Search results for Occupy

Why Occupy Failed

I got invited to speak at a conference in which i did not pay enough attention to the program. It turns out to be very new agey, and it might be too exotic/woo woo for me.  I did like the intro presentations about polarities though.

The best part so far - not either/or dualities but polarity dynamic tensions

The best part so far – not either/or dualities but polarity dynamic tensions

During one of the speeches a presenter said, “The reason that Occupy Wall Street failed is they rejected the idea of leadership.”  This struck me as wrong for two very different reasons.

The first is Occupy did not fall, it was pushed.  Dozens of police raids across the US displaced occupiers from their parks.  Remove the freedom to assemble and you eliminate free speech protests.

Oakland was the center of some of the worst police violence in the country

Oakland was the center of some of the worst police violence in the country

The second reason is that Occupy did not fail.  Oh, it did not succeed in getting banksters thrown in jail and it did not end income inequity in the US.  But it did change the conversation about these topics.  In New York itself, mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio vowed to tackle the “Tale of Two Cities” income disparity issue and won, in part, on this issue.  Similarly, one could argue Obama’s efforts to raise the minimum wage may well have been emboldened by this movement.

More importantly, Occupy gave birth to a whole collection of initiatives including Occupy Sandy, which outperformed both FEMA and the Red Cross after the superstorm hit the East Coast.  In many cities Occupy morphed into anti-evictions groups.  In Eugene, Occupy Medical still provides free medical services to populations that would otherwise have no access.  And these are just initiatives i know of because i work in these cities.

You should only hope that when you are dead, you have this much going on.

Occupy Gezi

A week back, my amazing artist friend Amylin in Istanbul asked me to write about the Turkish protests in Gezi.  I have worked on this post off and on, struggling with it.   The problem is the unfortunate but unavoidable comparison between the inspirational revolution in Egypt which was focused on Tahrir Square, and the Turkish protest unfolding in Taksim Square which houses Gezi Park.  Central to this comparison was my belief that the Turkish protests were extremely unlikely to spark a revolution, because popular uprisings rarely disassemble democracies.

Leaders can certainly lose their jobs, but even this seemed unlikely with the relatively high approval ratings Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan was holding.  Yesterday, Erdogam issued his “final warning” that protesters had to leave the park within 24 hours.  There will be a fight in the next few hours, and in the short terms the police will likely win and the park will be cleared.  It is a relatively small space, the police have superior hardware, including tear gas and they have already demonstrated a capacity for violence that the protesters are unwilling to mimic.  The police will likely win today’s battle, but unlike a week ago, it seems like the protesters might just win the war.

ballet and tear gas

The first triumph of the protesters is that they were able to get their message out at all.  Turkey, like Italy, is a democracy which suffers from a near monopoly on its media.  [The Dogan conglomerate controls half the newspapers and three of the main national television stations].  The Turkish media is famous for blacking out stories and as one Turkish blogger wrote.

Mainstream [Turkish] media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.

Turkish TV stations which did cover the protests were fined by the government for “harming children”.  And while there were several clever break-outs from the media black out in Turkey, what is really noticeable to me is the international media coverage this protest has gained.    i organize and participate in lots of protests.  i watch the media attention on these events.  You can easily organize 10K people to march on the Pentagon and get absolutely no media echo at all.  So the amount of  international press and solidarity actions this occupation inspired is incredible [San Francisco, New York City, Oakland, Brussels just to name a few cities.]

Belgian solidarity protesters for Turkish occupation of Gezi Park

Belgian solidarity protesters for Turkish occupation of Gezi Park

Some of attention has been on the deep soccer rivalries that are being put aside in Turkey to focus on this demonstration.   The protest started to save the last park in Istanbul from being converted into a mall, but it has grown from there to encompass the large dissatisfaction of many (but likely not a majority) of Turks with the attack on secularism in that country.

The more i study the clever tactics of these protests, the more i appreciate them.  When pepper spray was fired at them, they threw bell peppers back at the police.  When the corrupt PM called them “riffraff”, thousands of protesters changed their last names on FB to Riffraff, embracing the title as an honorific.

i also appreciate that they are using the Occupy/Rainbow Gathering model for creating desirable spaces and handling all the needs of those attending.  As in Tahrir Square, protesters are cleaning up (often after the messes the police make) and making sure the space is as pleasant as it can be, given it is a low intensity war zone.  One Guardian article describes it well.

