The Occupy Wall Street movement began in the fall. But with spring blossoming yesterday, it seems certain that the uprising will bloom in bigger ways.
Alison Kilkenny is a NYC based reporter, covering the movement for In These Times and The Nation, as well as Citizen Radio, which she co-hosts with her brilliantly funny husband, Jamie Kilstein. She joins us in the first hour today to bring us up to date on #OWS at six months.
It’s still March – which means it’s Women’s History Month. Time for a visit from my dear friend Amy Simon, cultural HERstorian and writer& performer of the wonderful one-woman show, She’s History: The Most Dangerous Women in America, Now and Then.
For a taste of the show, watch:
***UPDATE*** Just as the show hit the air, my friend Jason Leopold of Truthout.org began tweeting about receiving the first set of documents from his FOIA request of the Dept of Homeland Security for documents pertaining to Occupy Wall Street. I got Jason on the phone at the end of the first hour for a bit of background, as the documents were being uploaded to truthout’s servers.
Note from Nicole … This post was written by my friend Sara Robinson, a senior fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future. I hope that any assholes who think they’re acting as part of the Occupy movement will read it and take heed….
Occupy’s Asshole Problem: Flashbacks from An Old Hippie
By Sara Robinson
November 4, 2011
I wish I could say that the problems that the Occupy movement is having with infiltrators and agitators are new. But they’re not. In fact, they’re problems that the Old Hippies who survived the 60s and 70s remember acutely, and with considerable pain.
As a veteran of those days — with the scars to prove it — watching the OWS organizers struggle with drummers, druggies, sexual harassers, racists, and anarchists brings me back to a few lessons we had to learn the hard way back in the day, always after putting up with way too much over-the-top behavior from people we didn’t think we were allowed to say “no” to. It’s heartening to watch the Occupiers begin to work out solutions to what I can only indelicately call “the asshole problem.” In the hope of speeding that learning process along, here are a few glimmers from my own personal flashbacks — things that it’s high time somebody said right out loud.
1. Let’s be clear: It is absolutely OK to insist on behavior norms. #Occupy may be a DIY movement — but it also stands for very specific ideas and principles. Central among these is: We are here to reassert the common good. And we have a LOT of work to do. Being open and accepting does not mean that we’re obligated to accept behavior that damages our ability to achieve our goals. It also means that we have a perfect right to insist that people sharing our spaces either act in ways that further those goals, or go somewhere else until they’re able to meet that standard.
2. It is OK to draw boundaries between those who are clearly working toward our goals, and those who are clearly not. Or, as an earlier generation of change agents put it: “You’re either on the bus, or off the bus.” Are you here to change the way this country operates, and willing to sacrifice some of your almighty personal freedom to do that? Great. You’re with us, and you’re welcome here. Are you here on your own trip and expecting the rest of us to put up with you? In that case, you are emphatically NOT on our side, and you are not welcome in our space.
Anybody who feels the need to put their own personal crap ahead of the health and future of the movement is (at least for that moment) an asshole, and does not belong in Occupied space. Period. This can be a very hard idea for people in an inclusive movement to accept — we really want to have all voices heard. But the principles #Occupy stands for must always take precedence over any individual’s divine right to be an asshole, or the assholes will take over. Which brings me to….
3. The consensus model has a fatal flaw, which is this: It’s very easy for power to devolve to the people who are willing to throw the biggest tantrums. When some a drama king or queen starts holding the process hostage for their own reasons, congratulations! You’ve got a new asshole! (See #2.) You must guard against this constantly, or consensus government becomes completely impossible.
4. Once you’ve accepted the right of the group to set boundaries around people’s behavior, and exclude those who put their personal “rights” ahead of the group’s mission and goals, the next question becomes: How do we deal with chronic assholes?
This is the problem Occupy’s leaders are very visibly struggling with now. I’ve been a part of asshole-infested groups in the long-ago past that had very good luck with a whole-group restorative justice process. In this process, the full group (or some very large subset of it that’s been empowered to speak for the whole) confronts the troublemaker directly. The object is not to shame or blame. Instead, it’s like an intervention. You simply point out what you have seen and how it affects you. The person is given a clear choice: make some very specific changes in their behavior, or else leave.
This requires some pre-organization. You need three to five spokespeople to moderate the session (usually as a tag team) and do most of the talking. Everybody else simply stands in a circle around the offender, watching silently, looking strong and determined. The spokespeople make factual “we” statements that reflect the observations of the group. “We have seen you using drugs inside Occupied space. We are concerned that this hurts our movement. We are asking you to either stop, or leave.”
