Tomorrow, thousands of people are expected to gather in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., for a “people’s assembly” organized by a movement calling itself “October 2011.” They plan to occupy the plaza until they have brainstormed sustainable solutions to promote universal healthcare and economic justice, as well as end the nearly decade-long Afghanistan war. We speak with two of the movement’s organizers, Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers. Zeese is a lawyer who works with ItsOurEconomy.us, while Flowers is a pediatrician who serves as a congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program. “This came out of seeing that all of the issues—the work in the peace movement to end the wars, the work for single payer, work for environmental justice—have been hampered by the same obstacle, which is the corporate control of our political process and the corporate media message,” Flowers says. “We saw the need back then to bring these movements together to unite, because we do have the numbers. We do have the strength in our numbers.” [includes rush transcript]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Tomorrow, thousands of people are expected to gather in Washington, D.C.'s Freedom Plaza for a “people's assembly” organized by a movement calling itself “October 2011.” They plan to occupy the plaza until they’ve brainstormed sustainable solutions to promote universal healthcare and economic justice, as well as end the nearly decade-long Afghanistan war. The organizers explained why they chose the month of October to launch their movement.
OCTOBER 2011 STATEMENT: This October marks the beginning of the 11th year of the U.S. invasion and destruction of Afghanistan. This October, austerity measures will no longer be limited to individual states. This October, federal budget cuts will hit home. This October, the federal budget will deliver unlimited war funds, corporate subsidies and tax breaks for the super rich, while cutting services for human and environmental needs. But in October, a growing number of us will mark the beginning of something else in the United States: a moment when we will unite to demand an end to a system that puts profits and warfare over the welfare of people and the environment.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from the video produced by October 2011.
Well, for more, we’re joined by two of the movement’s organizers, Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers. Joining us from Baltimore, Maryland, Kevin is a lawyer who works with ItsOurEconomy, and Margaret is a pediatrician who serves as a congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program.
Kevin and Margaret, welcome to Democracy Now! It is great to have you with us. Talk about what the plans are for the anniversary of the Afghanistan war, one decade in, 10 years in, linking it to all the other issues. You started this many, many months ago.
DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: That’s correct, Amy. This came out of kind of seeing that all of the issues—the work in the peace movement to end the wars, the work for single payer, work for environmental justice—have been hampered by the same obstacle, which is the corporate control of our political process and the corporate media message, and saw the need back then to bring these movements together to unite, because we do have the numbers. We do have the strength in our numbers.
So we wanted to mark the 10th anniversary of the war, and also kind of the important piece is also the first week of the federal budget, because it really links the fact that we’re using our resources for war and exploitation of people on the planet and not to meet our own human needs. So we wanted to bring those two together, on October 6th in Freedom Plaza, as you said. Thousands of people have pledged to come there.
And we’re going to be focused on two key kind of elements. One is stop the machine, which is corporatism and militarism, using nonviolence. But the other is create a new world, which is educating ourselves about the crises that exist in our country. We listed 15 core crises. And all these crises have evidence-based solutions. So we’ll be talking about those, holding classes in the plaza, holding assemblies, and coming up with kind of our list of what we want to see to address these crises.
AMY GOODMAN: Kevin Zeese, talk about how this fits in with the whole Occupy Wall Street movement. I mean, you started way before with the idea of precisely what they’re doing in New York. And how long are people planning to stay at Freedom Plaza?
KEVIN ZEESE: Yeah, we started six months ago. We were all frustrated by the inability to get this government representing people’s interests, and we really want to end government by corporate rule. And so, that’s the overarching principle.
And when we started to work on this, we didn’t know if the country was ready for it. Our first article we put out was called “History is Knocking,” and we were urging people to answer the call of history. And now we see, with the occupations happening all over the country, that the time is right, the people are ready. They’re ready to revolt and ready stand up and say, “Enough of this. We are tired of one percent having the wealth of 95 percent. We’re tired of 400 people having the wealth of 154 million of us. We’re tired of a feudal society. And we’re going to revolt against it.” And that’s what this is. This is a revolt that is bringing people from all perspectives together.
What we’re in right now is a situation kind of like the Vietnam War draft. The economic insecurity of Americans is like the draft. It brings it home. It affects everybody. The draft affected people who were forced to go to fight in Vietnam. It affected all those families. Economic insecurity affects every American in this country except for that top one percent that keeps getting wealthier, as we see record poverty, increasing homelessness, decreases in income, people dropping out of the middle class, students leaving college with debts as big as my first mortgage, paying $500, $700 a month in a job market where there are no good jobs.
So, people are ready to revolt, and we’re going to stay in Freedom Plaza as long as we need to. I’m sure what will happen at the end of Freedom Plaza is we’ll evolve to the next step. We’re not going to go away. We see this as a long-term struggle to end corporate rule and to shift power to the people. And that’s what our goal is, to really create a participatory democracy. That’s the battle of the time: participatory democracy versus concentrated corporate wealth.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. Kevin Zeese, lawyer and organizer, Dr. Margaret Flowers. October2011.org is the website. Tomorrow, Washington, D.C., is where they will be marching.