On last nights’ Occupy Supply Skill Share we discussed the early history of Occupy Wall Street and the events that lead to the movement beginning on September 17th, 2011. We where joined by Drew Hornbein of OWS who gave us a personal account of the period before Zucotti Park was Occupied on #S17 last year. Before the movement started, Drew was a mild mannered web consultant; now he is a grass roots organizer who uses his skills for good as a leader in the “TechOps” working group. Marissa Holmes also joined in to add her insights and experience as part of the movements inception.
On July 13, 2011 adbusters published a blog post called #OccupyWallStreet which was followed by an email newsletter and spread in issue #97 of Adbusters. From that point forward the idea was created. As the concept developed in the minds of the people who heard about it, an assembly was called at the infamous charging bull in Bowling Green Park and the New York General Assembly was born. This was followed up with a second assembly at the Potato Famine Memorial on August 9th where working groups emerged. Soon after, regular assemblies were held in Tompkins Square Park with between 50 and 200 people. Drew highlighted the open transparent nature of the planning and assemblies (though many people did not want to be filmed). This radical transparency has been instrumental in the movement spreading around the world.
The movement has always been a unique balance between the real world and online organizing. Inspired by organizing in the parks, individuals and groups like Anonymous began supporting the movement by spreading the idea online. The open source model of freedom and transparency helped people all over the country to create their own local Occupations. As September 17th drew near, the plan was set for around one hundred campers to sleep on the hard ground of Zuccotti Park. The police expected a riot, protestors expected repression, and the result was organically peaceful. The repression did eventually come, and when it did so did the attention — videos of protesters being beaten in the streets went viral and brought more people out.
By putting our bodies on the line the “source code” of Occupy was able to go viral. Soon it was everywhere.
Occupy spread to over a thousand cities across the globe. A few thousand online supporters, a hundred activists, a handful of organizers and $400 worth of peanut butter started a world wide movement. Drew wrapped up the presentation by highlighting the remarkable success of what was meant to be a short lived direct action which got sustained international attention and created a global network of activism determined by those that participated. After the presentation Drew, Marissa and the rest of the attendees discussed a wide range of topics related to the origins of the movement from what they would have done differently to going over important moments. We thank them for joining us and hope they return for on the next Occupy Supply Skill Share