BILL MOYERS: Two of the organizers of Occupy Wall Street are with me now in the studio. Nelini Stamp is an activist with the Working Families Party here in New York. The party is backed by unions and community organizations. Amin Husain left the practice of corporate law to become an artist. He's been working 15 hours a day on Occupy Wall Street. Welcome to both of you. Let's begin with you, Amin. What makes you think that the movement can have any effect on the huge inequality existing in America today?

AMIN HUSAIN: I think the time's right. I think there's moments in history when the economic, political and social system can't take anymore and I think we've been on that trajectory for over 20 years. And I think it's culminated in the loss of jobs, tangible things. Loss of jobs, loss of homes and people don't see the political process working for them so that the government no longer represents the will of the people. And that's why they're on the streets.

BILL MOYERS: You've been very active in politics in New York City. Do you think politics can get us out of the mess?

NELINI STAMP: It's not just politics. It's people on the streets. It's people organizing and assembling. And I think that all of those-- it's kind of, you know, hitting the system as it is up from all sides.

And together that's what makes it actually work and that's what pushes it through. So I think politics is just one section of the larger frame, meaning we need people to publicly call out the inequalities as well and not just through the political process, because the political process, many people feel disenfranchised from.

BILL MOYERS: The Tea Party movement in this country has been very effective in disciplining the Republican Party. Shouldn't you do that with the Democratic Party? Take it over. Make it discipline its politicians? Make it responsive to what you are asking for?

AMIN HUSAIN: I mean, I don't think so. I mean look at the Tea Party. How long has it been around? We're still in a worse mess. Just because they seem to have corrected the Republican Party doesn't mean we're in a better position. There's structural problems. And a Tea Party situation within a political process isn't going to solve it. Just like a law or a policy isn't going to solve the problems that we face.

BILL MOYERS: But the abolitionists, a long time ago in this country, needed Lincoln in the White House to free the slaves. The suffragettes needed support from Teddy Roosevelt and others in politics to bring about women's voting rights. Don't you need a political party as your ally in pursuing greater equality?

AMIN HUSAIN: I think it's a question of time and it's in time. And the time that we're in right now is about empowering each other. Radicalizing each other. Letting us know what the issues are. What the solutions are. We come together outside of the process.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean radicalizing?

AMIN HUSAIN: In other words, we need to start imagining what the world could be. Martin Luther King didn't come and Lyndon Johnson adopted a bill. He said, "I had a dream." That's radical. Do we have a dream? People in Liberty Square had a dream. No war. No oppression. No racism. No patriarchy. Justice. Fairness. Equality. I want to hear a dream articulated that has these things in them.

NELINI STAMP: If we ask for demands then we're just submitting to power. However, we can continue to organize and continue to push and continue to radicalize and continue to move the country to the left and continue to make the narrative about economic inequality and existing organizations who have been fighting for the most marginalized voices in these countries can push through their demands.

BILL MOYERS: But are you saying organized politics is not for you? That the political parties cannot-- that the Democratic Party cannot be your ally?

AMIN HUSAIN: This is not a rejectionist movement. It's an inclusive movement. It's a movement that's for the people to join and form and articulate themselves. And it's ever-changing. But it's not left and right either. You can be left and right and say you're 99 percent. It's about economic and social justice. And I think we all agree on that. The question is how do we articulate it and how do we move towards it.

This movement, in a way, you can think about as a continuation of the civil rights movement. Right? A project that hasn't been completed. Right? It's a moral movement that talks about social and economic justice. For us to begin to articulate it down into a policy or a law is not what we're doing.

But what we have done is radicalized organized labor. Churches, people on the streets. By that I mean they are making their voices heard by having their bodies in a space saying, "Enough. You bank, you government, you Democratic Party, you Republican Party, you're not doing your job. You're not as legitimate as you once were. And we're going to take matters into our own hands non-violently."

BILL MOYERS: The Tea Party does have advantages. They have deep pockets on their side. They have strong links to the establishment of the Republican Party. They have Fox News. What do you consider your assets?

NELINI STAMP: I think we have strength in numbers. I definitely think that because we don't have corporate money and because we don't have Fox News, because we have our own media that's coming out, our own narrative, our own control of the story, I think that's totally to our advantage because we as a collective and as a community have been creating our message.

And have been framing it for ourselves. Not letting other, you know, with Fox News, the Fox News speaks for the Tea Party. That's not the Tea Party speaking. And sometimes they do, on it. But with us we speak for ourselves because we are putting the stuff out there. We're putting the media message.

And a lot of things just come from us and are organic and fresh and everyone kind of has a say in it as well.

BILL MOYERS: What's the story you would like to tell the country?

NELINI STAMP: The system is broken and it needs to be fixed or it needs to be completely, changed and radicalized and reformed. Like real reforms and not just the small reforms that we get every day.

I think that is about a social and economic justice movement, but also about a cultural shift too. So not only are we changing in economic inequalities and changing the narrative, but also a cultural shift in my mind.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think, say, is the story?

AMIN HUSAIN: I think the story is that this is a social and economic justice movement that has a moral imperative. And within that context it's critical of the structure. And I think there's an undercurrent of like capitalism gone astray a little bit. And we can narrow, we can flush that out.

That's to say the link between global capital and state or government and Wall Street, however you want to mention it, that link has become too strong, too cozy, too unchecked. Right? But the solutions to that problem is where we need to get together and empower one another. And don't think that an election, or a president is going to solve it.

BILL MOYERS: What would you like the banks to do, Nelini?

NELINI STAMP: They need to held accountable. They need to be transparent. They're not transparent with their records. They don't-- some banks don't even pay taxes for the year. And we bailed them out. They need to be regulated.

