Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We're being heard, but who's listening?

The concerns about co-option are being heard. But another concern still remains to be addressed: the fact that many of those hearing those concerns are the co-opters.

About two dozen people showed up at the Tuesday night meeting of the Occupy DC action committee, twice as many as were at the first one I attended a couple weeks ago, a sign that people are grasping how powerful the committee is -- it can still approve or reject actions without seeking any form of consensus at a general assembly -- and how important actions are in terms of defining the movement.

Overall, the meeting was positive: the same facilitator who announced at a general assembly earlier in the week that the committee had endorsed a series of actions sponsored and planned by the SEIU, and Van Jones' Rebuild the Dream -- adjuncts of the Democratic Party all -- at the meeting sought consensus on instead doing an Occupy DC action that would explicitly be separate from those groups.

Conscious of appearances, the de facto leadership of the committee clarified that they hadn't intended to endorse the week of actions those groups are busing people into town for, but rather a single day of action on December 7. Consensus was quickly reached on the idea of doing a separate set of actions that day, with many people talking about specifically targeting Democrats and their allies on K Street as a way of making clear Occupy DC does not endorse the partisan, anti-GOP-only agenda for the week of protests asserted by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

Score one for the rabble rousers.

There was, however, some passive-aggressive hostility. One woman angrily spoke of how she didn't like "outsiders" coming in and spreading discord by raising fears about co-option. "Occupy DC can't be co-opted," she said, launching into a diatribe against the folks at the rival camp in Freedom Plaza, which isn't really part of the Occupy movement. We're the real People's Front of Judea. Yawn.

The same woman also spoke out against the need to do an event separate from the SEIU and targeting the Democrats in particular. And when it came time to discuss an action targeting a $1,000-a-plate Democratic fundraiser this Thursday, she argued that it was unfair to hold the blue faction of the ruling establishment equally to blame as the red faction for the war and welfare for Wall Street status quo, going so far as to say "people will die" if the Democrats lose power.

*cough* Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia . . . *clears throat*

This being DC and all, you're bound to find people here who still believe in the comforting fairy tale of lesser evilism, who think that the problem isn't the institutions of power -- the authority a couple hundred folks in Washington have to start wars and imprison more than 2.3 million Americans -- but those who control them. However, this being DC and all, a higher percentage of these lesser evilers, as well as those who think the Democrats are actually doing Obama's god's work, have certain unique incentives to believe the things they do.

The woman who voiced concerns about protesting the Democratic fundraiser and criticized those damn dirty outsiders raising concerns about co-option? On Friday -- the day after that fundraiser -- she will be a featured "networking professional" at the Democratic GAIN Career Fair, "the place where progressive organizations, Democratic campaigns and consultants will be to collect resumes and talk about what they’ll be doing to help Democrats in 2012." That she would object to Occupy DC doing a day of action separate from the SEIU & Friends also makes a little more sense when you realize she works for the SEIU, a job she took after being a paid organizer for the Obama campaign.

This is a problem. Careerists with an incentive to pursue a Democratic agenda -- in addition to the aforementioned woman I saw the co-founder of the Democratic Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) -- are weighing in on how, or even whether, to target the Democrats. They are weighing in on questions of whether Occupy DC should participate in events being put on by the organizations that employ them. And they're not disclosing their conflicts of interest.

There's a simple solution: require that disclosure. That's not too much ask. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street already has such a requirement:
We acknowledge the existence of professional activists who work to make our world a better place. If you are representing, or being compensated by an independent source while participating in our process, please disclose your affiliation at the outset.
One man who worked for the SEIU did just that. When commenting on the series of SEIU-planned actions, he gave us all a heads up: "Hey guys, just so you know I work for the SEIU." Cool, man. People who work for less-than-perfect organizations have a right to participate in the Occupy movement -- lord knows it's tough trying to find a good anarcho-vegan feminist collective to work for -- but the rest of us have a right to know if they work for the very organizations they are trying to get us to protest with. Or the groups we're actually protesting.

What do they have to hide?


  1. Anonymous10:06 AM

    ok, i have encountered this person you refer to at occupy and she rubbed me the wrong way, seemed really bossy, ignored anyone who disagreed with her, struck me as someone who was never going to let any radical action through (said how she was conservative and worried about people's safety -- thanks for your concern!). saw her at franklin though. the way she tried to displace people's concerns by bringing up the other occupation as the enemy is fucking shady.

