Comments

This page is for anyone who has thoughts on Occupy Wellington.
Please respect other people while you make these comments, but feel
free to give you honest opinions.

Thanks!

24 thoughts on “Comments

  1. I am wondering how to reach out to and involve “ordinary middle class people” who are probably the majority of the 99% (Sorry to use labels, but I’d be here all day otherwise).

    I wonder if many of them have the impression that to be a supporter they must give up their jobs and camp full time? For example, I’m not in a position to do that with a job and baby to look after.

    Could we publicise the option of “part-time” camping? i.e, “Come and camp for one night, or even during one day. Come and camp for one night on the weekend”. This idea is only one part of the complex puzzle of getting the message to ordinary New Zealanders, but if it helps…?

    I have more to say, but I’ll keep this simple. What think ye?

  2. If it helps, comms people are welcome to adapt this. We need short and clear responses to the “typical” questions.

    8 Myths About Occupy Wellington

    1. They do not Have Clear Goals

    So far the Occupiers have clearly identified problems and produced a vision statement. It is perfectly OK for a group to identify problems and still be in the process of working out what to do about them. Part of their goal is simply to raise awareness of issues they consider important.

    2. They do not Represent Me

    The Occupiers do not claim to represent everyone in the 99% yet. They would like others to join in. If you do not feel represented, visit the site, talk with them, and consider joining in where you can.

    3. They are all on Welfare

    Simply untrue. Ordinary working people, and retired people attend their meetings and support them from afar. Overseas surveys show that 50% of occupiers have jobs.

    4. They Are Lazy.

    Most of the Occupiers are working extremely hard to plan, develop strategies, and carry out actions in support of them. Many of them are highly educated and articulate. They cook and work to supply their basic needs. They are not sitting around doing nothing.

    5. They are Messy and Dirty

    Camping is normally a little messy, but the Occupiers do a good job of keeping the site clean. The site is drug and alcohol free. They have a good relationship with the City Council and Police thus far.

    6. They Should use the Electoral System Instead.

    This is a possibility in the future, but would have to be agreed upon within the movement first. Many of them will be voting in the upcoming election. In addition, part of their protest is that the current electoral system favours the wealthy who have money to finance political campaigns.

    7. They are impeding others’ use of public property

    The nature of a protest will usually impede some people. This is unfortunate but unavoidable. Also, anyone who wishes to walk through the site is welcome. The actual area they camp in is very small and is not normally used by large numbers of people.

    8. What they are doing is illegal.

    Expert legal opinion says that it is not. This is part of the reason they have not been evicted. The bill of rights and free speech laws allows their peaceful protest.

  3. mmmm says:

    Hello from Middle New Zealand. We are the 51% Occupy need onside in order to create change.
    Thought you might appreciate some feedback on your progress in gaining our support?

    In the beginning – we all really connected with your basic message. Almost all of us agree that there is an issue with greed and inequalities of wealth in the current state of our societies. The occupations were perceived as a novel and effective means of gaining a platform for addressing those issues. We were sympathetic and ready to listen.

    We listened, and to be honest, the message was very mixed and difficult to grasp. This caused a lot of us to lose concentration on your advocacy quite early on. For those of us who persevered, the predominant message we picked up was that a majority of Occupiers wanted to overthrow the current system completely and ‘start from scratch’.
    Most of us had 2 big issues with this; Occupy never managed to articulate any kind of clear vision of what this new system would be and how it would work, and, most of us actually feel that the current system has put us into a quite a good overall situation and so while there is much support for some change, there is very little support among us for complete ‘revolution’.

    And nothing new emerged, and we came to the conclusion Occupy was a well intentioned but chaotic movement that was incapable of producing a clear platform for progress. It also became very clear that occupy had become a wee bit self – obsessed, and many of you were more interested in your own rhetoric and theater, than the issues themselves.

    By the middle of last week, virtually none of us were listening to you any more, and in fact, a large number of us had started to actively feel negative towards the movement, and it’s inability to understand that it was time to move up or to move on. A majority of us began to feel that the long term exclusive occupation of public space by a group advocating a minority point of view was in fact an abuse of the right to protest, and so we were not outraged when the occupations began to be ended.

