The Occupy Wall Street movement is based on the fact that 1% of the population owns a majority of the wealth in the U.S., and therefore controls the country. The occupiers demanding satisfaction from the rich call themselves “The 99%”. A totally reasonable basis for revolt.
When I first heard that folks were going to take inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street movement and occupy downtown Minneapolis, I formed an immediate Theory based on my past experiences with such movements in this city: this is going to be another sad and pathetic event in a long line of sad and pathetic events attempting to halt the suffering caused by global capitalism. The usual big egos of activism would show up and strut about the stage, satisfy their egos, get trashed by the cops, file a lawsuit, get a bunch of money, and take their friends out to dinner. Business as usual.
Before actually going down to the Occupy Minnesota site at Government Plaza to gather empirical data in support of this theory, I decided to first write down some hypothesis about the protest scene:
Hypothesis 1: Bored of the previous struggle of drinking cheap beer and then suffering thru school and work hungover and talking shit about global capitalism, people decided to release their passions and try to rage in the streets like in other fun countries.
Hypothesis 2: We would not actually enjoy a revolution here because as citizens of the U.S. we are at the top of the food chain, a successful revolution would be a staggering blow to our quality of life expectations.
Hypothesis 3: Tired of first person shooter games we desire to actually chase our crappy leaders and other actors from Hollywood around a REAL landscape using REAL guns.
Hypothesis 4: Minnesota has actually been occupied by white activists for hundreds of years, so maybe technically this protest event should be called Continuing to Occupy Minnesota.
Hypothesis 5: Black unemployment rates and foreclosures on houses have been really bad for a long time, really going all the way back to the “end” of slavery. But now it has affected and come to the attention of white people so we must do something about it.
Hypothesis 6: Any successful movement to swiftly change the U.S. Government will be met with the nearly incomprehensible powers of the Military Industrial machine as it defends itself and it’s children (the 1% of rich people). Resistors will be beaten, sprayed with chemicals, arrested, terrorized, infiltrated, neutralized, demoralized, threatened, bombed, burned, shot, robbed, insulted, and that is just what the cops will do. Police are the tip of the tentacle leading back to this violent monster Global Capitalism that has wrapped itself across this continent and the world. It has flying robots that can target and drop bombs on individual people, dear God! These machines are being tested on people of color overseas right now, how long before there’s a swarm of these over every major U.S. city?
Hypothesis 7: Global Capitalism is fighting a war to achieve Global Domination, and it is winning. If we desire to be free and to end all exploitation and oppression world wide, then we are opposed to Global Capitalism, and therefore we are at war with Global Capitalism and must defend ourselves. Meeting the enemy at a time and a place of it’s own choosing is a terrible strategy and is not the way towards victory. For example, attending a publicized protest, or “Cop Fest”, and getting gnashed in the gears of the machine. Partial Solution: read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”.
Hypothesis 8: If the cutting edge of the anti-capitalist movement in Minnesota is a few banquet tables, some crappy cardboard signs, and a row of porta potties outside a government building, then we are FUCKED!
Having formed my hypotheses I began searching to find support for the theory that this event was a load of the same old shit.
I first attempted to investigate the phenomenon online from the comfort of my home, and at the Occupy MN website was assaulted by an advertisement for Walmart! JESUS FUCK! I jabbed my fingers at the damn thing, trying to find the mute button as the advertisement lashed out with it’s brainwashing message for me to CONSUME! I narrowly escaped the attempted Manufacturing of Desire in my mind to “Shop at Walmart”. Okay People, as long as we are supporting Walmart there is not going to be justice anywhere. For real, totally unacceptable. Having a live video stream of your anti-capitalist protest being interrupted by advertisements for Walmart is obscene.
I read in the papers that homeless people were congregating at the Occupy protests in cities across the continent. Hmm, a movement that interested the poorest of the poor, interesting. After the Walmart video attack I was skeptical of our own local Occupy Minnesota, but then a friend told me that there were people of color involved in the organizing and that members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) were involved and were considering erecting a traditional living structure down there. This was starting to sound like something possibly real, and I wondered if several of my hypotheses were on the verge of being disproved.
