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?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy DC partners with the SEIU and

The Democrats and their allies in the liberal establishment are trying to co-opt the Occupy movement. This isn't paranoia: it's what they do (see: the antiwar movement).

Van Jones, who served as “green jobs” czar in the Obama White House and says he'd like to see his former boss serve an illegal third term, openly talks of exploiting the movement for electoral purposes, likening it to the Tea Party. The SEIU has straight up stolen Occupy's language, labeling the same president who told Wall Street bankers that “I'm protecting you” the candidate of the 99 percent. . . . well, is doing what always does: exploiting the movement to build its email list and pocket more money from idiot liberals who think evil Republicans are entirely to blame for the status quo.

Many people within the Occupy movement have expressed fears about this attempted co-option. It's particularly a problem here in Washington, DC, where people paid to elect Democrats are some of the most active participants at the McPherson Square camp. While I was out of town this past weekend, I'm told concerns about co-option and Democratic infiltration were voiced by several folks at this past Saturday's meeting of the action committee – a committee that includes employees of the SEIU's Washington lobbying office as well as the co-founder of the Democratic Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

But were those voices heard? At the Monday general assembly, members of the action committee – which in the name of Occupy DC as a whole can approve or reject actions without seeking any form of consensus from the camp as a whole – announced that they had some news for us. Oh boy: they had agreed to back an upcoming “national day of action” sponsored by none other than the SEIU, and Van Jones' Rebuild the Dream. The last such "day of action" resulted in the SEIU/Occupy DC rally at the KeyBridge calling on "obstructionists in Congress" to boost infrastructure spending -- by passing Obama's jobs bill, of course.

Same shit, different day.

“Some people think these groups are trying to co-opt the Occupy movement,” acknowledged one member of the committee who I know agrees with that assessment but, for whatever reason, doesn't view that as a reason not to cooperate with them.

“I think we should be co-opting them,” said another member of the committee.

That the issue of co-option is even being acknowledged is, I suppose, progress. But more than anything necessarily nefarious, the decision to embrace the co-opters -- aided, one can assume, by the fact one of the SEIU organizers of the event is on the action committee -- suggests there is some serious naivete at the McPherson camp, or perhaps just on the committee. Just as with the Key Bridge protest, occupiers will not be co-opting a rally they have had no hand in planning. Rather, they will be helping these liberal groups further their preferred narratives about what the Occupy movement stands for. It is their press releases that lazy journalists and pundits across the country will be relying on when discussions "what this all means," not some occupier's clever sign. It is Van Jones who will be invited on CNN to talk about the movement's "next steps.

Participating with such openly partisan organizations can only taint the movement, seemingly confirming not entirely unfounded suspicions that Occupy Wall Street and the occupations around the country it has inspired are but patchouli-infused get-out-the-vote operations for the Democrats. And for what?

The last action with the SEIU at the Key Bridge was a flop. The only message most Washingtonians received was courtesy local news station WTOP: avoid the Key Bridge, commuters, traffic's going to be a mess out there. That and the implication that the Occupy movement is an arm of organized labor and the Democrats.

Groups like Rebuild the Dream and the SEIU need the Occupy movement much more than it needs them. These groups need the appearance of energy and grassroots authenticity th movement can lend them; the SEIU, after all, has to bus people in to chant "sí se puede" at its boring rallies. The Occupy movement, by contrast, has nothing to gain by working with these groups. Indeed, it only stands to lose by associating itself with adjuncts for the Democratic Party and their brand of establishment-friendly, wave-a-sign-from-the-sidewalk activism.

In the comments to my last piece about Occupy DC's action committee, someone from the camp downplayed my concerns about the liberal-heavy makeup of the committee and its infiltration by people paid to elect Democrats. "Since the Key Bridge action, Occupy has not done a horizontal action with SEIU," they wrote, "so I would suggest people get past that issue [co-option] until someone tries to partner Occupy DC with another SEIU action."