BILL MOYERS: You keep using the word radicalize. Now a lot of Americans are frightened by that word, radical. Help me understand, help them understand what you mean.

AMIN HUSAIN: We're used to putting laws in place. Right? As a way of solving problems. But the problem is those laws, whether you're going to address corporate personhood or you're going to put a statue back in place or whatever, doesn't deal with the fundamental issue that the political process is broken.

That the government, the way things are structured right now, there isn't-- the people's voice isn't being heard. You can flip it around and you can be like, "That's' kind of radical, that people's voices in a democracy aren't being heard." By radical I mean that we need to step out of our comfort zone and be more involved in our life.

BILL MOYERS: I don't want to be querulous about this, but I come out of my roots, my past. A conventional past in politics and government. And America is different today because of the Civil Right Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And I still am puzzled as to how you get what you want unless you push these reforms up the political process.

AMIN HUSAIN: It's a question of timing. How long did the civil rights movement last? Four years?

BILL MOYERS: Well, 100 years before, yeah.

AMIN HUSAIN: Okay. And what you got was a statute. And it dealt with racism. But there was a dream that articulated how the world was supposed to be, right? For African Americans, for people of color, dealing with injustice. Right? And then they said, "What was the road block to that dream?" And they said it was the law. The laws are fundamentally racist.

So what are we going to do? "We're going to pass a law, a legislative bill, that's going to deal with that." But I think that that process, we can't short-- you had two months of a movement in its nascent stage.

And all of a sudden you have political parties that want to come with 99 percent-- you know, people running an election process at the time elections are coming up and you think you're going to have change? I voted for Obama. And I campaigned for him in Pittsburgh. Right? The only time in my life I campaigned for political-- for a president. And I never voted Democrat or Republican. For change. And look what we have.

BILL MOYERS: Will you vote for him again?


BILL MOYERS: Who will you vote for?

AMIN HUSAIN: I want another-- this is radical. I want another one that says my vote needs to count. That's what I want to vote. Because two people, two parties right now talking about like having an internal discussion almost with the people on the side losing their homes, losing their job, can't agree. They ditched democracy for a super committee. And they think that we live in a democracy?

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, I understand what you're saying, but in the real world there are two parties. You either vote for the Republicans in November or you vote for the Democrats, right?

AMIN HUSAIN: The real world is what put us in Liberty Square sleeping on the ground. I want to live in a world that we create together. That's built on justice. And it's a dream. Right? But it's a dream everyone could get behind. And I'm not going to vote for someone because I don't have an alternative. I'm going to create that alternative.

NELINI STAMP: And it's going to be a long battle, though. I mean that's-- it takes time. You know? I mean we just discussed the civil rights movement was hundreds of years-- I mean 100 years. And even then, we-- it's going to take time.

I do focus on reform sometimes. And, you know more so. And those are really important, but the problem, the fundamental problem, is that people don't feel like their voices are being heard. They don't feel like they have a say in their own space, in their own life, because they're being drained by not just economic inequalities but, you know, civil rights injustice.

It's been a struggle, I think, among many people that there has been, you know, Democrat, Republican, it really doesn't make a difference now.

BILL MOYERS: Where do you place the responsibility for the disappointment you're feeling? Is it with the president or is it with the fact that any progressive president is up against a system that is so rigged and so fixed that any real reform is almost impossible to achieve in the immediate moment.

NELINI STAMP: Well, it's two things. We put too much hope and faith and change into one person. I mean we settled it all on this one person who we thought was going to change the whole system. And then two years later, 2010, it goes completely to the right wing.

So that's a fundamental problem within itself, that it doesn't just fall-- I mean the president is, you know, the president, but it's also the House and Congress that really make things move in Washington. But even outside of that I'm mad at the whole political process. I don't get represented in my vote.

And it's not just about the candidates and what they can do and what party they're aligned with, but the actual complete process of how we go about voting for someone and what that means and their campaigns and how they're not talking to their community. They just buy ads on television and, you know, just display.

And they're not going door-to-door in their communities. They're not knowing who their community is. And you could-- even on the local level sometimes you don't know your representative or you don't even think you could have a face-to-face sit down conversation. And that's completely unjust and unfair.

BILL MOYERS: So what can we expect in this new year?

NELINI STAMP: I think that what this movement is going to do is, and I hope-- well, I hope that we, hopefully help and facilitate people to empower themselves to take action. To have more places to assemble. To have-- I wish in the spring that we have a big occupation that is in a big public space and that we occupy even more. Using the tactic of occupation to occupy more space.

BILL MOYERS: Washington? In Washington?


BILL MOYERS: Everywhere?

NELINI STAMP: Everywhere. In Albany, in these small towns, in a town-- even if it's 10 people sitting in their town square. Like everywhere. Take those spaces and transform them. And, you know, make it that people can assemble. That people can organize. Just educate each other and learn from each other. And continue to build on that. And you will see, hopefully, a massive mobilization happen next year.

BILL MOYERS: Amin Husain and Nelini Stamp, thank you for being with me.

AMIN HUSAIN: Thank you.

NELINI STAMP: Thank you.

Two Occupy Organizers on Goals of the Protest

January 13, 2012

Bill Moyers interviews two Occupy Wall Street organizers who share insight into the movement and what it hopes to accomplish. Nelini Stamp is an activist with the Working Families Party in New York, which is backed by unions and community organizations.  Amin Husain, who left his corporate law practice to become an artist, has been working 15 hours a day on Occupy Wall Street.


Worthy Reads:

The Nation: Naomi Klein and Yotam Marom on Occupy Wall Street


  • submit to reddit