Yesterday police and sanitation workers swarmed the Occupy Albany encampment in what is becoming the standard model for removing an inconvenience to the 1% and their governments: overwhelming force, surprise, and blanket allegations of health and safety issues coupled with crime associated with the protest. Not that Albany doesn't have its share of assaults, stabbings, and shootings in the normal course of events - but as long as those happen around bars, apartment complexes, etc., no big deal. They're not considered a threat to the otherwise 'acceptable' social and economic order.
More past the Orange Omnilepticon
New Links and Updates
The Albany Times Union has some updated video, pictures, and other news. If you want to check out more local media outlets, this diary about Occupy Albany has links to all of them below the fold, repeated here.
WAMC, Northeast Public Radio
WRGB TV, channel 6 - a CBS affiliate
WTEN TV CHANNEL 10 - with ABC
WNYT TV 13 - NBC
WMHT TV 17 - PBS and NPR
WXXA Channel 23 - FOX News
WGY radio AM & FM - FOX, and a carrier of all the Right Wing radio gasbags
The Times Union - local newspaper for the Capital Region of New York
The Daily Gazette - Schenectady newspaper
The Troy Record - Troy newspaper
The Morning After
What happened yesterday and last night is still reverberating. The police were going to hold a press conference last night, but it was canceled without explanation. Occupy Albany protestors held their own press conference last night in which people who had been pepper sprayed were prominent.
Today there's questions about good faith - Occupy Albany had been engaged in discussion with the city all along and had been seeking ways to continue the protests that would accommodate both the city's concerns and the problems of coping with upstate winter weather. The sudden raid and the use of pepper spray by at least one officer is sparking calls for hearings on who ordered it and how was it planned and carried out.
It's not hard to speculate that there may have been a certain element of calculation on the part of state and city officials who coordinated the action, to wit:
• December 22 had been set as a deadline for the removal of the occupation for some weeks now. Institutionalizing the protest was probably never an option for the City.
• The lack of violent protests or mass disruptions may have had the effect of letting the occupation fade from the media and public attention span.
• The timing of the holidays would ensure there would be plenty of other news to flood the media and displace the raid. It would also make it harder for protestors to respond - they have holiday plans too.
• Eviction of other occupations around the country with the absence of major consequences for local authorities may have provided encouragement for similar action here.
• The passage of a new tax structure (behind closed doors by three men in a room) raising taxes on the upper brackets while cutting them for the middle class may have been seen as defusing the local urgency behind Occupy Albany.
Again, this is all speculation. There are undoubtedly many other factors that figured into the action by the City and the State to remove the occupation.
The Road Ahead
Where does it lead? The issues that inspired the occupation in the first place have not gone away - but the difference is that they're no longer being swept under the rug. The physical presence of the occupiers and the media attention they generated has accomplished that much. Frankly it succeeded as well as it did because it caught everyone by surprise. The managers and framers of information in the media were caught off balance.
They aren't any longer. FOX News, the right wing media outlets, their tame politicians have spent the months since the first occupation framing it as a bunch of hippies who want something for nothing, when they're not busy fornicating in public and doing drugs. The inability of the occupiers to move beyond their initial success and keep their forward momentum is why occupations are being shut down now. That suggests it's past time to think about how to take back the initiative again.
Physical occupation is a tactic, not an end in itself. The aim has to be finding ways to keep the public conversation focused on the issues behind the occupation: the broken social contract, the continuing growth of inequality, the destruction of living wage jobs, the end of upward mobility through effort and education, success by gaming the system, corruption of the political process by money.
Timing is everything. 2012 is going to be one of the most contentious elections in recent American history. We now know it's not enough to elect Democrats to the White House and the Congress; they had the opportunity in 2008 to turn things around, but spent too much time chasing a mythical center and serving the corporate masters who funded them. 2010 should have sent a message to DC Democrats - but they have a long history of listening to the Beltway and Wall Street over Main Street. To paraphrase LBJ, we need to find a way to grab them by the balls so their hearts and minds will follow.
Against this, we have a heavily funded right wing media complex offering up political shills who lie like rugs as a reflex. They have a massive media machine pumping out their message 24/7. That's the bad news.
It's also the good news. Think about it: their promises have been broken so often, they've failed to deliver so often, it takes a constant drum beat to keep the proles in line. They HAVE to offer lies because they've got nothing else. IF we can find ways to break through their noise machine and reach people with messages that are short, simple, and make sense to them in terms of what they see and hear around them, we can get that forward momentum back.
It's not a coincidence that so many protest movements seem to bloom in the spring. The winter months are the time to make plans, gather resources, craft messages and design tactics. As a first move, the occupations were a success; they established a presence on the political landscape. We now have to think about ways to turn this into a war of maneuver, where we can act and respond faster than they can find ways to shut us down or repurpose us to our detriment.
Candidates of all stripes are going to be out there hunting for votes. We need to work out how to make our demands part of the give and take. What candidate, for example, would want to face a crowd of well dressed, orderly people who ca't find work? "Hey millionaire - here's my resume. Where's my job?" Mic checks are good - but expect there are strategies already being plotted to negate them. ("I paid for this microphone." "Yeah - you did it with OUR money.")
Flash crowds. Overpass signs. Mass call-ins to talk radio shows. Acts of visible charity. Blocking foreclosures. Showing up at schools with a mass raid of supplies to clean them up and keep them running. Occupation of crumbling bridges long enough to make the press look at how bad they've become. We have to be clever, we have to be positive, and we have to be effective. We have to rub the politicians faces in all the things that don't work in this country any more. We have to break through the distractions of illegals, islamo-fascists, 'values', etc. etc.
New Years is coming - time to start thinking about resolutions for the year to come. To quote one of my favorite authors:
The world is made by the people who show up for the job.