    To be honest, you have lost our attention, and most of us feel you are now clearly identifiable as representing a socialist / anarchist / idealist minority lobby that is willing to pursue it’s agenda through ongoing social protest. That’s all very good by us, because we do appreciate the ability to debate and advocate freely, but it does occur to us that if you want real change to our democratically decided systems you are going to need our support.

    I hope the above helps you to find ways to work with us to improve our societies.

    • RobertvonGarrett says:

      My apologies that no one has responded to you comments earlier. You raise some very facinating points, many of which are very easy for us to loose sight of while on the ground. My suggestion would be that if you and the rest of middle New Zealand recognise the inequality in this country and the need for positive change, but are also concerned about the disproportionate socialist and anarchist representation within the movement, then PLEASE get involved! This kind of movement tends to attract those kind of people and the only way to balance that is for more people of differing view points to get involved. This does not mean that you have to physically occupy but if you were to come to The People’s Forum I can guarantee that your voice would be heard. The key to the idea of us representing the 99% is the particpation of the 99%. All people from all backgrounds coming together to seek solutions to common concerns

      • mmmm says:

        Thanks for the discussion Robert. Occupy has undergone quite a lot of evolution since I posted those comments 10 days ago, as you will be know! I think most Occupiers will now be aware that the fundamental issue with the movement is that it has failed to gain anything like the % support of ‘the people’ necessary to implement change. Having not succeeded with it’s initial strategy, the challenge now is to see if Occupy can absorb the lessons gained and evolve in a way that enables it to connect with the real support of the ‘99%’. I wish you good luck with that.
        From a personal point of view, (and i believe I am fairly representative of the ‘51% middle ground’), it might help you to know why I am not currently willing to invest very much of my valuable time engaging with Occupy. I have in fact visited several occupations and talked to the occupiers. It has been a variable experience to be honest. Is Occupy the person who insisted NZ was a Police State run by a secret society of white male capitalists and anyone who disagreed with that was brainwashed? ; or is Occupy the person who had a vision of a post-Marxist resource based society and thought this could be achieved by an orderly transition?
        My feeling is Occupy is going to take a long long time to come up with a combined and strong vision, and that is pre-supposing that the consensus model of decision making you have advocated proves capable of supporting such a process?
        I simply don’t have the inclination or the time to be involved in such a chaotic and sluggish debate at this time. When Occupy, or anyone else comes up with some
        concrete and viable platform of ideas and action that I can believe will be an effective use of my resources I will be ready to actively support – as I currently do with causes and organisations that are achieving concrete good.

  4. cgduff says:

    New Zealand Listener, Letters, November 2011

    SUPERANNUATION
    Denis Muir is 70, my wife 68,(Letters 19 Nov.) and are semi-retired. They pay more in income tax than collected in superannuation.
    They should not be getting any super: they do not need the money.
    I am also 70, semi-retired with two part time jobs and now understand better after reading his letter why the Occupy Movement has grown.
    I hope that he will realise that he is privileged and tries to understand why others are not so fortunate.
    C G Duff
    November 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    SUPERANNUATION
    The Prime Minister has said raising the superannuation entitlement age is not a significant issue, and I believe he is correct (Editorial, November 12).
    Consider the following: I am 70, my wife 68, and we’re semi-retired. We pay more in income tax than we collect in superannuation – so we are not that much of a burden on society compared with welfare beneficiaries.
    Virtually every couple we know in the 65-75 age range is in exactly the same situation, with at least one still working – hairdressing, teaching, sales representative, health worker, you name it – but we are not talking rich people on high earnings here.
    In each case their tax contributions exceed their superannuation benefits. I can also think of at least three people in that age range who in the past six months have gone from being net tax contributors to being dead without having time to be a burden on anyone.
    The reality is that a high proportion of superannuitants will never become much of a burden on society and many of those who do will not reach that point until they are in their late seventies or eighties. In the meantime, many of us are using some of our spare time and petrol to support worthy causes such as St John or a hospice, or visiting the elderly, delivering meals on wheels, working as teaching assistants for reading and writing, collecting for the blind, etc.
    If one considers the demographics on an ethnic basis, 20 years out there are some interesting conclusions to be drawn, which also will significantly affect any average longevity projections.
    So, please, give over with the hysterical nonsense that in 25 years there will be only one contributing taxpayer for every 10 or whatever superannuitants and that these people will all be a drain on society.
    Denis Muir
    (Kaiwaka, Northland)

