Occupy Museums Returns to MoMA

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“In the face of so much suffering, if art insists on being a luxury, it will also be a lie.” ~ Albert Camus

With the whole world asking "what's next?" for Occupy Wall Street, OWS activists concerned with economic justice in the arts and in labor have announced plans to visit the Museum of Modern Art this Friday, where they will take advantage of the museum's waved $25 admission fee. "I tried going on Wednesday, but I couldn't afford it," said activist and art enthusiast Tim Gately. Although free nights at MoMA are now sponsored by the retail giant Target, the tradition was introduced in the 1970s as the direct result of grassroots activism by the Artist Workers Coalition. 

This action coalesces around a number of issues, from the cult of 1% luxury and celebrity promoted at MoMA to the museum’s close relationship with union busting Sotheby's. Come and experience a unique and lively evening. Everyone is invited to experience the museum as a true public forum.

Occupy Museums and Occupy 477 at the Museum of American Finance

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December 7th, 2011, was the National Day Against Foreclosure. Occupy Museums joined with Occupy 477 to build a model of the coop building at 477 W. 142nd Street in Harlem threatened with foreclosure and predatory lenders. We marched the model along a historic route, concluding at the Museum of American Finance (MoAF), where we offered the model of 477 as an artifact of how finance affects the everyday lives of the 99%. The Museum sent a security guard through their line of police to decline our offer, and promptly closed the museum during visiting hours. A week later, Occupy Museums and Occupy 477 sent a letter to the MoAF and its board of trustees reiterating our desire to donate the model to their collection. They accepted, and we are currently engaged in the acquisition process with their staff. A copy of the letter chain is here. 

Occupy Satyagraha at Lincoln Center

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For the sixth action, we occupied Lincoln Center during their last showing of the Philip Glass opera, ‘Satyagraha.’ It was a glaringly obvious contradiction that the Lincoln Center would present an opera about the non-violent protest leaders Gandhi and Martin Luther King First, when Lincoln Center is heavily funded by David H Koch and Bloomberg LP, who is currently bent on dismantling the OWS protests, restricting freedom of speech and of the press. For this action, hundreds gathered at the police barricades all around the Lincoln Center plaza. We took off our shoes as a sign of dignity and mic checked a statement together. When the opera ended and people poured out onto Lincoln Plaza,  the opera audience was warded off from joining us by the police.  All of a sudden, the composer Philip Glass  popped up in the OWS crowd, and mic-checked a text from the opera three times.  This unified the crowd, completing the big assembly on both sides of the barricades. Many spoke including an opera singer from Lincoln Center who had been fired the day before on cutbacks. Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed were there and spoke. Finally, an autonomous OWS protester read a statement initiating his six day hunger strike, demanding that Lincoln Center open up its space to Freedom of Speech. 

Occupy Opera!

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The initial plan, hatched in the mind of Ben, a Julliard PHD candidate, was to mic check the Opera, but we were found out. We went to plan B: an Assembly outside of the doors of the opera just after it ended. When we arrived, Our group was far outnumbered by NYPD who had two paddywagons parked on Broadway. They ushered us into a pen which we loudly occupied. Many of us told our stories about student debt, and dealing with a culture controlled by the 1%. Some spoke more specifically about Julliard. We chanted "Off the Stage and Into the Streets" which provoked the Opera-goers who had just seen students protests onstage and seemed to find it troubling to be met by a real one. Some smiled, and the librettist finally joined us on our sides of the barricades. Then we marched to Lincoln Center and stood nose to nose with a line of cops preventing us to enter. We loudly discussed David H. Koch's donations to Lincoln Center until the police and Lincoln Center manager were forced to evict us from the steps. 

Teamsters Local 814 Solidarity

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For the fourth action, we joined a chorus of voices including artists, labor unions, and allies and re-occupied Sotheby’s joining the lock-out Teamsters on their picket line for the Fall Contemporary Art sale. We gathered and rallied in Liberty Park, occupied the subways, and joined the crowds at Sotheby’s. We stood in solidarity with the Unions, demanding that profits should not be made off of the backs of working people. We stood strong as brave friends engaged in a direct action “lock-down,” that included U-locking their necks to one another in protest of the locked out workers. These direct actions gave us energy and determination as we watched the police violently arrest and drag protesters away.