Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Friday, July 06, 2012

CRITICAL LOOK AT OCCUPY



Wednesday marked America's Independence Day and the Occupy Wall Street movement took to the streets of Philadelphia, PA. The day known as "The National Gathering" drew occupiers from all over the country to plan the future of the movement, but critics believe the numbers that showed up were less than satisfactory, so is the Occupy Wall Street movement fading away? Arun Gupta, founding editor for The Indypendent, joins RT with what he saw in Philly.

My View:   I share many of Gupta's concerns about Occupy needing to mature.  I would venture that about 1,000 people at the most passed through Philadelphia while I was there. (The local media called it a bust because Occupy had predicted 10,000 would be there.  Shows the dangers of making crowd predictions to the media.)  Many of them came to play and socialize with their Occupy peers.  There were also many serious activists there who spent a good amount of time in circles discussing strategy and the like.  But things were not well organized.  Several times I went to the "information" table inside Franklin Park to ask when the next demonstration was going to take off and no one seemed to know.  One day I was able to eventually march (but it began an hour late missing the early rush hour traffic) and on the second day I was there I missed the demo altogether while I was sitting in the park waiting for it to start.  No announcement was made.  It just seemed to slide off onto the street and it was not announced within the park.  Confusing to say the least.

I saw the emails and Facebook reports about the "harsh police" who arrested 26 people when they late at night took over a street and refused to move.  But my experience was that the Philly police were quite calm and appeared to be trying to work with Occupy at every turn.  They did not armor up like I have seen done in so many other cities.  Instead most Philly cops were dressed in shorts and on their bicycles and were more concerned about dealing with traffic.  The heads of the police department were dressed in civilian clothes and were constantly talking with anyone who wished to speak with them - negotiating.  When the Veterans for Peace tent had to be moved off the Independence Mall on July 4 the police even brought a truck around to help VFP move all their stuff to another nearby location.  There were federal cops and Homeland Security there but the local Philly cops seemed to have kept them in their place and were calling the shots.  In one instance my friend Bob Smith (longtime local Philly peace organizer) said a federal cop got in his face and the Philly police told the fed to back off.  I don't think it does our movement any good to trash cops when they had in fact mostly been acting like we'd hope they would.

The essence of Occupy though is what happens locally all over the country.  I know that in some communities Occupy has basically died.  In others there is still good local activity going on.  Here in Brunswick Occupy still protests on the street each week and meets afterward.  They just had a big presence in the Bath July 4 parade.  (I hope to have some video of that on here soon.)  So I don't see Occupy being able to come up with some "big national plan".  Instead for Occupy to continue to be relevant it must continue to be active in local communities working on issues of importance in those towns and cities.  No one expects that they should retake the parks again.  That strategy has passed.  What matters now is can people move on to something more than playing grab-ass with the police?  The cat-and-mouse game with the cops is not a political strategy.  It is a sign of political immaturity.

The idea is to organize the increasingly frustrated and abandoned bunch of folks across the nation who have been cast to the side by the oligarchy.  Time will tell if Occupy can find good ways to keep reaching out.

Another Opinion:  Here is what Rob Kall, who lives in Philly area and runs Op-Ed News, has to say about Occupy.  

People wonder what the future of the Occupy movement is. I left the gathering very optimistic and hopeful. The energy, creativity, dedication and passion manifested by all ages is extraordinary. The encampments are gone. So be it. The future of occupy is in the people already in it and those who discover it and who the current people awaken, who will act as catalysts, moving the people of the world from a top down culture of dinosaurs to a bottom up, horizontal, direct democracy world of little mammals. That's how evolution happened. That's how the  metamorphosis of Occupy will shake the world and, from the bottom up, make the biggest changes seen since civilization began.

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