  5. Sambro says:

    Me and my friend are at Occupy Wellington. We are looking for some kind soul to give us a ride North in the next couple of days. Just to get us to a good hitching spot. We are heading for Kaitaia. Please email me if you know someone who can help. vindictivemob@yahoo.co.nz

  6. Sambro says:

    We are still in need of a ride North. We are wishing to leave on Friday morning. Please email me if you know someone who can help. vindictivemob@yahoo.co.nz Cheers, [Sambro]

  7. Sambro says:

    We have decided to take the train to Paraparaumu and hitch North from there. Thanks to everyone who tryd to get us a ride. Thanks to all who made us most welcome at OW and great to meet you all. Please keep in touch!

  8. Michael says:

    We rock!

  9. Dany says:

    Will you be re-sowing the grass that has died on the park I used to sit at during my lunchtimes? Or will the council rate payers be picking up the tab on this?

    • We have consistently offered to re-sow the grass on the site. Council has consistently refused our offer. If ratepayers want Occupy to re-sow the grass they need to direct their attention to the Council who are ignoring your demands.

      Occupy are on your side and want to re-sow the grass at our own expense.

      Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Dany: Apart from the tragic state of the grass, is there any other thing that concerns you which Occupy could help with? Violence against women perhaps? The fact that 5 families per day are evicted in New Zealand because they cannot pay their mortgage? The sale of our children’s heritage (State Assets)? The foot-dragging by Government over Christchurch’s earthquake recovery? I could go on. It is things like this which Occupy is spending the majority of our time on, not grass.

  10. M says:

    Why I left Occupy Wellington – An Ex-Insider’s Perspective

    I’d been camping out at Maui’s Garden, Wellington Civic Centre, since Week Two of the Occupation. That’s round about Halloween.
    There are only a small number of us who have been there for the majority of the Occupation. Most “Occupiers” preferred to contribute off-site, in their own ways. I’m all for that – no reason to stick around when you can be doing other, more productive things, elsewhere.
    Here’s how it works: some people hold it down – to maintain a visible presence – whilst others can write and promote and advertise and organise and network and teach and do whatever else needs to be done to keep the wheels of Occupy rolling.
    What exactly is it those wheels are rolling for? Well, at a very basic level they’re rumbling away to promote self-awareness, to encourage people to ask themselves: “What is the change I would like to see in the world? And what am I prepared to do to foster that change?”
    Please ask yourself those questions now. Do your answers fire you up into action? I certainly hope so.
    Anyway, that’s why we were there, through 140 km.p.h. winds, earthquakes (not so drastic here in Welly – a window in the Michael Fowler centre was cracked), storms, blazing sunshine, torrential rains, through anything and everything that nature threw at us. That’s why we held it together, supporting each other, continually evolving the camp, the rules, the layout, accepting marginalised members of society onsite, working together organically to create the safest possible living environment: to encourage and empower you to ask yourself what you’d like to change and how you’d like to go about doing it.
    We did more than merely talk to passers-by. We held free markets, workshops and teaching sessions, all open to anyone. We held forums where people were encouraged to debate in a peaceful, open, mature manner. We’ve maintained cordial, if not friendly, relations with the police and council throughout. And that’s because we’re all about peaceful, open debate.
    Which is why I’m no longer on site. As of this week, I cannot remain there and maintain my integrity. Why’s that? On Monday, 9th January, I was attacked by another of the long-standing Occupiers (one of the self-appointed “Security” crew, no less) for trying to make a salad sandwich.
    Yes, it sounds ridiculous, and it is. Except that I’m not laughing. Because the camp is now in the hands of those who believe that violence is a legitimate means for preventing free discussion. By those who think that it is acceptable to use brute force to prevent alternate views from being aired. By those who believe in physical force over reasonable conversation. Does that sound fair, just or right to you? Does it sound like it’s in the spirit of peaceful, open debate? No. It’s not.
    I don’t want to go into the details. Who said, or wanted to say, what, is no longer relevant. The good times and tough times shared certainly seem to have gone down the drain, to have counted for nothing. Simply look at the outcome. One peaceful protester, trying to talk to another, was punched in the face to prevent discussion from taking place.
    I don’t want to name names. I’m not going to here. But I am appalled, disgusted and, in a way, betrayed. I cannot stay silent about it. That would negate everything I’ve stood and Occupied for. And I’m not prepared to allow that. The last couple of months of my life would count for nothing if I did. That’s why I can no longer be there. Because the actions of certain other Occupiers are diametrically opposed to underlying principles of Occupy – those of free, open, mature debate.
    So please, continue to question yourselves and your world. Think about what you can do to make life better for all. That was the original intention of Occupy. And please, think about how you can go about it in a peaceful, open, adult manner. Aotearoa, we’re better than thugs. Let’s act like it.