  2. Kara Harkins11:05 AM

    Well, there is some bad blood between the two camps (see the sticky post on the occupydc dot org site) but a lot of it due to the media's insistence on conflating the two. Although Stop the Machine wanting to be known as occupydc in the early days (when mcpherson square was trying to find it's own identity and was already known as occupydc) did not help matters. A lot of individuals go back and forth between the two sites all the time, but there is not much contact at the group level outside of outreach committees. I would say it is so both can establish who/what they are about without friction developing.

  3. There is also this to worry about:

  4. What is interesting is that she is warning against co-option in one moment, and then the sleight of hand of the next, actively working to co-opt you for democrats by promoting lesser of two evil logic and trying to establish them as untouchable targets of protest.

  5. Anonymous2:30 AM

    Principles are the only bastion against outside interests. Iron-clad principles.


  7. Protestors held incommunicado in LA jails. Nice work, Herr Villaraigosa. No lawyers, no rights. Does anyone in the mainstream media give a shit? If this were happening in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, etc., you’d hear a great hue and cry from our esteemed journalists in the USA. This is from Answer, but it’s confirmed by an LA Times blog:

    Not only were hundreds of people arrested in the police raid in Los Angeles last night but the LAPD and Mayor, having socked each arrested person with a $5,000 bail, are now refusing to release them from jail and are refusing to allow them to meet with their attorneys.
    National Lawyers Guild board member, Carol Sobel, condemned the action of the LAPD. “The Los Angeles Police Department is deliberately refusing to release anyone arrested in the Occupy raids with a notice to appear. The City is holding them in jail on $5,000 bail until they can be arraigned by a judge, which can take up to 48 hours. This punishes people for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
    Sobel continued: “California law is clear. Penal Code §853.6 is mandatory in requiring that anyone charged with a misdemeanor shall be released with a written notice to appear.”

    Eyewitness report from attorney Ian Thompson
    Ian Thompson is an attorney and the ANSWER Los Angeles coordinator. He is the attorney for arrested activists Mike Prysner and Doug Kauffman.
    “This afternoon, after finding out where Occupy LA protesters were being held following last night’s assault and eviction of peaceful demonstrators carried out by the LAPD, I went down to check on the status of my clients and others who were arrested.
    “When I arrived, the doors were closed and a line had formed outside. I saw a notice which read, 'Front lobby closed until further notice.'
    “I knocked on the door to talk to someone. An LAPD officer came out. I told him I was an attorney for two of the protesters being held inside. 'We are closed,' he said. 'You cannot visit your clients or anyone.' He informed me I could not post bail or talk to anyone there. 'Call my watch commander,' he added.
    “I then called the watch commander with the same request. 'You cannot see your clients,' he told me. 'Call back in several hours.'
    “Hundreds of people are being held inside this jail without access to legal counsel. As of now they are being held on $5,000 bail until they can be arraigned which can take up to 48 hours. Apparently the LAPD and Mayor Villaraigosa are refusing to allow people to post the bail even if they can.
    “This is unconscionable and a violation of civil rights for my clients and all people held inside,” Thompson stated.
    In the press statement calling for the release of the arrested people, the National Lawyers Guild chapter in Los Angeles said, “New York City was successfully sued in 2004 when they tried the same tactic against individuals involved in protesting at the Republican National Convention."
    Send a letter to the Los Angeles mayor and the chief of police demanding that those arrested at the Occupy LA raid be released immediately.

  8. Anonymous6:24 PM

    Hi Charlie. I just stumbled on this blog through Daily Kos. What do your comrades at Occupy DC think about you posting so much detail on internal conversations?

  9. Anonymous6:25 PM

    Oops--sorry to call you out of name there. Should have been Charles, not Charlie.

  10. Anonymous,

    Charlie, Charles . . . whatever. It doesn't matter to me and I'm not even sure which one I prefer.

    As for posting internal conversations: I'm actually watching a livestream of a general assembly right now, so I don't think there really is such a thing as an "internal" conversation when it comes to a movement that anyone can just walk up and join. I also don't post operational details about upcoming actions that haven't been announced, just the arguments -- and, when relevant, the political backgrounds of those making them (i.e. if an SEIU employee is arguing for a rally with the SEIU) -- that are resulting in those actions. The Occupy movement is broader than just those able to consistently attend committee hearings and I think those folks have a right to know what's going on.

    Thanks for stopping by.