Occupy Oakland Vigil for Scott Olsen

October 28, 2011

Scott Olsen, a marine who served two tours in Iraq, had been active in Occupy San Francisco and was with us in the streets of Oakland Tuesday night.  When police started shooting into the crowd, a projectile hit Scott, fracturing his skull and putting him in critical condition.  Rather than offering help, police actually fired right into the small crowd that was trying to help get the near-unconscious Scott out of the cloud of tear-gas.

This video does a great job showing what happened.

Tonight, Occupy Oakland honored Scott’s courage by holding a candlelight vigil.  As you can see in this video I took, thousands gathered again, showing the world that this movement is not letting up.

Please watch the video, it was a powerful evening.  The speakers spoke with passion and compassion and were all incredibly moving and eloquent.  One of the great things about this movement is that it has given a platform to regular people – not professional activists, not elected officials, just everyday people.  We sometimes think that someone needs to be a “known” figure for them to inspire us with public speeches.

Thanks to Scott, we were reminded that change comes from everyday people, not the “leaders” we sometimes look up to.  Thanks to Scott, the people were reminded what we are all fighting for.  Thanks to Scott, we awoke the moral conscience of Oaklanders and of people all over the world.

To support Scott and help pay for his medical expenses, please visit the website of Iraq Veterans Against the War at www.ivaw.org.

Please keep Scott in your thoughts and prayers as he faces a long recovery.

And now onto more random thoughts….

Vigil for Scott Olsen

I Hella Love Occupy Oakland
I continue to be amazed and inspired by the Occupy Oakland movement.

When Occupy Oakland first started, there were hundreds of tents set up immediately, and the plaza was transformed overnight.  Within days, they were feeding hundreds of people every day, had set up a library, school, media tent, bicycle powered generators, constant free music performances, workshops, speakers, free child care.  As I wrote earlier, we may not have been articulating our demands on paper, but we were manifesting our vision in the middle of the city.

Then, at 5AM on Tuesday, the police raided the camp.  In coordination with 17 different law enforcement agencies, they woke up kids sleeping in tents.  They shot tear-gas into the encampment.  They arrested almost 100 campers.

Occupy Oakland Before/After

They tore down tents, the library, medical tent, arts and crafts tent, everything.  By the time people were leaving to go to work, they had left the plaza a mess and blocked off the entire park.

Just hours later at 4PM – with no prior planning before that morning – people gathered at the public library.  Lots of people.  The police reportedly called the library and asked them to not allow us to gather there.  They refused.  As a public institution serving the community that keeps facing budget cutbacks, they realize which side they were on.

The crowd filled the library steps and spilled out taking up the entire street.  As we began marching, we would come up to a police line, and start marching in another direction.  No one knew where we were going, and decisions about which direction to head were made on the spot.  Yes, it was confusing and at times frustrating, but it also made it impossible to keep us contained.  We marched around the entire city for hours.

Occupy Oakland re-emerges at the library

Typically, you would see the numbers of a march like this dwindle after a while.  That was not the case.  As we marched around the city, we picked up people along the way.  The “direction-less” nature of the march only made us more visible and increased our numbers.  By the time it was dark we were 1,000 strong.  After a short impromptu Assembly at Snow Park, we marched back to Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza.  And there we ran into the police.

As I wrote about and as you can see in this video I took, the police’s response was viscous.  They shot tear-gas into a peaceful crowd, critically injuring a veteran who served two tours in Iraq.  Scott Olsen sustained a fractures skull, and as others were trying to help remove him from the cloud of tear-gas, the police fired again right into the middle of the crowd that was trying to help him.

Despite the violence perpetrated by the police, the protesters for the most part remained nonviolent.  And THAT was the key.

The Public Narrative & Lessons from Selma
In 1965, 600 marchers walked across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama and were attacked by the police.  They were beaten and attacked by dogs.  And the marchers remained nonviolent.  When images of police attacking nonviolent protesters go out, it paints a very clear image of who is on the right side of justice.  It wins the sympathy and the support of the larger public.

Two days after what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” 2,500 marchers gathered in Selma.  And a week later, 8,000 marchers began the long walk to Montgomery, a movement that culminated in the passing of the Civil Rights Act.

News images of Oscar Grant rally

Oakland has learned from the Oscar Grant rallies.  During those events, violence often broke out and police and protesters engaged in it.  There was looting and cars were destroyed.  And the public narrative that went out into the news was “police fight back violent rioters.”  The images were of youth jumping on top of police cars and clashing with cops.

This time, the narrative was very different.  This time, the public narrative was “police attack peaceful protesters.”  The images that went out were of protesters trying to run away from a cloud of tear-gas.

That narrative, those images and Scott’s story awoke the moral conscience of Oaklanders.  100 people were arrested Tuesday morning and gassed. 1,000 people gathered that evening, and more people were tear-gassed.  And in response, 3,000 gathered the next night, taking back the plaza and marching through the city in a victory parade. 

