What is #Occupy? Is it a statement? An Idea? A Protest? An activity? All of these?
Relax. This isn’t a multiple choice exam. It’s a question that’s rolling around in everyone’s heads since the Eviction. Heck, it was rolling off everyone’s tongue BEFORE the eviction, it was what we argued about, it was what we grasped for, grappled with, danced to. What IS occupy?
Occupy, of course, began as a protest. I think if it hadn’t evolved past that, we wouldn’t be talking about it anymore by now. It would have been over in a week or two, and then everyone would have gone home and we’d have tossed it off. Who still talks about the protests against the Iraq war? Hmm? They were HUGE! As many as 750,000 people in NYC alone! The largest protests in history, if I’m not mistaken. There were similar numbers in San Francisco, Paris, London, LA, all over the world! Do you remember them? The odds that you were there are oodles greater than they are that you were at #Occupy. We’ve never had numbers even close to those. None the less, oodles more people are involved in this, touched by it, talking about it, and in one way or another, participating in it. There’ve been occupations in 1300 cities! We’re everywhere!
#Occupy began with fewer than a hundred kids (mostly) sleeping in a park in sleeping bags or blankets, sometimes just wrapped in plastic tarps or just the clothes on their backs. It got some buzz on the intertubes, and so some donations came in. With donations came bivy sacks, more and better sleeping bags, and foam pads —- and more people, and more donations, and food, and more sleeping bags, and laptops, and a generator, and a wireless connection, and me, and more donations. The donations weren’t just money. Money helps, but it’s not enough. We got donations of talent, of resources and tools, and expertise and know how, and connections, and more people, and more food, and more garbage, and a sanitation working group, and library, and a library working group, and more donations, now books, and then a truck covered with solar panels, and pepper spray (donated by NYPD) and publicity (also donated by NYPD and Fürher Mike), and more people, and more food, and a Kitchen working group, and firedoglake.com, and #occupysupply, and occupyweb.org, and scripting.com, and panix.com, and an it working group, and this blog.
Take a look at these two pictures:
two weeks later:
When I first posted that second photo, I commented “I think we need another park. We can’t all fit in this one anymore.”
What compelled me about #Occupy, what drew me back, what ultimately led to my putting aside everything else in my life and becoming a full-time #occupier, wasn’t the clever witty signs, or festival atmosphere, or even the impact on our national debate, but rather, the way it was done. It was the doing-ness of it, the fact that I could just jump in, help where I was helpful, be helped where I needed help. All effort was valued more or less equally, all people, fed the same. Sleeping bags, pads, etc… were on a first-come first served basis (mine’s a recent army surplus down bag), and any necessities were simply a matter of finding a few people who agreed they were necessities and you got it taken care of. We took care of each, in other words, with no thought as to immediate rewards but just the certainty that as we did for each other, would be done for us as well.
This idea caught fire to such an amazing extent, that in the final weeks of the occupation @ liberty square, we collected more than $650,000, and today, two weeks after the eviction, approximately $500,000 remains….
….and that is where all the current problems begin.
Stay tuned for part 2