Former Weather Underground terrorist leader, and long time colleague of president Barack Obama, Bill Ayers is actively supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement, in his home town of Chicago – while his education activist brother Rick Ayers wants to see the movement extended to the nation’s schools.
In an October 16 interview with Chicago Sun-Times journalist Laura Washington, Bill Ayers described the” Occupy” movement as a “North American Spring,” akin to the “Arab Spring” still playing out in North Africa and the Middle East.
“These kinds of movements expand our consciousness of what’s possible…Every revolution seems impossible at the beginning, and after it happens, it was inevitable.”
Ayers’ support took a more practical form October 19, when the retired UIC professor led a “teach-in” with Occupy Chicago protesters on ” non-violent direct action” at the group’s HQ (in front of the Federal Reseve Bank at Jackson and LaSalle).
Ayers detailed the tactics and history of the Civil Rights movement, drawing analogies to the group before him. “You created power where there was none,” the famed agitator said.
Ayers spoke naturally to the crowd of 40, who sat in rapture, registering their approval by lifting silent fingers.
“It’s critical that you maintain your independence,” Ayers told the crowd – warning them not to be co-opted by labor unions or the Democrats. History, Ayers told the assembled activists, shows his preferred approach to political power. “Martin Luther King didn’t go begging for a meeting with Lyndon Johnson,” Ayers said. “Lyndon Johnson begged for a meeting with Martin Luther King.”
The protesters seem to have already followed Ayers’ advice. The group turned down Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposition for a meeting, demanding the misdemeanor charges from last Saturday’s arrest of more than 170 activists be dropped first.
Writing from San Francisco, Bill Ayer’s brother Rick, a Professor in Teacher Education at the University of San Francisco, has called for the “Occupy” movement to reach into America’s schools.
Rick Ayers, an activist in his own right and a long time collaborator with his brother Bill in the Rethinking Schools movement, wants to see the OWS tactics “applied to schools“.
Writing in the Huffington Post, Rick Ayers praised OWS for its militancy:
“Occupy wall Street is action. We have had talk, talk, talk for years, decades even. The right — the think tanks, big media outlets, politicians, foundations — thunders its dogma on a regular basis. The left – community organizers, unions, educators, activists — refute their arguments, though with a much smaller voice and very few dollars. But it has all just been a conversation.
Now action obliterates the deadlock. Whatever we have been waiting for — Obama, common sense, karma — we realized it was never coming to help us and it is time for action. Action creates facts, and facts are essential — they create possibilities and new words, fresh vocabularies. The silenced majority, the 99%, has finally been pushed so far that it is pushing back. Every movement is improbable until it happens; after the fact it so clearly was inevitable.“
Rick Ayers went on to say:
The same type of bold action could be applied to schools. The privatizers, those who would strip down our schools to being test-prep factories training only for compliance and passivity, have made their case with all the volume that billions of dollars can buy…
But so far it has only been a conversation. It does not matter if we defeat their arguments over and over. They still have the purse strings, the foundations, and the big megaphone. The time has come for action. Take over these schools. Occupy them. Sit in. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We built these schools with our taxes, our labor, our commitment to students and communities. They are not just playthings for overfed business dilettantes. Instead of taking marching orders from Wall Street, we need to take these schools and make them institutions of liberation.
With students, community members, and teachers in these buildings, imagine the possibilities. Poetry workshop in one room; free clinic in another; science lab in a third. Food production. Critical pedagogy class. Strategy meetings. A kind of education that embraces deep meaning, knowledge for people’s needs, and participatory democracy. Watch these young people step up. In a liberated space, the bored and resistant students in the back of the room will be transformed. You will see them taking responsibility for their education, demonstrate their desire for ethical action, for sacrifice for the common good, and for a future they can believe in.
Can we do this? At one site? At a hundred? You can be certain that this is a discussion popping up all over the country. This is the kind of action that would trump the endless, and ultimately losing, debate we have been locked in over the past years. We can’t talk our way out of the problems in education. But we can act, together, because another world is possible.“
Is the “Occupy” movement a passing phase that will wither when the first blasts of winter hit Chicago and New York and Milwaukee? Or is this the beginning a much more significant, and dangerous period of US history?
The involvement of veteran activists like the Ayers brothers indicates that this is no mere passing explosion of youthful anarchist outrage. The “mature” left is backing OWS for a reason. They’ve been waiting for this for a long time. They knew it would come. After all, their Marxist creed tells them that revolution is inevitable. Its only a matter of time.