Violent repression will only strengthen nonviolent movements.  Oakland showed that, and history teaches us that as well.

When building movements, the public narrative is critical.

What Drives Us
Anger is natural.  Given where our society is, anger is righteous.  And anger can inspire people into action.

But if we let anger become the driving force of a movement, it will ultimate rip us apart.  Holding anger in our hearts will keep us from attaining a truly peaceful world.  You can only be driven so long by anger before burning out.  As Dr. King said, “I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

The 5th principle of Kingian Nonviolence, “Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence,” teaches us that hating someone and allowing anger to fester in your heart is an act of internal violence that we do to ourselves.

I thought about that a lot during the Oscar Grant movement.  As angry as people needed to be about what happened, at some point we needed to transform the driving force into love for our people and a commitment to true justice.

This movement again feels very different.  During our victory parade (which, if you haven’t seen this video already, believe me it will inspire you), the energy was not one of anger and destruction.  It was one of celebration, of hope, of vision.  And you can feed on that forever and it will only make us stronger.

We are right to be angry.  But let us move with love, the powerful, forceful and aggressive love that people like Dr. King and Gandhi spoke of.

For more images from the vigil, click here.

General Strike Wednesday, Nov. 2nd!!!

October 28, 2011

General Strike Wed Nov. 2nd!

At a General Assembly that was at one point 3,000 strong, Occupy Oakland voted to engage in a General Strike on Wednesday, November 2nd.  We welcome people from around the world to join us.

The last General Strike that happened in the US was in 1946, and it happened in Oakland.  After the events of the last couple of days, it is only right that the next one also comes from Oakland.

This is not one business closing due to workers on strike.  This is the entire city shutting down because all people are on strike.

The concept of “shutting the city down” has become common in activist circles.  But in recent Oakland history, “shutting the city down” has been attained by businesses closing out of fear that their windows will be smashed.  That will never build a movement.

But we are the 99%.  This time, business will be closing not out of fear that they will be attacked, but because they will be out in the streets with us.  That, my friends, is a movement.

So come out with us on November 2nd.  Participate to whatever extent you can.  Take the day off school/work and come to your local Occupy gatherings.  Take a long lunch.  Organize your co-workers.  Talk to your local businesses.  And let’s show the 1% that the 99% is who runs the world, and without our cooperation, business as usual will shut down.


Occupy Oakland Re-emerges

October 27, 2011

I should really be in bed right now, but I am so inspired by what I saw and needed to put this up tonight.  One day after 17 law enforcement agencies raided Occupy Oakland, one day after police shot tear gas into a peaceful crowd, one day after police put an Iraq veteran in critical condition, we regained the plaza and went on a hours and hours long victory parade throughout the entire town.

I will be writing more later, but please share this video with people you know so everyone can see the power of the people!!!

One last thing – a general assembly of thousands of people voted for a general strike on Wednesday, November 2nd.  If you can, don’t go into work and hit the streets.

“Shutting it down” is not about a small number of people raising a ruckus and shutting down an intersection for an hour.  It is about all people commiting to one day (or more) of solidarity, for the entire day, shutting down businesses not because they are afraid of their window getting smashed but because they are in the streets with us.

Good night Oakland, I love you all, ya’ll are beautiful.


Even More Random Thoughts on Occupy Oakland

October 27, 2011

Consider this part three of my thoughts on Occupy Oakland.  Parts 1 & 2 can be found here.

As most people have heard by now, the Oakland Police Department, along with 16 other law enforcement agencies, raided Occupy Oakland at 5AM yesterday morning.  In the process, they arrested close to 100 people and at least two people who were arrested sustained broken hands.

Occupy Oakland Re-emerges at Oakland Library

In response, Occupy Oakland only grew stronger.  A rally was called for 4PM, and as you can see from the image the people came out.  The rally led to a march through downtown, and our numbers grew and grew as we walked by office buildings, storefronts, and other businesses and folks came out and joined us.  By the time it was dark, our numbers had swelled to close to 1,000.

Cars were honking in support everywhere we went, even if they were completely unable to move because there were so many people in the streets.

Here are a bunch of thoughts I’ve had since then.

One preface: I am highly critical of the city’s actions yesterday.  The level of violence they used on peaceful protesters was uncalled for, though we have come to expect this from OPD.  At the same time, some of my thoughts are critical of the movement as well.  And it is only because I love this movement and want to see it succeed that I am being critical.  We need to continue to grow and continue to learn, and if we are not able to be self-critical, we will do neither.

So here we go….

Who’s Streets?
Our Streets!!  Right?  So why the fuck are you lighting trash cans on fire, breaking bottles in the middle of the street, and dumping trash in the middle of an intersection?

How does that help get us closer to our goal?  What is the strategy behind it?  What does that accomplish?  Who has to clean that shit up in the morning?  Do you burn trash cans in your own living room?

