Stephen Graham, academic and author of the new in paperback Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, appeared on Democracy Now today to discuss his book in the context of the occupy movements around the world, and the police crackdown on protesters in New York City early Tuesday morning.
In discussion with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Graham detailed the process by which urban police forces have incorporated sophisticated technologies, heightened levels of surveillance and increased militarization into their policing, creating targets out of the homeless, the poor and others they deem undesirable.
I think it's important to put this debate in the bigger context of how cities have changed. And cities in the last 20 or 30 years, particularly in North America, have become much more sanitized, much more controlled by questions of zero tolerance, by questions of really aggressive policing, to clear out those that are deemed to be sort of not fitting a model of urban life, which centers on consumption, which centers on business. So there's been a really powerful shift in cities to sort of criminalize homelessness, to criminalize panhandlers, to criminalize those not seen to belong in this-what Neil Smith in New York has called the "revanchist city," the city taking back spaces for the wealthy, effectively. That was very much Mayor Giuliani's strategy.
So, in a way, I think what the Occupy movement is so powerful at is demonstrating that by occupying public spaces around the world, and particularly these extremely symbolic public spaces, it's reasserting that the city is the foundation space for democracy. And we have to reassert that symbolically and with the actual groupings of the activists in space. So the internet is not enough. It's very much necessary to reassert that cities are political spaces which need to be used to mobilize social and political change.
Tomorrow night at 7pm, on the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, Bluestockings Bookstore and Café will host a discussion with Stephen Graham on Cities Under Siege. The event is free and open to the public.
With news coming down that mayors in 18 U.S. cities held conference calls before the week's police crackdowns to coordinate efforts, the discussion will provide a critical framework for understanding the new world of surveillance against which we must resist.
Visit Democracy Now to watch the segment in full.
Click here for more details or to RSVP for Stephen Graham's book discussion.