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View Diary: Origins of Occupy Wall Street and Prefigurative Politics (83 comments)

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  •  I wish I could have put in more (21+ / 0-)

     it's an interesting story and maybe I'll write about it some day, though I no longer take notes at meetings, as my days as an ethnographer of social movements are over. Now I just participate.

      the people who really kicked off that first July 2nd movement, at the very beginning, were me and an artist and anarchist named Georgia Sagri (she told me she actually wanted me to use her full name here), who completely freaked out the sectarian folks who were trying to coopt the event by taking the stage and calling for a real assembly - in the face of every sort of intimidation, really, while I hustled around trying to find anyone who looked like a horizontal - as we say - the guy with the IWW T-shirt, the Korean fellow I vaguely remember seeing doing Food Not Bombs, the teenage girl with a Zapatista scarf, an old friend who used to be in the Direct Action Network in 2000 who was now a labor organizer... and proposing we all gather on the other end of Bowling Green. Then, in the weekly meetings, for a while it was the anarchists or autonomists versus what we called the verticals, the people in organized parties or similar groups, like the ISO, who did a lot of good work, I should emphasize, but who had a very different philosophy about how things should be organized - but there were also all sorts of others, including LaRouchies, a group called Day of Rage whose rep said she'd block (veto) anything that brought us into formal alliance with unions because that group had this idea that leftist and rightist populists could make common cause, and many others.

    The majority, thankfully, were young people, many of them students, who'd been involved in Bloombergville, or other recent actions, were not part of any party or similar group but were broadly anti-authoritarian in attitude, who had some good direct action experience but mostly little experience with consensus process. Very early I told an SDS veteran named Marisa about the effort (not the '60s SDS, but the newer one created six years ago or so) who proved to be absolutely amazing, one of those people who, if we just had maybe seven or eight or her, the revolution would happen tomorrow. She's still one of the big people holding things together, but in the beginning, she did everything, far more than me. (I figure she won't mind my using her name too since she's one of the OWS press contacts now.)

    During the assemblies we held in Tompkins Square Park, one of the big battles was whether we were going to have official police liaisons and marshalls. The anti-authoritarian side was dead-set against this, since as soon as you have such a structure, the police always manage to co-opt it, and it becomes a hierarchical institution telling people what to do. I've seen this happen again and again. We managed to head that off and I think that was an important victory. At the same time, though, everyone agreed that this action would be non-violent - it's interesting, because the way we got such unanimity on this was by never asking anyone to actually sign or agree to a peace pledge or code of conduct or anything like that, which again would have gotten the hardcore anti-authoritarians up in arms, but insisting that it was up to everyone's individual conscience but calling for solidarity. Since any act of property destruction would clearly have endangered others, people simply refrained.

    It was really wonderful to see it all come together the way it did. I did facilitate a couple meetings but I think my main role was to track down and talk up some of my old comrades from the Direct Action Network from ten years or so ago and convince them to help give trainings: medical, legal, CD, affinity group, facilitation, etc etc. Those trainings were really well attended and I think really helped. We gave some more emergency ones in the very first days of the occupation.

       

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