These are our streets.  We pay for them, we use them, we live on them.  So take care of them.

Tear Gas
In defending the use of tear gas, Interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said that they had to use gas to stop protesters from throwing bottles.  That is not true.  I was right there, as this video attests.

The day began at 4PM and the cops first shot tear gas around 9.  Throughout that day, I did see people throwing things at the police (more on that later).  But when the police shot tear gas into the crowd, I did not see anyone throwing anything.

In fact, for about 10 minutes after the march got back to 14th & Broadway, the police kept making an announcement that if we don’t vacate, they would arrest us, that we could be “seriously injured,” and that they would use “chemical weapons.”  They told us this.  So they knew they were going to use the tear gas.

That was their plan; it was not a response to anything we were doing.

F***ing Tear Gas!?!?
The crowd that they fired into was not being violent, and included elders, youth, veterans and others.  The police and the city has to realize that if they use tactics like that, it is inevitable that people like this woman in a wheelchair, people with asthma, people who have nothing to do with the protest will be exposed to chemical weapons.

Protesters help get a woman in a wheelchair out of the cloud of tear gas

Is this “collateral damage” worth the cost?  We need to decide if we, as a society, are okay using these types of tactics on non-violent protesters.

We call ourselves a moral society.  We call this a free country.  We are told that we have a right to free assembly.  We need to start acting like it.

Tear Gas Sucks
Trust me, it’s no fun.

But sometimes, it almost seems like some people want to be tear-gassed.  If not wanting to, expecting to.  Its like it’s inevitable, we all know that at some point we will be tear-gassed.  The cops expects it, the crowd expects it.

There is not an attempt to think about why tear gas might be used.  It seems like there is not much of an attempt to avoid it.  Confronting police and dealing with violence is just part of being involved in a march in Oakland.

And thank god there are masses of people who are willing to stand up despite violent efforts to shut the people down.  But it is not fair to expect everyone to be able to or to want to get tear-gassed or arrested.

We can’t do it without the majority.  That’s who we say we represent.  The working parents, their kids, people with jobs, people looking for jobs, people with families, undocumented immigrants, people who are ill, people with bills.

This “Fuck the Cops” mentality, this sense of misguided militancy and this desire to want a fight makes it more likely for there to be tear gas.  It escalates the conflict and raises the level of tension on both sides.

It makes the movement less accessible to more people.

We have to make every effort to ensure that this movement is accessible to everybody.  That absolutely, definitively, utterly and completelyneeds to be a priority.

We say we represent the 99%.  Well, 99% of our country is not willing to or able to get tear-gassed.  If we say we represent the 99%, then we can’t always do things that make it more likely for there to be violence.

I know many people are pissed off at the police, and more often then not they have good reason to be.  But your individual desire to show your anger towards the police is not more important than ensuring that everyone can participate.  Put your personal agenda aside, take a deep breath, and keep our eyes focused on the real enemy – greed, corruption, violence, injustice.

Fear and Intimidation
In Kingian Nonviolence, we talk about the need to understand both perspectives of a conflict.  Even if you don’t agree with the other side, even if the other side is wrong, it’s still a part of the story.  If you don’t understand the other perspective, you don’t understand the full conflict.

It was probably about 6PM when I saw the first real confrontation between the crowd and the police.  There was a small line of cops blocking an intersection, and the march stopped, facing the police.  Eventually, the crowd outnumbered the police so much that we overtook them and walked right past.

Police being surrounded by protesters

Someone ended up getting arrested, and all of a sudden the crowd had turned and there were 100 people surrounding the cops.  People were yelling and throwing things.

I was close enough to look into the eyes of those cops, and what I saw was fear.

I don’t care who you are, if you and 7 or 8 of your people were surrounded by a mob of 100 yelling and throwing things at you, anyone would be freaked out.

Look, I am extremely upset about the police’s actions over Occupy Oakland.  But if we use fear, intimidation and violence to get what we want, we will be no better then they are.

One of the things that we are fighting is an attitude that says it is okay to use violence to make the changes we want to see in the world. This attitude that says that we can use physical force, violence and intimidation to make the opponent give into our demands.  Is that really the strategy that we want to be using?

We are not trying to defeat those who oppose us, we are trying to win them over.

Who’s Our Enemy?
Dr. King said that the Civil Rights movement and segregation wasn’t an issue between black people and white people, but that it was between justice and injustice.

The police are not our enemy.  As an institution, they cause incredible harm on many communities.  From the perspective of many poor communities, it is not an understatement to say that the police are a foreign force occupying and terrifying their neighborhoods.

If we don’t find a way to fight the injustice that the institution of police represent without attacking the individuals that are caught up in the system, we are creating new conflict at each event.  We are creating more enemies.  We are turning away more potential allies.  We are widening the division.

