THIS is What Democracy Looks Like

The real #ows anarchists*

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This image is indicative of my my view of my fellow occupiers. I love the guy with the blue mohawk. Loving, caring, ready-to-pitch-in-and-help anarchist* punks.

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*OK, so I don’t actually know if this kid is an anarchist. I’m just pissed off by the media’s representation of anarchists as destructive assholes.

A Primer on the #OWS Occupation

It has come to my attention that there is a galling amount of misinformation on the internet (duh moment) about the Occupy Wall Street and affiliated Occupy movements around the country. Allow me to disspell some of your more egregious misconceptions. I will leave the more philosophical points (like what exactly are we protesting) for a later discussion. (Special thanks to @MerlePearl, @diggbiii, and @Dgirl34 for help with research.)

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Occupy Boston movement, but the statements below are a representation of my own impressions and opinions and do not represent a statement or opinion of OWS or Occupy Boston.

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1. #OWS is funded and/or controlled by <insert left-wing donor, organization, or union>

The Occupy movements are neither affiliated with nor controlled by ANYONE. We make decisions in group meetings called General Assemblies (GA for short). In Boston, we make decisions via 75% consensus. You can read the minutes of the New York OWS GA, or watch this video of Occupy Portland to see what that process is like. It is quite laborious to reach consensus between so many disparate viewpoints, but it is a process we firmly believe in. There is no other decision-making body. There are no ‘leaders’ or ‘organizers.’ Each GA is led by a facilitator, and anyone is free to become a facilitator. The GA is open to ALL.

The Occupy movement has welcomed and appreciated the support and solidarity expressed by many pundits, unions, news outlets, and individuals. However, they are not affiliates, nor do they speak for the movement or influence the movement (other than as individual participants in the GA). Only the GA speaks for the Occupation.

As for donations, we do not lobby, or pay anyone, or pay any rent, so our needs are relatively minor. The vast majority of donations are made in the form of supplies and volunteer hours. People constantly deliver tents, sleeping bags, food, and other supplies to support the movement. The movement is 100% run by volunteers. We do also accept monetary donations, though I can only speak for Occupy Boston in this regard. As of this writing, Occupy Boston has collected about $10,000 on the donation page. The names of the individual donors are listed. Note, George Soros is not one. There is also a separate legal aid fund for those arrested, which is currently at $11,000. Again, donor names are listed.

2. The movement is full of anarchists, communists, socialists, slackers, Tea Partiers, anti-capitalists, and people who want to overthrow the government.

First, there is clearly a lot of misinformation about what political beliefs are held by members of the above groups. If you think anarchism is synonymous with terrorism, please educate yourself here. Same goes for all of the above.

It is true that all of these groups are represented in the Occupy movement. We are open to all, and make a concerted effort to make all people feel welcome and make all voices and opinions heard. One of the great strengths of this movement is that we are able to build consensus on issues we agree on even if there are other points on which we strenuously disagree. I mean, at what other meeting could you find a libertarian, an anarchist, and a Tea Partier having a civilized discussion on politics?

It is my personal opinion that the majority opinion that will emerge is one that is relatively moderate, calling for legislative reforms to make our economic and political system more equitable.

3. You hate the Constitution and want to get rid of it.

Again, there may be some individuals who feel that we should start from scratch and radically amend or rewrite the constitution. However, it is my impression that this is not the majority opinion. In fact, we have extensively and strenuously insisted that our peaceful protest is protected by the First Amendment. Personally, I do not see the need for any amendment to the constitution, only legislative change.

4. You are stinky, filthy, degenerates who are trespassing on and ruining public or private property. You are bothering me; go home.

There have been reports online of individuals urinating or defecating in public, destroying local businesses’ property, and otherwise behaving in an uncivilized manner. I personally do not condone these actions, and I think it is safe to say that the majority of the occupiers do not either. I regret that these individuals are associated with the movement, but it is also the case that any movement has its bad seeds. Whaddayagonnado?

I recognize that our presence is an inconvenience, causes damage to property (for example to the grass in Boston), and creates costs that are borne by the public (for example police overtime). We are doing our best to mitigate these negatives. In Boston we have committed as a group to raising money for reseeding the lawn in spring and returning on Earth Day to do the work; personally, I think that taxpayer money could be saved by not arresting hundreds of peaceful protesters. However, in my view these are inconveniences that must be borne in order to permit us to exercise our First Amendment rights. The importance of being permitted to protest our grievances against the government and the economic system must take precedence over niggling concerns of convenience.

We do our utmost to keep our space clean, safe, and organized. We have groups responsible for managing various aspects of camp life. These vary at each Occupation, but in Boston we have Food, Medical, Legal, Logistics, Safety, and Conflict Resolution and Mediation. We provide full support to all those living at camp in all of the above areas. Perhaps others will see it differently, but I think these pictures attest to our successful efforts to keep camp life clean and organized: in New York, and Boston.

In Boston, while we are breaking some laws against staying in public parks overnight and protesting without permits, I maintain that the Constitution does not qualify our First Amendment rights. The Constitution does not say, you may peaceably assemble IF the police approves it first. We are protesting against the structures of power, and to require that those structures of power be able to decide when, where, and how we be allowed to protest is, I believe, an affront to our rights.

5. You are violent.

I defy anyone to produce one shred of evidence that there has been violence perpetrated by members of the movement. The photographic and video documentation clearly shows peaceful protesters systematically and without provocation being brutalized by the police.

6. Get a job

Many of us have jobs (myself included). Many of us are unemployed and are looking for jobs. Whether one or none of us has a job is beside the point. We are protesting a system that delivers the lions share of power, privilege, and wealth to the very few, while depriving the vast majority of us of the basic rights of representative government, and the opportunity to earn a decent living.

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In closing, I would like to extend an invitation for you to visit your local Occupy protest. As of this writing, there are 1,400 active groups around the world! See with your own eyes, talk to some people, and judge for yourself. We welcome you.

Massive Arrests in Boston - What you can do

Please - we need as many people as possible (especially Boston and MA residents) to contact the following officials and institutions and voice your anger with how the Mayor’s office and BPD handled this situation. Contact info:

Police Department:
617.343.4200
@Boston_Police

Mayor’s Office:
617-635-4500
@mayortommenino

Governor Deval Patrick:
617.725.4005
888.870.7770 (in state)
email contact form

Alan Grayson explains #WhyWeOccupy

- on Real Time with Bill Maher

Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Žižek at #ows

Part 2 here: http://occupywallst.org/forum/today-liberty-plaza-had-visit-slavoj-zizek/