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Resistance Takes Root in Barcelona
Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
One thing is certain: the energy, creativity and will comes from outside the existing institutions. Bargaining, pressure, people and organizations that bridge the outside and the inside will no doubt be part of the process of change, but the established institutions have lost the initiative.
There is no bravado about this. Among those I talked to on our way home from the Arc de Triomf and the improvised garden, there was anxiety as well as elation at the size and success of the demonstration. “I feel some people are looking for leaders,” said Nuria, a translator and free culture activist.
But in the many levels of organization producing this impressive show not only of anger but of serious engagement in creating alternatives, it becomes clear that this is not a leaderless’ movement. It is emerging, experimentally perhaps, as movement where leadership is shared and is learnt – a movement that can grow and flourish as well as stand firm.
… The important, distinguishing feature of this vision of change is that it is not centred on what governments should do. Rather it is a guide to action at many levels, starting with what the people can do collaboratively, through spaces they occupy, resources they reclaim, new sources of power they create. There is a self-consciousness that the creation of far-reaching alternatives will take time. In conversation, the slogans are put in context: ‘we’re going slowly, because we are going far’ is a common saying.
One thing is certain: the energy, creativity and will comes from outside the existing institutions.
(16 October 2011)
Life after occupation
Arun Gupta, Salon
From Mobile, Ala., to Chicago, lessons in the importance of holding territory
… To the world-weary in New York, a silent protest and proposition that the American system values “profit over people” may seem prosaic. And it would be prosaic were it not happening in a place like Mobile, Ala., and all over the United States. Dozens of occupiers have told us this movement is an “awakening” for them or for others.
One eye-opening aspect of our evening with Occupy Mobile was that none of these people knew each other a month before. The movement has created a new political community virtually overnight.
“We all felt alone,” Chelsy Wilson says. “Now we know that’s not the case. We’re going to try to reach out to other people who feel this wa … People say they have a new hope for Mobile. A lot of us were looking for jobs outside the city, we wanted to move away as fast as we could, and a lot of us have changed our minds. We want to stay here now.”
In smaller, conservative cities, the creation of a new community may be success enough for the movement, enabling a new network to consolidate and spread its message without a public encampment. But for larger cities that already have a strong progressive presence, the experience of Occupy Chicago is more relevant — and more sobering.
(21 November 2011)
All the Angry People
George Packer, New Yorker
A man out of work finds community at Occupy Wall Street.
Ray Kachel took a bus from Seattle to join O.W.S.
Until this fall, Ray Kachel had lived virtually all of his fifty-three years within a few miles of his birthplace, in Seattle. He was a self-taught Jack-of-all-trades in the computer industry, who bought his first Mac in 1984. He attended Seattle Central Community College but dropped out; not long afterward, he was hired by a company that specialized in optical character recognition, transferring printed material into digital records for storage. Eventually, Kachel was laid off, but for a long time he continued to make a decent living; keeping up with advances in audio and video production, he picked up freelance work editing online content.
… When the recession hit, tech jobs in Seattle started drying up. After the death of the owner of his main client—a company for which he did DVD customization—Kachel found that he no longer had contacts for other sources of work.
… This fall, as he was preparing to vacate his apartment, he learned on Twitter that several hundred demonstrators had taken over a park in lower Manhattan.
None of Kachel’s online acquaintances could say what, precisely, had sparked the protest, which began on September 17th. But Occupy Wall Street, as it was called, emerged so spontaneously that it quickly absorbed the pent-up energies of a wide array of people in every corner of the country. Because it was formless and leaderless, the movement passed the test of authenticity—the first requirement for a citizenry that no longer had faith in institutions and élites. Its brilliant slogan, “We Are the Ninety-nine Per Cent,” was simple and capacious enough to cover a multitude of stories, including Kachel’s.
The protesters in Zuccotti Park were angry about things that Kachel recognized from his own life: the injustice of an economic system in which the rich and the powerful sucked the life out of the middle class. He had long felt critical of the big banks, the oil companies, the huge corporations that didn’t pay taxes. Fracking, the hydraulic extraction of natural gas, was a particular concern of Kachel’s. He was also an obsessive follower of Rachel Maddow—he loved her wit, her agreeableness—and Occupy Wall Street was starting to come up on her cable news program.
Kachel had four hundred and fifty dollars from the sale of his copy of Final Cut Pro. For two hundred and fifty, you could travel to New York City on a Greyhound bus. He had never been farther east than Dallas, but New York City was so dense and diverse, and so full of ideas and ways to make money, that if he could learn to exist there he could surely find a place to exist. On the last night of September, he went to bed telling himself, “Oh, this is just absolutely nuts, you can’t do that.” He woke up in the morning with a clear thought: This is exactly what I’m going to do.
(issue of 5 December 2011)
Occupy Wall Street is All Over The Media: But for How Long?
Danny Schechter, Common Dreams
… There was little reporting on the Occupation when it started. It was only after the cops began pepper spraying that the media arrived en masse. They had adversaries. That they could understand.
Soon, they flocked to Zuccotti Park like blue birds. When one landed, they all landed. The TV trucks were everywhere especially at 6 and 11 pm. so that local reporters could do silly live stand-ups and show off colorful characters to reinforce the narrative that the protesters were just having fun, and no serious ideas.