Inside the Gezi Park, the utopian feeling is multiplied. There are open buffets for people feeding themselves, yoga sessions in the morning and now, a library. Every morning, after the police withdrawal, protesters got the area squeaky clean. People have fun in their own way and nobody intervenes: Kurds dance their halays, Laz people do their horon dance, and a group with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk flags chant their slogans – All this happens within a few meters’ distance.

Just as the Occupy movement changed the political dialog in the US, even after they were evicted, Gezi Park is shaping the discussion about the future of Turkey and secular government in the middle east.  We can be thankful for the clever work of these protesters and look for ways to be in solidarity with them.

[The following is background information on the protests]

It started to save a park.

What started as an effort to preserve one of the last green spaces in Istanbul, blossomed into a nationwide protest of the increasingly repressive policies of PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development party (AKP).    Since it’s third re-election, by wide margins in 2011, AKP has been shifting the country to a more fundamentalist Muslim culture.  This has taken the form of significantly restricting access to alcohol, a near total ban on abortions, banning kissing in public and reversal of LGBT rights.  Spiritual complaints just begin the list of protesters critiques of the government, aid to Syrian rebels, the crack down on dissent within Turkey, the control of media and unchecked development of Istanbul are also sited as reasons for these mass protests.

Erdogan has already given up on the original shopping mall proposal for the park, which is a major victory for the protesters already.  “It’s the first time in Turkey’s democratic history that an unplanned, peaceful protest movement succeeded in changing the government’s approach and policy,” said Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies, a research group in Istanbul, according to the NY Times.  But an arrogant and defiant Erdogan has said there will still be a mosque development at Gezi Park in Taksim Square.

The US supplies tons of tear gas to Turkey

The US supplies tons of tear gas to Turkey

Despite retreating in face of tremendous popular support over the last weekend, the Turkish police have managed to injured over 1,000 people and kill two protesters.    Early protesters took the name and tactics of the Occupy movement and called themselves “Occupy Gezi”, which is the name of the threatened park.  Turkish police donning tactics used in Oakland on Occupy destroyed tents, beat protesters and let loose a hail of tear gas.

It is hard for US americans to appreciate the significance of this photo, rival teams rarely agree.

It is hard for US americans to appreciate the significance of this photo, rival teams rarely agree.


As in Tahrir and many Occupys, Gezi protesters clean their streets
As in Tahrir and many Occupys, Gezi protesters clean their streets

This is a video about how life is changing in Turkey

Monsanto vs Occupy vs Iraq Protests

I think there are three principal classes of what i call catastrophic risk technologies:  nuclear, genetic modification, nanotechnology.  In each of these three cases the technopiles and capitalists are mostly winning, though we are pushing back in nuclear.  In each of these three cases, relatively accessible mistakes can have global detrimental impacts.

we are what we eat

we are what we eat

As of this writing there are 395 protests worldwide scheduled for this May 25th (this coming Saturday) against Monsanto for its work on genetically modified organisms.   Of these, 230 are in the US, which seems appropriate given Monsanto is a US creation.  Fortunately, i will be able to go to the protest in Washington DC.  [Which in this case is especially aptly called Death City]. Stay tuned for pictures of this protest.

395 is a lot of simultaneous protests.    Let’s look at some of the other big international protests in comparison.  This is about 1/3 the size of the Occupy movement at it’s height (which wikipedia claims were in 951 cities in 82 counties on the 15th of October 2011).  It is about 1/8th the size (in terms of number of locations) of the world-wide protests against the Iraq War in the lead up to the unlawful US invasion (which wikipedia estimates at over 3000 locations and over 36 million people between Jan 3 and April 12 2003).  The Iraq War protests were in a greater number of cities in the US, and possibly a bit smaller in number of participants than the mass protests against the Vietnam War in the US, which started well after the conflict began.

There are already 65 more locations than this poster indicates

There are already 65 more locations than this poster indicates

But there is something very different happening here.  Occupy had a huge agenda.   Most of the Iraq War protests took place in Europe which was keenly aware of the deceptions of the Bush administration about the invasion.  These Monsanto protests are targeted at a single corporation, which is in most of the protest countries operating legally.