I decided to actually go down and attend a General Assembly meeting. On October 20th, a chilly Thursday night, I attended the General Assembly at 7pm. The meeting was well facilitated, thank god. There were some short tempers and lots of enthusiasm and some amount of haggard baby tantrums. Someone reported that regular masking tape should not be used because it left sticky stuff that had to be cleaned up. Okay, this report was not a very compelling use of anyone’s time. A medic reported that people needed hand warmers and chapstick. The food coordinator showed up and expressed the common sentiment that HOT food was greatly needed and appreciated. Dear god, I wanted to cook them a pot of soup on the spot, poor kids out there in the cold. Finally the most interesting thing occurred, a report from the one of the people who had been arrested earlier that day for “occupying the street”. All those arrested had been bailed out at a cost of $50 per person. Hmmm, I thot: $400 could buy a whole lot of fucking HOT FOOD, HANDWARMERS, and CHAPSTICK! This sentiment was expressed by a lone voice standing to the left, “Was this agreed on by the General Assembly? I mean, what did you THINK was going to happen when you sat down in the street? Of course you got arrested!”
Everyone was excited as a group of the released arrestees came around the corner, hooting and hollering. I really appreciated the dissenter’s response. I went and shook his hand. Fuck that goofy let-the-cops-arrest-you type bullshit! There’s only three scenarios I think it is understandable to end in police custody: First, if they surround you or if they can run faster than you (unlikely). Second, if they kick down your door and drag you out of bed in the middle of the night, and third, if they are holding someone you love hostage.
The prevailing sentiment seemed to be on the side of the people who were arrested, for their “bravery”. I laughed out loud, thinking what people must have suffered in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria,Yemen, and a dozen others during the various revolutions and revolutions-in-progress this year during Arab Spring.
Use of this lame old-school non-violent tactic seemed to confirm several of my hypotheses.
A break followed so that friends could welcome the brave hearts back and also to surround the guy who voiced his dissenting opinion and tell him how he was being disrespectful to the brave arrestees.
Despite the old-school tactics dragged from the dusty closet once again to dance their dusty bones in the streets, I did feel a small but strong flame of passion at Occupy Minnesota. I felt like it had the potential to grow into something profound, if only it had not begun in the fall, with gradually lowering temperatures. The government knows this too, and they are playing a waiting game. Yes, in a month of so, the occupiers will simply freeze to death. There is another excellent possibility tho, that the occupiers will be driven to occupy a sensible place INDOORS, such as a vacant government building with insulation and heat, now that is something I could get behind!
For social change movement to be successful, there must be many different angles of approach to dislodge entrenched old ideas. Some of the approaches may have totally opposite philosophies, such as the use of non-violence or pro-violence. Using the independence movement of India as an example, the non-violent protesters are credited with kicking the British out, but it was also the increasingly violent anti-British attacks that convinced the oppressors to get the fuck out and turn the county over to it’s people. In consideration that a successful movement must be diverse in tactics and strategy, I don’t want to dissuade anyone from getting involved and doing what they felt was right in bringing Justice to Global Capitalism. If you think that knitting a peace sign into a scarf is what’s gonna bring the villains to their knees, more power to ya. Just don’t expect me to wear it.
The fact that young people across the continent are coming together and realizing that there is something very wrong with Global Capitalism thru the Occupy Wall Street event is reason enough to support it. I think it’s what people will take away from this movement that is going to be important, not that the event itself will achieve much directly in the way of change.
Hey, you never know. Don’t take my shoddy methodology in this field of inquiry to be the final word, head on down and check out the scene for yourself! Downtown Minneapolis, Government Plaza is at 4th Avenue South & 6th Street South. Ongoing rallies at 5pm, General Assembly at 7pm. Websites: occupymn.org & occupytogether.org. If you bring booze to drink, make sure it is well concealed in a travel mug or perhaps in a wax soda cup with a lid and straw, as there are cops all over the place! Don’t stress it. Gotta keep life exciting somehow.
Oh ya, and bring hot food.
(This article was supposed to be published a couple weeksago. The OccupyMN movement has now occupied a home that was foreclosed on by a major bankwith the support of the home owner who was foreclosed upon! Check it out: occupyminneapolis.mn )