A Navy veteran standing with us at OO

If you see the police as your enemy, than follow that same logic for war.  This Navy veteran on the left who stood with us last night, or  the veteran who was with us last night and is now in critical condition at the hospital after being hit in the head by the cops, would not have been welcome at our rally.  Other veterans would be turned away from anti-war movements and other movements fighting for justice.  Because they are part of an imperialist system that has caused untold harm against civilians across the globe.

Do we forgive them because the harm they inflicted was against Iraqis and Afghans and not Americans?  Do we forgive them simply because we don’t see the injustice that they inflict first-hand? Do we welcome them into our movements only because it is convenient for us?

No, we forgive them and welcome them into our movements because we recognize that the individuals who serve in the military and the institution of war are two separate things.  We understand that even as soldiers of war, they have a conscience and given the opportunity to speak their mind, many of them do.  We need to extend the same understanding for the police.

Both sides are accountable here.

City – We understand that you had some concerns.  Concerns such as how we were storing the food, fire hazards because of the hay that we laid down, loud noises at night, cleanliness.  Fine.  But those are all issues that could have been resolved.  It did not need to come down to tear gas and mass arrests.  To say you “over-reacted” would be an understatement.

Occupy Oakland – The city had some concerns.  Genuine, valid concerns.  People should not have been smoking cigarettes on top of dry hay.  EMT’s need access to the park if someone is hurt.  Again, these are all issues that could have been resolved.  And while the police DEFINITELY over-reacted, who knows what would have happened had there been a genuine effort at keeping the lines of communication open.

Dialogue is how you resolve a conflict.  If there is a conflict and you are not in dialogue, the conflict will keep escalating until it comes to a breaking point.  And that seems to me to be part of what happened.

I know a lot of people are always going to believe that the police will have raided us regardless of what we do.  And maybe they are right.  But it is foolish to assume that is the case and not even make an attempt at negotiation.  Remember, city officials are people too.  They have a moral conscience too.  They know deep down what is right and what is wrong.

We need to maintain our faith in people.  Regardless of profession, we need to maintain our faith that behind the uniform and behind their titles, there is a person inside that we can communicate with.  If we lose faith in that very basic, fundamental value – that all people have a moral conscience – then we are in trouble.

Rotting Gumbo
Tim Wise once told a story of when he lived in a house with a bunch of friends during college.  They shared duties, and one person would cook dinner for everyone in the house every once in a while.

One night, one of his house-mates made a big pot of gumbo.  Tim had just had dinner out, so he didn’t touch it.  The next morning, he came down and no one had cleaned the pot.  But because Tim didn’t eat any, he left it there.  The guy that made it didn’t feel like he should clean it because he made it for everyone.

And so the pot sat there, for days until the stench was filling the kitchen.  At some point, Tim said, you stop caring about who caused the situation, someone simply needed to step up and clean the pot.

Using violence against the police is similar.  Whether to police incited the violence or whether it was a response to something we did, IT DOESN’T MATTER.  Regardless of who started it, if we respond with more violence it will not help.

The police used tear-gas on a non-violent crowd.  But that was because we were marching without a permit.  But that was because the police raided Occupy Oakland.  But that was because we were camping illegally.  But that was because people had to take a stand.  And on and on it goes.

The narrative right now is that OPD used tear gas on a peaceful crowd.  And that image, a very clear picture of who is right and who is wrong, is what is helping Occupy Oakland become a national calling card for solidarity.  People see those images, and they can’t help but be supportive of us.  If instead, there were images of people looting, burning trash cans, and attacking the police, it would be a very different story.

We need to maintain that narrative.  It doesn’t matter who made the gumbo, someone has to take the higher road and clean the pot.  It doesn’t matter who instigated the violence, we as a movement need to have the higher moral ground and stay committed to nonviolence.

The Human Microphone
I love it.  I’m just sayin. Mike Check!!!

Oakland’s response to Occupy Movement

October 26, 2011

I’ll be posting more thoughts on the violence in Oakland later on, but in the meantime please view this video I took right as the Oakland Police Department fired tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protesters.

Oakland’s Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan went on the news saying that OPD had to use tear gas to defend themselves against protesters who were throwing bottles and other items.

That is not true.  As you can see from the video, I was RIGHT there at the line.  Yes, I did see objects being thrown at the police throughout the long day.  Our march went all over the city, and there were several confrontations and things were thrown at them, which I have major issues with.  But if they are using this as an excuse for the tear-gas, it is complete BS.

The rally got back to 14th and Broadway around 8:30PM.  From the moment we got there, the police were making an announcement that we had 4 minutes to vacate the area, that this was an unlawful assembly, and that if we didn’t leave, people could be arrested, injured, and that they will use “chemical weapons.”  They kept repeating this over and over for about 10 minutes.  Then they fired.

The use of tear gas was not a response to bottles being thrown.  It was their plan.  They knew they were going to use it.  At the time, there was nothing being thrown at them and they police were in no danger.  Those who were caught up in the tear gas included a woman in a wheelchair and an Iraq war vet, amongst hundreds of others.