    • Brian Tither says:

      Hi M,

      I can remember meeting you at the GA for day 100 just before you headed back home and remember talking to you later at Catacombs. I heard a few days later about how you got assaulted from the person who did it to you who showed no remorse and made some silly statement that you were acting like the 1% in making that sandwich. I thought it was a stupid thing to say, after all the 1% really don’t know what it is like to be hungry and shows how the ideas that were expressed in the early days of the occupation have been morphed into something very ridiculous. I have decided based on what happened to you and some other ‘elephants in the room’ that I have heard about that have been ignored that I won’t be revisiting the campsite again unless it is for a GA advertised by the Occupy Wellington NZ administation team. I do not want to run the risk of being assaulted, amongst other things, and I want to apologise to you on the behalf of all socially reasonable people that you were subject to that attack. I am taking the dim view that the person who did this to you was saying something about himself; i.e. that he was behaving like the 1% and those who witnessed it and ignored it and even went as far as endorsing it were also behaving like the 1%. I have also heard from people that left the site earlier than you that they know about the incident and are trying to find some due process inside OWNZ to deal with that and the other elephants.

      Brian.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thankyou for your honesty, and please believe that those of us who left before you are well aware of the thuggish-ness of some who remained. It’s part of why we left. I’m truly sorry this happened to you.

      • Gosman says:

        You guy’s lost your PR battle as soon as the Occupy movement allowed these people to appoint themselves as ‘Security’. That is the trouble with a movement that tries to be all inclusive with no defined leadership. You open yourself up to being associated with unsavourary characters. I too was physically intimidated by your ‘Security’ personnel on two separate occassions. On one occassions after I informed the police about the incident I was told that this has happened on numerous occassions. Yet you did nothing to resolve this problem that had an effect. Most people will watch the TV coverage of the eviction and will remember the aggressiveness of the protester rather than anything else and think good riddance.

  11. Jonathan says:

    Emergency GA Wed Feb 1st at Fidels’s cafe. Facebook event here http://www.facebook.com/events/266460960085865/

    Please spread the word.

  12. Benjamin Easton says:

    Any judicial construction must work on evidence with a code of fairness. The evidence used to concoct one side of the story is most usually manipulated to qualify that side. If an individual does not rationalise the necessity of being fair before making a judgement then they too become prejudicial. This is a lifetime’s folly for most folk. Allegation has been an instrument of abuse in the occupy movement as much as effective reproach has been an instrument of justice.

  13. Just a reminder to everyone that legally, we still have the right to camp AS A PROTEST. Don’t believe the council’s poorly researched legal team.

    Read the opinion of Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis, which has not changed:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10766253

    “…by expressing this message through their occupation action, the protesters are asserting rights that are guaranteed to them by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

    It affirms that all of us have the right to express our opinions in any form we choose, as well as to peacefully assemble to join in collective action. These rights can then be limited only if doing so is “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.

    This background must be kept in mind when considering the call by eight Auckland Council members for court action to evict the Occupy Auckland protesters from Aotea Square.

    The protesters are exercising rights that not only are fundamental to a democratic society, but Parliament has said are of such paramount importance that they only can be limited where “demonstrably justified”. …

    …the fact Auckland has a bylaw prohibiting camping does not remove the Occupy Auckland encampment from the protection of the Bill of Rights Act. The Council cannot dictate what is and is not a valid form of “protest” simply by making a bylaw.

    If it could do this, then a bylaw prohibiting people from shouting in the street would mean chanting on a protest march is outside the protection of the Bill of Rights Act. Or a bylaw prohibiting the public display of signs would mean the Bill of Rights Act doesn’t apply to waving a protest placard.

    Clearly that is wrong. Council bylaws must instead be consistent with the rights in the Bill of Rights Act, in that they can only limit those rights in ways that are “demonstrably justified”. And if a bylaw’s limit on a right can’t be so justified, then the right trumps the bylaw.

