Everyone Has the Right to Occupy Space, Safely

One inadvertent effect of the Occupy movement has been to call attention to the fact that public space is not always safe space for women, nor for queer and trans people. Fittingly, anti-street-harassment group Hollaback! has stepped up to tackle the issue of sexual violence at Occupy. In a official statement written collectively with Occupied Wall Street Journal and OccupyWallSt.org, Hollaback! is calling on all of the general assemblies of the Occupy movement to adopt an anti-harassment and anti-assault platform to ensure that occupied space is both inclusive and safe. Ms. is proud to cosign this statement, published on OccupyWallStreet.org:

For as long as public space has existed, women and LGBTQ people have been trying to “occupy” it safely–with distressingly little success. Harassing comments, groping, flashing and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals. Too often, these injustices are met with little or no response, regarded simply as “the price you pay” for being female, trans, or gay in public. As supporters of the Occupy movement, we believe that a world where everyone has the right to occupy public space safely is not only possible–it is essential to building a strong and lasting movement.

It’s no secret that the Wall Street 1 percent who wrecked our economy are disproportionately straight and male, despite countless studies showing the less organizations look like the 99%, the less effective they are. As we quicken the pace of social change, we must be careful not to replicate Wall Street’s mistakes. The message is clear: equality means impact.

But for women and LGBTQ people to participate equally in the Occupy movement, we must be safe in occupied spaces. We know that harassment and assault happens everywhere–and that the Occupy movement is no more immune to it than our nation’s parks and parking lots–but we also know that a movement where women and LGBTQ individuals are not safe is not a movement that serves the interests of the 99 percent.

In solidarity with those who are already working on the ground to make safer spaces, we call on all General Assemblies of the Occupy movement to adopt anti-harassment and anti-assault as core principles of solidarity. To realize these principles within the movement, we call on General Assemblies in every city to empower women and LGBTQ occupiers with the time, space, and resources necessary to ensure that every occupied space is a safe space.

Co-signed by:

The Occupied Wall Street Journal
Bitch media
DC Rape Crisis Center
Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault
National Organization for Men Against Sexism
California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
The Feminist Wire
Barrier Free Living
Crisis Intervention Services, Oskaloosa, IA
Women, Action & the Media
Occupy Patriarchy
Marriage Equality NY
Safe Slope
Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI
Feminist Peace Network
Women In Media & News
Talkin’ Reckless
The Organization for a Free Society
Women’s Media Center
SisterSong NYC
Veterans News Now
Holla Back DC
Occupy Gloucester (Maine)
Occupy Vermont
National Organization of Asian Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence
Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA)
Spinifex Press, Australia
Radical Feminists
Stop Street Harassment
Marlboro College Women’s Resource Center
Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press
Women Occupy
Bitch Flicks
Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry
Ms. Magazine
Philadelphia NOW
Students Active for Ending Rape

Photo from Wikimedia Commons of a protester at Krutch Park in Knoxville, Tenn. on October 7, 2011, with a sign reading “Women deserve to occupy (W) all Street(s) without fear.”


  1. Rev Magdalen says:

    The “Occupy” movement is a movement that consistently refuses to obey laws. The one main uniting principle of all camps is the idea that parade and park permits are unconstitutional, and that their interpretation of the Constitution gives them a right to gather ANYWHERE, at any time, even blocking the doorways of buildings where women in wheelchairs are trying to exit, or blocking the middle of streets where people are driving with their children, trying to get home.

    They don’t accept the common sense fact that trapping people in a building or surrounding their cars and refusing to let them pass IS using force and not peaceful protest, even if you don’t hit or shoot your victims while you do it. Seizing land and saying “I live here now, and I will resist being moved” is also an implied threat of force. Anyone who does these things must realize they are causing a situation that will inevitably lead to the use of force, as cities need to restore order and it is the protesters’ choices that will require the use of force to do that. Occupiers could line up and be arrested in an orderly way if they want to do civil disobedience. They don’t. They resist arrest and throw things at the police. In Oakland they succeeded at defeating the police and physically tore apart a fence to get back into the park they considered theirs.

    When people decide to cast off the bounds of the law and civil behavior, everyone who is not a large straight male is inherently put at more risk, because it is those societal constraints that level the playing field so we don’t live by “might makes right,” and everyone’s safety is protected. It’s not really reasonable to say, “We are above the law inside this camp; we accept the principle that because we CAN physically do something, like seize land or shut down a port or a bridge, we have a right to do so. But we want people to act in a civilized way inside the camp, on the honor system.”

    Occupy camps allow ANYONE to join; there is no process of even taking names of attendees, let alone checking their backgrounds or states of mind. The camps are like a magnet for predators, who can come in, victimize people, and be relatively sure that no one will report them, or know their name if they do try to report.

    There is no leadership to hold accountable for what goes on in camps, so everyone there can basically say “wow that’s a shame,” but no one is responsible for correcting the situation. Leadership is not going to evolve over time. The principle of having no leaders is so firmly entrenched in Occupy that they recently elected a dog as their representative to negotiate with the city of Denver. Can you really expect people who do something like that to follow any social norms whatsoever? If they don’t see it as wrong to set up roadblocks in the streets or trap people inside buildings, or refuse to have a serious dialog with the cities they occupy, they’re not on the same page as everyone else at all.

  2. Feminist Metalhead says:

    All the people at occupy nova scotia I saw on the news looked kindof dirty and scary. Like street people addicted to drugs. I would not feel safe in a tent with these people. A girl died of an overdose in Vancover in a tent.

  3. ‘Deserve’ is a problematic word, as if we’ve somehow earned the right that should be innate. http://occupypatriarchy.org/2011/11/13/women-have

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