More to come later.

Positive Peace,


Kingian Nonviolence Trainer Call of Action!!!!

October 22, 2011

Call to Action for all Kingian Nonviolence Trainers and educators the Occupy Providence Movement needs your participation. There are many people of all back grounds and ideologies that have come together to make people stop and question how we as a global community conduct business. We have decided that now is the time to make a change. A call was sent out to people of all nationalities to come together and say no to the way business is being done.  That call has been answered by over 1400 cities in 6 continents. I have traveled to Occupy Wall st. in NYC and I have been participating in Occupy Providence now for three weeks and the desire to learn about Kingian Nonviolence continues to grow with every workshop that is conducted.  I am asking each of you to find some time to visit Burnside Park and see what the Occupation is all about. The media is doing a bad job of presenting we the 99% are all about.  We have all studied this information for many reasons but those of us who have become trainers posses a deep desire to teach other about Kingian Nonviolence reconciliation. NOW IS THE TIME!!!! Now is the time to be uncomfortable.  Leave your communities, campuses and classrooms just for a day and be apart of the People’s Park in Providence and the Occupy Providence Movement. If you are reading this and you are not in the Providence, RI, area please take the time to feel what it is like to be among the Occupation in your community.

Workshop can be conducted during the day or at night, please check your schedule and find some time to join me and others teach the philosophy of nonviolence to the current generation of leaders that will impact the future generations. MORE PEOPLE! MORE POWER!! MORE PROGRESS!!!

If you are interested participating in training or conducting a different type of workshop please send me an email or send me a text at 401.952.7998.  We can all serve the movement in whatever way we feel comfortable and Occupy Providence is accepting donations of all kinds.

Positive Peace,

Jonathan L. Lewis

Lafayette & Associates

Senior Level Kingian Nonviolence Trainer

Positive Peace Warrior Network, Founder

“My Anti-thesis”

October 22, 2011

I’m anti-coke and anti-crack
I’m anti-labeling weed as “whack”
I’m anti-cigarettes and toxic goo
And, don’t forget, I’m anti-Bush and Cheney too
I’m anti-oil and anti-gas, anti-coal and anti-trash
I’m anti-litter that pollutes our streets
I’m anti-education that’s incomplete

I’m anti-slums and anti-bums, anti-war and anti-guns
I’m anti-monopoly and special interest needs
I’m anti-tax breaks for the wealthy breed
I’m anti-propaganda and political abilis
I’m anti-corruption and media lies
I’m anti-hollywood and glamour scenes
I’m anti-makeup and child beauty queens

I’m anti-organizations that misuse their funds
And, I’m certainly anti-religions that molest the young
I’m most definitely anti-rape and violent disputes
In essence, I’m anti-criminals and distorted truths
I’m anti-fraternities like the NRA
And, if it wasn’t yet obvious, I’m anti-supremacy and the KKK

To be blunt, I’m anti-racism and ignorance
To be begged, I’m anti-destruction and belligerence
I should say I’m anti-peer pressure all throughout society
And, man, I’m anti-stress and anxiety
So, well, you read I’m anti-this and certainly anti-that
But, I’m absolutely pro-American, so don’t obscure the facts.

By Gypsy Rhymes

“More Random Thoughts on the Occupy Movement”

October 19, 2011

This “Occupy” movement has been an incredibly exciting and inspiring thing to see. In times like this, I am glad to be living in a place like Oakland, where Frank Ogawa Plaza has been transformed overnight into a permanent carnival for justice.

I’ve been thinking about everything that’s been going on nonstop, so this will just be a bunch of random thoughts that I have about and for this movement.

Manifest Our Vision
When you are organizing a protest or a demonstration, it is important to have a clear message, a clear goal, a clear demand, a clear issue. And that is one criticism this movement continues to receive.

But this is not just a protest.

I was talking to a woman who was saying that she felt that what we are doing is creating a small piece of the society we envision. And she’s right. We may not have articulated our demands on paper, but we are creating our vision on public parks across the country and across the world. We aren’t just talking about what we want, we are manifesting it.

Occupy Oakland currently has over 120 tents with wooden walkways in between them, are feeding hundreds of people every day for free, has a gas powered (donated by Lupe Fiasco) generator and a bicycle powered generator. There’s a kids tent, an arts and crafts tent, a library, a free school with constant workshops and trainings on all sorts of things, structured conversations, impromptu conversations, free concerts and performances, screen printing, free haircuts, homeless people serving food to working people, kids playing next to a workshop on direct action surrounded by people talking about justice.

People are coming together to take care of each other, and showing the world that we can have a society where everyone is taken care of. And that is all we are asking for.

Which brings us to….

(Don’t) Pick an Issue!
Even Representative Barney Frank has been telling this movement to narrow in on an issue or two. If anything, I believe we need to expand even bigger.