Can we admit there's a problem now? Enabling a small group of people on the action committee to endorse events in the name of Occupy DC as a whole isn't working; the best actions, such as the occupation of Franklin School, were carried out by activists who avoided it altogether, while the actions that have come out of it are at best a mixed bag. There's no reason a major action of this nature -- one that need not be shrouded in secrecy -- should not have been presented at a general assembly.

Maybe trying to reach 100 percent consensus is a bad idea -- I'd like to see a requirement that major actions be agreed to by 80 to 90 percent of those attending a general assembly -- but then so is outsourcing control over which actions are "official" Occupy DC events to a committee composed of but 1 percent of the movement.

UPDATE: From The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, who spoke with SEIU President Mary Kay Henry about the planned protest:
One goal of the protests, Henry says, is to pressure Republicans to support Obama’s jobs creation proposals.
“The reason we’re targeting Republicans is because this is about jobs,” she said. “The Republicans’ insistence that no revenue can be put on the table is the reason we’re not creating jobs in this country. We want to draw a stark contrast between a party that wants to scapegoat immigrants, attack public workers, and protect the rich, versus a president who has been saying he wants America to get back to work and that everybody should pay their fair share.

Born free

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occupy the action committee

I was confused. After standing around for three hours in solidarity during the occupation of Franklin School, here I was dining at the finest Indian buffet in the city surrounded by about a half-dozen comrades, all self-described socialists and anarchists whose disdain for the Democrats made me look like a closet Obamabot.

"What gives?" I wondered. After spending the last two weeks fairly disappointed with most of the major actions officially endorsed by Occupy DC -- protesting liberals' very boogeymen the Koch brothers, rallying with the pro-Obama SEIU at the Key Bridge -- I had figured the problem was the folks at McPherson Square as a whole. After all, consensus had to be reached before these big events could be proclaimed "official" Occupy events and the consensus was to focus on targets that fit the standard Democratic agenda. While I longed for a radical movement demanding systemic change, I was surrounded by meek liberals calling for incremental, establishment-friendly reform.


So what about the radicals I dined with -- were they just not attending the general assemblies? Or perhaps the action committee was approving the various rallies and protests without fully explaining them when presenting them to the camp as a whole; I could see many occupiers, for instance, endorsing a rally for "workers" alongside a labor union not knowing the politics behind the SEIU's decision to "call on Congress to create jobs" at the very site that Barack Obama chose just weeks before to call on Congress to pass his jobs bill.

I assumed wrong.

The problem, it turns out, is that the action committee is able to approve protests as "official" Occupy DC events without receiving consensus at any general assembly. That means a small group of people -- there were no more than 10 at the meeting I attended the other week -- have the power to decide what events will be endorsed in the name of the hundreds if not thousands of people involved in the movement here in Washington.

That's a problem. The occupation of Franklin School did not go through the consensus process either, yes, but then those carrying it out never claimed to be acting on behalf of "Occupy DC." Rather -- and I think this is a trend that will continue with respect to direct actions -- they acted unilaterally and essentially used those hanging out at McPherson Square as a feeder group, inviting those who agreed with their action to come two blocks over and show solidarity. Ten or so people claiming Occupy DC as a whole has endorsed an action is a very different thing.

Those doing the endorsing also aren't very radical, which is the bigger problem to my mind. Anyone can join the committee, but attending three meetings a week is a lot to ask of people who have other things to do in their lives, a fact that seems to have led it to be more or less captured by a small group of like-minded liberals.

Indeed, on the action committee listserv, I discovered that some of the most active people are in fact paid not just liberals, but paid to elect Democrats, which subconsciously or not is bound to affect the decisions they make. And we're not talking just low-level staffers just trying to make a buck. That rally with the SEIU? By golly, here we have a member of the SEIU, indeed the head of the very "OurDC" front group occupiers were told they were showing solidarity with in an official Occupy DC press release. And over here we have a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which seeks to elect "progressive" Democrats -- and only Democrats -- to the halls of Congress.

And oh, hey, over there is a person who works for a company, NGP VAN, that helps "all the national Democratic committees, [and] thousands of Democratic campaigns," fundraise and reach out to voters (and which, god damn it, is placing ads on this site). It was this particular person that, when a friend of mine at CodePink proposed an anti-war action, lashed out with the amazing claim that "Ending the war is a CodePink objective," prompting me to begin my research into those dominating the action committee conversation.

