Visiting Occupy Tacoma…
Today was the day. After receiving the invite, I brought the two oldest kiddos with me for a visit to the encampment and talk with the occupiers about what the movement is about.
The bringing of the kids was partly strategic, partly logistic. The strategic part came from my own personal experiences counter-protesting in 2003 against the not-so-peaceful peace protesters. Having the kids there would reduce the chances of any sort of conflict. Logistically, well, my daughter held the video camera (since it was hers!), and son held my coffee when I used the still camera. I also had intended to, once we got home, to ask them about the experience from their perspectives, but they are both kind of at the stage of answering questions as “it was good”, which isn’t terribly helpful.
Anyway, as it turned out, there was virtually no risk of confrontation. That was quite welcomed. The closest it came to was a couple of times when we become the objects of curiosity and had people gathering around us. But both the people and the initial uncomfortable feeling dissipated quickly.
We talked. And talked. And talked some more. Then we got one of the protesters to agree to be filmed answering a few questions. So…here it is with a bit of commentary:
Additional observations and commentary:
The people I met were decent, polite folks. But this was also not in a protesting, emotion-fueled event, but in an encampment, and there weren’t many there at the time. Saw no direct signs of drug use there, and they did indeed keep the part fairly clean (though may be ignoring the destruction of the grass of the park from the constant walking and the tents).
And while I’d like to believe those I talked to about being a non-violent movement, there’s clearly been evidence of violence in other cities. Perhaps Tacoma will be spared, but I think, especially once they are given orders to leave the park, situations may present themselves in which we may see violence. And quite frankly, the discussion of “agent provocateurs’ doesn’t sit well with me–it’s just too much of a scapegoat cover.
I’d also like to believe that they, as Ryan expressed, want to be inclusive of the actual 99% they claim to speak for…but I don’t.At all. Why? First, there is the way in which they govern themselves–they call it a General Assembly, or GA. In the GA, they claim to use “consensus” to make decisions…which, of course, is nothing more than majority rules. They even passed along a story of “down twinkling” an anarchist-type person visiting from another Occupy group that was advocating some form of violence. (Aside from being and sounding like a juvenile way of voting or discussing, it’s nothing less than a peer-pressure created and maintained political system on a small scale. And it’s a cliquish, exclusive thing…). But also in their own forums on the Occupy Tacoma website (as long as they leave open and transparent), there is PLENTY of infighting and struggles for power about what the movement is about, and they certainly aren’t terribly tolerant of beliefs that differ in the forums.
Aside from these observations, the answers, as you saw in the video, were vague, full of rhetoric, and lacking in substance. That’s a huge issue, especially if they intend on drawing in the others of the 99% they claim to represent. As it is now, they certainly do not represent me.
The biggest problem I still have in the Occupy Tacoma group, as an outsider, is that their mission statement states that they are nonviolent, yet they also lay claim to solidarity with other Occupy groups. But other Occupy groups have been violent, and I believe we’ll see others…but they can’t have it both ways. If they truly stand in solidarity, they are no different. And if they are no different, then they are also just as able and willing to commit violence.
Is my mind made up about them? No, not at all. Or not yet. Because it is completely unclear what they stand for, what they support, and what principles they hold.
Today was the day. After receiving the invite, I brought the two oldest kiddos with me for a visit to the encampment and talk with the occupiers about what the movement is about. The bringing of the kids was partly strategic, partly logistic. The strategic part came from my own personal experiences counter-protesting in 2003…