The strength of this movement right now is our “vague” message. People are naturally passionate about certain issues, and they know that this movement is a place that anyone can come together and talk about them.

Whether we are talking about environmental justice, economic justice, gender justice or youth justice, we are all talking about the same thing: Justice.

The media might not get that, many politicians might not get that, but the people do. Tell people that we are fighting for justice, period. Justice looks like many things, because there are so many forms of injustice. But at the end of the day, we are all fighting for the same thing.

So don’t cave into outside pressure to pick a single issue and have it diminish our ultimate goal. This should not be about any one issue. It should be about justice, fairness, and equality. It should be about us giving the status quo a time-out and work on creating the world where all people are taken care of.

It’s not just about an issue, it’s about justice.

Have Fun!!!
As Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

The third step in the six steps of Kingian Nonviolence is Personal Commitment, and this is a step that has to be practiced throughout the campaign. Keeping people committed through a tough struggle is critical to sustaining a movement. Without conscious efforts to keep people’s spirits up, people will burn out.

One of the greatest things I’ve seen in Occupy Oakland is the constant free music performances. Freedom Songs played a critical role in keeping people uplifted and unified during the Civil Rights Movement. It was not an accident that music played such a large role. It was strategy.

Music brings people together and creates community. Laughter, dance, sharing our cultures, celebrating together. Occupy Oakland feels like a big BBQ with 1,000 friends. So have fun, get to know each other, and keep committing to each other. (I actually have a dream of organizing a massive ping-pong contest or something similar)

Breaking bread, sharing knowledge, playing games, and other activities also serve to build community. And building community is what we are doing.

I have to be honest, “occupy” is not my favorite word. It makes me think of the occupation of Iraq or Palestine, as in a foreign force coming to take and occupy land. And that leaves a real bad taste in my mouth.

I know that at this point, it’s way too late to change what people are calling this movement. But I think it’s at least important for us to note and to think about.

For one thing, this land is already “occupied.” It was stolen from indigenous people. This conversation has already been happening in Oakland, and we have the Indigenous community here in the Bay Area to thank for starting that conversation.

Secondly, if this land belongs to Indigenous people first, next in line are the people. It is our tax dollars that paid for most of the land that these gatherings are currently being held (Occupy Wall Street in New York, ironically enough, is one of the ones that is not on public land).

When I head to Occupy Oakland, I don’t want to feel like I’m going to an “occupation.” I have heard people use terms like “Liberate Oakland” and “Decolonize Oakland.” I just like calling them gatherings.

Either way, I’m not suggesting changing the name of a movement that’s already flourished. I’m just sayin’.

Look for Allies & Negotiate!!!
Dr. King said that as we build movements, we should look at everyone as a potential ally first.

In the Kingian Nonviolence curriculum, we are taught a module called “Top-Down, Bottom Up.” We often times view “top-down” and “bottom-up” organizing/decision making as mutually exclusive. It’s one or the other.

Those often times viewed as being on the “top” of society often times criminalizes those on the bottom. The folks on the “bottom” are viewed us thugs, hippies, anarchists, criminals. And because they hold these views, they don’t even try to understand the concerns of the “bottom.” They believe that the “bottom” don’t deserve a voice in the decision-making.

But we on the “bottom” often times demonizes those on the “top,” seeing them as nothing more than racist, imperialist, capitalist pigs. And because we hold those views, we don’t even try to understand their perspective. And we believe that the “top” isn’t worth negotiating with.

There are police officers, politicians, corporate executives and trust fund babies that support our cause. And judging them based solely on their profession is no different than judging someone by the color of their skin.

We are losing potential allies when we get so caught up in our ideology that we view entire groups of people as “bad.” It is not fair to assume that someone is not worth trusting or reaching out to because you perceive them to be part of a group of people you don’t like.

I heard of one gathering that was offered a permit from their city and they refused. I hope that next time, they will accept whatever support the city – or anyone – offers. They may genuinely want to be supporting this movement. There are good and bad people who work everywhere, and this movement needs to be one where anyone can participate, anyone can offer their support.

Imagine how powerful it would be if the police were ordered to arrest people at these gatherings, and some of them refused to do so. That could be huge for this movement, and it becomes very unlikely when one of our messages is “fuck the cops.”

Winning “Them” Over
Even the people who don’t agree with us, even the people who don’t support us – our goal is to win them over. This is not a struggle against people, it is a struggle against injustice. It is against a culture, an attitude, and a set of values that tells people that it is okay to benefit from the suffering of others. We need to try to win those people over.

People often times think of social change like a sport, that there has to be a “loser” in order for their side to “win.” We think of ourselves as trying to defeat the enemy, to defeat those we think of as “the other.”

But what does that actually look like if you played it out in your mind? If the police are the enemy, what are we going to do with all the police officers? Lock them up? Kill them all? Send them off to a far off island?

Out struggle is against a culture and an attitude. People who commit acts of violence are caught up in that culture and attitude, and we need win them over.