When the person tries to make excuses (and one of the most annoying attributes of chronic assholes is they’re usually skilled excuse-makers as well), then other members of the group can speak up — always with “I” messages. “I saw you smoking a joint with X and Y under tree Z this morning. We’re all worried about the cops here, and we think you’re putting our movement in danger. We are asking you to leave.” Every statement needs to end with that demand — “We are asking you to either stop, or else leave and not come back.” No matter what the troublemaker says, the response must always be brought back to this bottom line.
These interventions can go on for a LONG time. You have to be committed to stay in the process, possibly for a few hours until the offender needs a pee break or gets hungry. But eventually, if everybody stays put, the person will have no option but to accept that a very large group of people do not want him or her there. Even truly committed assholes will get the message that they’ve crossed the line into unacceptable behavior when they’re faced with several dozen determined people confronting them all at once.
Given the time this takes, it’s tempting to cut corners by confronting several people all at once. Don’t do it. Confronting more than two people at a time creates a diffusion-of-responsibility effect: the troublemakers tell themselves that they just got caught up in a dragnet; the problem is those other people, not me. The one who talks the most will get most of the heat; the others will tend to slip by (though the experience may cause them to reconsider their behavior or leave as well).
This process also leaves open the hope that the person will really, truly get that their behavior is Not OK, and agree to change it. When this happens, be sure to negotiate specific changes, boundaries, rules, and consequences (“if we see you using drugs here again, we will call the police. There will be no second warning”), and then reach a consensus agreement that allows them to stay. On the other hand: if the person turns violent and gets out of control, then the question is settled, and their choice is made. You now have a legitimate reason to call the cops to haul them away. And the cops will likely respect you more for maintaining law and order.
Clearing out a huge number of these folks can be a massive time suck, at least for the few days it will take to weed out the worst ones and get good at it. It might make sense to create a large committee whose job it is to gather information, build cases against offenders, and conduct these meetings.
5. It is not wrong for you to set boundaries this way. You will get shit for this. “But…but…it looks a whole lot like a Maoist purge unit!” No. There is nothing totalitarian about asking people who join your revolution to act in ways that support the goals of that revolution. And the Constitution guarantees your right of free association — which includes the right to exclude people who aren’t on the bus, and who are wasting the group’s limited time and energy rather than maximizing it. After all: you’re not sending these people to re-education camps, or doing anything else that damages them. You’re just getting them out of the park, and out of your hair. You’re eliminating distractions, which in turn effectively amplifies the voices and efforts of everyone else around you. And, in the process, you’re also modeling a new kind of justice that sanctions people’s behavior without sanctioning their being — while also carving out safe space in which the true potential of Occupy can flourish.
That was the scene in Oakland last night – following two nights of brutal police action that resulted in one 24-year old Marine, two-tour Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen hospitalized, in critical condition, with a skull fracture and swelling of the brain. The occupiers in Oakland were not to be deterred. If anything, this police action probably intensified their resolve.
Below is the proposal passed by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly on Wednesday October 26, 2011 in reclaimed Oscar Grant Plaza. 1607 people voted. 1484 voted in favor of the resolution, 77 abstained and 46 voted against it, passing the proposal at 96.9%. The General Assembly operates on a modified consensus process that passes proposals with 90% in favor and with abstaining votes removed from the final count.
We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.
We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.
All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.
While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.
The whole world is watching Oakland. Let’s show them what is possible.
The Strike Coordinating Council will begin meeting everyday at 5pm in Oscar Grant Plaza before the daily General Assembly at 7pm. All strike participants are invited. Stay tuned for much more information and see you next Wednesday.
There’s been a huge outpouring of support for Scott Olsen in the wake of his injuries at the hands of the Oakland PD, and much deserved criticism of the way Mayor Jean Quan handled the situation. Keith Olbermann was quite clear in his criticism, saying “Quan must repent or resign”:
Thankfully, she seems to have repented, releasing the following statement:
We support the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement: we have high levels of unemployment and we have high levels of foreclosure that makes Oakland part of the 99% too. We are a progressive city and tolerant of many opinions. We may not always agree, but we all have a right to be heard.
I want to thank everyone for the peaceful demonstration at Frank Ogawa Park tonight, and thank the city employees who worked hard to clean up the plaza so that all activities can continue including Occupy Wall Street. We have decided to have a minimal police presence at the plaza for the short term and build a community effort to improve communications and dialogue with the demonstrators.
