Ways to Get Involved in Occupy

See Attachment below for a Formatted/Downloadable Version of these Suggestions!

Public health is part of the 99%. 1) People who can provide public health and healthcare services are needed in the camps; 2) The movement is challenging us to change the way resources are distributed – wealth, access to education, housing, and all the things we need for health; 3) The camps provide space for dialogues about the roots of differences of health outcomes across groups, like racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and anti-immigrant prejudice , and some public health workers have experience in facilitating dialogues about these issues. The following are ideas of concrete ways for health workers and health professionals to support the local Occupy Movements and camps.


Many of the camps need people with health skills – e.g. social work, first aid/street medic, harm reduction, community safety, restorative justice, health education, etc. Most camps have an information desk you can go and ask if they need your help. Reach out to your communities and see if there are nurses, social workers, acupuncturists, and other health workers who would be willing to donate their time and do a shift a week or more at the camps. Ask them to donate medical supplies and/or trainings on first aid/CPR, restorative justice, harm reduction, etc. National Nurses United is helping staff health tents at some camps (www.nationalnursesunited.org). If a health tent does not exist, consider setting one up with the support of the occupy campers. Contact other Occupy camps to learn how their health tent or health support is set up (www.occupytogether.org).


Rally your public health friends and colleagues to attend Occupy marches and actions together. Bring signs with public health messages (suggestions below).

Sanitation is used as one justification for shutting down the camps. Work with the camps and allies to develop and implement a sanitation plan. Seek donations of cleaning supplies. Develop a cleaning committee responsible for picking up trash, animal feces, and other potentially hazardous materials and/or collect donations to hire someone to clean the site. Get Port-a-Potties donated on-site. Seek donations from friends, unions, and others to help pay for their daily cleanings. Try to keep animals off-site. Develop talking points about all of the sanitation measures being taken at your camp and train people to speak to the media about the great work you are doing.


Go to the camps, ask if they already have a liaison with the health department. If not, ask whether they would like one and if the health department is inspecting the camp. If yes, contact the Environmental Health section and ask who coordinates camp inspections. If inspecting the camp, request that the health department:
  • Reaffirm their mission is to protect the public’s health.
  • Provide a clear, publicly available explanation of what’s being inspected and what is the protocol/time allowed for corrections of violations.
  • Conduct inspections at a regular time each day.
  • Meet with camp representatives to describe what must change/be mitigated and bywhen if violations found.
  • Be transparent in documentation of hazards and opportunities for improvement.
  • Do not take photos of people at the camps, only evidence of violations, if they exist.
  • Keep inspection reports organized and accessible to the public.
  • Pledge to not cooperate with the police department if has not committed to not use less than lethal force or other tactics that endanger public health (e.g. shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the public).
Another potential health department concern may be violation of food safety laws and the potential for food-borne illness outbreaks. Encourage the camps to avoid cooking perishable foods on-site, avoid bringing hazardous foods (e.g. milk, eggs, raw meat) on-site, use non-perishable food (e.g. fruit, dry cereal, cliff bars), and prohibit serving any prepared food for more than four hours. Work with local restaurants and vendors to maintain steady supply of food to sustain Occupy group.

Signs, banners, and posters are a powerful way of sharing one’s message with others and the media. Picture an image of an Occupy camp and chances are there is a sign in it. Consider using a health message on your banner, sign or poster, such as:
  • Public Health, Not Corporate Wealth
  • Prioritize People's Health, NOT Corporate Profits
  • Inequality is Making Us Sick
  • Inequality is Bad for Our Health
  • Inequality is Killing Us
  • Health Inequalities are NOT Natural
  • Want to Heal America? Tax Wall Street
  • Taxing Wall Street = Good Health Policy
  • Redistributing Wealth = Good Health Policy
  • People and Health Over Profits
  • Health for All = Redistribution of Wealth
  • Neoliberalism = Bad for Health
  • Capitalism = Bad for Health
  • Racist Banking Policies = Bad for Health
  • Racist Housing Policies = Bad for Health
  • Everyone has the right to health
  • The health of the 99% suffers when 1% holds so much wealth & power

Go to the camps and ask what materials/resources they need. Many need food, medical supplies, water, tarps, tents, loudspeakers, etc. Some have websites that list their needs. Provide what you can, but also reach out to others in your network to ask if they can help pitch in and donate materials. This helps bring others closer to the camps and broadens the levels of support. Camps may particularly need supplies after they’ve been evicted/shut down.

  • Organize a brown bag lunch, dinner, or happy hour to talk about health and Occupy with other folks
  • Support language access by recruiting interpreters, translators and multi-lingual community organizers
  • Form a health affinity group to do emergency response if the camps are raided
  • Support storytelling of people most impacted by the economic crisis by supporting their participation in General Assemblies, press conferences, and other public forums to share their experiences and vision for social change
  • Work with racial, economic, immigrant, disability, and other social justice organizations to bring information and training about social justice struggles and actions to the camps
  • Support and lead efforts to build inclusive camps that recognize power dynamics within the camps that may perpetuate oppression (e.g. white people not considering the ideas of people of color). Discuss what the term “occupy” means to groups, like indigenous peoples, who have had their land occupied for over 500 years. (Contact camps to see if/what anti-oppression and safe space efforts are already being organized).

There are many many many other ways to get involved.
Talk to your local occupy movement to hear, learn, participate and grow the movement!

Amie Fishman,
Nov 2, 2011, 2:16 PM