Occupy Delaware proudly maintains a symbolic encampment at Wilmington’s Spencer Plaza in the spirit of Peter Spencer, who founded the first independent African American church and whose nearby gravesite we honor.
We protest the domination of America’s economic and political life by big bankers and other members of the “one percent,” whose runaway industries and fraudulent mortgage practices have devastated the U.S. economy, more harshly in African American communities. Since we began our occupation last fall, we have partnered with many individuals and civil rights, peace, church, and labor organizations in marches, sheriff’s sale protests and other expressions of First Amendment rights.
While bankers, untouchable and flush, rest easy in their suites, the city threatens to abrogate its agreement with Occupy Delaware and push us out, complaining of issues long resolved and using inflammatory rhetoric.
We’ve nurtured good relationships with the city and police. We require all who share our site to obey the law. We ask those who don’t abide to leave and have, occasionally, called the police.
However, we see up close those left behind wounded and wandering the streets when bankers and lawyers nightly return to McMansions in the burbs. We see the results of policies going back fifty years to disempower and impoverish the citizens of Wilmington.
The church Peter Spencer built with his hands was erased in an earlier one-percenter scheme known as Poplar Street Project A, when the East Side was given low-ball appraisals, condemned, and torn down. About the same time, I-95 ripped the city in two down the Adams Street corridor. When Delaware let big banks charge loan-shark rates, they ran glass and steel juggernauts over neighborhoods, corner stores, and even old Ezion-Mount Carmel UMC to make way for MBNA.
Simultaneously, the “war on drugs” became the “New Jim Crow.” According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, blacks are less likely to abuse drugs than whites, yet they are ten times as likely to face arrest, imprisonment, voter disenfranchisement, and ineligibility for student loans and employment in banks. Black, white, or brown, ex-offenders cannot even mop the floors in banks grown rich on misery. They don’t go to Betty Ford’s. Instead, they endure poverty, homelessness, incarceration, disease, and death.
Since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, powerful banks have generated the housing bubble, robo-signing, mass foreclosures, and the Great Recession. In 1984, black households held one-twelfth the wealth of white households; in 2009, black households held only one twentieth.
According to Attorney General Beau Biden’s office, 20,000 homes in Delaware are “in distress”; foreclosures are expected to increase 3 percent in 2012. While Biden’s Foreclosure Mediation Program is laudable, he cannot reach Wilmington’s many threatened homeowners from his office. He should emulate the Delaware Housing Authority’s successful pilot mediation program: Employ Wilmington’s experienced nonprofits to make the program effective.
Our General Assemblies are open to everybody, including city officials, whom we’ve invited specifically. Times and minutes are posted on our website at occupyde.org. Anyone who sees our meetings, website, or Facebook page will see how democratic, transparent, and respectful we are. We have always responded to the city’s concerns. We were surprised and disappointed by the latest threats, since we had heard no complaints since December.
Guilt by association and Wilmington’s 1968 National Guard occupation destroyed Wilmington Youth Emergency Action Council (WYEAC), which had aimed to empower youth neglected by the city elite’s self-serving projects. We trust that Mayor Baker, who was a part of WYEAC as a VISTA volunteer, will receive our efforts to negotiate positively. We expect to continue bearing witness in Spencer Plaza.
We are an inclusive group of citizens. We are Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Constitutionalists, independents, anarchists, libertarians, and socialists. We are faith-based, secular, men, women, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, blended, Latino, Jew, and Egyptian. We are autoworkers, teachers, students, waiters, unemployed, and even a banker or two. We are the 99 percent. This is what democracy looks like. Join us.
- written by Philip Bannowsky and published in today’s News Journal.