"The co-option of CodePink [sic] is really annoying and it's not cool that it is happening on this googlegroup," she added. "Please stop."

People paid to elect Democrats pushing a Democrat-friendly, war-ignoring agenda on the Occupy movement? Yeah, we're cool with that.

Even those on the committee who aren't paid to elect the nominally "left" faction of the political establishment come from essentially the same perspective, it having all the appearance of a clique that represents a range of opinion from liberal to center-left. When I linked to the above woman's public LinkedIn page, a "Senior Field Organizer" for the left-liberal group Public Citizen who appointed himself captain of the committee booted me off the list after I refused his unilaterally declared ultimatum to:
- Delete the tweet with the Linked In profile link

- Apologize over Twitter for taking a private conversation online and violating a fellow Occupier's personal boundaries

- Email the group promising to keep matters of internal discussion internal to this list? There are too many reasons to name why an action committee list should be kept private.

- Apologize to the group in person at an upcoming action committee.
 As I wrote in response to the above: Besides there never having been a stated rule that conversations on the list could not be taken off of it -- the very nature of many of the conversations would seem to demand they be discussed with others -- I never revealed anything about upcoming actions, sensitive details of which I was initially told to never share because the list is literally open to whoever wants to join it (if you're in DC, subscribe by sending a request to

Since the action committee has so much power to shape the Occupy DC agenda and its public perception, the broader movement beyond the professional Democrats and liberal think tankers on the list I believe has a right to know that actions are being approved and rejected based on the input of a small group of people, many of whom are paid to pursue a partisan agenda. No one, not even the Guardian of the Sanctity of the Listserv, I venture to say, would have objected had I tweeted about a member of the Koch-funded Club for Growth infiltrating the committee.

That's not to say paid partisans should be outright prohibited from participating in the Occupy movement, which would be hard to do in DC anyway -- although, frankly, if you're paid to elect Democrats and you want to help the movement, your best bet would be to stop helping elect Democrats. But if professional partisans have nothing to hide, there's no reason they should fear transparency, especially given the legitimate fears of many that Democrats are trying to co-opt the Occupy movement for electoral gain.

As it is now, those on the action committee aren't even informing the rest of those at Occupy DC of their decisions. Take the following email about one now-past event:
It has failed to go in front of GA due to facilitation not responding to my emails and no one from Action at the park during GA that is bringing it up. I told _______ to just go ahead and send it out. Its already on our website and being spread around. GA has been allowing us to just report actions during our committee reportbacks so that is what I hope will happen soon. How we are supposed to actually be getting things approved by GA is no longer really clear. If someone else wants to step up to help me figure this out, awesome, but I say we just go forward with this action.
I actually agreed with the action in question. But the problems with allowing the committee to instruct people to "just go ahead" and claim events are in Occupy DC's name without even announcing them should be obvious, particularly when said committee is stacked with numerous people paid to pursue an explicitly Democratic agenda.

Instead of banning me over a rule that was never stated, I replied to Mr. Ultimatum that maybe we ought to be considering, not just informing new members of the alleged rules of the list the moment they sign up, but a new rule requiring people to state up front whether they work to elect Democrats (or Republicans) so as to avoid conflicts of interests and the appearance of impropriety. And why not specifically ask people to state whether they're participating in the movement as part of their jobs?

This is the response I received.

Unhappy with the direction of the Occupy DC action committee? Attend one of their meetings, held every Saturday at 4pm and every Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm.

Baby, I'm an anarchist

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More of this, please

The Franklin School in downtown Washington, DC, has been sitting dormant for years now. A historic building situated right next to a park filled every night with homeless people that have nowhere else to go, the city-owned property could be put to a number of important uses that would benefit the community around it. But, alas, it sits empty.