There is another difference, which is that there is no real spark for these coordinated action.  There is no war looming, there is no financial crisis sharpening the inequities between rich and poor.  And the demands of the Monsanto protest are highly accessible:

  • Boycott Monsanto owned companies
  • Label GMOs
  • Repeal US “Monsanto Protection Act”
  • More research on health effects of GMOs
  • Holding Monsanto and supporting politicians accountable thru direct communication

Clearly missing from this list is a ban on further GMO product releases until the research on health effects is completed.  India and other countries have banned sale or cultivation.    Hungary went so far as to burn 1000 acres of GMO corn and make planting or selling GMO crops a felony.  Unwilling to wait for often slow government action, activists around the world are destroying GMO crops themselves; typically the test beds.  And they risking imprisonment to do this.


When i dig into who is organizing this March Against Monsanto, it appears to be tiny groups including:

These groups are so small, that Anti-Media has only 3 comments on their March announcement.  Activist Free Press appears to be a one person operation.  A-revolt is of slightly indeterminate size, but it could be just a few handful of people.

From event organizer a-revolt

From event organizer a-revolt

I was asked at lunch today what the spark for this global protest movement was and a couple people thought it was the passage of the Monsanto Protection Act.  The more i read about this legislation the more especially vexing it is. So much so that the national outcry has been loud enough to to spark the first congress person calling for provisions of the bill to be removed.

There is a long fight ahead to stop Monsanto, but it seems to have powerful memetic legs and global significance.

The author of this post, Paxus Calta, works for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) in central Virginia.  SESE is part of the ASGATA lawsuit against Monsanto to block them from suing farmers who have been contaminated by GMO seeds.

Occupy Sandy > Red Cross in NYC

So what is the career path for a group of people who are experienced with camping out in urban areas with minimal energy systems and many mouths to feed?  Of course, i am talking about the Occupy Walls Street group which exploded onto the political scene last year and has been in a homeless limbo for the much of 2012.  Well, those urban survivors can Occupy the relief effort for Hurricane Sandy right in their back yard.

Besides feeding the thousands of people without power or services, they are also providing bike powered cell phone rechargers, so people can call their families to tell them they are okay.

For example, where is FEMA and the Red Cross?

This leaderless popular movement has been seeking its direction since it was evicted last fall.  There have been many excellent initiatives but this represents a place Occupy can take DIY birth right and apply it both widely and popularly.

Steal the money:  More importantly than replacing the relief efforts of the oft legitimately maligned FEMA, what this does is push the case for independent citizen initiatives like Occupy to replace the administration heavy Red Cross. And Red Cross is big business at $4.1 billion dollars year.  And Occupy can have a larger donations front door than the Red Cross, in that it is already experienced in distributing things.  It also can distribute relief very directly as in this story. Here is the story about how Occupy Sandy is coordinating online donations like a gift registry.

There is a funologist angle here as well.  When we look at these big DIY festivals, like the Rainbow Gathering (or to a much lessor extent Burning Man) we see the same leaderless “get things done” style which pervades Occupy.  Problems pour in “these people need food”, “these people need cell phone charging”, “these people need dry clothes” and small groups take them on.  They don’t always succeed, but they are more nibble, more accessible and most importantly more joinable than the FEMA or Red Cross efforts.

Mutual Aid not charity – that is the key

What i mean by joinable, is there is nothing which prevents you from eating a meal at an Occupy Sandy kitchen and then staying to clean up and cook the next meal.  There is no distinction between the people who are serving and the people who are being served.  This is not true for the classical relief agencies.  There are badges and permissions and uniforms and bosses and protocols.  You can not migrate from being someone who is relieved to someone who is a relief worker.  Yet, there is a fantastic desirability to this capacity to join the relief efforts.  It makes you feel like you are part of the solution and you arrive with tremendous empathy for the people you are serving.  It also serves to break down class barriers, which the conventional relief agencies simply enforce.

The work of Occupy Wall Street is by no means complete and we need to be pressing more on the case for economic fairness and jailing corrupt banksters.  And what will help Occupy grow as a movement is to see the many niches where it can replace government and bloated hierarchical non-profits and provide direct services.

Well after this post was written, criticisms of the response by the Red Cross, which raised $150 million for Sandy, were coming in strong.

