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Camp Charlie Temporarily Evicted

April 9, 2012

Update: Camp Charlie was re-occupied a day after its temporary eviction. Join us anytime, we’ll be here through April 14!

Just hours after Occupy MBTA testified before the Joint Committee on Transportation, Camp Charlie, the 10-day occupation of the State House steps, was temporarily evicted by federal authorities.  Massachusetts State Police officers told the protesters that the Secret Service had taken jurisdiction of the State House and surrounding area ahead of a visit from the President of Brazil.  The protesters, who had been occupying the State House steps since April 4 to protest MassDOT’s most recent round of fare hikes, service cuts, and layoffs, and to demand a comprehensive, sustainable, and affordable public transportation plan for the 99% of Massachusetts, were given only an hour’s notice to vacate.   With little time to mount a defense, the occupiers at Camp Charlie had no choice but to put their supplies in storage for the night and clear the encampment, though the Commonwealth did provide trucks for the occupiers’ use.

After the camp had been cleared, protesters moved across the street, where they read the First Amendment using the People’s Mic.  Police then announced that the sidewalk across the street from the State House was also put under Secret Service jurisdiction, and they were told to disperse.  Occupiers chanted “Long Live Camp Charlie!” and vowed to return tomorrow.

Watch the video:

More video of the eviction here.

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Tomorrow: Join Occupy MBTA at the Joint Committee on Transportation Hearing

April 8, 2012
by

Tomorrow, April 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM in hearing room B1, the Joint Committee on Transportation will meet for the first time since the MassDOT board approved massive fare increases for next year and since Occupy MBTA launched its occupation on the steps of the State House.

Occupy MBTA will be testifying, and we need a big presence at the hearing to ensure our voices are heard. Please join us! We’ll be meeting at Camp Charlie at 9:30 AM (steps in front of State House on Beacon Street) before heading to the hearing.

Camp Charlie: Schedule of Events

April 6, 2012

On April 4, the MBTA Advisory Board voted on a 23 percent fare hikes across the board, plus the elimination of four weekday routes. Pitched as a more palatable alternative to the two earlier proposals (35-43% hikes, cuts to over 100 bus lines), this proposal nevertheless represents an unacceptable burden on T riders, students, seniors, and the unemployed. It also leaves us with a $184 million budget deficit, which we’ll have to resolve with even bigger hikes and cuts next year.

On April 3, members of the Youth AffordabiliT Coalition occupied the State House steps to demand that the legislature intervene to cover the $91 million deficit for this year, as well as institute a long-awaited youth pass. On April 4, members from Occupy MBTA held a National Day of Action around Public Transportation and began a 10-day occupation of the State House steps to demand comprehensive transit plan for the entire state of Massachusetts. On our third day of Camp Charlie, we’re looking forward to a packed weekend of education and organization around the MBTA!

Here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect over the next few days.

Crash course on the MBTA budget crisis
TODAY, Friday, April 6, 3 p.m.
State House Steps

Over the years, the MBTA’s financial viability has been wrecked by Big Dig debt, forward funding, and interest rate swaps ($26 million owed annually to Wall Street banks; the MBTA now possesses a total debt load of $5.2 billion and counting. How did the MBTA get into this position? What are the current proposals on the table? How does this occupation fit into this plan?

Riding the Rails: Outreach Training
TODAY, Friday, April 6, 4:30 p.m.
State House steps

Take our message directly to T riders across Boston – no hikes, no cuts, no layoffs! This is about as direct as outreach can get. Spend a few hours learning how to talk to strangers, and help us start a longer conversation about the T.

Occupy MBTA Meeting + Open Strategy Session
TODAY, Friday, April 6, 6 pm
State House Steps

A comprehensive overview of where we are, what our demands are, why these dates are important, and so forth, followed by an action assembly to talk plans, strategy, and next steps. ALL ARE WELCOME — please come, a great place to plug in for the first time and learn more about this campaign, and figure out what you can do in the next eight days to really drive this message home.

Camp Charlie Potluck and Teach-In
Saurday, April 7, 1 pm – 4 pm
State House steps

Bring a dish to share and join us for an teach-ins about the fight to save the T and the broader struggle for transit justice. Interest rate swaps, debt cancellation, history fo the T, and more. For more details, contact: Josh Golin (golingolin@yahoo.com)

Joint Committee on Transportation Hearing on Bill H.4011
Monday, April 9, 10 am
State House, Room B-1

This is a big one. On Monday, Deval Patrick will offer a short-term solution to this year’s gap in the MBTA’s budget – a $51 million transfer from the Motor Vehicles Inspection Trust Fund at the MBTA. The proposal acknowledges a structural deficit, yet fails to make any provisions forlong-term funding of the MBTA. At the same time, he will be recommending that MassDOT amend its current lease agreement with the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Board to require the Conservancy to comply with open meeting and public records laws.

Both issues have obvious relevance of Occupy MBTA! Join us as we call on Governor Patrick to offer a comprehensive plan that builds force in the entire state — not just piece by piece correction.

WHY HERE? WHY THESE DATES?

Many people have asked, “Why ten days? What happens on the 14th?”

By law, the MBTA must balance its budget every year by April 15. But the MBTA can’t balance its budget — it has been chronically underfunded for years, with no allocation made to cover huge losses under Forward Funding and the Big Dig debt. The recommendation that came forward on April 4 — a 23% fare hike across the board, plus cuts to buses, with more to come next year — is an unacceptable solution, which leaves us with a $200 million deficit for the upcoming year.

