I got in the car at around 4:30 P.M. today and headed to the Occupy Oakland's 2nd Anniversary rally at Oscar Grant Plaza, looking forward to finally meet jpmassar in person. After two years of reading his diaries, I've come to appreciate and respect him and his work.
The fact that he's also a dedicated boots-on-the-ground social justice activist on top of being a very good and passionate diarist/writer is one of the reasons I admire him. And I have to say, when I finally had the opportunity to meet the man in person, seeing him interact with his fellow Occupiers, and speak with passion and conviction about injustices, I was even more impressed.
As I was getting close to the Plaza, I noticed what seemed to be quite a lot of cops about a block away, by 16th an Clay Street. It's funny because as I was driving to the rally/celebration, I wasn't thinking about the repressive role police forces had against the Occupy movement... But as soon as I got close to the event and saw so many cops, the reality of the situation asserted itself once again.
I parked a couple of blocks away, on Franklin Street, and proceeded to walk towards the Plaza. As I was walking by people, by businesses, and saw people carrying on with their lives, a familiar thought came to mind: What would it take to get ALL these people to join the movement?
I know the proposition seems daunting, or even impossible, but that's precisely why I keep thinking about it, and why it has become one of my primary goals: How do we get at least 5% of the population join the movement and engage in a sustained resistance and opposition against the corporate state.
As I got to the Plaza, I could not help bu notice many more cops... Across he street, and others position in a way that encircled the rally. The word "intimidation tactic" came to mind. Why so many cops?
Not that the speakers, including jpmassar, seemed to be intimidated in any way, as they spoke about the injustices of the system, about police brutality, about the campaign to stop the sale of the Berkeley Post Office, about the StrikeDebt campaign, and about the historic role the Occupy movement had in changing the national conversation by bringing to the fore issues such as extreme income inequality.
It was a great feeling... "We are not intimidated." Meeting jpmassar reminded me about a diary I wrote yesterday where I argued that in the age of surveillance by the corporate-controlled national security apparatus, one can actually build bonds with comrades involved in the movement, without having to know every detail about their personal lives, or even their real names. Check out the diary if you are interested in learning more about the reasons why I think that type of approach is necessary.
Finally, as I always do at these rallies, I asked a couple of people about how they felt about the movement, if they felt hopeful about our ability to push the system in the right (Left?) direction.
And I find that people are dedicated, passionate, and very involved in addressing injustices, but some of them are not very hopeful things will change. Some feel that things will have to get much worst before some kind of critical mass can be built in order to be able to exert the type of pressure (on the system) necessary to turn things around.
I understand the sentiment, and it reminds me of my little walk from the car to the Plaza, when I walked by several businesses, by people carrying on with their lives; people that don't seem quite ready to join the movement. And therein lies one of the biggest challenges:
Social movements involve a long-term struggle between the movement and the powerholders for the hearts, minds, and support of the majority of the population. Before social movements begin, most people are either unaware that a problem exists or don't believe that they can do anything about it. They believe the powerholder's societal myths and support the high-sounding official policies and practices, all of which seem to be consistent with the culture's deeply held held values and beliefs...Anyways, I had a lovely time at Occupy Oakland's 2nd anniversary rally... I had to leave just when the food was arriving and the serving tables were being set up. And of course, there was jpmassar unloading the items from an SUV, working hard, boots-on-the-ground and all... I tell him I'm heading out, and shake his free hand (the other one is holding a foldable table). "I'll see you Ray; well make some time soon when there isn't too much going on and sit down and have coffee," he said apologetically.
The strategy of social movements, therefore, is to alert, educate, and win over an ever increasing majority of the public. First the public needs to be convinced that a critical social problem exists. Then it must be convinced that policies need to be changed. And then a majority of people must be mobilized into a force that eventually brings about an acceptable solution.
-- Bill Moyers / "Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements"
Yes, we'll do that, but right there, tonight, what he was doing was much more important than that... He and the rest of the team were about to feed people, literally, after having done so metaphorically.
What a bunch of wonderful people! Long live the Occupy movement!