Saturday, 15 October 2011

#OccupySLC : Day Nine (Continued)

According to Fox 13, #OccupySLC have packed up their tents - but don't worry, it's just to clear Pioneer Park for the Farmer's Market. They have already announced today's schedule and will be setting back up after the market clears out. #OSLC hub  here  , Twitter feeds  here  and  here  , national Occupy Together hub  here  , and Youtube channel   here  .

#OSLC's General Assembly has formally adopted the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City as (essentially) the Declaration of the Occupation of Salt Lake City. If anyone still thinks that the #Occupy protests "don't have goals" or "are incoherent," I would suggest they read the Declaration  here  . Yes, it is still a bit protean, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. What the Declaration does indicate, in my opinion, is that things are crystallizing for #Occupy - as time passes and the movement keeps going, I imagine that #Occupy's "demands" will become much more concrete. The messy, argumentative, easily-mocked democratic principles that are driving this movement are a textbook example of good (if slow and somewhat frustrating), inclusive, unanimity-driven and non-adversarial democracy. If you're at all curious about non-adversarial deliberative processes, I'd suggest Jane Mansbridge's Beyond Adversary Democracy, which is excellent.

There's a sort of weird beauty in public speaking performed by people who aren't used to speaking in public. The various committees of the #OSLC General Assembly each chose a representative to speak yesterday. The formal adoption of the Declaration was well attended:

But before we get into that too deeply, let's have a look at news coverage of the local, national, and now international ( ! ) protests.

Newsclown Breakdown

At the national level, #OccupyDenver was shut down by the cops. #OccupyBoston is going batshit crazy. #OccupyWallStreet, the Original Recipe to #OSLC's extra crispy, is in the news regularly - so far Mayor Bloomberg and Brookfield Office Properties are cooperating and/or coordinating things with the protesters, so that's good. It was awfully nice of Russell Simmons to offer to flaunt his extravagant wealth (maybe Ray Smuckles could kick in a few ducats). #OccupySanFran is awesome - and proof that unions are starting to stir again. #OccupySeattle is planning a march today - the cops there arrested ten people, but that's nothing (see also: #OccupyBoston goes batshit crazy).

Internationally, #Occupy protests have been spreading from city to city. 

(Image via Reuters)

Sydney, Tokyo and Taipei have robust protests in solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet (I strongly suggest you visit that link for the "Angry Birds" protest signs - Jesus H. Griswold that's idiotic). #OccupyRome tried to burn the mother down, which isn't a new thing for Rome.

Here in Salt Lake City, Paul Rolly broke an astonishing story regarding local bureaucratic paranoia about "left wing extremist" groups. KSL has decent coverage of the problems #OSLC has been having with the police  here  . ABC 4's coverage  here  , Channel 2 News  here  , Fox 13  here  . Most local coverage is of the big, dumb, "WELL ON THE ONE HAND X BUT ON THE OTHER Y" variety.

KUER has the best local coverage  here  . Deb Henry, a friend of mine from Peaceful Uprising, is one of the panelists.

The Joseph Farah Challenge

As you may recall, Joseph Farah (among other conservative voices) expressed skepticism about any comparison of the #Occupy protests to the Tea Parties, since #OccupyTogether is obviously a George-Soros-financed plot to crush capitalism by jobless, unpleasant Unreal Americans. I thought it was nice of the young man who kicked off the Declaration at the Friday Forum to mention that #OSLC is family-friendly (it's true! there were babies everywhere yesterday afternoon) and non-partisan:

The impression that the Ocupados are lazy slackers who need to get a job was helpfully perpetuated by a random conservative counter-protester. This gentleman grilled Mark Shurtleff over why the Ocupados are not being carted away by the trainload for violating "his" "sacred" park "where the Pioneers first unloaded their carts" (I'm not making those statements up):

ABC4 was right in the middle of that one, as you can see. It was fun. After a while, one of the spokeshumans for #OSLC engaged the guy directly. Both had their talking points well polished, so we'll call it a draw - they hugged at the end, which probably gave the Angry Conservative a case of the willies, but it's all in good fun.

I didn't get it on camera, but when the gentleman above spat out some line that was the equivalent of "get a job, hippies" there was an audible roar from the crowd. Of the people I personally spoke to, Deb Henry works full time, and organizes #OSLC and work with Peaceful Uprising in her spare time. Membership in the IWW is contingent on employment in various service or industrial sectors; I personally know a press operator and a custodian who are IWW participants in the protest. There is also a fair-sized contingent of small business owners, including the main spokesman for #OSLC (whose name I did not catch, unfortunately). 

To cede Mr. Farah a point, #OSLC has collected a large contingent of homeless people - enough that they comprise their own subcommittee of the General Assembly. Their spokesperson was one of the most heartbreaking, honest speakers at the Forum, and his story was simple and worth repeating. It's also worth noting that he stated from the get-go that he only speaks for himself, and not for the homeless in general - many of whom (and this is a crushingly obvious statement) have mental health or disability issues.

The spokesman said that he had worked a full time job, up to 58 hours a week actually, for $7 an hour ($11 with overtime). This was barely enough to pay his bills, and, in his fifties, he lost his job, and then his home. Completely disenfranchised, he said that #OccupySLC had given him "a spark" for the first time in years. 

These fine people:

Are friends of mine. Both are employed full-time.

I hope I've answered Mr. Farah's question about whether these are the type of people "you would want as your neighbors." Here's a news flash for the "journalist:" we ARE your neighbors.

Anarchy Burgers For All

As I stated before, the Circle-A Cafe (which I idiotically thought was the 'Circle Cafe') has blossomed into a huge operation that now feeds the entire base camp, including the homeless, plus anyone who wanders in for a meal. The Circle-A Cafe has its own manifesto, separate and distinct from #OSLC/#OccupyWallStreet's, which reads:

This kitchen is run in the style of an anarchist collective. We are here to build community. We are here to create unity. We are here to help each other. That means...everyone is equal...there are not bosses and anyone who is hungry is welcome to eat here. Bring your own mess kit if you can because we use...reusable, rewashable, nondisposable, and refillable serving containers. We encourage licensed food handlers to contact the kitchen...and join the team...or schedule a shift for a day or meal. Wish list: Tents - Tarps - Sleeping Bags - Socks - Refillable water bottles - Home Cooked Meals - Sugar - Coffee - Toothbrushes - Toothpaste - Toilet Paper

Both the People's Library and Circle-A Cafe are massively impressive to me. In both cases, a population of leaderless, self-organizing volunteers identified a need - nutrition and education - and worked to meet it. Speaking of the People's Library/Free School node, the schedule for today is as follows:

Free School

1:00 PM MST: Federal Reserve, Fraudulent Banking Institutions, and Alternate Currencies
2:00 PM MST: Utah Tar Sands Resistance
4:00 PM MST: Know Your Rights
5:00 PM MST: Taking the Power Away from the Banks and Corporations

There's also a "flash meditation" (sounds tricky) at 3:00 PM MST.

All in all, I would call the Friday Forum a success. It was an opportunity to show that #OSLC can generate concrete demands and a leaderless organizational structure that is still capable of meeting basic social needs - food, shelter, sanitation, etc. - while also increasing political awareness across all lines among the "99%." I'll continue to update content here regarding #OSLC as things unfold.

Monday should be a big day for Utah as well, as it marks the culmination of what will probably prove to be the ruthless evisceration of Utah Democrats' one Congressional seat at the hands of Republican redistricting -- fair warning, due to gore, the first five rows are likely to get wet.

No comments:

Post a Comment