Until this past weekend. In a break from the sort of timid, SEIU-backed protests that the folks at Occupy DC have had an irksome habit of embracing as of late, a group of 11 activists without -- oh no! -- the endorsement of the McPherson Square general assembly decided to occupy the building and declare it under "community control." Though they certainly couldn't have had much expectation of being allowed to stay -- they were removed within a matter of hours -- as a symbolic gesture it was poignant.

Local anarchist blogger BroadSnark, who snapped the photo above and who I finally met at Occupy DC after years of cyber-stalking, has more details:
The building was being used as a homeless shelter until 2008, when the city closed it down just before winter. The plan was to sell it to a developer who would turn it into a boutique hotel. Homeless advocates, including Eric Sheptock, fought like hell to stop the closure. You can read his story here.

It took about three hours for the police to pull the occupiers out of the building and haul them off. Until then, supporters did what they could to rally the crowd, document what was going down, and block the exits to make it a little more difficult for the police to get them out – at least not without witnesses.
A passerby, who asked us to explain what was going on, agreed. He was “one of the lucky ones” who was able to get a home voucher before they cut the local rent supplement program. He commented that, in other cities, people said occupiers were violent, inferring that was not the case tonight.
The move wasn't without controversy. One middle-aged man walking a dachshund hysterically yelled at those of standing outside the building in solidarity with the occupiers that we had "just fucked" the Occupy movement by embracing "vigilantism." At back at McPherson Square, dozens of people chose to hang out over joining their comrades two blocks away.

Judging by the media coverage, however, the occupiers succeeded in drawing attention to the controvery surrounding the closing of Franklin School and the broader issue of governments privatizing community space for corporate gain -- certainly more attention than any number of confined-to-the-sidewalk exercises in protesting self-gratification could have ever hoped to achieve.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Obama loves war and Wall Street

For days I bitched about Occupy DC's participation in a rally for infrastructure spending with the SEIU, a bitching that hit a fever pitch after the latter endorsed Barack Obama as the candidate of the 99 percent. But I'll tell you what: I can't give up a good opportunity to protest and a chance to open a few minds -- or at least piss a few off.

So, with pushing back against co-option on my mind, I decided I'd head down to Georgetown and the Key Bridge after all, but armed with a sign speaking for the 90 percent of the 99 percent who don't believe the president represents their interests. I tend to prefer signs calling out the institutional problems with the system, not the personnel, but the SEIU kind of forced my hand.

The response was interesting.

From actual occupiers, the people I recognized from camping out at McPherson Square this past week, the reactions were universally positive, which should assuage some fears that the Occupy movement will turn into a Democratic get-out-the-vote machine. I also got a few honks, in addition to some angry shouts, including the ever-so clever "get a job."

At one point as I held the sign out to traffic crossing the bridge, a Circulator bus full of commuters stopped, the driver opening his door to tell me "that's not true, he doesn't love war," as he shook his head. I then explained that he had in fact doubled the troops in Afghanistan, killing thousands of civilians and -- knowing my audience, this being America and all -- more U.S. soldiers than in the eight years George W. Bush oversaw the occupation. I also mentioned the drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

A funny thing then happened. "Is that true?" the driver asked. A fellow occupier interjected: "Yeah, it is." With a look of having genuinely learned something, the driver nodded his head.

Wait, I thought, did I just have a successful political conversation with someone who started by hollering at me from his vehicle? Weird.

The conversation I had earlier with a suit-wearing, self-described private contractor for the State Department was a bit more . . . tense. Demanding to know what my sign "meant," which I thought was pretty clear, said contractor proceeded to reaffirm every caricature of a mindless, subservient supporter of state I ever held. What follows are, I swear to the gods, verbatim excerpts from of our conversation:
Me: Obama's foreign policy is the same as Bush's. He has just expanded the war on terror.

Dude: That's not true.

He doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan.

No, he surged the troops in Afghanistan. Just like Bush.


He has authorized more drone strikes in Pakistan than Bush did in eight years, killing thousands of innocent civilians.

You're wrong. He killed Osama bin Laden.
He's also killed U.S. citizens with drone strikes.
They were traitors.
Well, under the Constitution even traitors are supposed to have trials to determine they are traitors. Should we really trust one man to decide who lives or dies?
I trust my government.

