Oct. 6, Freedom Plaza May Feel a Bit Like Tahrir Square

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We will be nonviolently shutting down buildings and offices and hallways and streets. – David Swanson

Oct. 6 marks the end of the first decade of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the beginning of a nonviolent action that may make D.C.’s Freedom Plaza feel a bit like Egypt’s Tahrir Square. “Thousands and thousands of people have pledged to be there, and not for one day,” said author and activist David Swanson, who is helping organize the event as part of October 2011.

As he stood outside the White House on Sept. 3, the final day of the two-week mass civil disobedience against the Keystone XL pipeline, Swanson discussed the upcoming action, which will see protesters camping out day and night at Freedom Plaza.

We’ll make the same persuasive arguments that we always make about the agenda that everybody has: taxing the wealthy, ending the wars, cutting the military, saving the environment, creating jobs. But we’ll do so with actions that take inspiration from the Arab Spring and countries around the world where people try to interfere with what their government is doing, not just speak to it. We will be nonviolently shutting down buildings and offices and hallways and streets.

While the action has been organized by individuals, there are more than 100 organizations supporting it. October 2011 lists “Fifteen Core Issues the Country Must Face,” including: corporatism; wars and militarism; worker rights and jobs; criminal justice and prisons; healthcare; education and housing.

Swanson noted a paradox plaguing the U.S. political process: Americans are quick to criticize their government, but reluctant to take constructive steps to make it better.

[There are] millions of Americans who are able to say: “The system is broken.” “The government is not working for us.” “The government is completely corrupted.” But [then they also say], “How dare you shut it down?” Somehow, too many Americans think that’s an approach you take toward evil, non-American governments, [but not] the American government [which] is sacred, even though it’s “completely broken” and “corrupt” and “working for Wall Street” and “screwing us all.”

Somehow, if we can get over that hump of loyalty to the government, of loyalty to a party, and have people say, “We are the sovereigns of this nation [and] it’s We The People in whose name the Constitution was written,” then we’ll have a movement. It won’t accomplish everything this year, but it will be started.

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