Steve Iskovitz, a friend and former Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Cambridge City Council, has started emailing his thoughts from the front lines of the Occupy movement. Since this blog has lain dormant for so long, I decided to lend it to him. I will post the backlog of messages about once a day and then start posting them as they come in. I am posting them uneditted. His words are his own. You can find all of his posts under the Occupy tag.
It’s been slow around here since my last post. Strange to say this, since up to recently things have been frantic.
We’re still hanging in, securing housing for ourselves and running meetings again. I went to a spokes council meeting the other night. It was kind of nice to see the process functioning. Spokes council is a cumbersome process, but it’s quite democratic. Of course, it’s a messy process, lots of arguments, and then the next day everyone else yells about the decisions made. Once you explain the reasons, they lower the volume of their yelling a bit. I suppose groups making decisions about how to conduct themselves is by nature complicated and controversial and always will be.
The past few days in particular have been difficult. A lot of people arguing, about all kinds of things. I think this is partly because we’re all stressed about not having a home, and partly because we’re confused about our mission at this point. With Thanksgiving coming up it’s unlikely much will be done about this in the next few days.
One on-going argument involves the kitchen and where to send food. I hear all kinds of rumors, and I don’t go to their meetings, so I’m not an expert on the subject, but it seems a big part of the conflict is about whether to send food to the park or not. Some people say eveyone needs to be fed, so send food to the park as well as the working groups and the churches where people are staying. Others say just feed the working groups and the churches and don’t feed the people at the park, because they’re not working, they’re just hanging around being unproductive. In a sense, this is a holdover of the old conflict that went on when we lived in the park, concerning the two “classes” of people in OWS– working group members versus homeless people accused of not being part of the movement but just hanging aroud for free stuff.
I think there’s another aspect to this conflict, and I’ve begun voicing it around here. The question of sending resources to the park underscores the fact that we haven’t really adapted to the raid yet. We have to ask ourselves this question: Do we want to “keep” the park, or not? If we keep it, we have to make a conscientious decision to do so, and make a real presence there, complete with political signs, tabling, a message, a point. Then when people show up they’ll see something of substance, something of us, a reason for being there. If we decide to abandon it, we should put the message out that the park is no longer ours, that that phase of our movement is over.
Of course, there are other questions within this larger one. If we stay there, just how will we maintain our presence, and if we leave, where will we go, how will we communicate our message. But these questions will be easier once we address the main question. Avoiding this question, I think, is a big mistake, because it leaves us halfway inbetween. It makes us look bad, and it wastes our time and resources.
The current scene at the park is really pitiful. The metal gates surround it, with entrances on either side street, not on Broadway. This discourages the public from entering the park, which surely is the point. I just walked by a few minutes ago on the way to the library here, and there were about 20 people inside, and 10 or 15 outside the gate on Broadway. The people inside were smoking or just sitting around, the people on Broadway had some signs, a 9/11 conspiracist, some religious speaker. There were almost as many private security guards, and a few police. Some tourists, a camera team.
It’s awful to even go by and witness this, which must be why so few of us do. It gives the impression the movement is dead, that the police succeeded in crushing us and that we’re simply gone. This is not true, but in the absence of a strong, focused on-line presence, this visual symbolism goes a long way.
Hmm, running low on time here at the library, so let me make this point: Losing the park a month or two would have been fatal to us, but by now we’ve implanted our ideas into the consciousness of the nation and the world to the point where that physical location isn’t so necessary. Just yesterday I talked with people who are organizing an occupation in Utah and heard about Occupy Newark starting up, to name a few. As one person’s sign said, “You can’t evict an idea.”
Okay, all for now, and hopefully I’ll have more substance for you all next time. Feel free to forward this around.