Occupy Raleigh: 99% of us should be enough, and yet …
by Bob Geary
First things first: Mark your calendars for this Saturday, October 15 from 11 am-3 pm. That’s when #Occupy Raleigh will be occupying the State Capitol grounds for purposes of — well, that’s a long story.
The short version is, #OccupyRaleigh (like #OccupyDurham and #OccupyChapel Hill/Carrboro) is an off-shoot of #OccupyWallStreet, and if you don’t know what #OccupyWallStreet is: a) Blame the mainstream media for its/their abject failure to cover it; and b) Nobody knows how important it is yet, but #OWS may be the spark that finally lights this benighted country’s candle.
In other words, it’s a movement, and only later will you know whether it was The Movement. But if it was, do you wanna miss it?
For an introduction to #OccupyWallStreet, you can visit the OWS website. Or, check out DailyKos, which is all over it with a variety of diaries, including those of the suddenly famous — and rightly so — Jesse LaGreca, whose twitter handle is @JesseLaGreca. He’s the man who schooled George Will yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” program by noting, among other things, that he, Jesse, was the only working-class person on “This Week” — as he said, since maybe ever?
Suddenly the MSM is pushing the #OWS folks to publish an agenda, or a list of demands, or something to simplify why they’re occupying Liberty Park in the Wall Street district of NYC. LaGreca’s answer: We’re the 99% of Americans who are pissed off that the richest 1% have stolen the country (and outsourced it to Goldman Sachs, China and other high bidders). So, LaGreca says, we’re listening …. and it’s up to our nation’s alleged leaders to explain themselves to us.
What do they propose?
Update 2: Do see this.
Second bit of news: #OccupyRaleigh voted last evening to meet twice daily, at 12 noon and 6:30 p.m., in Moore Square. Anyone who comes is welcome. See below for the rules on participation.
I was among the 300, or some say it was 400, who occupied Moore Square in Raleigh Sunday evening. This was #OccupyRaleigh’s second General Assembly. (The first was last Sunday.) A General Assembly is a sort of People’s Assembly, and if you’re old enough to remember the movement against the Vietnam War, you’ll understand the ground rules with no difficulty. Others may take awhile getting up to speed.
Quite a bit of time was spent explaining the ground rules. What’s the agenda? It’s whatever you decide it is. (The organizers bring a draft agenda, but it may or may not hold.)
The basic rule is, anyone can speak. They do so by putting their names on a ‘stack list.” But you don’t necessarily speak in the order you signed up. Marginalized populations are favored, so if we’ve just heard from five fully abled white dudes in a row, the woman/minority/poor/disadvantaged person farther down on the list will come next before the sixth white dude. This is the sort of rule that drives conservatives around the bend. You know, because it’s fair.
So now, folks are speaking. But the listeners have a role too — they ARE the General Assembly. So if they like what the speaker’s saying, they’re supposed to wiggle their fingers up in the air. Only OK with the speaker? Wiggle the fingers, but lower. Don’t agree? Fingers down, like you’re pawing the air. Have a point of process to raise? (Much discussion about what constitutes a point of process.) Form a triangle with your index fingers and thumbs. Point of information? One index finger up.
A moderator will recognize you.
Here’s a signal you want to use sparingly. You’ve had it. You’re being ignored. You sense the group is far off-course and about to sell out the mission. Before you storm off in disgust, you cross your arms in front of your chest, making an X.
This is called a block.
A block must be recognized, and you must be heard. But obviously, you don’t want to wear this one out.
Democracy, as someone said, is messy. This is an attempt at pure democracy. Power to the people.
Mark Miller came from Apex last evening to be part of the #OccupyRaleigh group. His sign said, “I Can’t Afford a Politician. So I Made This Sign.” (Signs are key. Another one I liked: “The Beginning is Near.”