    Consequently, a general bylaw that says people cannot camp on the council’s land does not in-and-of itself strip the Occupy Auckland protesters of the right to peacefully assemble to express their views in this manner. Instead, the question is whether the application of that bylaw to the protesters is “demonstrably justified”.

    That then brings us to the alleged justification for kicking the protestors off Aotea Square. What is the reason for seeking to stop the Occupy Auckland protesters from choosing to protest in the form of an occupying encampment? What is the precise harm they are causing that justifies applying the Council’s bylaw in a way that limits their legislatively affirmed rights?

    Sure, the protestors may be annoying and somewhat unsightly, but that’s the nature of protest. Their presence may be a bit inconvenient, but putting up with a measure of inconvenience is the price we pay for respecting rights.

    So while a number of Auckland’s residents, perhaps even a majority of them, would prefer to see the protesters removed, the whole point of individual rights is that they counterbalance the majority’s desire to have everyone conform to its views. After all, if the mere disapproval of those around you is permitted to dictate the limits of what you can and can’t do, then what kind of society would we live in?”

    • Gosman says:

      Do the protestors have a right to intimidate and physically remove other members of the public from the same public space they occupy though? That is a question the Occoupy Wellington movement seems reluctant to address.

  14. Dear friends

    Do you want your prized assets such as power companies, water
    companies, forestry, primary production farmland, schools and
    hospitals to be owned by foreign interests?

    John Key and the National-led government do not have a mandate to
    sell our assets, and we want to let them know this.

    The first in a series of protests will begin on Tuesday 7th of
    Februrary at midday. We will meet in Civic Square and then march
    down Lambton Quay to parliament grounds. When we get there we will
    make as much noise as we possibly can to let the first sitting of
    parliament for 2012 know how ordinary New Zealand people feel.

    We encourage you to follow our lead and join with other like-minded
    people in this protest. Occupy Wellington is a non-partisan
    non-politically aligned group that seeks to work with all fair-minded
    people for the common good.

    Will you join us? Will you help us spread the word? The first
    protest may be small but it will get bigger and bigger until the
    current Government cannot ignore us.

    Please contact Jonathan
    jonathanelliotnz@gmail.com
    for more information.
    http://www.occupywellington.org

    We want to tell John Key that he can still stop the sales. Will you join us?

  15. Reminder there is a GA tonight (Wednesday) at Fidels 6pm. Agenda so far:

    Proposed agenda:

    1. Appointment of facilitator, and minute taker. Different from last week, we can’t have the same people all the time.

    2. Summary of minutes from last week. (I understand minutes from last week have not been sent to occupywellington.org admins )

    3. Further discussion carried forward from last week on “Should we camp again, and if so when?” Appointment of committee to report back on this if there are enough people present? Was there a poll of our members set up as requested last week?

    4. Update on building progress (if the appropriate people are there)

    5. Updating our admins on our various websites. (Hopefully Hops will be there again?) We need names of all current admins and public ratification of them by the group. Some admins and group members (eg comms group) are no longer active in Occupy and need to be removed/updated.

    6. Will we support the protest against asset sales outside Te Puni Kokiri next Wednesday 15th?

    7. Affirmation of kaupapa/safer spaces including non-violence. Confirmation that those who advocate violenced or have acted violently on occupy camp site are no longer part of occupy.

    8. Other agenda items? Please add below. We will cover the most important ones if we don’t have time for all.

    I will not personally be at this GA. (Jonathan)

  16. Richard Keller says:

    Apologies for the length of this article. But it may give a good view of where the USA Occupy is at this time. There will be experiences and thoughts described in the article which people here will understand. (It doesn’t actually say much about banks.)
    Dick Keller

    Why the Media Love the Violence of Protesters and Not of Banks
    Rebecca Solnit

    | February 21, 2012

    This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com [1].

    When you fall in love, it’s all about what you have in common, and you can hardly imagine that there are differences, let alone that you will quarrel over them, or weep about them, or be torn apart by them—or if all goes well, struggle, learn and bond more strongly because of, rather than despite, them. The Occupy movement had its glorious honeymoon when old and young, liberal and radical, comfortable and desperate, homeless and tenured all found that what they had in common was so compelling the differences hardly seemed to matter.

    Until they did.