Occupy 2.0 San Francisco Style

As soon as i called David upon arrival in San Francisco, he invited me to come work on the banner he was painting.  The last time i saw David he was working on a banner (and giant puppet) also.  We needed a new one for re-occupying a house a local man had been evicted from.

The banner David, Amy and i made the evening before it was posted.

When i arrived David introduced me to Amy who was helping complete the banner painting.  After chatted with Amy, i again was surprised by the power of Occupy.  Amy had never done direct action before Occupy.  She felt there were barriers to radical political work, like you needed to have read Marx.  She also did not feel like the door was really open for her involvement, until Occupy came along.  All doors were open, we were rolling our own – her proactive nature enabled her to feel more than invited.  So powerful and early was this invite that she is one of the founders of Occupy SF Direct Action.  And most interestingly, she actually works for an investment firm, for which she has to take a different name (Amy is an alias) as to not loose her job.  We talked about how Occupy has brought together different classes across the country though this has been far from easy, it has been critical for activists to touch the world of homeless or displaced people.

Dexter retakes his house with help from neighbors, unions and Occupy

When i get to the action, there are perhaps 50 people listening to different speakers and we marched and chanted the few blocks to Dexter’s old house.  It had been foreclosed on by Wells Fargo and Dexter was evicted.  Today we took it back.  The doors were forced and everyone was invited in.

There were speeches from the balcony, with union folks, the local arch bishop and folks from Occupy SF direct action.  And Dexter himself leading out the shout “An injury to one is an injury to all.”  One organizer turned to me and said “This is direct action.”  Indeed, very direct.  And Wells Fargo which foreclosed on this property has a problem.  Dexter has a number of piece of paper saying this is his place.  Wells Fargo got control of this house from a collapsing bank with terrible records (using bail out money), it is unclear they will prevail in court.  When the police were called about the re-occupation, they said they were not coming to 1335 Quasada, it was a civil (not criminal) matter.  Dexter may well get to keep his house.

Getting everyone involved in banners for the next action

Political actions, even sexy re-occupations are often dull for many of the participants.  David is quick to put protestors to work paint banners for the next occupation   The crew above includes Dexter’s kids who were thrilled with the local support in getting their house back.  Occupy SF brought food and there was a big old barbeque in Dexter;s back yard protected from the rain.  People were happy and the entire event had a festive atmosphere.

Oh and we changed the locks, so Wells Fargo cant get in anymore.  Dexter and his kids have new keys.  Welcome to Occupy 2.0 – a full service protest movement.

In the last few years 7 homes have been re-occupied this way in San Francisco and most are still occupied by their original owners.

10 Ways Occupy Changes Everything

[This piece is slightly dated now, but there is so much good stuff in it i wanted to go public with it.]

Sadly, i must admit i have all but stopped reading books.  i still read a lot every day, most of it on the internet.  There are books that i am interested in reading; one was the much discussed When Corporations Ruled the Earth by David Korten.  So i was excited when i saw that he co-authored an article for called Ten Ways the Occupy Movement Changes Everything.  Unfortunately, i read the article and was disappointed.  While everything in it was true, it felt like it had missed many of what i thought were the key points around this important movement.  So in the spirit of “passport to complaining,” i wrote my own version.  i hope you like it. Even better, i hope you link to it and share it with your friends.

10 Ways Occupy Changes Everything

1) Occupy strengthens the right to assemble and protest.  The US Constitution guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  This is textbook Occupy.  This is exactly what we are doing and why.  And this is being challenged across the country.  Occupy is testing this with consequences for governments that don’t permit free assembly.  Oakland police demolished the local Occupy group; they even put a protester into critical condition.  But then protesters came back and re-occupied the space, closed a Wells Fargo branch, and called a general strike that shut down the port of Oakland.  NYPD came in and broke up Occupy Wall St. and less than seven hours later a NY State Supreme Court Judge had served Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD, FDNY and others with a restraining order to protect protesters’ right to re-enter “Liberty Square” with their tents.  After pepper spraying Occupy activists who posed no threat to the police, UC Davis is in the national news and investigating its own police violence.  First Amendment rights are be tested and often upheld across the country.  Crystal points out that while Occupy started here (North America), these rights to dissent are  being tested globally, not just in the US.

