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Spring Training | Occupied Stories

Tag Archive | "spring training"

My Experience at the 99% Spring


Editors note: This was originally published here.
Chicago, IL – I came to the event about 15 minutes late and I was worried I had missed the beginning. Luckily they didn’t begin until about 30 minutes after the announced time.  The crowd was much older than I expected, mostly folks over 40, and I would have been the youngest person there aside from the other Occupy Chicago organizer that was in attendance.  From what I could tell the other attendants were union reps, seasoned crusty activists who had stayed away from Occupy Chicago and a large contingent of Stand Up! Chicago organizers.  All-in-all I’d say there were about 40-50 people in attendance.  The three main instructors were all people I knew and trusted (and self-identified as anarchists, that’s the only reason I was there, I knew if they were fronts for the Democratic party, I couldn’t trust anyone anyway)
We opened with a few hours of educational pieces, lectures from the instructors and a few short movies giving a rundown on the financial crash and the history of Occupy.  In my opinion it was fairly well done, the piece on Occupy was from Al-Jazeera and they even included a short lecture from David Harvey called the “Crisis of Capitalism” that  pulled no punches on the financial crisis.  I was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd after viewing Harvey’s lecture, who is an avowed Marxist geographer.  Not what I expected from what was supposedly a group of liberals and Democratic party functionaries.
After a few hours of lectures and videos and some meet-and-greet activities, we had an exercise that you might find in a High School sociology class, though with some twists.  We were broken up into groups and given a large sheet of paper.  We were asked to draw an ideal community, complete with a name.  This was all very ho-hum, (though a bit enlightening to see what 60-something Union Reps thought were priorities vs. what 20-something hipsters do) until the instructors started coming around unannounced and ‘privatizing’ certain industries (they would come around and either tear off pieces of our town, or circle them with a black marker).  Now in a demo like this you’d typically expect the instructors to tell us what to do next, to order us to “Defend your cities!” but they gave us no instruction.  And that was actually pretty cool, because people came up with their own defence mechanism.  My group decided to stand on our sheet of paper and not give the ‘corporations’ entry to our town.  Some other groups got aggressive and physically barred or pushed back the instructors.  Others didn’t know what to do, and something cool occurred:  some groups, with their towns momentarily safeguarded, would lend support, ‘solidarity’, to other defenseless towns.  Remember, this is all unprovoked, people did this spontaneously, and it got a little physical.  It was pretty cool.
After that we had lunch (Vegan chili!) and some more lectures and teach-ins on various subjects. At this point I began to drift a little bit, and I apologize, the organizers had some technical problems, and sitting and watching a few more hours of video or listening to more lectures wasn’t all that interesting to me.  There still was some good stuff there, a video about a radical action taken by some environmental groups to defend against mountain top removal, but I think some more physical activities would have been better.  Remember, ostensibly we were to be training 100,000 non-violent organizers right?  We did very little training in what this ‘organizing’ would be.  Ah well.
There was a curious moment when the instructors took some time to address the whole ‘Black Bloc’ thing.  It was clear what they were trying to accomplish, to demystify the whole ‘destructive anarchist’ narrative, to ground discussion.  However, things took a disturbing turn.  One of the organizers dressed up in ‘Black Bloc’ garb, covered her face, wore black clothing, and they asked the crowd what they would do if they encountered someone like that during an action.  The responses were pretty alarming:  ”Take off her mask!” “Stop her from breaking a window!”  ”Restrain her!”.  I’m not sure if the participants entirely understood the point of the exercise, but it definitely hit home how effective the propagandising against the ‘Black Bloc’ has been.
Regardless, we finished the day with, finally, an action training.   (I was thankful to finish, as much as I found things interesting and curious, I got up early (for myself, Hah!) and we did too much sitting and listening to lectures.)  We were going to shut down a bank.  We were broken up into different play-acting groups: protesters willing to be arrested, protesters unwilling to be arrested, reporters, cops, and banktellers.  I was chosen to be a cop.
The exercise was pretty interesting, similar to the one I previously described.  Because so little of it was pre-planned, it took some interesting twists and turns.  People really got into it.  When it was time for us to ‘arrest’ people, people didn’t comply, some went limp, some pushed and pulled at us.  It was more intense than what I expected.  And it got pretty loud, people chanting, really getting into the demo.  It was a pretty successful learning experience for many of them, I think.
All-in-all, it was, I think, a worthwhile training for people who have no experience (or little experience since the last wave of resistance, the 60′s and 70′s) with activism.  The instructors were diligent, and did a great job exploring the issues and debunking the misinformation and rumours that pervade the Occupy movement.  However, I wonder how much of the training will translate into new ‘organizers’ or ‘activists’.  And I also failed to see how it in anyway benefited MoveOn or the Democratic Party (I’ll address this more a little further down).  It really struck me as a nice little introduction of Occupy to people that were interested, but hardly a rigorous training platform.  Though what can you expect from a one day seminar?  The real training is actually being a part of a movement and participating in it.
I’d like to comment a bit on ‘co-option’ of the Occupy movement by the Democratic Party and its various fronts.  On the face of it, its a pretty ridiculous effort on their part, and because of how transparently the rhetoric has been borrowed, its not even all that insidious.  Let’s not be mistaken, many ‘Occupiers’ will vote, canvass, and work on Democratic campaigns.  And we may lose support, perhaps a lot support, come November.
However, the Democratic party simply cannot co-opt Occupy.  The central reason for this is that Occupy Wall Street is borne out of a frustration and dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party.   Given a vast Democratic majority in Congress, a Democratic President and a broad mandate, they failed to correct the ills that brought about the financial meltdown.  Not only did they fail to serve the public, they actively colluded in the destruction of our society.  That brought about the Occupy movement, not mean Republicans and bankers.  People realized there was no other way out, otherwise they would have happily continued voting for Democrats and not thinking about taking direct action and participating in true democratic action.
-Mike Ehrenreich-

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Spring is Coming!


In the run-up to what promises to be a May Day to remember, we are collecting stories from the people who are pouring their soul into making it happen. Are you involved in planning for May Day in your occupation? Have you been to any of the actions building toward the general strike? Tell us about it at occupiedstories.com/submit

Spread the word! Check out these free, downloadable posters.

And check out these stories we have already received:

Occupy is Everywhere: A Small Town Occupy Shares Their Plans for Spring

Civil Disobedience on Wall Street

A Dispatch from OWS Street Medics

 

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