The Occupy Wall Street (inter) National Gathering 2013, was held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, from August 21-25, 2013. NatGat2 began in the usual Occupy fashion, with the main venue and camping site lost. A moderate police presence was visible, as well.
Organizers scrambled, negotiated, and persevered. As seen with Occupy Wall Street in 2011, the churches became our allies. The Wesley Foundation Peace Center stepped up to offer safe meeting space for 3 days. The Quaker Friends House shared sleeping space. The Unitarian Universalist People’s Church supplied parking. Meals were prepared by the Turtle Soup Kitchen of the Rainbow Tribe, with little money but much love. Firedoglake members also stepped up to contribute and send supplies via Occupy Supply. Throughout the week, Occupy Supply water bottles, shirts, bandannas were in evidence, while sleeping mats and small tents helped with sleep and shelter needs. Thanks to Occupy Kalamazoo, and to all who helped make this event happen!
It is impossible to report on all that occurred, but here is an overview from my perspective…
Day 1 – Local
NatGat2 opened at Bronson Park, in downtown Kalamazoo. This venue was chosen to focus on the controversy over the fountain located there. There have been calls to remove the fountain for several years, pointing out that it is a racist symbol of white settler dominance.
The opening ceremony was led by Art Shegonee, a member of the Menominee & Potawatomi tribes, in Wisconsin. Art and his wife, Dawn, spoke of the prophecy that says “A new people will emerge. We will have a choice between two roads. One road, of the unsustainable technology of greed, or the other road to spirituality where there is reverence for all life and the planet.”
Multiple sessions of Direct Democracy Training were held by marine biologist Dr Riki Ott, during NatGat2. Dr Ott has been closely involved with the responses to the Exxon Valdez spill, the BP Gulf oil spill, and the ongoing spills related to tar sands and fracking. She shared templates for municipal ordinances and resolutions to ban toxic chemicals, including Corexit. She has found that dispersants, such as Corexit, make the impact of spills worse. These same chemicals are also being used in fracking and are being mixed with the tar sands.
Workshops on artful activism, led by Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign, also continued throughout NatGat2. Although initially delayed by police, the ‘People’s Parade” finally took to the streets on Day 1, with floats, signs, drums and music. Captain Ray Lewis not only gave us perspective on our rights, but joined in the parade as well. It was a joyful expression of the power of people.
Day 2 – Global/Media
Media presentations focused on topics such as press freedoms, social media, and educational materials. Photographers and livestreamers worked to both document and share the event with a wider audience. Mobile Broadcast News not only recorded presentations, but also several actions, including this one by the Detroit Light Brigade and the Bee “Die-In” held against Monsanto and Walmart. Occupy Roads not only helped with transportation but with photo and video documentation.