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October 27, 2011

I’m partly following all the #Occupy movements that have been springing up – first on Wall Street, then elsewhere – Boston, Dallas, Seattle, Oakland, all over the place.  We saw the Seattle protests last week when we were up there for the PASS Summit, and it seemed very very peaceable and well ordered.  You know, for a protest involving hundreds of people sitting on the side of the street. Still.

I’m vocally supportive of the groups – most people’s criticism is that there’s no centralized platform, but so far “I’m pissed off about the whole money situation” seems solid, and inclusive, to me. I think they’re “doin it rite”, as we say on the internetz.

#OccupyOakland Under Attack

Last night I was up late working on something for worky-work, when some RTs from @GWOBorg and related tweets caught my attention:

@moonandserpent: Just watched Police fire rubber bullets into fleeing crowd.

@schuyler: Could only watch the livestreams on the Internet from home in SF for so long – now I’m in the streets to #occupyoakland.

@OccupyOakland #occupyoakland attacked by 500 cops in suprise assault. tear gas, rubber bullets, shotguns, flash bang grenades. Many injured.

@MotherJones: Holy god, overhead video of OPD firing flash-bangs into crowd is INSANE

@wanderinghome: Do any news orgs need photos from tonight’s #OccupyOakland events? I’ve been shooting 4 a few hrs & I’d love to talk

I retweeted that last, and @wanderinghome responded “yeah. four so far.” What the hell is going on? “last 2x because some morons threw water bottles or something at the police, but the 1st times we’re unprovoked.”  

I’ve since gone out and seen some of the videos and reports, and this does in fact match up with his description.  See: The tea party never got pepper sprayed. And a few links:

Being There

I stayed up far too late watching the Twitter stream, looking at photos, watching live streaming video on Ustream, and looking around for news stories. I watched most of the protesters regrouped peacefully in front of the fenced line of police in riot gear (and one or two not so peacefully, screaming about the injustices nationwide and at hand). I watched the local news’ recap of the teargassing and flash bombing. I walked around the internet reading #Occupy organizational materials and open letters to the police (“We are the 99% and so are you.”)  I got to thinking.

I was at home on my couch, but I was experiencing this happening LIVE. There were no pundits and corporations filtering the information and images I got, no FCC to sterilize the language. Being able to thus watch these people try to spark a revolution is, in itself a revolution.  Technology has made us more free than we ever could have imagined. We are there, we are connected, we can say any goddamn thing we want and IT’S OUT THERE FOR THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD TO SEE, and I am glad, OH I am glad to be here and now in this here and now.

Being Here

So now I have to address what I think about #Occupy.  What it looks like to me is a good idea got started in New York, and a couple other people heard about it and said hey, good idea! Kind of like my tech community’s SQL Saturdays, which had a mastermind and an origin, and then spread in a grassroots manner for a year. SQL Saturday has since been taken over by a larger body, but it’s stayed largely the same.  By now, my expectation of #Occupy has aligned with what I’ve seen of SQL Saturday – they started grassroots, but they’ll likely start organizing and communicating better, get better and better ideas, and solidify under something-or-other…even if it’s a wiggly solid. (You know, like Jell-O.)

From what I’ve seen – and I stress again that I’ve had very little direct contact with members of the movement, other than websites and a few tweets – it seems like they’ve really got the right idea. “The 99%” is amazingly inclusive, and their lack of a solid set of demands – which is everyone’s main critique – is exactly what’s making this such an effective grassroots movement.  Furthermore, I think it’s very narrow-minded to want a group of angry, mostly-youth to get mad and immediately form a committee to draft a platform.  So far, we seem to have: “We’re pissed off at you assholes in charge.” Hasn’t that been the basic message of EVERY SINGLE PROTEST ever made? Seriously, they’re right on target.

And I’m not sure I even have the strength to recount the conversation I had with a conservative coworker today. The short version: I had to refute the idea that, instead of being a grassroots movement of angry, frustrated individuals intent on change, #Occupy is organized and pushed forward by nefarious democracy-hating shadow groups.  Fuckaduck.  But this says to me that the movement is being demonized, probably in a multitude of ways. Of course, that’s generally what an opponent will do.

I very much like the Ghandi quote given in The tea party never got pepper sprayed: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.

Good luck, guys.

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