“I can’t go to New York City. I’ve got a job and a life and all that,” Miller said. “But what I can do is come here and be part of the movement,” which he likened to the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and so on. Others, too, talk about #OWS as the newest phase in a worldwide movement that, for example, recently caused the government in Iceland to resign.
Miller isn’t a political activist, I gathered, but he is a TV watcher — not a good thing in these days of idiot political coverage. He’s been watching Republican presidential debate audiences booing a gay soldier and cheering at the thought that if you don’t have health insurance, you should just die.
“People are hurting in this country, people are desperate and losing their homes, and what’s the biggest story of the last three years?” he asked me. Before I could answer — and I don’t watch a lot of TV news, so I mercifully would’ve gotten this one wrong — he filled in the blank. “It’s ‘Was Barack Obama born in this country?’ and where’s his birth certificate,” Miller said.
I’m afraid that’s right.
“This is not the country I want for my son,” Miller said. Like Jesse La Greca, he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, or any of them, for that matter. He does think answers can be found if people pitch in together — or at least, if the 99% of people who aren’t filthy rich pitch in together and take power from the 1% who are.
Stacie Borrello is a writer, blogger (liberallamppost.com; addictinginfo.org) and at-home mom from Fuquay-Varina whose first reaction to the OccupyWallStreet movement was, Raleigh needs to be part of this — I hope somebody organizes Raleigh.
Oops, that’s not how movements work. So she started a Facebook page for OccupyRaleigh, and on Sunday there she was in the lead-off position with the megaphone shaking in her hand. But her voice was clear: “We don’t plan on packing up and going home after a few hours of exercising our free-speech rights, do we?”
Wiggling fingers up on that.
The plan is for a four-hour demonstration at the Capitol Saturday, 11-3, a block of time for which the #OccupyRaleigh folks have a permit. But they’ve applied for a permit to continue a camp-in on the Capitol grounds beyond 3 pm Saturday — no response on that one yet — and they’re pretty determined, Borrello said, to do it, permit or not.
Friendly lawyers believe they’d be within their First Amendment rights to occupy the Capitol grounds without a permit, and/or they’ll litigate the issue is they’re turned down for a permit.
Movements, Borrello said, require that people make a “leap of faith” to be successful. If enough people make the leap, movements do succeed — and the more successful they are, the more people make the leap with them. “I realized the passive approach wasn’t the right one to take,” she said. “I want to be part of the solution.”
Students and citizens plan to Occupy Raleigh
Students and Raleigh citizens come together to Occupy Raleigh and fight corporate greed
By Will Brooks
Hundreds of people gathered downtown in Moore Square last Sunday to begin a local addition to the protests that have “occupied” most of America’s major cities.
Students and citizens are fed up with the United States government and its role in supporting large corporations. Occupy Raleigh was formed as a response to the Occupy Wall Street protests that began Sept. 17 in New York City.
Ryan Thomson, a graduate student in sociology, immediately became active in Occupy Raleigh’s student effort.
“[We're against] capitalism as it currently exists,” Thomson said, “It’s absolutely disgusting that the top one percent can control so much wealth while people are being kicked out of their houses.”
Thomson led a student discussion in Moore Square Sunday and staged a walkout last Wednesday. He has also gathered students to advertise Occupy Raleigh with flyers reading, “We are the 99%,” the motto of the Occupy movement.
Protesters are fed up with the federal system, and with a broad problem-set comes a broad range of protesters. Thomson explained that the range of protestors includes Tea Partiers, Anarchists, Socialists and many others.
This protest was conceived by no more than word of mouth and Facebook. It came together swiftly, not just in Raleigh, but also all around the country.
Citizens gathered to speak one-by-one in Moore Square, and it appeared that everyone at the meeting wanted to express their disappointment with the current capitalist system. One speaker, Hunter Savage, had just arrived from New York City after a day in the center of the protest on Wall Street.
“I spent one day in New York, I spent all of my money to go, I haven’t slept since Friday and it was totally worth it,” Savage said.