99% of our officers stayed professional during difficult and dangerous circumstances as did some of the demonstrators who dissuaded other protestors from vandalizing downtown and for helping to keep the demonstrations peaceful. For the most part, demonstrations over the past two weeks have been peaceful. We hope they continue to be so.
I want to express our deepest concern for all of those who were injured last night, and we are committed to ensuring this does not happen again. Investigations of certain incidents are underway and I will personally monitor them.
We understand and recognize the impact this event has had on the community and acknowledge what has happened. We cannot change the past, but we are committed to doing better.
Most of us are part of the 99%, and understand the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We are committed to honoring their free speech right.
Finally, we understand the demonstrators want to meet with me and Chief Jordan. We welcome open dialogue with representatives of Occupy Wall Street members, and we are willing to meet with them as soon as possible.
Way to go Occupy Oakland! That is what democracy looks like.
This morning on the show, I was also honored to speak with Jim Hightower. The commentator, author, radio host and all around amazing person told us about a new effort he has embarked on, along with The Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel, and the former publisher of Mother Jones, Jay Harris. It’s the We The People campaign, and it’s all about getting corporate money out, and people in!
Need more? Watch this:
Today’s show was a busy one, and I truly screwed up. Instead of hitting the button to save today’s ustream video, I hit the delete button. Damn ustream doesn’t seem to realize that
we are idiots that I’m an idiot, so doesn’t even ask “are you sure you really want to delete this?” like so many other places do…
Oh well, I promised I’d post this video here, as the ustream audience couldn’t hear it anyway. It’s from yesterday’s public(!) hearing of the Super Committee, figuring out in just how many ways they’ll screw the people in this country who need help the most. Leah Bolger, VP of Veterans for Peace, has been in DC for the past few weeks, taking part in the occupation of Freedom Plaza. She knew she wouldn’t have access to the committee any other way, so showed up yesterday. Here’s what happened:
And finally, because we must ALWAYS call the liars at Fox out for the shit they make up, here’s a whopper. Just yesterday, the fake news channel ran this story: EXCLUSIVE: ACORN Playing Behind the Scenes Role in ‘Occupy’ Movement, and not one single word of it is true.
That’s it for this week… talk to you Monday.
Congresswoman Donna Edwards introduced a bill to do just that… Unfortunately, it’s much easier introduced than passed. And considering it’s Boner’s House, it won’t even come up for debate.
This morning on the show, we started a new weekly feature with my friends at Main Street Insider. Today, Jeremy Koulish joined me to talk about H. Res. 78 – the bill to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United, which affirms the ridiculous ideas that corporations are entitled to the same right as you and I to protections under the First Amendment.
Each week, Main Street Insider offers up another 90 second summary of a bill that’s already been introduced.
My fellow online radio host – in her case, co-host – Allison Killenny - has been doing an amazing job covering the goings on at Occupy Wall Street in NY, both on Citizen Radio and for The Nation and In These Times. She was my guest in the second hour to talk about the Occupy movement.
And, I couldn’t resist weighing in on last night’s Ultimate Fighting Match-Up in DC between a newly feisty Dickless Perry, the adamant Mittens Romney, the Surly Santorum , the Blasphemous Bachmann, the Gruesome Gingrich, the $9.99 Pizza Man Herb Cain, and the much- ignored Ron Paul.
More tomorrow with John Fugelsang and the American Dream movement’s Van Jones….
I’ve been reading some of the messages to the 1% at occupytheboardroom.org, and this one – and many others like it – say so much!
Hello. We paid cash for our house back in 2005. Now, it’s worth less than half what we paid for it, in spite of nearly $85,000.00 in improvements financed on our bank credit line. Why the price drop?
The bottom fell out of the FL market, thanks to reckless and selfish actions by banks and mortgage brokers. We are now surrounded by foreclosures and short sales and abandoned houses and weeds and trash and squatters — in what was supposed to be a beautiful, middle class suburban community.
We are seniors. I don’t think we’ll ever get out of this house alive. And folks like you are DIRECTLY TO BLAME for that!
These letters run the gamut from heartbreaking to heartwarming, and make you want to get off your ass and do something to help. So let’s do it.
I was also joined by my friend Cliff Schecter, who writes a weekly column for Al Jazeera English … we talked about everything from the occupy movement, to the future we see for our kids, to the new radio station he and a few others are launching next month in Washington, DC!
