This month’s Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia was the latest effort to recapture the national spotlight for Occupy after a winter plagued by raids, evictions and inclement weather.
May Day, NATO, and now NatGat paint a picture of a movement now coming together from disparate parts of the country to prove they are still going strong and ready to tackle issues on the national stage. These efforts also show how Occupiers are actively searching for a path forward to overcome the myriad challenges their unique protest has faced so far.
Over the course of the past 10 months, Firedoglake’s Occupy Supply Fund has worked closely with dozens of Occupy groups. After hearing of the challenges facing Occupy from our local member-liaisons stationed across the country, we were able to see the Big Picture obstacles facing this movement: fear of raids and eviction, fear of arrests and police violence from raids and eviction, destroyed personal property, rattled nerves and the need to start all over, from scratch, which was likely disheartening for many and inevitably led to the demise of many encampments.
At the time, FDL was helping by posting livestreams of raids for all to see, flooding city government switchboards with phone calls in opposition to police actions. We tried to provide whatever material support these brave protesters needed, but oftentimes the chaos was so great that there was not all that much we could do. It became clear that Occupy needed to pre-empt this tactic and develop ways to neutralize its effect on their ability to protest.
To us, that meant equipping Occupiers with the skills and supplies they need to be more mobile at a moments notice, and encourage each and every protester to be more self-reliant and not depend as much on the camp for their basic needs.
In the end, while I believe encampments are an important symbolic and organizing space for the movement, I think it’s time to re-assess their role. To be clear, I don’t think the movement should no longer encamp — I actually believe Occupations give this movement a leg-up on other past (failed) movements. But encampments need to be more flexible, without the requirement of endless defense and protection. If Occupiers are more mobile and rely less on the camp itself for their needs, protesters can expend less energy on defending their belongings at camp and dealing with the police and city officials and more on direct action, spreading their message and growing their base of support.
I was honored to speak on this topic at #NatGat, and I sincerely hope, whether Occupy embraces our suggestions or not, that the movement begins to consider a positive evolution that preserves their values, beliefs and ability to exercise basic rights without presenting such an obvious Achilles’s Heel for opponents.
Check out the video of my talk and consider chipping in $10 to help Occupy Supply continue to support the movement with quality supplies and innovative ideas.
Hello – my name is Brian and I’m the Campaign Director at Firedoglake / Occupy Supply. It’s an honor to be here; thank you for having me.
For those who don’t know, Occupy Supply is a grassroots program that collects donations from Occupy supporters and uses 100% of them to purchase and distribute Union and American-made supplies to Occupy protests across the country.
Our goal is to cycle our resources through companies that reflect our collective values.
We only buy supplies that are, Union and American made, do not use trans-global supply lines, from companies that pay fair wages and benefits for workers. We have raised and spent over $250,000 on supplies for Occupy since October, 2011.
If you want to know more about Occupy Supply, please come find me during my session this afternoon.
Today I want to talk about mobility & the need for greater self-reliance in Occupy.
The physical occupation is what sets Occupy apart and makes it unique. It is what has set Occupy apart from past, failed movements.
I believe that encampments are very important to this movement as symbols of resistance. But we must recognize that tents cities, temporary structures and mess halls are huge, easy targets for the 1%.
Maintaining a ‘permanent’ space is very difficult and time consuming. They present weaknesses that Occupy cannot afford right now. Weaknesses that are very helpful to those working to get rid of you.
So the question is: How do you keep what’s valuable and still protect your people? We need to ask ourselves: is defending camps really worth it? Does the stress of preserving them strengthen or weaken our movement?
From what we have seen at Occupy Supply, working with over 70 encampments across the US, it has been primarily a source of weakness.
Activists need to be aware of their own vulnerabilities and address them immediately. Raids, eviction and arrests may be the largest vulnerability facing this movement. Since encampments are important, let me be clear that I do not advocate doing away with them.
Instead, I think we need to re-examine their role and execution.
With the helpful input of Occupiers from across the country, and thanks to Occupy Buffalo’s Bob Albini, here are our ideas for overcoming raids, arrests and eviction.
First: Keep only what you can carry.
Occupiers need to be more self-reliant. Every Occupier should be responsible for their own stuff. Prepare to abandon anything you can’t take with you.
Ask yourself: What do I absolutely need to Occupy? Get large backpacks that can accommodate tents and other necessities. Make sure nothing is so big or complicated you can’t take it apart at a moment’s notice.
Second: Find safe storage away from camp for important, valuable things you can’t carry.
Keep things like donated goods, expensive media equipment and supplies at a friendly house, a storage facility, a church basement, a supporting organization – any place you trust that is not your camp. If it’s at your camp and your camp is demolished, you will lose everything. Losing everything means having to starting over, and the 1% knows how discouraging that will be.
This is the technique that is challenging this movement’s ability to come back. If the important stuff is off-site, the midnight raid won’t do much to stop your Occupy. You won’t have to bear the humiliation of watching them bulldoze your model for the future. You won’t give them the pleasure of watching you helplessly dig through the rubble, debating whether to start over.
And I guarantee fewer of your fellow Occupiers will become frustrated and call it quits.
Third: Have a plan and practice it thoroughly.
No matter how much they cooperate and claim to support you, your local government and police are fair-weather friends at best. Those of you who have already faced evictions and raids likely know this.
Your group needs to ask itself: When eviction comes, how quickly can everyone be ready? Is there a designated meeting place? What are your plans to re-occupy? How will you keep track of one-another?
Think of every angle. Run weekly drills and exercises. Have contingency plans.
Finally: Divide and Occupy.
Isn’t it time we make eviction absolute hell for law enforcement? We think Occupy New Orleans is leading this charge. Their motto was “We don’t die, we multiply!” It doesn’t get easier then evicting one, stationary camp.
So, in the event of eviction, split up into smaller groups. Assign each group a location to re-Occupy: in front of every major bank; in front of different government buildings. Divide and resist.
If they want you out, if they want to arrest you, make them come after each of you. The cycle should not stop. Every time they attack a group, divide and move to a new protest site. Have plans to re-group and occupy together at some point soon after. But this mobility, I think, is essential to the survival of the movement.
1) Keep only what you can carry.
2) Find safe storage.
3) Have a plan and practice.
4) Divide and Occupy
Occupy Supply has spent a lot of time finding supplies to make Occupier more mobile and self-reliant. I will be doing a demonstration today. I want to show you our idea of what a Mobile Occupier looks like.
If you want to learn more about mobility, have questions, or just want to talk, come find me then.
Thank you so much for your time!