevent the privatization of the public school system. All people deserve the right to a high quality, comprehensive, and publicly-funded education.

11. Access to Healthcare Must be a Civil Right: Everyone, despite their income or employment status, deserves access to healthcare. Accessible, quality healthcare should be a basic human right.

12. The Right to Food and Water Must be Ensured: We must end food deserts and advocate for the millions facing famine, thirst, and malnutrition worldwide. We must protect the land and water from pollution and privatization, and create local, sustainable food networks.

13. Safe and Affordable Housing Must be a Priority: Everyone should have the right to a residence. Homelessness and urban blight should not exist.

14. Public Transportation Must be Made Available: There should exist safe spaces for pedestrians and non-automobile travel, and we must provide a clean, convenient, and affordable public transit system.

15. The Airwaves Must be Protected: Freedom of the press should extend to all persons, from corporate media to citizen journalists. The airwaves and the internet are public goods and should be protected from censorship.

In the simplest of terms, we want to end corporate bribery of our elected politicians and return our democracy back to the people.

We bring these points of unity before the Baton Rouge Press Club today not only to be heard, but to issue a challenge to local politicians, to the local media, and to the people of Louisiana.

To the politicians, we ask that you respond to the issues that we have highlighted and let your positions be known.

To the media, we ask that you use your platform to accurately depict our movement. You have the power to influence the masses. Use that power responsibly. We are not jealous, entitled children looking for handouts; we are a local, national, and international movement dedicated to looking beyond our own selfish needs and fighting for the rights of every human being.

To the people of Louisiana we ask that you wake up to the false dichotomy between Republican and Democrat. The problems we face are systemic and widespread, and they are not unique to a single party. We cannot expect corporations or the government to act morally on their own. It is the duty and responsibility of every person to be constantly vigilant in ensuring they do so.

Here now, across the nation, and around the world, history is being made. It only remains to be determined on which side you will stand.

Thank you for listening. We will be glad to answer any questions.

Baton Rouge Press Club Meeting – OccupyBR

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