2) Occupy is the safety net. There is an informal but very real social contract. If you need something reasonable, Occupy will try to get it for you. The most obvious example is food and a place to stay, though it may well be in a tent outdoors. But it quickly goes deeper to medical services, legal aid, mental health counseling and someone to just listen to you and hold you, if you need it. When an ex-con friend ran out of options because he could not get a job and was out of money, I suggested he go to Occupy, because the rich social network, plus his various radical ideas would make him a natural for such a place. Local businesses and individuals are giving generously to Occupy. What started as a protest of the maldistribution of wealth is becoming a model for generosity and voluntary wealth redistribution.

Copper and I spoke for a while in Woodruff Park in Atlanta the other morning. “Occupy got me off crack,” he told me. When I pressed for details, this African American Muslim Shak (“a learned person in the culture of Islam” as Copper would explain to me) got so busy– with all the hospitality, the media, the meetings, the influx of resources, making sure people got shelter and food, and so on– that motivation overpowered his addiction. After all, he could be a junky anytime, while Occupy was inviting him to be a revolutionary right now.

3) Occupy is a triumph for consensus. Occupy is gritty. There are power trips and non-cooperators and thieves and various other violators tangled into it. With the General Assembly format, collective wisdom consistently triumphs over eloquent would-be leaders. Sexist and otherwise disrespectful behaviors are often pushed back. Occupy proves that if consensus can work in this heterogeneous cultural and class environment, it can work anywhere.  It also proves that if we work it long enough and hard enough in a group, we can get to something that we all agree on.  This is really big.

 4) Occupy challenges our own oppressive behaviors. I have had more substantive conversations with poor black older men in the last two months than I have had in the previous 5 years. I am white and come from a privileged class background.  Occupy is an invitation to a conversation about ourselves and what our dreams are. If I am there and you are there we can talk. It does not matter what our class, race, religion or sexual orientation is. We see each other as part of an idealistic family that is willing to work to make things better.   All occupations are struggling with the institutionalized and internalized oppressions that we carry with us into any new space: racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, etc.  We have been raised in a culture that teaches us to stop listening when women speak, to shove aside the realities of any person of color, to stutter when faced with sexualities or gender identities unlike our own, to ignore the importance of children.  But the very nature of occupy challenges those behaviors.  Across the country there are patriarchy working groups, people of color caucuses, women’s caucuses.  White folks with an anti oppression analysis are organizing white ally caucuses.  It is messy and we are still re-creating dominant culture behaviors, but Occupy gives people the space to try something different.

5) Occupy is a successful memetic structure. Memes are the cultural counter part of genes. They are self replicating concepts. The larger ones (super memes) are concepts which change the world and include things like Darwinism, globalization, Islam, AA, and the sexual revolution. Occupy was replicated globally within a month of its start. Even if Occupy is not the revolutionary movement which makes everything better, it proves with its veracity and speed that given the right memetic mix ideas can become action and really go global overnight without corporate sponsorship.  Occupy is a powerful reminder that good ideas can change the world for the better.  And because the Occupy concept is open source, it can be modified and experimented with – tinkered and improved.

6) Occupy is already a global “brand” with strong reputation. Marketers are dreaming of how to capitalize the good global brand of Occupy. Their success is mostly irrelevant. What is important that most people think these protests are a good thing and many are willing to support this movement with their resources, their time, or their voice. Occupy has a loose type of brand loyalty, where if people involved see that something is “real” Occupy to them, they will go towards it and offer to help. Occupy is important because it is a “smart brand” which has started well over a billion conversations in two months.  For example, I think Occupy may reinvigorate hitchhiking in the US, with people holding signs which say “Occupy LA.”  The dynamics of hitching are such that only a tiny shift in the number of people willing to pick up hikers dramatically improves the quality of the hitching experience.

7) Occupy is open source. You don’t have to fill out a form, other than perhaps a cardboard sign. And your sign, of course, allows you to be funny or angry or profound as you wish. Anyone can join. Existing Occupy sites are often highly visible in the center of town. Anyone can start their own Occupy, put up your own website, tell folks (especially your friends) when the general assembly is and prepare to camp out and interact with the police.

And open source is a huge invitation to clever organizers.  You can go door to door and ask for donations to the movement and then distribute them.  Because there is no bank account and no 501 C3, you prove that you are part of the movement by story telling.  By saying what you have seen.  Using stories to carry messages is, in my mind, the key to shifting people’s thinking.

