Wel­come to my first post from Prov­i­dence! Now it’s 10:30, and I’m sit­ting in a pan­el about how the Occu­py move­ment and more tra­di­tion­al pro­gres­sive groups can work togeth­er, in order to bet­ter cre­ate pos­i­tive change. Pan­elists first described where they were when they first heard about Occu­py Wall Street, and sto­ries emerged from the pan­elists about check­ing out and then becom­ing friends with Occu­py LA, hav­ing friends who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the tak­ing of the Brook­lyn Bridge, and tak­ing part direct­ly in the actions of Occupy.

“Backscratch­ers for rich peo­ple made out of ivory tusks” was how one pan­elists described the mes­sage of those push­ing against the Occu­py move­ment, in a counter to the crit­i­cisms that Occu­py does­n’t have a coher­ent mes­sage, when for many of the peo­ple it was their first intro­duc­tion to activism, and the counter-mes­sage against Occu­py is one that is over­whelm­ing­ly bad for the Amer­i­can public.

Con­ver­sa­tion moved then to dis­cuss more about the actu­al col­lab­o­ra­tion, start­ing first with the Team­sters orga­niz­ers reach­ing out to the Occu­py move­ment (some­what sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing the tra­di­tion­al con­ser­vatism of the union) in order to take joint action against Sothe­by’s in equal part ener­getic and cre­ative. These joint actions pro­vid­ed the sol­i­dar­i­ty need­ed to make the projects suc­cess­ful, and the Occu­py move­ment was able to take action that more insti­tu­tion­al groups could­n’t. This was despite many fears that many groups were using the move­ment for their own pur­pos­es,  and speak­ing in pub­lic about those fears, but behind the scenes these groups were able to pro­vide ben­e­fits to Occu­py as well, includ­ing run­ning inter­fer­ence in order to help them keep Zucot­ti Park as long as possible.

The pan­el pro­vid­ed a per­cep­tive look into the actu­al work­ings of Occu­py Wall Street, the flur­ry of phone calls, how an extra 72 hours to orga­nize an event can make all the dif­fer­ence, and the strat­e­gy between the Occu­piers in the park and orga­ni­za­tions such as MoveOn.org and inter­na­tion­al labor unions.

As was artic­u­lat­ed by one pan­elist, Occu­py allowed groups that had been work­ing on sim­i­lar issues take much more rad­i­cal action on these issues and be much more explic­it in the demands they were mak­ing. Even though they are not longer phys­i­cal­ly occu­py­ing, he con­tin­ued, they were able to cre­ate a space which is still inhab­it­ed and where work is still being done.

While a lot of talk was about the col­lab­o­ra­tion part of the pan­el, not much was dis­cussed about the co-option issue, as one audi­ence mem­ber point­ed out. As a pan­elist answered, every­one, includ­ing the Occu­piers them­selves, need­ed to take a step back and reeval­u­ate their strug­gle. Sug­ges­tions were made about look­ing at it from a solu­tions-based per­spec­tive, not to look at it as who the per­son is with, but what they want to get done, what resources they have, and how they can work together.

The pan­el pro­vid­ed a first-hand look into what the Occu­py move­ment has done, how they did it, and what work they’re look­ing at doing in the future (par­tial­ly dis­played by one pan­elist’s inabil­i­ty to make it because she was work­ing with dif­fer­ent groups to stop May­or Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk pol­i­cy). Even though they may not be as phys­i­cal­ly preva­lent, the work from those in the pan­el, and the very least, are going to con­tin­ue to keep Occu­py rel­e­vant for months and years to come.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “LIVE from Providence: Collaboration, Not Co-Option: Labor, Community Organizations, and Occupy Wall Street Working Together”

Comments are closed.