So what would you have us do?

I would have us pull all our troops out of every country and bring them home. Something like 95 percent of suicide attacks are the result of foreign occupations. You don't see terrorists going after Switzerland.

Well, that's because they don't have a military.

As Upton Sinclair said, it's difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on their not understanding it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Declaring what Occupy DC stands for

I was prepared to be disappointed. I was prepared to escalate from a simple downward twinkle fingers to an outright block, you “progressive” Democrat, willing-being-co-opted mother fuckers. But, gosh darn it, I was pleasantly surprised.

After being disappointed in some of Occupy DC's choice of actions, including a rally for more infrastructure spending sponsored by the same SEIU that just endorsed Barack Obama as the candidate of the 99 percent, I was expecting the worst when the time came at Wednesday's general assembly to read the McPherson Square chapter of the occupy movement's long-awaited draft declaration of grievances. Perhaps a line about the Koch brothers “corrupting” our long corrupt democracy. Maybe something about a certain someone failing to deliver the change he purportedly promised.

To my chagrin, even my black anarchist heart was rather impressed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy everywhere, but maybe not the Key Bridge

Shaking from the cold at 3 in the morning on a park bench a few blocks from the White House, warmed only by a paper-thin prison blanket an empathetic passer-by had gifted me, I couldn't help but think: man, am I a bad ass or what?

Well, not really. Mostly I thought about being cold and whether my overwhelmingly witty sign – American Dream = Park Place, American Reality = Park Bench – made it all worth it. And then I thought about how this is what homeless people in the imperial capital go through every night. And how no one cares. And then I was kind of sad.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Veterans Day reading

One thing you learn after living outside the United States for awhile is that other countries do not fetishize soldiers and military service quite like Americans do, their cultures being nowhere near as militarized. Televised sporting events, for instance, do not begin by saluting the brave men and women abroad helping kill poor foreigners for Our Freedom. Uniformed military personnel aren't used to sell shitty beer at half time. The armed forces aren't billed to potential recruits as a more glamorous version of ITT Tech.

In the land of the free, by golly, we sure do love The Troops, don't we? We Americans salute their service even as a solid majority of us concede that the war in Iraq was, if not a grave crime, at least a mistake -- oops! we just killed a couple hundred thousand A-rabs -- and agree that the occupation of Afghanistan is a waste of (American) lives and money.

This love is curious for a nation that likes to bend over and blow itself for being the world's most free and ruggedly individualistic. And it's dangerous: how many people have chosen to become the American empires hired guns because they were led to believe it was a just and honorable profession?

It's not, mind you, that I think we ought to shout "baby killer!" and hock a loogie at anyone in uniform -- generals and recruiters, sure -- but neither should we heap praise on those who have chosen a profession that just in the last couple decades has asked them to kill people in at least a half-dozen unjust wars from Panama to Pakistan. That decent, upstanding men and women sometimes join the military and become part of the evil enterprise of empire should be lamented, not lauded, lest other impressionable young people come to the conclusion that there's any honor in mass murder.

But I've said this before. Humor me this holy Veterans Day and check out some of my past writings on the topic of America's wars and the saluting of the rank-and-file soldiers who make them possible:
 -- "That anti-patriotic feeling": It is said that soldiers don't decide the policy, they just follow orders. Fair enough. But is suspending one's conscience in the service of an immoral act a praiseworthy move?

-- "On 'supporting the troops'": The U.S. women's soccer team took time during a recent match to, literally and rather creepily, the American troops in attendance for their "service." But their service isn't an abstraction, so shouldn't the decision to salute them be based on the reality of what it actually entails?

-- "'Unconditional' allegiance is for machines, not people": Liberal blogger Adam Serwer says we "should support servicemembers unconditionally because their service is unconditional." I call bullshit.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

From no occupation to occupying K Street

A week earlier I was in Nicaragua soaking up sun and generally doing things that would make my mother cry. Now I was marching down K Street in downtown Washington, DC, during evening rush hour traffic, surrounded by a crowd of hundreds of protesters and dozens of cop cars, the sirens and flashing red-and-blue lights of the police filling the brisk, autumn air around me as the dim light of the falling dusk sun lit up the shimmering yellow and green leaves above.