Many of these frontline reporters couldn’t tell you the difference between a derivative and a donut, but that didn’t matter because what does matter is face time, airtime, visibility.
First, the international press recognized that this movement was important. The Zuccotti became a mini United Nations with crews from BBC, Al Jazeera, Xinhua News Agency, Russia Today, Press TV et.al.
When they took it seriously, the American press began to do the same, and then network TV got into the act, once it was realized that this was a national, even a global story.
Occupy Wall Street soon had a press desk trying to help reporters who often showed up with preconceived story lines demanded by their editors. Soon the stories about sex, drugs and drumming—no rock and roll yet—were everywhere as they turned over rocks and looked for the homeless and the harassers.
When one station did “the park is now a Walmart for Rats,” story, City Hall saw an opening and harping on cleanliness (Which has always been next to godliness) used that as a pretext for shutting it down.
Most activists were happy to be interviewed but few ever watched how the stories were edited: what was covered and what was not.
That’s also because many of the occupiers hate television and what it has become. They don’t read ponderous editorials or inflammatory headlines.
They do read and create social media—Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube etc.
The advantage is that they are then exposed to their truths and the news they believe they need to makes a difference.
Its news, though, for the community, not the country!
The disadvantage is they often are not reaching out to millions of Americans who won’t join the movement because it’s cool. The 99% needs to be educated and inspired—but, alas, they rely on the tabloid newspapers and cable news that is least sympathetic to the movement.
You have to use media if you want to Occupy the Mainstream—and build a larger movement as opposed to being depicted as a tribal subculture of misfits and the angry. You need your own mainstream media campaign.
I would suspect that the Occupy Movement has not met with or tried to persuade editorial boards or newsroom execs. They tend to react more to what they are saying than to act more proactively with their own media campaigns to shape a different message that gets disseminated widely.
As the movement moves on, messages have to change and target specific communities. This approach may be coming, but not quickly enough.
… It’s the 99% that the movement should aim at with actions and media that shows they are on their side. They need more creative forms of mass outreach and organizing to remake a community of activists as a mass movement with demands that the people can resonate with and find ways of supporting. What about political infomercials, TV spots and ads?
(28 November 2011)
Occupy Wall Street: The Will to Face the Arithmetic
Stanley Rogouski, Znet
… Until it was destroyed on November 15, Occupy Wall Street in Zucotti Park was three things, a series of unpermitted demonstrations against the financial industry, an ongoing street carnival and a squatters camp, a block long “Obamaville” in the heart of lower Manhattan. Every time it was successful, it was successful because it mobilized the greatest number of people, kept itself outside of limiting political categories like left and right, stayed away from constricting lists of “demands” and the traditional political process. Every time it lost it lost because it alienated potential supporters by allowing small groups of people to monopolize the agenda. Whether it was the panhandlers on the western edge of Zucotti Park, or the union bureaucrats in Foley Square, the result was the same, demoralization and defeat.
By discarding any of the three components that brought it to national attention, Occupy Wall Street risks limiting itself. If Occupy Wall Street becomes mainly a student movement, it loses the group that has been its greatest strength, recent college graduates in their mid 20s struggling in a bad economy. If Occupy Wall Street attaches itself to the Democratic Party or even the far left, funnels its energies into recall campaigns, voter registration drives, or even selling communist newspapers, it risks alienating another of its strengths, the libertarian right, the many, many people who occupied Zucotti Park in the Fall of 2011 who wanted, not to put Obama back into office and get Bernie Sanders a leadership position in the Senate, but to “end the fed.” If Occupy Wall Street gives up the physical space of Zucotti Park and holds its general assemblies at the Brecht Forum or in some classroom at Columbia or the New School, it risks handing the process over to the usual suspects, the institutionalized left in New York, who will then, inevitably, funnel the energies of people who attend the general assemblies, if they can even find them, into permitted marches and fund raising.
On the other hand, if Occupy Wall Street plans to retake Zucotti Park, Oscar Grant Plaza and their counterparts in Seattle, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles in the spring of 2012, it can and inevitably will mobilize numbers of people the police departments in those cities won’t be able to face. They won’t even want to. Every police officer will be terrified of becoming the next John Pike. Five thousand arrests, 10,000 arrests, 50,000 arrests, at some point, the capacity of even the New York or Los Angeles police will simply be overwhelmed. No city government, even as part of an effort coordinated by Homeland Security will be able to “face the arithmetic.” The “1%” have chosen a battlefield they can’t hold, a military strategy that depends on the “99%” defeating themselves through fear, the desire to be respectable, or the simple unwillingness to reach out and grab what’s rightfully theirs. Call their bluff.
Stanley Rogouski is a 1986 graduate of Rutgers University where he studied under Steve Eric Bronner. He became politically active in the late 1980s as a volunteer for the Committee in Solidarity With the People of El Salvador. For two months, during the occupation of Zucotti Park, he served as an embedded photojournalist, and a totally non-objective supporter of Occupy Wall Street.
(28 November 2011)
Could Rogouski be right? The police presence has got to be expensive. -BA