Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.
- Rosa Luxemburg, "Junius Pamphlet" 1916

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy Eugene

Occupy Eugene protestors organize at the U of O campus.

So, the Occupy Eugene General Assembly was last night.

Jillian and a friend show off signs we made the night before.

I've been to a lot of demonstrations and community organizing events, but never to something with quite this sort of energy. At maybe 200 attendees (not everyone was there at once, there was some turnover), it wasn't the biggest mass event I've seen, but it was the most active of its size I've encountered. The event wasn't very well organized initially, but there was much more spontaneous organization happening than I am accustomed to at these sorts of things. The organizers obviously intended to do committee breakouts, but what those comittees would be and who would "chair" them was decided on the spot, organically. People who obviously were not associated with the original planners took up leadership roles right away, directing people to the committee breakouts, talking to new arrivals, and passing out literature that they had brought or swapped with others.

Resarch Committee in action.

The committee breakouts actually accomplished many of the things they set out to discuss; I attended the "Research" breakout, tasked with developing a plan for gathering information about other Occupations around the country, what works for them, problems they've encountered, and how to make that information available to the rest of the group. Talk centered heavily on the website being developed by a handful of techie volunteers on donated server space, with special emphasis on installing an anonymous forum system to allow free sharing of information. Other breakouts included Public Relations, who were already fielding questions from the press who had beguin to show up in sizeable numbers, Sanitation, Morale, and Legal Concerns. Throughout I was impressed with how decentralized the leadership of everything was; an important characteristic for a group that can expect to run afoul of local law enforcement shortly.

The occupation itself is planned to begin on October 15, at a location to be determined. I am continuing to participate in this group, and will update as soon as I know more.Meanwhile, visit Occupy Eugene's website!


  1. Awesome. I think it's wise that you guys are doing some prep time before beginning the actual occupation.

    As a resource on organization, strategy, and tactics: I fervently recommend this:

    It's by the people who organized the Serb revolution against Slobodan Milosevic. It is relentlessly pragmatic and useful; my only quibble is that it uses Western business jargon too much, but that doesn't change it's usefulness.

    For a thorough list of resources for planning and organizing, see the International Center on NonViolent Conflict:

    Go with the gods. guys.

  2. Thanks for the well wishes and the resources, Ed! What's going on with Occupy Albuquerque?

  3. I just typed about 1500 words and then accidentally hit some keyboard combination or other that froze everything and wouldn't go away. So... a shorter version of the lost discourse follows.

    It's going well. The protesters have occupied a space at UNM and are discussing and planning in the same sort of bottom-up, organic, consensus, leaderless method you described. The occupation has established a good relationship with the university president's office and campus police, which helped overcome an early mini-crisis, in which it looked like the occupation might be ordered to disperse. There is still some possibility that UNM might prohibit a 24/7 occupation and require that everyone vacate the space overnight. Negotiations continue.

    Related point: I gather that the NYC protesters have been trying to build bridges with NYPD, despite the clashes that have occurred. The Tahrir Square movement in Egypt did this with the Egyptian army and security forces very successfully -- the protesters relentlessly emphasized that the military and police came from the same population as the protesters, facing the same fears, uncertainties, and hardships in everyday life. When the order came down from Mubarak to butcher the protesters, their earlier communication with the troops and police paid off -- because the massacre never happened.

    I wouldn't expect mass shootings in the U.S., but it would probably be a good idea for the occupations in various U.S. cities to start meeting, face-to-face, with the command staff of their local police departments, while also chatting up the rank-and-file cops who will be stationed nearby on the streets. Even if the cops don't give protesters everything they want, meeting with them in a face-to-face, human way can't hurt.

    Right now the big problem in Abq is infrastructure to support a permanent outdoor presence. It got really fucking cold here last night. And windy. This is something that protests in the temperate Middle East and warm European summer didn't have to deal with, but the U.S. occupations are going to have to face. Occupy Abq is talking about setting up some sort of shelter(s) that goes beyond just tents. They're collecting donations of blankets, sleeping bags, flashlights, food, water, clothing, and so on. A nearby used bookstore is offering bathrooms and electricity (for phones and computers, I suppose).

    Decision-making assemblies take place each evening at 6:00. Yesterday it was decided that Saturday's big event will be a "die in" against the war in Afghanistan. I personally don't agree with this decision. I would rather keep the focus on economics and avoid stereotypical "hippie" anti-war imagery that could alienate potential middle/working class support. On the other hand, I might be wrong, because there's obviously a lot of dissatisfaction in the non-academic left about the wars and how they affect ordinary people and their families and friends.

    On a related point, I'd be curious to know what Occupy Abq is doing to get support from local unions and other progressive groups that could offer material support, bodies, and morale-boosting. Not to mention advice from the ACLU on legal aspects of occupying public space.

    I've been following it all by the internet, for the most part, because school takes up so much time. Will try to go to the General Assembly at 6:00 tonight, though. And I have some clothes and such that I can donate.

    So we'll see what happens! Good luck up there