I was also tripping pretty hard on acid, so there was that.

politicians and bankers
liars and thieves
we're taking these streets
and we're not saying please

Mr. Fish

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Dueling occupations

In appearance, it was like every other protest in Washington I have ever attended. And it had all the vibrancy of an assisted-living facility.

After spending significant time over the last week at the Occupy K Street camp in McPherson Square, the crowd at Freedom Plaza – where the other Occupy camp in the nation's capital is based – was jarringly older. Geriatric, even. This is where all the old-time activists conspicuously absent from the other camp were, I thought. Now it makes sense.

“There's no energy here,” a young guy named Alejandro wearing large pink sunglasses told me as I stood toward the back of the general assembly. “It's like a funeral home.”

Presumably confiding in me as I was one of the few other dudes under 30 – or 50 – he explained that he used to camp at Freedom Plaza back when the occupation started in October but soon left for the greener pastures of McPherson Square.

“They wouldn't let any of us young people have a say on things here,” he explained. “We used to have music. We used to have fun. Now it's a just bunch of pagans and Wiccans.”

No offense to pagans and Wiccans, but I could see why he left. In contrast to the larger Occupy DC camp on K Street, the camp at Freedom Plaza had no drum circles, no hula hoopers and, most noticeably, no life, the general assembly I witnessed having all the energy of a bible study in the basement of a Presbyterian church.

However, what they lacked in youth and energy was made up for sevenfold in condescension and sectarianism. At McPherson Square, I never heard a bad word about their fellow occupiers at Freedom Plaza, their free newspaper, The Occupied Washington Times, even going so far as to explicitly call them allies. At Freedom Plaza, by contrast, I heard people seemingly gleeful about the fact that “Code Pink people” are no longer there. Yay! We're alienating our few allies!

At the general assembly, meanwhile, I a number of speakers took pains to bad mouth their much counterparts at McPherson, seemingly still bitter over having their occupation – which was planned months ago under the title “Stop the Machine” to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan – shown up by a bunch of upstart youngsters.

And boy were they patronizing. One woman, for instance, spoke of having to step between the cops and the ragtag “kids” at McPherson when the latter got a little too hot under the collar at a recent protest outside the Washington Convention Center. These kids were confrontational, she said, and didn't appreciate the moral and pragmatic virtues of peaceful protest. A gray-haired likewise said the folks at the McPherson occupation professed a commitment to non-violence, but that the commitment to the ways of Gandhi and MLK was deeper at Freedom Plaza.

Cool, activist infighting! Zzzzzzz. *Drools on shirt, begins snoring* Huh, what?

To be fair, not every person who spoke was so condescending. Indeed, one older woman got up and explicitly denounced the more-non-violent-than-thou condescenders, saying she didn't like the suggestion that the McPherson kids were any less committed to non-violence. And the criticisms that were aired came in the context of a discussion about creating a joint legal defense fund for the two occupations, so there are attempts to better coordinate between the two groups, which is encouraging.

Before arriving in DC, I thought I would have greater affinity for the Freedom Plaza occupation, despite its more traditional reliance on a core of more or less professional activists; it was, after all, planned with an explicit focus on opposition to war and empire, which is kind of my thing. Accordingly, when I first arrived in the city I stopped by the plaza for a couple hours to freeze my ass off and hold a sign declaring “War = Crime / Obama = Criminal.”

What does that sign say, mommy?” a young girl asked as she walked by. “Don't read it!” the mother snapped back – for my benefit, obviously.

At the same time, I was intrigued by the consensus model used at McPherson Square, which seemed a bit closer to my own decentralist prejudices. Having now spent time at both occupations, I think I can fairly say that, while the models used by both camps can be complementary and each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages, one of them has proven decidedly more inclusive and conducive to growing a movement than the other.

It's not the one being used by all the old people.