    Revolutions are always like this: at first all men are brothers and anything is possible, and then, if you’re lucky, the romance of that heady moment ripens into a relationship, instead of a breakup, an abusive marriage or a murder-suicide. Occupy had its golden age, when those who never before imagined living side-by-side with homeless people found themselves in adjoining tents in public squares.

    All sorts of other equalizing forces were present, not least the police brutality that battered the privileged [3] the way that inner-city kids [4] are used to being battered all the time. Part of what we had in common was what we were against: the current economy and the principle of insatiable greed that made it run, as well as the emotional and economic privatization that accompanied it.

    This is a system that damages people, and its devastation was on display as never before in the early months of Occupy and related phenomena like the “We are the 99 percent” website [5]. When it was people facing foreclosure, or who had lost their jobs, or were thrashing around under avalanches of college or medical debt, they weren’t hard to accept as us, and not them.

    And then came the people who’d been damaged far more, the psychologically fragile, the marginal and the homeless—some of them endlessly needy and with a huge capacity for disruption. People who had come to fight the power found themselves staying on [6] to figure out available mental health resources, while others who had wanted to experience a democratic society on a grand scale found themselves trying to solve sanitation problems.

    And then there was the violence.

    The Faces of Violence

    The most important direct violence Occupy faced was, of course, from the state, in the form of the police using maximum sub-lethal force on sleepers in tents, mothers with children, unarmed pedestrians, young women already penned [7] up, unresisting seated students [8], poets, professors, pregnant women [9], wheelchair-bound occupiers [10] and octogenarians [11]. It has been a sustained campaign of police brutality from Wall Street to Washington State the likes of which we haven’t seen in forty years.

    On the part of activists, there were also a few notable incidents of violence in the hundreds of camps, especially violence against women [12]. The mainstream media seemed to think this damned the Occupy movement, though it made the camps, at worst, a whole lot like the rest of the planet, which, in case you hadn’t noticed, seethes with violence against women. But these were isolated incidents.

    That old line [13] of songster Woody Guthrie is always handy in situations like this: “Some will rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.” The police have been going after occupiers with projectile weapons, clubs and tear gas, sending some of them to the hospital and leaving more than a few others traumatized and fearful. That’s the six-gun here.

    But it all began with the fountain pens, slashing through peoples’ lives, through national and international economies, through the global markets. These were wielded by the banksters, the “vampire squid [14],” the deregulators in DC, the men—and with the rarest of exceptions they were men—who stole the world.

    That’s what Occupy came together to oppose, the grandest violence by scale, the least obvious by impact. No one on Wall Street ever had to get his suit besmirched by carrying out [15] a foreclosure eviction himself. Cities provided that service for free to the banks (thereby further impoverishing [16] themselves as they created new paupers out of old taxpayers). And the police clubbed their opponents for them [17], over and over, everywhere across the United States.

    The grand thieves invented ever more ingenious methods, including those sliced and diced derivatives, to crush the hopes and livelihoods of the many. This is the terrible violence that Occupy was formed to oppose. Don’t ever lose sight of that.

    Oakland’s Beautiful Nonviolence

    Now that we’re done remembering the major violence, let’s talk about Occupy Oakland. A great deal of fuss has been made about two incidents in which mostly young people affiliated with Occupy Oakland damaged some property and raised some hell.

    The mainstream media and some faraway pundits weighed in on those Bay Area incidents as though they determined the meaning and future of the transnational Occupy phenomenon. Perhaps some of them even hoped, consciously or otherwise, that harped on enough these might divide or destroy the movement. So it’s important to recall that the initial impact of Occupy Oakland was the very opposite of violent, stunningly so, in ways that were intentionally suppressed.

    Occupy Oakland began in early October as a vibrant, multiracial gathering. A camp was built at Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza, and thousands received much-needed meals and healthcare for free from well-organized volunteers. Sometimes called the Oakland Commune, it was consciously descended from some of the finer aspects of an earlier movement born in Oakland, the Black Panthers, whose free breakfast programs [18] should perhaps be as well-remembered and more admired than their macho posturing.

    A compelling and generous-spirited General Assembly took place nightly and then biweekly in which the most important things on Earth were discussed by wildly different participants. Once, for instance, I was in a breakout discussion group that included Native American, white, Latino and able-bodied and disabled Occupiers, and in which I was likely the eldest participant; another time, a bunch of peacenik grandmothers dominated my group.