Since the Vietnam anti-war movement, the Left has learned a big lesson in not demonizing soldiers. Anti-war movements have learned to embrace veterans, recognizing that many of them are good people caught up in an unjust system. The Left is also compassionate towards people in our communities who commit acts of violence and hurt many people, recognizing that political and social-economic factors often contribute to their behaviors.

Yet when it comes to the police and often to politicians, we cannot seem to extend that same understanding. Yes, there are many people who take unjust actions and hurt many people. Yes, we need to hold them accountable.

But our goal is to win them over and defeat the injustice, not to defeat them as people. We will have won when there is no longer a “them.”

Move with Love
I understand nonviolence as a way to move aggressively and forcefully with love and compassion.

Anger is normal, and all of us should be angry at the state of the world. But if we let anger be what drives this movement, it will ultimately drag us down.

Hate, fear, and anger are diseases. And like diseases, they are a normal, human reaction to problems. And like diseases, they hurt the host.

Dr. Lafayette talks about how hating someone is like “drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” And having hate and anger in your messaging or public image can turn off potential supporters.

Communities like Oakland are filled with anger, and rightfully so. But we need to find safe ways to release it -whether through song, art, poetry, theater, meditation, spiritual practices, or working for change.

Anger can inspire people and jump start movements, but if we hold onto it and let it drive us, it will fester and ultimately destroy the movement. We have to move with love and compassion, but with as much force and as much aggression as we have moved in the past with anger.

In the words of Dr. King, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

The Beloved Community
Dr. King talked about the Beloved Community as a place where all people of all colors can come together in peace. And as we attempt to manifest our vision at these gatherings, we have to make diversity a priority.

I have struggled at times to understand the whole “Burning Man” thing, which is huge in the Bay Area. I will admit to having made fun of people who go to Burning Man. But I also realized that a lot of people that go to Burning Man and other similar events are experts at things like setting up mobile kitchens, cooking outdoors for large masses of people, and other skills that have been critical to this movement.

And one of the best things, to me, about Occupy Oakland is its diversity. You walk around and see all sorts of people there.

But from what I’ve seen and heard from others, not all of these gatherings have the same diversity. Every community has a story to share, and every community has skills and resources to bring to the table. None of us can do this on our own, and having diversity throughout this movement absolutely needs to be a priority.

Leaderless Movement?
And that brings me to this point, which I think some people are not going to like.

Is this truly a leaderless movement? Is that what we even want? What exactly do we mean when we say that we don’t have leaders?

In any organized, structured setting, leaders emerge one way or another. Whether it’s voted on, someone takes the position by force, or it organically emerges, communities have leaders. We may not call them leaders, but there are people in leadership positions.

I understand that decisions are made collectively at the general assemblies and various working groups. But I’m afraid that will make it easier for people who have the most time to emerge in leadership positions.

And I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. The people who have taken leadership roles in Occupy Oakland are clearly doing an incredible job.

But how can we ensure the voices of people who may have to work, take care of their kids/families, don’t have access to transportation, have health challenges, are incarcerated, and others who cannot make regular meetings? And how do we honor the voices of all people while recognizing and honoring the experience and expertise of our elders?

The Universe is On the Side of Justice
The sixth and final principle of Kingian Nonviolence is “the universe is on the side of justice.” And we cannot lose faith in that.

As hard as it may be, I believe that a world where everyone is taken care of is possible. Even if we know for a fact that it is not possible, that is still what we should strive for and build towards.

It may be hard to believe that we can win the 1% over. It may be hard to believe in a police force that is genuinely there to serve and protect the people. It may be hard to believe that we can get control back of our government.

But folks from Resource Generation have been at different events holding signs that read, “I was born into the 1%. I stand with the 99%.” I have seen police officers that are nonviolence trainers, or groups of people who are trained to patrol their own communities keeping people safe, out of love for their people. I saw the president of Bolivia campaign for the International Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth at the United Nations. And hell, Vermont has a socialist senator.

There are already examples that everything we need to do to make radical change is possible. We just need to pull it all together.

We Have Already Won
Critics are saying that if this movement doesn’t come together and pick an issue soon, we will not be victorious. But I believe that regardless of where this movement goes, we have already earned a huge victory.

The biggest victory, to me, is that it’s okay to talk now. People are waking up, and while the physical occupations definitely help, people are talking now. It’s no longer taboo to talk about corporate greed in the media. It’s okay for people to come out and say that something is seriously wrong with our society. It’s okay for people to come out and say that they are sick and tired of struggling every day. It’s okay for people to come out and say that they want, that they demand change.

This is an enormous opportunity, we still have a lot of potential to grow and we would be fools to not keep working at it harder and harder. We cannot rest.

But let’s not pretend like we haven’t already changed the world.

So to all people who have been part of this movement – congrads and a job well done.

