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South African ‘Occupy’ Movement Cites ‘Global Rebellion’

by Katia Savchuk

This Saturday, students and unemployed people will march into Grahamstown, a city in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province, and set up camp in a square near its main cathedral. The protest, "Occupy Grahamstown," is being organized by the Unemployed People's Movement and Students for Social Justice. 

The Unemployed People's Movement has led protests in Grahamstown before; just last April, the grassroots group marched to demand sanitation, electricity and housing. But this time is different. Inspired by protests around the world, they clearly see their local struggle as part of a "global rebellion."

"As a movement of the poor we have taken great inspiration from the rebellion that has spread from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Syntagma Square in Athens, the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and now Liberty Plaza in New York," the group wrote in its press statement.

"We have been inspired by this global rebellion because the comrades in Tahrir Square showed the world the strength of a united and determined people," the statement continued. "We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the bankers that their time of ruling the world is over. We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the politicians that from Cairo to New York people are determined to rule themselves and to build their own power from the ground up."

In "The Right to the City" (2008), David Harvey argues that in order for movements to effectively claim the right to shape cities and resist dispossession these days, they must converge in "a global struggle, predominantly with finance capital, for that is the scale at which urbanization processes now work." At the time when Harvey was writing, at the heart of the U.S. foreclosure crisis and beginning of worldwide recession, he noted that "we have yet … to see a coherent opposition to these developments in the twenty-first century." However, he saw "signs of rebellion everywhere" and realized that "any of these revolts could become contagious." Three years later, his prediction seems to be materializing.

Credits: Photo from photojourn.ru.ac.za.

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