8) Occupy is leaderless. There are lots of closet anarchists out there. Lots of people who don’t want leaders telling them what they should do and particularly don’t believe in the political systems to correct the problems that the same political system has helped put in place. Leaderlessness means Occupy has to keep asking itself who it is and what it wants. This question is asked first on a very local level, but Occupy often chooses to then ask big picture questions.

9) Occupy changes the dynamic of homelessness.  From where i sit, the most important people in the Occupy movement are the homeless ambassadors to the typically more affluent occupy organizers.  These people, often with amazing stories, see the importance of these two groups working together.  Food has never been served in Woodruff Park in Atlanta before Occupy showed up.  The homeless were stopped from sleeping in Lee Park in Charlottesville.  But it is only secondarily about food and better places to sleep.  It is primarily about the political power of Occupy being accessible, local, and focused on homeless issues. It is also about the myriad Occupy volunteers working with the homeless toward their common goals.


10) Occupy is a light of hope in a hopeless world. i am going to skip the 10th point and link to a current interesting article in the Nation on the future of the Occupy movement.


Fag Tag and Occupy will rise again

While Occupy has booted from many parks Occupy actions continue in many place, including several sets of port closing in this week. Closer to home there was a flap about the tagging of the statue in Lee Park.  While i did not think much of the handwriting, i thought the slogan (mimicking Lee’s own “The South will rise again”) was clever.


Within 24 hours of it being discovered by the authorities (and what regular park attendees think is about 48 hours of the actual tagging) it was mostly erased using powerful solvents.  See below.

What was pointed out to me was that a far more offensive tag, in the same park on a nearby tree was left standing and will continue to be (and removing tags from trees is admittedly much harder).  The image below is not 40 feet from the offending Lee statue.  Were i a better photgrapher you could read the word “fag” more clearly in the tag.

There is quite a little hub-ub both in the media and within the Occupy Cville community about this tagging.  Many people are disturbed by it.  One Occupier even went as far as saying it was sullying the “pure movement”.  But it is to be expected from a group which has no leader and many anarchists involved.  Part of the issue here is how the movement relates to property destruction (or in this case, temporary property defacement).  Some advocates of non-violence believe that property destruction is a form of violence.  Certainly, this view is widely held by capitalists and property owners who wish the treatment of their assets to be viewed with the same attention and care as is given to human beings.

I have to say i dont worry so much about property rights, but perhaps this is easier for me because i dont have much personally, but have a lot held in a collective fashion.    I will get back to property rights and violence, but tonight i will leave this here.



A night in the Cville Jail w/ Occupy

i did not think i was going to make it.  i had gone to Richmond to rescue Helm from the bus station and a crashed tanker truck blocked my exit and forced me into town.  It looked like i would be late for the 11 PM witching hour that the Cville police had set up for clearing out the Occupy movement from Lee Park.

So i called Sue from Little Flower Catholic Worker and said “as an experienced activist, how long do you think it will be before they start busting each other?”  It was 9:30 which i called.  Sue observed that the police and media were already in position.  The protesters were ready and technically the park closes at 11 PM and the permit (which Occupy Cville never asked for) expired today.

i rushed back to Twin Oaks, dropped off a sick Helm, picked up a helpful Edmund and Emily and rushed on to Cville hoping i would be in time to get arrested.  Okay, i get that most people are not rushing off to get arrested.  But i had multiple motivations.

First, it was the first time Sara and i would have ever gotten arrested together.  As recently as the day before Sara had been reminding me that i had not actually done much for Occupy Cville, in stark contrast to her involvement (which of course she did not mention, nor did she need to).

Second, of course i want to blog about it.  About how effective (or not) non-violent arrest actions are in changing the political conversations abut a myriad of issues.

Third,  want to be part of this wild meme which unfolding called Occupy.

We spent hours before being released.  The cops were not too bad, tho one young cop freaked and put Shelly into a compliance hold when she was not resisting and got her screaming across Lee Park.

i thought i might stay with Sara in Cville after the arrests, but we had one of those charming awkward moments where she introduced me to her new lover in the waiting room of the jail, who was going to stay with her that night.

There was a bunch of coverage including these videos from Channel 29

There is much more to say, but i am beat, more to come,  Stay tuned.