    This country is segregated in so many terrible ways—and then it wasn’t for those glorious weeks when civil society awoke and fell in love with itself. Everyone showed up; everyone talked to everyone else; and in little tastes, in fleeting moments, the old divides no longer divided us and we felt like we could imagine ourselves as one society. This was the dream of the promised land—this land, that is, without its bitter divides. Honey never tasted sweeter, and power never felt better.

    Now here’s something astonishing. While the camp was in existence, crime went down 19 percent [19] in Oakland, a statistic the city was careful to conceal. “It may be counter to our statement that the Occupy movement is negatively impacting crime in Oakland,” the police chief wrote to the mayor in an email that local news station KTVU later obtained and released to little fanfare. Pay attention: Occupy was so powerful a force for nonviolence that it was already solving Oakland’s chronic crime and violence problems just by giving people hope and meals and solidarity and conversation.

    The police attacking the camp knew what the rest of us didn’t: Occupy was abating crime, including violent crime, in this gritty, crime-ridden city. “You gotta give them hope, “ said an elected official across the bay once upon a time—a city supervisor named Harvey Milk. Occupy was hope we gave ourselves, the dream come true. The city did its best to take the hope away [20] violently at 5 am on October 25, 2011. The sleepers were assaulted, their belongings confiscated and trashed. Then, Occupy Oakland rose again. Many thousands of nonviolent marchers shut down [21] the Port of Oakland in a stunning display of popular power on November 2.

    That night, some kids did the smashy-smashy stuff that everyone gets really excited about. (They even spray-painted “smashy [22]” on a Rite Aid drugstore in giant letters.) When we talk about people who spray-paint and break windows and start bonfires in the street and shove people and scream and run around, making a demonstration into something way too much like the punk rock shows of my youth, let’s keep one thing in mind: they didn’t send anyone to the hospital, drive any seniors from their homes, spread despair and debt among the young, snatch food and medicine from the desperate, or destroy the global economy.

    That said, they are still a problem. They are the bait the police take and the media go to town with. They create a situation a whole lot of us don’t like and that drives away many who might otherwise participate or sympathize. They are, that is, incredibly bad for a movement and represent a form of segregation by intimidation.

    But don’t confuse the pro-vandalism Occupiers with the vampire squid or the up-armored robocops who have gone after us almost everywhere. Though their means are deeply flawed, their ends are not so different than yours. There’s no question that they should improve their tactics or maybe just act tactically, let alone strategically, and there’s no question that a lot of other people should stop being so apocalyptic about it.

    Those who advocate for nonviolence at Occupy should remember that nonviolence [23] is at best a great spirit of love and generosity, not a prissy enforcement squad. After all, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who gets invoked all the time when such issues come up, didn’t go around saying grumpy things about Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.

    Violence Against the Truth

    Of course, a lot of people responding to these incidents in Oakland are actually responding to fictional versions of them. In such cases, you could even say that some journalists were doing violence against the truth of what happened in Oakland on November 2 and January 28.

    The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, reported [24] on the day’s events this way:

    Among the most violent incidents that occurred Saturday night was in front of the YMCA at 23rd Street and Broadway. Police corralled protesters in front of the building and several dozen protesters stormed into the Y, apparently to escape from the police, city officials and protesters said. Protesters damaged a door and a few fixtures, and frightened those inside the gym working out, said Robert Wilkins, president of the YMCA of the East Bay.

    Wilkins was apparently not in the building, and first-person testimony recounts that a YMCA staff member welcomed the surrounded and battered protesters, and once inside, some were so terrified they pretended to work out on exercise machines to blend in.

    I wrote this to the journalists who described the incident so peculiarly: “What was violent about [activists] fleeing police engaging in wholesale arrests and aggressive behavior? Even the YMCA official who complains about it adds, ‘The damage appears pretty minimal.’ And you call it violence? That’s sloppy.”

    The reporter who responded apologized for what she called her “poor word choice” and said the piece was meant to convey police violence as well.

    When the police are violent against activists, journalists tend to frame it as though there were violence in some vaguely unascribable sense that implicates the clobbered as well as the clobberers. In, for example, the build-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the mainstream media kept portraying the right of the people peaceably to assemble as tantamount to terrorism and describing all the terrible things that the government or the media themselves speculated we might want to do (but never did).