It’s happening all over the county. We the People are finally saying “Enough!” and saying it loudly. This is the beginning of something new. It may take a while, but the sleeping giant has awoken.
The Occupy movement will continue to be the focus of this program for the foreseeable future.
This morning, about 30 minutes before showtime, I got a call from Leah Bolger, VP of Veterans for Peace. She was calling from the Rayburn Office Building where today’s House Armed Services Committee was meeting and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was testifying.
Leah told me that a group of the Freedom Plaza occupiers were planning to go to the public meeting, and protest our continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, while in the hallway outside the meeting room, they were told that only seven seats were available for the public.
I recorded an interview with Medea Benjamin – and later learned that all seven of the activists were arrested during that hearing. For more on the occupation of Freedom Plaza and the various protests they’re holding inWashington DC, visit october2011.org.
Artists of every variety are participating in the occupation of our nation. While marching in DC last Thursday, I thought I saw comedian Lee Camp. I found out today that it was him when he joined me on the show to talk about his Moment of Clarity about the occupation, and his performances at both Zuccoti Park in NYC, and Freedom Plaza in Washington DC.
As we do most Thursday mornings, we finished my broadcast week with a visit from John Fugelsang, who’s still touring with Stephanie Miller’s Sexy Liberals Comedy Tour. They play Los Angeles next week….
Don’t forget.. This Saturday is a global occupy action. One thing you can do on Saturday is to visit www.occupytheboardroom.org and send a message to the 1%… See you there, and back here on Monday morning!
On 13 Jul 2011, the group Adbusters released this call: Occupy Wall Street!
In Solidarity, and as a response to this call, a planning group was formed [occupywallst.org], and an info sharing site established. The participation of every person, and every organization, that has an interest in returning the US back into the hands of it’s individual citizens is required.
Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies if our nation.
We, the people of the United States of America, considering the crisis at hand, now reassert our sovereign control of our land.
The first day of action was September 17 and the rest, as they say, is history!
As the occupations spread to other cities around the country, on Sept. 23, a new site was born: Occupy Together!
Welcome to OCCUPY TOGETHER, an unofficial hub for all of the events springing up across the country in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. As we have followed the news on facebook, twitter, and the various live feeds across the internet, we felt compelled to build a site that would help spread the word as more protests organize across the world. We hope to provide people with information about events that are organizing, ongoing, and building across the U.S. as we, the 99%, take action against the greed and corruption of the 1%.
We will only grow stronger in our solidarity and we will be heard, not just in New York, but in echoes across the world.
For more information about us, the movement, and answers to questions, please check out our FAQ.
As of this writing, Occupy Together has occupations listed in 1,377 cities, and growing. This is a real movement, formed by real people… and it’s all about change from the bottom up.
One rule for these occupations is to engage in peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience. From the Occupy Wall St. website…
Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.
Unfortunately, there are those who seek to infiltrate our peaceful movement to engage in violence. Such was the case Friday in Washington DC, where an asst. editor for the American Spectator rag agitated the guards at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum to the point where they began spraying the peaceful protesters with pepper spray.
Noted criminal and bullshit video slanderer James O’Keefe tried to stir things up at OccupyWallStreet yesterday. Our friend Jesse LaGreca wrote about the scene at Daily Kos (a post I recommend you read!) “James O’Keefe is an Absolute Coward! You got game, Skippy? Find me at #OccupyWallStreet” .
And last night in Boston, after Mayor Merino said that Occupy Boston‘s welcome had worn out, the police went berserk, and brutally assaulted dozens of protesters, along with members of Veterans for Peace.
I also spoke with Leah Bolger, VP of Veterans for Peace, who remains at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. She told us what she know of the Boston incident, and gave us the latest from the Stop the Machine october2011.org occupation which plans on continuing indefinitely.
I played audio of Chris Hedges’ speech in DC from Thursday night, and finished up the show with our weekly visit with GottaLaff of The Political Carnival. We played her latest Blunt webisode – on Occupy Wall Street
And we talked about some of these stories too…
A sign I saw in Washington DC’s Freedom Plaza read “The Beginning is Near!”. It’s obviously a play on the paranoids’ “the end is near” theme.. but it was wrong.
The Beginning is HERE!
