On February 2, 2012 the Occupy Buffalo encampment on Niagara Square was evicted. Michael Mottern, Chair of the Young Social Democrats has been a leader of Occupy Buffalo from the beginning. Enclosed are his thoughts about the achievements of the movement, its eviction, and its aftermath.
Occupy Buffalo: Eviction, Aftermath, and Achievements
On February 2, 2012, at approximately 2 AM in the morning the Occupy Buffalo encampment was evicted, and 10 people were arrested – one of them was my friend “Big John Washington.” This was after three days of debate in Occupy Buffalo emergency general assembly meetings over whether the movement should accept a five week extension of its stay in Niagara Square from the Buffalo Common Council. After that extension they would have to leave anyway because the city needed the space for the coming festival season – a major fund raiser for the city. Since a majority of the general assembly opposed the Common Council proposal it was rejected.
It has been claimed that the Occupy Buffalo movement accomplished nothing. The fact is that it accomplished a lot. Perhaps the most significant concrete political achievement of the Occupy Buffalo movement was its campaign against the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to raise the city’s bus fares while simultaneously reducing its bus routes. Approximately 2 weeks before Occupy Buffalo’s eviction, the Authority put 42 bus routes on the chopping block, most of them going out to the suburbs and serving working-class Americans especially the disabled. Occupy Buffalo distributed 7000 flyers, and packed the public hearings against the budget cuts with very vocal opponents, most of them individuals with disabilities. They demanded that the NFTA turnover valuable waterfront property to the city of Buffalo, to further develop Buffalo’s waterfront, and stood against increasing the fares, as well as line cuts. The result of all of this political activity was that while the NFTA did ultimately rise its fares, it did not cut the city’s bus routes.
Other significant Occupy Buffalo actions were:
The Occupy Buffalo Movement’s tireless work to get the Buffalo Common Council to divest from doing business with Chase Bank. Movement members attended every cCmmon Council meeting, every committee meeting, and public hearings, exercising their civic responsibility and their national duty as good citizens.
The Occupy Buffalo Movement’s success in unearthing Gov. Cuomo’s $1 billion scam to fund a public-private medical complex, with taxpayer dollars and eliminate low income housing in the hospital corridor of Buffalo’s East Side.
The Movement’s very successful rally in Amherst, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, to protest the Steven J. Baum law firm. This law firm dealt with 40% of New York State foreclosures, and was under investigation by the New York State Bar Association for unethical business practices regarding foreclosures on working-class citizens in New York State.
Finally it can be said that the Occupy Buffalo Movement can be called a model protest for the rest of America because it has worked tirelessly with the city government, and coalition partners like, Citizen Action, Coalition for Economic Justice, Western New York Peace Center, and a dozen or so unions that showed Occupy Buffalo in a very favorable light with the news media on Workers Appreciation Day, etc.
Occupy Buffalo has made national news, regarding its good relationship with City Hall and its peaceful protesters that on the final hour were willing to go to jail for what they believed. It is the model protest for the rest of the nation because without knowing it, they took a Max Shachtman’s social democratic and reasonable approach to civic diplomacy, as opposed to that of America’s more revolutionary political sects.
The eviction of Occupy Buffalo from Niagara Squire has not ended the movement or even weakened it. Since the eviction, the general assembly has been even more attended, and is currently hosting a meeting at the local Spot Coffee to discuss purchasing a building off the city on their own. They have raised over $12,000.00, money contributed by the general public, and by the unions. They agreed to pay back the city for damages done to the grass, and one light post. I believe we will eventually get our Center for Social Justice in due time.
But for now we have to focus on the next chapter of the Occupy Buffalo Movement. That of course will mean more public meetings with elected officials, and general assembly meeting in Niagara square. But our spirits are still high, and the movement is not going away any time soon.