Now that May Day is done, where does Occupy go from here?
They bragged with great hyperbole about May Day bringing “the greatest shutdown NYC has ever seen” and initially threatening to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But they had to back off the plan to shut down the Bridge, when it turned out they wouldn’t have union support(translation wouldn’t have the numbers necessary to blockade it). And the “greatest shutdown ever seen” turned out to be not any kind of a shutdown at all.
Many newspapers are openly scoffing at them, even the Village Voice, the great liberal alternative in NYC, which paper had been very supportive of them.
Yet, in some sense, this is the bit of the dangerous time. It, in a sense, parallels the 70s, when realizing that protest was limited, people either moved to work within the system, such as by running for elected office, like Tom Hayden, or moved to act in more militant directions, a la the Weather Underground and Bill Ayers(now something of a mentor to Occupiers).
Marisa Holmes- professional activist, member of the SDS, and major OWS organizer- said ”May Day will be the big kickoff of Phase 2 of Occupy. I think we will see a lot of people in the streets taking more militant actions than they had in the past.”
May Day did bring a rash of violence from somewhat minimal exchanges in NY with the biting of a cop and some vandalism to full-on riots in San Francisco and Seattle, and the bomb threat in Cleveland.
Yet capitalism was still there at the end of the day.
In discussions afterward, some Occupy/Anonymous twitter accounts seemed to speak of the fact that they were not succeeding at changing anything, that they needed to move beyond simple protests into more militant action.
What “militant action” may mean is of course open to interpretation. But we see in the Cleveland bombing case where some Occupiers went. If you need to kill people to allegedly free them, it could be that there is something off in your calculation.
This summer, the OWS Direct Action Group launches “Summer Disobedience School”:
We’ve completed Spring Training – and we’re moving and communicating in the streets like never before. Now we take our fight to sites of injustices throughout NYC, gradually building a culture of radical non-violent disobedience. We’ll be disrupting banks, corporations and the state all summer long, starting with the crooks in mid-town. We graduate as a full-on revolutionary force September 17th: City-Wide Shut Down!
“Non-violent” is also an interesting term. To most of us, we understand what that means. But to many Occupiers, non violent means not attacking people. Thus, attacking property would be okay. Also attacking police for example who are arresting you, that’s fine too. “De-arresting” people(fighting cops to get an arrestee back)=also not violent because you didn’t “attack” first. It also seems to be perfectly fine to do everything to precipitate a police response, all the while yelling “this is a peaceful protest”. This extends even to threatening to “doxing” cops, and spilling their private lives onto the internet in revenge. This has been done already in multiple cases, with the assistance of Anonymous. In one case, they leaked naked pictures of a female officer.
While many Occupiers are in fact peaceful, many others also have a belief in “diversity of tactics”, meaning they leave their options open to ways other than peace. Thus some are black bloc anarchists ready to smash things up.
Many believe the changing of the society has to come up from the proletariat rioting in the streets. They’ve tried it in Spain and in Greece. They are intent on having it happen here, so expect to see more attempts over the summer and the run up to the election. Some tough things may be coming.
But America is a unique creature, built on the power of the individual. The nature of its character is not the collective, but that enduring independent spirit.
One may try, but it will not be overwhelmed so easily.
Occupy worked very hard to get people out for May 1, trying to establish connections with immigrant groups and community advocacy organizations.
What is not often mentioned is the effort that they have been making to reach into high schools to influence students.
A major person behind this effort in NYC is Justin Wedes, a former high school teacher. Wedes abruptly quit his job as a city public school teacher after getting caught red-handed falsifying time sheets, according to the New York Post. Former South Brooklyn Community HS science teacher Justin Wedes, who often rails against corporate greed and corruption, “cut and pasted’’ the signature of a supervisor onto his time sheets while applying for a national education grant, Special Schools Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon found.
In this first video, you see the results of months of Wedes and others cultivating students at Paul Robeson High School in NYC. Occupy members have had meetings at the school to talk with the kids and influence them. It’s also a bit ironic that it is “Paul Robeson High School”. Robeson, a remarkably multi-faceted man, was an amazing singer, incredibly bright, lawyer and civil rights activist. He was also an infamous supporter of Soviet Communism.
Notice the effort to demonize “privatization”. Why would the kids have an issue with it? Because the union has a problem with it. Charter schools in NY have been largely successful and provide a viable option for children from poorer communities. Kids and parents line up to get into those schools. It’s called competition and it improves education. That’s just a bit frightening to the unions, who want to have a monopoly to be continue to provide that sterling education they have been providing-not. Think of it this way, kids, if you were forced to only eat in the cafeteria, and chose from the lousy food provided, wouldn’t you want to have the option of food outside those restrictions?
Beyond the very specific approach to reach out to certain schools in NYC, was the general effort to gets kids out for May 1 by making it “cool”. Organizer Marisa “I’m not for reform, I’m for revolution” Holmes actually made a video, noting that you could leave school, and “do whatever you want to do”.
Who wouldn’t want to go to what appears to be a holiday party? In this second video, the kids have heard the pitch, but have no idea even why they are there, apart from the fact it seems fun. The girl with the anarchy symbol on her face could as well been at a St Patrick’s Day Parade and it have been a shamrock. Notice the requisite event tee shirt-souvenir-looks like capitalism to me.
See video here
If you wonder how we get the Justin Wedes and Marisa Holmes types, the effort to recruit has been going on for a very long time.