Civil Rights Tour – January 4-7 2012

October 14, 2011


This is my annual invitation to you about the January Civil Rights Tour.  The flyer giving information about content and cost is attached.
How does it work?  Well, the group will gather at the airport in Atlanta on the morning of January 4, and then board a chartered bus.  We will travel over the next 4 days across Alabama to Mississippi, and up the Delta to Memphis, Tennessee, and finally back to Atlanta.  Along the way we will be visiting sites where important events occurred during the Civil Rights Movement.  While on the road, the bus will be at various times a travelling seminar, a movie theatre, a participatory concert, and (thankfully) a nap room.
The people on the bus get to know each other pretty well, and often form lifelong friendships.  After 16 of these tours, I have never heard of anyone (out of over 400 participants) who regretted the experience.  A few members of the Psychology department have gone in past years, and I would like to encourage more of my colleagues and students to participate.  You will get some new insight into nonviolent problem solving strategies, meet incredible people who have been working for the betterment of their communities for years, and deepen your knowledge of psychology-relevant aspects of U.S. history and social change.
Students, if you would like to discuss academic credit for the tour, please see me for suggestions.
I hope you will consider joining us in January.
Warm regards,

Charles E. Collyer, Ph.D., Professor
Department of Psychology and Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies
University of Rhode Island

The Occupy Portland Model

October 13, 2011

September 26th, 2011 · Ella · Announcements

We’ve witnessed an exponentially growing list of communities that are banding together with our brothers and sisters on Wall St. by organizing solidarity actions in their cities. This rise in support has been incredibly inspiring and has promoted many of you to become active in organizing an event in your area. Through the enthusiasm and excitement of wanting to show your support you are all working diligently to organize events in a short amount of time. As we have followed some of theses group’s efforts we’ve seen many different approaches to organizing. We’ve also fielded many questions on advice and how to information on effectively organizing. We wanted to feature Portland as an example for those of you would like a model to follow or to take from as they have done a great job joining and organizing efforts in a very short amount of time. Of course, each group dynamic is going to vary and what worked for Portland may not work for you, but at least this will give you an idea of how others are doing it.

A couple of members from Portland filled us in on their process:

Basically it all comes down to networking and extensive planning. The initial construction of the Occupy Portland Facebook group was backed by some pretty frequent tweeting. Once we started getting a huge following, there were more and more discussions popping up on the Facebook group. We were discussing where it should be, what Portland laws were regarding “urban camping”, as well as a number of other concerns. We then held a General Assembly to further organize where were all in consensus with our future actions and demonstration details. After we compiled notes from the GA, we discussed them further on the Facebook group. Once we had the frame work of what everyone wanted and expected we set up a Facebook page and web site to better organize and announce future details.

Advice using Twitter:

Sending messages to those working at Occupy Wall Street was definitely helped us gain notice. People are heavily following #occupywallstreet, #takewallstreet, #usdor, as well as a number of other widely used hash tags. Each tweet sent out would include a tag with a trending tag, my city (#pdx) as well as a link to the facebook group.

Also we paid attention to the amount of followers people had, and mentioned them as well.

Portlanders were watching, so they were bound to jump on board once they knew about a protest here. Nearly all of us are using Twitter, so they used the same approach when spreading the group link around the internet.

Advice using Facebook:

We first started a Group that opened up discussion to hear out everyone’s ideas, concerns and thoughts on how they could help. This was a very important stage in our organizational efforts.

General Assembly:

I think the most important thing for us was using the General Assembly model and making each decision everyone’s decision. This helped us remain unified. Legal assistance, bike deliveries, medics, photographers, people who can stream the protest, and similar topics were brought up. We covered nearly all the bases, and most of us left with a pretty hefty amount of notes. Notes from the General Assembly were posted online on a page for everyone in the Portland group to see.

Legal Advice:

Contact your local National Lawyers Guild early on for legal advice in your area. We are holding a seminar with the National Lawyers Guild so that we can become versed in the proper execution of a demonstration like this. They have confirmed that legal observers will be present durring our demonstration. We are also planning to hold a meeting with them where we discuss the importance of nonviolence and the proper way to conduct oneself in civil disobedience.

Additional Thoughts:

It’s extremely important to make sure extensive preparation goes into a something this big. Some people have certain contacts who would be useful, others are volunteering to do a specific job. It all comes as we address what needs to be seen and done upon Occupation.

We stressed something several times: this needs to remain non-violent. Remaining peaceful helps the overall image of this nationwide movement. If things do become violent, we acknowledge that staying calm only helps the cause. If we have arrests then we will have the footage immediately uploaded. It helps those in NYC by showing that the cops are abusing our rights, and that this thing is nothing like the misleading media says.

Helpful Links:

nycga.cc Find up to date information on the NYC General Assembly.

occupywallst.org News, video feed, forum & chat.

http://nycga.cc/2011/09/24/principles-of-solidarity-working-draft/ Working Draft of the Principles of Solidarity


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