Occupy Atlanta – Chaotic and Open

Occupy Atlanta

“You have two choices” Kate said to me with a rare level of agitation “You can either stop complaining about the corruption in Ohio or you can come campaign with me in Cincinnati.” It was not much of a choice, in the fall of 2004 the rampant election abuse in Ohio was enough to get an anarchist into party politics. I knew I could not shut up about it, so we went to Cincinnati and worked for almost a week for several different campaign efforts: Acorn, the Unions (SEIU and friends), for the Kerry Campaign directly and for Election Protection.  

At the Kerry HQ and I got elevated in a few hours to the lead person working on this corrupted mostly paper database of prospective voter contacts. At one point the highest level functionary from the office came in, clearly harried and unhappy about the unresolved state of the database. I spoke with him and the person who had been working on the database for months. When the director asked me what I would do, I suggested a pretty radical plan which dumped the largest part of the contaminated data, recognizing that there was no longer time to do anything with the whole list. There was an intense quiet moment and the director told the database manager “Do what he is proposing”

What struck me about this was the difference between this situation and the other groups SEIU, Acorn and Voter Protection that we worked for on election day. In those groups you could only do the lowest level direct contact work and paper scuffling. The Kerry organization was some combination of open enough and chaotic enough to make it be possible for me to influence it. The others were not.

I felt the same way today at Occupy Oakland. I had not been there an hour before Jonah said, “It is great that you are here, I want you to talk with this guy who does a lot but has a very aggressive style. He has also been shown to be stealing things from other members of the Occupy Atlanta group”.  And it is conceivable that someone could present like me and be terrible for this pressing task. And perhaps Jonah, frustrated with the situation is just throwing at it what ever resources seem to be handy. And I look handy.

Keith was walking in front of me on Peachtree St, and looked back when he heard me asking people about Occupy.  He was proud to say he had been there since the first day.  We talked about the unlikely trajectory of Occupy Atlanta in Woodruff Park, which ended with 5 arrests and displacement by the police.

Occupy Atlanta is now strangely indoors on the 4th floor of a Peachtree Street building, right above a homeless shelter. But when I asked Ed if Occupy Atlanta was mostly homeless people he explained that it is not. And the desire of the students, new and old activists who had created occupy was not principally around housing or extreme poverty issues. The current site is just 8 blocks from the original Occupy site, but being indoors makes it basically invisible. Ed went on to explain that homeless are actually usually finding accommodations better than a tent in the park. He personally had several places to stay that were nicer than the park, but it also seemed clear he did not have a regular residence.

Ed and Candy describe the early days in Woodruff Park and it is easy to imagine that this type of festival environment that the mayor might well worry about. It is easy to imagine why they were forced to leave.

Candy explains to me that she is not at Occupy for the politics.  And though these are not her words, it is clear she is attracted in part because it is the better party.  If the movement is going to grow in these strange indoor hot houses and other relocations, it will be in part because people who do not identify as political feel like it is the right place to be.

Occupy your Imagination

“Why aren’t you at Occupy, this is the closest thing we have seen to a revolution in this country in our lifetimes”  Ezra was asking me the same question i have been asking myself.

And of course i have been a couple of times and am likely to start going into Cville most Fridays to dig in deeper.  But where i have most been Occupying is in my imagination.

So you really want to do something to help Occupy, but you have a straight job and a crowded life?  What i would suggest is you organize with your friends who are also sympathetic to do some type of performance at the Occupy near you.  It does not have to be very fancy or long, and you could work from a script if you needed to.   But even more important that the weather in determining the longevity of Occupy, is how good a time people are having at these events.  It is in essence a funology problem.

Of course there are a lot of factors, people really want to creatively express their political upset and Occupy is providing a great vehicle for this.

break up letter with the system

There are problems with homeless people (especially mental health problems and how they integrate or dont with the occupiers.  The police are varying degrees of headachy.  The weather is getting colder.  And what will hold people to these actions is in part the extra-ordinary things which are happening at these occupy events – the conversations, the generosity, the sense of accomplishment, the feeling that this is an important moment in history.

Nov 2 Occupy Oakland Demo

Occupy Oakland has been the source of much inspiration to me.  After being brutally attacked by the police, who tried to disperse the action including putting Scott Olsen in critical condition.  The movement bounced back and not only retook the space.  But upped the ante closed down a Wells Fargo Bank, called a general strike and closed the port of Oakland.

Stay tuned more on this topic shortly.