The Other Occupation (What You Don’t See #OWS)

The other night, I happened to look over and saw a sea of sleeping blankets and I smiled because it was the section where a group of parents and their children, representing the heartland of America, did a “sleep over” as a show of solidarity with the Occupation of Wall Street. I smiled as they held their children (some mere infants!), who sat through a long general assembly because, as one parent told me, “I want my child to know what true democracy looks like.” I laughed with them as kids gleefully participated in the “human mic.” What an inspiration and how different from the stereotype the media uses to frame the occupation protests now taking place in over 900 cities all over the world.

And that’s how it is here at the NYC site at “Liberty Square.” Not all is as it seems…

This past Saturday during one of the working group meetings I belong to, someone joked about “the other occupation” (I literally spent all of my Saturday at occupation-related “working groups”). We all laughed because this is the side of #OccupyWallStreet almost no one reports on or knows about.

It’s not that it’s kept secret. #OccupyWallStreet has at least 50-60 different working groups all addressing a multitude of issues ranging from on-site logistics (medical, sanitation, comfort, media) to various political issues (People of color working group, Politics and Electoral Reform), to internal organization (Structure, Facilitation).

All these take place near the #OccupyWallStreet and it’s where all that happens here is made possible. Most people and the media focus on the General assembly or going to the Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park) site to get a feel for the occupation, but it’s the working groups where the real action is at. At least it is for me.

There are all kinds of trainings offered by experienced activists who have been part of struggles all over the world. For example, this past Saturday I was sitting next to a gentleman who was one of the organizers/ protestors at Tiananmen Square. At a later meeting, I was able to exchange ideas with/ learn from two women who had just come from Palestine and Greece. They were part of the flotilla that was “captured” and detained, accused of running arms (the charge was bogus and it backfired because the activists had actually invited media to inspect the boat before the charges were hurled). Another had a special affinity for me, because she had done work around the bombing of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques!

From the gentleman from Tiananmen Square, I learned about ways to better streamline meetings and setting structure and accountability. The two activists just back from Greece held a day-long meeting for a “training the trainers” seminar (unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend). The Structure working group I joined is looking at organizational models borrowed from successful global movements such as the Zapatistas, the anti-nuclear movement, and occupations occurring in Athens and Rome. Today there’s a day-long conversation on “Re-envisioning Money” (here) and a training by the working group, Direct Action (here).

In short, what you might perceive as random or even chaotic is actually a very well organized, consciously and intelligently planned movement. This past Saturday, a reporter from the NY Times left in a huff because we took a group consensus asked that he not tape our meeting. Having been burned by a media that is more interested in getting a handle on the movement in order to frame it from a perspective unable to grasp a grassroots consciousness, many of us are cautious in allowing such access. This has been one of the strokes of genius about our movement because the media cannot find a way to repackage our message, which is not defined by a list of demands, a set of goals, or any single issue. I speak for myself when I say the following, but I believe this is true: the “occupations” now taking place all over the world are really about a re-conceptualization of the kind of world we desire. We are forcing the social discourse to consider alternatives that have not been entertained; we are forcing society to grapple questions that haven’t been asked; we are helping create a new language that can engage a narrative that can see the possibility and engage the human potential for a society that is more just, more empathic, informed by the fact that we — all of us — are interconnected in ways we have ignored.

And the beauty of all this is that it’s all taking place in a purely transparent process, without the control of money or of the old dinosaurs that must surely realize their way has failed and failed miserably.

Mark my words, years from now, people will ask, “What were you doing when the #OccupyWallStreet movement first took hold.” what will you say?

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…