Occupations Alienating People?

[UPDATE – 9 Oct – Since this was posted, the person who wrote it has reported that much has changed, and their local Occupy action is doing well at including people from across the political spectrum. Others report that their local Occupy movements are essentially being run by Democrat Party people, and others still are excited by the experience of genuine grassroots, participatory democracy that addresses the concerns of concerned individuals from diverse political backgrounds.]

The following report is from an activist at an Occupy event inspired by Occupy Wall Street.

Several occupations are becoming seriously divided which is the first step toward becoming conquered. Ron Paul people, tea party members, and the full spectrum of libertarians are being indiscriminately shouted down at General Assembly meetings and in side meetings amongst individuals. Personally, I agree that signs promoting any political parties should be discouraged because they are not only divisive, they represent a method that has not worked to serve the people, however, alienating large segments of the population is not only inherently wrong, it is a bad tactic.

One of the things that makes this movement different from others is its intent to let everyone have their say about how they would like to see the economic situation addressed and create a public forum where people can safely engage in constructive, respectful dialogue.

I have not personally seen this happen on a large scale at our occupation yet but I was talking to one of the libertarian right last night and he said he was definitely being alienated. I think he has only bothered to stay around because he is determined to participate as a member of Cop Watch. The rejection of portions of the population who love the idea of participating in a democratic forum will turn this into a right/left thing rather than an underclass/overlords thing and a mob rather than a diverse group of individuals seeking solutions in a horizontal, democratic fashion.

I have heard many individuals saying that have to keep libertarians and tea partiers away, while in the same breath saying, “everyone has a voice, we are here to discuss everyone’s views on economic strategies”. To make matters worse, many people are making no distinction whatsoever between libertarian right and libertarian left.

I have been called naive for continuing to insist that everyone be welcome to come out and talk, but I feel that getting all kinds of different people together in the efforts to agree on one point is much more realistic than aiming to rebuild the world. If we can not manage to sit together, all of us, and find one thing we agree on, we are certainly not going to be able to build a new economic system for ourselves or follow through on any of the other lofty goals people are discussing.

The story below, “Brown Power at Occupy Wall Street”, really sums up, for me, how the occupations are supposed to function. It is about how one little voice can steer things in a better direction.


And while the liberals are busy alienating the libertarians, the democrats are knocking on the occupations’ collective door. I got this from MoveOn yesterday…

“Wall Street isn’t the only place where greed is undermining the American Dream. By bringing these speak outs to as many communities as possible, we’ll help to spread and amplify the energy of the Occupy Wall Street protest across the country. . . .To build on this energy, we’re organizing a huge round of speak-outs nationwide next week to deliver the simple message that we need “Jobs Not Cuts” and to “Make Wall Street Pay.” It’s part of a massive week of action to show the human impact of the economic crisis. But we need public events in as many communities as possible to show that this is a national movement. We’ll provide everything you need to hold a successful event. Can you sign up to lead a speak-out?”

Also, people like myself, who are far left and latched onto this movement because of the horizontal, democratic participation that was being promoted, will likely become discouraged with the lack of respect for dissenting voices and begin to drop off, making the occupations even more susceptible to the democrats.

It is a shame when the meaning of democracy – of power vested in the people – comes to mean marginalizing people who leaders cast out of the majority. This is how the government operates and it is unfortunate to see this trend in a protest movement with potential to radically alter how decisions are made. There is potential for progress here. This is not the only trend in the movement and it still presents opportunities to get involved in conversation and change, and to continue to move things in a less authoritarian direction.

2 Responses to “Occupations Alienating People?”

  1. Julia Says:

    Darian, I feel like most of the alienation in the OWS movement is coming from the right-libertarian/Ron Paul crowd who are using the rallies simply as campaign ventures for Ron Paul (I speak the same of stalinist groups like the “Workers'” World Party and the RCP who are doing the same exact thing; promoting the party/ideology as opposed to showing solidarity). When I was there on the first day of protests, a black radical and I were debating a RP campaigner who was only there to convince others to vote for his guy. Others were insulting the demonstrators about their choice of target – “Oh, why occupy Wall St.? You should really be occupying the Federal Reserve!” – which I found to be extremely elitist.

  2. DarianW Says:

    Yeah, I’m sure that is a factor, and a major factor for some people. I think it depends on the location though. From what I’ve heard it sounds like organizers in some places have decided what they want the protests to be rather than let them develop organically. It’s probably difficult to work out balancing openness and prevention of co-opting in a populist movement like this though.

    There’s also the thread on Libcom which raises some serious issues, other than the typical activist griping that people aren’t doing what they should be. http://libcom.org/news/wall-street-occupation-discussion-updates