    Some of this was based on the fiction of tremendous activist violence in Seattle in 1999 that the New York Times [25] in particular devoted itself to promulgating. That the police smashed up nonviolent demonstrators and constitutional rights pretty badly in both Seattle and New York didn’t excite them nearly as much. Don’t forget that before the obsession with violence arose, the smearing of Occupy was focused on the idea that people weren’t washing very much, and before that the framework for marginalization was that Occupy had “no demands [26].” There’s always something.

    Keep in mind as well that Oakland’s police department is on the brink of federal receivership for not having made real amends for old and well-documented problems of violence, corruption and mismanagement, and that it was the police department, not the Occupy Oakland demonstrators, that used tear gas, clubs, smoke grenades and rubber bullets on January 28. It’s true that a small group vandalized [27] City Hall after the considerable police violence, but that’s hardly what the plans were at the outset of the day.

    The action on January 28 that resulted in 400 arrests and a media conflagration was called Move-In Day [28]. There was a handmade patchwork banner that proclaimed “Another Oakland Is Possible” and a children’s contingent with pennants, balloons and strollers. Occupy Oakland was seeking to take over an abandoned building so that it could reestablish the community, the food programs and the medical clinic it had set up last fall. It may not have been well planned or well executed, but it was idealistic.

    Despite this, many people who had no firsthand contact with Occupy Oakland inveighed against it or even against the whole Occupy movement. If only that intensity of fury were to be directed at the root cause of it all, the colossal economic violence that surrounds us.

    All of which is to say, for anyone who hadn’t noticed, that the honeymoon is over.

    Now for the Real Work

    The honeymoon is, of course, the period when you’re so in love you don’t notice differences that will eventually have to be worked out one way or another. Most relationships begin as though you were coasting downhill. Then come the flatlands, followed by the hills where you’re going to have to pedal hard, if you don’t just abandon the bike.

    Occupy might just be the name we’ve put on a great groundswell of popular outrage and a rebirth of civil society too deep, too broad, to be a movement. A movement is an ocean wave: this is the whole tide turning from Cairo to Moscow to Athens to Santiago to Chicago. Nevertheless, the American swell in this tide involves a delicate alliance between liberals and radicals, people who want to reform the government and campaign for particular gains, and people who wish the government didn’t exist and mostly want to work outside the system. If the radicals should frighten the liberals as little as possible, surely the liberals have an equal obligation to get fiercer and more willing to confront—and to remember that nonviolence, even in its purest form, is not the same as being nice.

    Surely the only possible answer to the tired question of where Occupy should go from here (as though a few public figures got to decide) is: everywhere. I keep being asked what Occupy should do next, but it’s already doing it. It is everywhere.

    In many cities, outside the limelight, people are still occupying public space in tents and holding General Assemblies. February 20, for instance, was a national day [29] of Occupy solidarity with prisoners; Occupiers are organizing on many fronts and planning for May Day [30], and a great many foreclosure defenses from Nashville [31] to San Francisco [32] have kept people in their homes and made banks renegotiate. Campus activism [33] is reinvigorated, and creative and fierce discussions [34] about college costs and student debt are under way, as is a deeper conversation about economics and ethics that rejects conventional wisdom about what is fair and possible.

    Occupy is one catalyst or facet of the populist will you can see in a host of recent victories. The campaign [35] against corporate personhood seems to be gaining momentum. A popular environmental campaign [36] made President Obama reject [37] the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Canada, despite immense Republican and corporate pressure. In response to widespread outrage, the Susan B. Komen Foundation reversed [38] its decision to defund cancer detection at Planned Parenthood. Online campaigns have forced Apple to address its hideous labor issues, and the ever-heroic Coalition of Immokalee Workers at last brought Trader Joe’s into line [39] with its fair wages for farmworkers campaign.

    These genuine gains come thanks to relatively modest exercises of popular power. They should act as reminders that we do have power and that its exercise can be popular. Some of last fall’s exhilarating conversations have faltered, but the great conversation that is civil society awake and arisen hasn’t stopped.

    What happens now depends on vigorous participation, including yours, in thinking aloud together about who we are, what we want and how we get there [40], and then acting upon it. Go occupy the possibilities and don’t stop pedaling. And remember, it started with mad, passionate love.

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