Tuesday, 11 October 2011

#OccupySLC, Day Six

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Columbus Day! While most of us were trying to figure out why the post offices and liquor stores were closed, #OccupySLC gathered a little steam. Twitter feeds here and here.

The tent community is slowly growing bigger, with the attendant excitement that a growing movement brings, but also with the attendant problems of a larger group.

I saw a lot of very creative structures go up - especially on Thursday, with the foul weather, people made ingenious use of rope, tarps, and multiple tents clustered together to stay dry.

According to the people I asked, the Farmer's Market went smoothly on Saturday: tents were taken down and then after the Market closed up they went back up. Similarly, the smaller Farmer's Market tonight went off with no problems. The population in the tent community varies depending on the time of day and what other #OSLC events are taking place - for example, during the marches, the population at the camp is probably reduced by half at least. The numbers go up again when the marchers return (this is also when the feeding frenzy hits the Kitchen Tent).

By today, things were starting to solidify, and the tent community was looking downright orderly.

As the community grows, the need for resources is, of course, going to increase. So far, the Medical Tent is well staffed and well supplied:

I mentioned in my last post that the People's Library was looking for books to distribute to anyone who was bored and/or interested. I put together a little Pepperidge Farms Ideological Sampler and took it down:

The Library, which was partially taken down when I last saw it, is going up now, with shelves for books and a table full of reading material ranging from what one distributor jokingly called "the right wing pile" (a lot of End the Fed and Ron Paul stuff, not surprisingly and actually rather encouragingly) to more predictably lefty stuff.

Again, keep in mind that these photos were taken during the rally at the Capitol, so the only people back at camp were those working on setting up projects like the above or those just waking up or those who...well, we'll get to that momentarily.

To my surprise and delight, both of the gentlemen setting up the Free School / People's Library were Wobs like myself, so we talked shop a tiny bit, and I noticed that they had this month's Industrial Worker!


The Medical Tent, as I mentioned, seemed to have things under control. The Kitchen Tent does as well, but they are constantly in need of donations and volunteers. One of the Kitchen hard-cores I spoke to (whose name I failed to catch, which is practically criminal and I am very sorry for) had the following to say:

I dropped by later with Retired Journalist to check up, and dropped off some non-disposable plates, non-disposable silverware, mugs, etc. The wish list from the Kitchen Tent crew is as follows:

Tents, napkins/paper towels, non-disposable cups and silverware, dry (fresh/non-canned) veggies, long matches, lighter sticks, mess kits, canned soups, and spices.

An abridged wish list for the Tent Community in general:

Any hygiene products (especially hand sanitizer), warm hats, coats, twine, gloves, AA and AAA batteries, lights or lamps, socks, carts or wagons, and tents.

In general, while decision making can be messy and people are at Pioneer Park for a variety of reasons, the narrative that "this movement has no clear goals" or "these people don't know what they want" is completely bogus. You can see it perpetuated by the media who do show up at the park, in who they choose to interview and in the questions they ask (see my previous post regarding Mr. Channel 2 News and the Ron Paul supporter). The vast majority of the people at #OSLC do not fit easily into some "crazy hippie/anarchist" pigeonhole. Some of them do, yes, but the general spirit of the 99% seems to be "the more the merrier."

Does this "hurt message coherence?" Maybe. The "message" is deceptively simple, though: for decades now, power has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Economic power, political power - hell, even the power to manipulate the public discourse, just like Mr. Channel 2 News was trying to do. He's part of the 99%, too - but unfortunately, he hasn't realized it yet, and is still doing his job. His job, as a reporter for a mainstream corporate news outlet in Salt Lake City, is to reduce #OSLC to a blurb that will fit between commercial bumpers and end with a snappy one-liner outro. What solutions are the Ocupados proposing? The list is varied, but I don't think it would be off the mark to say that the slowly emerging consensus is some form of "level the playing field."

Just so we're clear that this isn't the dawning of the Age of Aquarius or something, I should mention something about a group of people I guess I'll call "the malingerers."

Any sort of mass protest, let alone one that involves free food, free basic medical attention, and a healthy contingent of anti-capitalists is going to attract "those guys." Those guys are part of the 99%. In many - hell, most - cases, they have been hosed by the system worse than a lot of the most passionate and committed protesters at this or any other event. But they do include a sizable contingent of violent people, and people with untreated mental illnesses. There are also people who have - through hard luck and long-term damage - forgotten the habits of trust, empathy, or any mode of communication but scheming and trying to think of a way to get one over on the other guy.

Especially during the early afternoon, when most serious ideologues were at the rally, I drifted through the rattier, less organized camps that some homeless teens and various malingerers had organized on the fringe of the main tent area. Everyone declined to be photographed except for one accommodating gentleman, but out of fairness I'm going to omit that photo and everyone's name as well.

A few of these kids were completely up front about being there for the food and in hopes of some kind of excitement - a riot, a revolution, I don't know - happening. I counted a few crusties, a juggalo, and at least one girl who had to be seriously schizophrenic. After a few minutes of banter I figured I had gotten all  was gong to get out of the experience and affably said my goodbyes and took off.

1 comment:

  1. This is Beau. Fantastic work. You are an honest to god journalist.