The following speech was delivered to the people of Providence and the media on the steps of City Hall on January 24, 2012, by the Occupy Providence movement after successfully negotiating a community day center for the winter months.
We the people of Occupy Providence have successfully occupied Burnside Park since the 15th of October, 2011. After maintaining a 24-hour-a-day protest, 7 days a week, for more than 100 days, we proclaim that the park is truly the people’s park. Today we celebrate another vic- tory: Occupy Providence has reached an agreement with the City of Providence to open and fund a day center at Emmanuel House for Rhode Islanders who are currently without housing for the duration of winter, in exchange for Occupy Providence agreeing to temporarily suspend the overnight tent occupation in Burnside Park. Occupy Providence is energized and committed to continue organizing, defending the right to protest, and bringing awareness to economic injustices in our country. We are looking to 2012 as a year of great change for the working class, and we intend to be pivotal to that change.
Our decision to accept the City’s counter-proposal for opening the day center does not reflect upon the entirety of our goals in protest- ing a system where the top 1% controls 46% of the wealth, and the richest 10% controls more than 90% of the wealth. Homelessness is a profoundly important issue that our city, our society, and our country need to address. For too long, homelessness and poverty have been treated like a personal deficiency rather than a failure of our economic system. In today’s economic climate, with many foreclosed upon who never thought they’d find themselves in the streets, we need to get honest about the true face of homelessness and poverty in America. It is all of us. It is the 99%. The day center is a first step in recognizing the needs of marginalized Rhode Islanders who find themselves homeless.
The City, the diocese and advocates all coming together on this agreement is an encouraging new beginning.
However, this is only the beginning. We will continue to go after this culture of corporate greed, “too big to fail” banks, government bailouts, and economic inequality, which is especially egregious in regards to race, sex, gender, age, and class. We will take every opportunity to stand against human-made climate change, and the systematic destruction of our global ecosystems by the exponentially expanding industrial and military pollution now threatening our world. We find these issues to be self-evidently interconnected, and we are proud to announce the victory of opening a day center for persons who would otherwise be up against the elements, day in and day out, during the harsh New England winter.
We hope this move can inspire the people of Rhode Island to realize that the voice of protest is a powerful one and that together we can achieve the changes we wish to see in our society. This day center is just one tangible piece of proof that a group of concerned citizens can and will change the world. Occupy Providence will continue to stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the hundreds of other ongoing occupations around the country and the world. We send our deepest thanks to those who’ve supported us along the way, and we invite you to join us in continuing the struggle in 2012. We are the 99%. Another world is possible.