The occupation is a people’s veto. We’re holding them to the date, but we’re taking it above the MBTA to the legislature, which got the MBTA into this mess in the first place and has the ability to do something about it. In three months of hearings, Governor Patrick, House Speaker DeLeo, and Senate President Murray have been woefully silent on this issue. If the MBTA is truly to balance its budget by the 15th, we need our leaders to step in to offer a real solution, both to this year’s crisis, and to the spiraling debt costs that the MBTA will continue to face in years to come.

How do we do that? With a comprehensive transit plan that benefits the entire state. With a one-year bailout to stave off devastating hikes and cuts. And with a commitment to do this without privatizing and selling it piece by piece. We’ll be here until the 14th. We hope you’ll join us!

PRESS RELEASE: MBTA Refuses to Challenge Banks as Occupation Enters Second Day

April 5, 2012

At “Camp Charlie,” Occupy MBTA’s occupation of the State House steps enters its second day. Meanwhile, the board of the MBTA still refuses to challenge the dominion of Wall Street banks over public finances.

Last night, dozens of activists slept on the steps of the Massachusetts State House to protest the proposed service cuts, fare hikes, and layoffs. Occupiers also demanded that the T cancel its interest rate swaps with JPMorgan Chase, Deustche Bank, and UBS. Combined, these three cartels enjoyed more than $200 billion dollars in taxpayer bailouts. Their CEOs took home nearly $32 million in 2010 alone. Now, despite owing their existence to the goodwill of taxpayers, they will extract $26 million a year from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority every year for the foreseeable future. So far, the MBTA has resisted demands to cancel these toxic swaps and instead is attempting to balance its books through massive fare increases that will devastate seniors, students, the disabled, and low-income riders.

JPMorgan Chase

The MBTA loses $8.9 million a year to JPMC and is on the hook for another $115 million in the future to JPMC; it can only get out of these deals if it pays JPMC $40 million in penalties. The CEO of JPMC made $20.8 million in 2010 after the company received a $100 billion taxpayer bailout. JPMC is currently foreclosing on homes all around Boston.

Deutsche Bank

The MBTA loses $8.3 million a year to Deutsche Bank and is on the hook for another $75 million in the future to Deutsche; it can only get out of these deals if it pays Deutsche Bank $23 million in penalties. The CEO of Deutsche made $8.3 million in 2010 after the company got a $66 billion taxpayer bailout. Deutsche Bank is foreclosing on homes all around Boston.

UBS

The MBTA loses $9 million a year to UBS and is on the hook for another $97 million in the future to UBS; it can only get out of these deals if it pays UBS $39 million in penalties. UBS received a $77 billion taxpayer bailout. It does not foreclose on homes.

As a result, the MBTA is ready to cut service on nearly two dozen bus routes and increase fares more than twenty percent. This must be seen for what it is: a new chapter in the officially sanctioned robbery of the public trust by consolidated, private interests. Interests, it will be repeated, with a demonstrated inability to survive the open market in the absence of obscene taxpayer subsidy. These criminal, rent-seeking organizations are the products of government corruption and monopoly control, not free enterprise or competitive advantage.

For thousands of the 99% who rely on the T to get to work, the proposed changes amount to a massive tax increase, all of which will go directly to the banks. This should be compared to the four billion dollars in federal subsidies lavished on oil companies like ExxonMobil, who in turn spend nearly fifty-million dollars a year lobbying to continue their historically profitable destruction of the earth’s atmosphere.

Despite these obstacles, many other cities have forced bankers to the negotiating table by passing resolutions forbidding further business if they refuse. In this manner, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland and many others have succeeded in reducing interest rate payments, not only preserving their public goods and services, but reminding the multinational trusts that it is they who are in debt to us, and not the other way around. Occupy MBTA remains mystified as to why the MassDOT Board and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are not willing to pursue a similar tactic.

We need a comprehensive, accessible, and sustainable public transportation plan for the 99% across the entire Commonwealth, not a short-sighted, short-term austerity band-aid.

Targeting the Most Vulnerable: How Wall Street is Hurting T Riders

April 5, 2012

At the April 4 National Day of Action for Public Transportation, Jeremy B. Thompson of MassUniting held a teach-in about the MBTA losing $26-million per year to bailed-out banks for bad interest rate swaps deals. The MBTA is on the hook for another $287 million through 2031, but it cannot get out of these deals without paying $109 million in termination fees to the bailed-out banks! Download a PDF of the presentation here.

A4 Mic Check from Camp Charlie

April 5, 2012

PRESS ADVISORY: Statehouse Steps Occupied

April 4, 2012

Originally posted at Occupy Boston

Contact: media@occupyboston.org – 410.960.0647

This evening, Occupy the MBTA, a working group of Occupy Boston, launched Camp Charlie, a ten day occupation of the State House steps to protest fare-hikes and service cutbacks on the MBTA. Having survived the depths of the recession, the 99% now faces additional taxes in the form of escalating T fares and the loss of essential transport routes. This is a further transfer of public wealth to the banks. These are the same institutions that were bailed out by the American taxpayer after being rendered insolvent by their own, criminal recklessness. The only debt in need of servicing is their debt to us. In a country that lavishes four billion dollars in subsidies on the oil companies, the relentless assault on public transport could not make less sense – ethically, environmentally, or otherwise. Camp Charlie will be a place for public debate, conversation, and outreach – a living testament to the refusal of the people to be further abused by a clutch of corporate interests, multinational banking cartels and consolidated oil interests.

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