Savage explained that in New York he was often surrounded by police and thought himself lucky not to have been beaten or arrested. On Oct. 2, 700 protesters were arrested at the Brooklyn Bridge as Occupiers attempted to cross. There have also been accounts of police pepper-spraying and beating protesters.
As a testament to the movement’s diversity, Congressman Brad Miller appeared at the Occupy Raleigh meeting. It looked as if the movement had brought people from ages 15 to 65 of all genders and all ethnicities.
Dick Reavis, professor of journalism, participated in the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s, and he also participated in last Wednesday’s walkout. Reavis believes that the Occupy protests are very similar in nature to the student-led protests of the ’60s in which he took part.
“These kids are doing the right thing, and I want to help them out,” Reavis said.
The Occupy protests could be seen as disorganized, but both the Occupiers and the numerous issues being protested are so diverse that there is no recognizable structure. The appearance of disorganization has caused these strong-minded citizens to be seen as a motley crew, but they are hopeful that as their objectives become clearer to the public, this image could change.
Thomson explains that the Occupy Wall Street protests began as an expression of anger toward the system, but now they are a way for citizens to express their wants and needs. There will be a vote to see which issues should be on the forefront of protest; this will allow issues to come afloat rather than broad discontent.
At the walkout, Tara Beck, a senior in international studies, explained how corporate greed has affected her personally.
“I’ve seen what a corrupt system can do,” Beck said, ” My parents are a half-million dollars in medical debt, and I have family who have been working jobs for 20 years who have been laid off.”
Savage believes that college-age students could make a huge difference in Occupy protests. “The youth is a huge part of this movement. We need to be, because we’re the future,” Savage said.
Occupy Raleigh has plans to begin major protests on Oct. 15. Students interested in involvement are encouraged to stay updated through the Occupy Raleigh Facebook group.
Hundreds ‘occupy’ Raleigh, Durham to echo Wall Street protest
by Tara Lynn
Raleigh, N.C. — Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Raleigh and Durham on Sunday to show solidarity with an ongoing protest against corporate greed and social inequality on Wall Street.
The Occupy Wall Street movement started with just a dozen college students three weeks ago, but has spread across the nation despite a lack of clear leadership and concrete proposals to fix the ailing economy. The protesters themselves, however, say the gatherings are a way to express mounting frustration about lopsided distributions of money and power in the United States.
Tanya Glover attended the Occupy Raleigh protest at Moore Square Sunday evening. She said she feels like the American people are getting “dumped on” by corporations and Congress.
“The (bank bailout) money went straight back into the pockets of CEOs and corporations,” she said. “We work harder, we get taxed more. The corporations give money to the politicians and the politicians are serving the corporations. The corporations are not people.”
She said not matter what she does or how hard she works, she continues to get poorer while the rich get richer.
“I’ve never done anything like this before and I don’t know everything that’s going on and I don’t pretend to understand it all. I know that I get up every morning and I bust my butt to take care of my family and I’m getting nowhere,” Glover said.
Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat who represents the state’s 13th District, which includes Raleigh, came to listen to protesters’ concerns. He said it’s a question of injustice.
“The people who caused the financial crisis (and) the painful recession that we’ve been through seem to have gotten off scot-free,” Miller said. “The people who did suffer were really without blame, and that offends people.”
Protester J.J. Jiang agreed.
“The taxpayers’ money bailed them out and they didn’t sacrifice anything, but actually they benefited,” Jiang said.
Miller said he thinks people’s anger can be fueled to affect policy decisions.
“Maybe we need to start with the anger and then develop the proposals based on that,” he said. “I think if you ask people here, they would say, ‘Yeah, banks ought not be as big as they are.’ There are legislative proposals – I introduced one in the House that went nowhere – but if there was a movement behind it, pushing it, it would make a big difference.”
Glover said the protests are a step in the right direction.
“It’s groups like this that have changed America,” she said. “It may take a long time, but it will happen. I believe it.”