This morning on the show, I told about my trip to DC to participate in the Take Back the American Dream conference, sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, Rebuild the Dream, and MoveOn.org, plus the Stop the Machine – Create a New World October2011.org occupation of Freedom Plaza. I was straddling both worlds of the progressive movement to change this country for the better…
I spoke with Greg Basta of NYCC (New York Communities for Change) , who has been working with the folks at Occupy Wall Street to help grow the movement, and bring organizations to help grow the movement. Follow some of the actions planned in NYC in the coming week on their facebook page: facebook.com/beyondMay12.
I also got hold of Kevin Zeese, one of the October2011 organizers, still at Freedom Plaza in DC, intent on continuing the occupation, even after their permits expired last night at 10pm. We spoke about the peaceful protest, Thursday’s events and march (in which I participated), the agent provocateur who created the conflict at the Air & Space Museum on Saturday, and what they’re planning going forward. I also asked him about their fear of being “co-opted” by establishment progressives.
Although I don’t agree with Kevin on that last part, I am quite supportive of what they are doing. I just believe there’s room for all of us on this side in this fight for what’s right.
In hour two, Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars joined me for our weekly “Fools on the Hill” segment, in which we recap the Sunday (and other) talking head shows. This week, she brought us this:
One of the things that I find so disheartening about living in this country at this particular time is the triumph of stupidity over knowledge. There’s a whole lot of stupidity happening on the Sunday shows and sadly, the media—whom the public expects to inform—contributes to the stupidity constantly.
For example, David Gregory proves his complete lack of worth as host of Meet the Press in an interview with Paul Ryan. Ryan pulled some interesting facts out of his P90Xed posterior—that the House has passed “dozens” of jobs legislation that the Senate refuses to consider– which makes no sense if you think about it even a little, yet David Gregory completely abdicated his responsibility to exercise a little journalistic skills and ask Ryan to explain.
Sometime the truth isn’t what even the media wants to hear. On the new Fox Channel show “The Five”, they agreed that it’s just terrible that Sesame Street has created a new Muppet character to introduce the concept of food insecurity in a prime time special. I mean, who wants children to be aware that some of their classmates may be going to bed hungry and malnourished? That might make them empathetic and they’ll be less likely to be Fox News viewers.
As the Perrys and Palins fall by the wayside in the Republican primary race, the other candidates are jockeying around, trying to find frontrunner Mitt Romney’s weakness. It appears that Romney’s faith may be that Achilles’ heel. After Pastor Robert Jeffress told John King that he couldn’t—as a God-fearing Christian—support a Mormon candidate like Mitt Romney, because Mormonism “is a cult,” Candy Crowley used that as a launching off point to question fellow candidates Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann if they agreed that Romney was not a Christian. Way to kneecap your candidate ahead of the general election, folks.
Surprisingly, the only host that actually practiced some halfway decent journalism was Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday. “ Wallace asked Rick Santorum about his pledge to revoke the revoking of DADT. Wallace reads a quote to Santorum about “using the military for a social experiment” and asks him if he agrees with the sentiment. Santorum says that he basically does and then Wallace tells him it’s a quote from a 1941 treatise regarding racial integration. Santorum then has to backtrack and say that the difference is that homosexuality is a “learned behavior”. Uh huh…all science to the contrary, but hey, let’s not let that bother us.
Finally, we had one of our own on the news shows this week…finally. Jesse LaGreca, better known as Ministry of Truth on DailyKos, was on “This Week” to give his perspective on the Occupy Wall Street protests. And he stood toe to toe with the inane stupidity that is Village wisdom from George Will and made him and the whole status quo protectors look pathetic. If we have enough time, Van Jones and Naomi Klein were on “Up with Chris Hayes” to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests and for all their talk of lack of message clarity, Jones reminds DC and Wall Street that the protesters have the MORAL clarity.
I do a lot of talking every day, but I’d never ask my listeners to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.
For a few months, I’ve been spreading the word about the October 2011 movement. And recently I’ve been telling you about the Take Back the American Dream conference, organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, Van Jones’ American Dream movement, and MoveOn.org.
I’ll be attending both next week, as I head to Washington DC.
This morning on the show, I spoke with Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future about the conference and the recent protests that have started around the country. He and Katrina vanden Heuvel addressed the issue in a piece for The Nation, “Can A Movement Save the American Dream?”
Comedian John Fugelsang went down to Liberty Plaza to check out the Occupy Wall Street goings on, and he joined me to help wrap up the week. Next week promises lots more activity and, more media attention, as many union workers will join the action in NY and other occupations begin – most notably on Oct. 6 at Washington DC’s Freedom Plaza.