[Note: Please feel free to copy, alter or distribute.]
Hello fellow Occupiers,
First of all, for the sake of the movement and its progress I strongly support all those willing to form a contingent of any size to stay in the camp and face arrest come Sunday morning. Although many in the public will be relieved the parks have been cleared (however temporarily) and others view it as a blow or setback for OP, if those remaining are peaceful as well as steadfast in the face of all police action, any outcome will be an overall benefit, increasing our overall visibility and presence in the media and public consciousness. What happens at 3 or 4am Sunday morning after the police have left, whether to reoccupy the park or not, is something which I think no individual person or even OP itself can control. That being said, I think the scheduled clearing of the camp is the perfect opportunity for the adoption of new tactics in the spirit of the idea of “Occupy 2.0.” Below are some realities I feel the movements faces, and some options for what could come next.
Given that, as an Occupy movement we must occupy something, as well as:
a) With talk of occupying multiple parks simultaneously, there’s some idea floating around that our resources are unlimited. We need to be realistic, but still reach for greatness. Our ideas hold infinite power, but our personnel/popular support and logistical capacity is not currently sufficient for action like that. Moreover, spreading ourselves thin (in any way) presents the police with an obvious advantage when it comes to closing down individual parks and arresting smaller numbers of campers. We are strongest when we are united, at our most diverse and out in force of numbers.
b) A portion of the public’s negative reactions to our occupation(s) have stemmed from perception (correct or not) that OP caused significant damage to the parks, presented a public safety risk and cost taxpayers money (in the form of police presence and park cleanup/repair). Conversely, these concerns provide a major strategic resource: we will grow in public support if we use principles of sustainability and occupy without doing damage or putting undue stress on already strained City resources (or even to save the City money, so as to focus on funding other essential services); many already with avowed sympathy with our cause would be swayed to our side. There is reason to believe this represents a large segment of the general population.
c) It is getting colder. As the temperature continues to drop, the chances of someone in a long-term camp freezing to death increases, and the reality of long-term logistics for such a camp become infinitely more complex.
d) As occupiers, community members and human beings, we (in our strength of numbers) have not just an obligation but a fantastic opportunity to fill a serious need obviously vacated by national, state and local gov’t. — that of feeding, sheltering and/or otherwise assisting and lending our aid (material, emotional, political and otherwise) to the housing-insecure and those cast aside.
e) At this time OP’s weakness is not in self-policing, nor in muddled messaging, but in outreach. This movement is not just a movement, or an occupation, but is the seed of national discussion. If we self-represent as the 99%, it behooves us to resemble the 99% more than in name. We’ve done a good job of this, peaceful egalitarianism (talk about your basic human values) being at the root of our movement, but need to recapture the diversity present in the first marches. As much of the occupation’s power as possible must be invested in arms of promotion (there doesn’t have to be a limit to how many or what form they take). Sunday’s amazingness was a testament to the hard work so many occupiers have done, forsaking jobs, school, families, friends and the comforts of home to do so. Let’s continue that trend.
I feel that:
1) We need to redouble our focus on non-violence, and add to that objective improvement of the public good and employment of fully sustainable practices. In other words, we need to do what corporations are not doing: take care of the environment, take care of people, improve or at least cast no footprint where we’ve been, clean up after ourselves and contribute demonstrably, altruistically and wholly to the public good. This could include everything from cutting out all food packaging in the kitchen to forming a permanent cleanup squad before/after events to discouraging people from putting out cigarette butts on the ground.
Perhaps efforts in this vein would even reduce or eliminate police presence at our gatherings. [Edit: realism.] (b, d)
2) Rather than occupy a specific park through the winter, organize rotating daily marches and overnight sit-ins at various parks in the Metro region. These overnight or short-term sit-ins operate on a changing basis so as to reduce physical and environmental impact on the site (and to, by peacefully assembling in changing locations, reduce chance of police action). For the marches, we come out en masse to create visibility, rally, talk to folks, draw them out, march in their neighborhoods and set up temporary camp in a different park/area each day, hold evening GAs and have all-night civic issue debates, cuddle-ins, political philosophy readings, quiet dance parties, etc. As daily action we organize free events for the benefit of all citizens including bank action marches, picketing bad corporate citizens, putting on concerts like the one at Pioneer Square, community-wide potlucks and swaps, public food tours and gardening info sessions, skill seminars, Reclaim The Streets actions, film screenings, local credit union/local biz events, trash pick-ups, vacant housing reclamation, repainting homes, fundraisers for those in danger of being foreclosed on, etc. These are all basic elements of community, humanism and civic duty which a Civil Society should provide but which ours presently does not. (a, b)
3) Reach out to all not currently involved. Tap into the underground wellspring of public support we certifiably (and as of Sunday, demonstrably) enjoy. More street team, media and outreach committee focus. This could include door-to-door, community discussions, co-organizational events, etc. Give bike advocates, fiscal conservatives, public health advocates, families, downtown office workers and those living out past 82nd or over the West Hills more reason and opportunity to march and act with us, and work with existing groups of citizens with common cause. As we (along with other strategies) do more events for the public benefit, spread march routes all over the city and manifest the ideal of benefiting the public good, others will attract. (At this point, if OP or OWS achieves critical mass, it won’t matter what or where we occupy. We will have all the people with us. Who will arrest us if the police are with us?) Perhaps a rather important element to outreach is to allow more people (in fact, hundreds upon hundreds just here in town, if not more), who sympathize and want to help but are somehow unable, to participate via internet. (a, c, e)
4) Contribute demonstrably and constantly to improving the plight of those on the street, addicted to drugs and emotionally troubled. To start with, we need to take care of our many housing-insecure (or volitionally nomadic), and otherwise vulnerable friends, continue to work closely with them and to help fill the need gap (in keeping with idea 1). If this means setting up clean, well-organized R2D2 spinoffs in vacant lots around the city and large public food gardens, so be it. As part of outreach, and part of events, we can march with them, visit shelters, squats and encampments to break bread with those staying there, deliver donated goods/gear or medical supplies to rehab clinics, crowdsource people’s bail, etc. (d)
5) Maintain some office space (on top of all other occupations decided on). We need a warm and dry place for computers and equipment to function, to organize large-scale events (like in 1-3), and for GAs when it is too unpleasant out. If we add an online participatory model to the GA, we can run broader-based GAs within a given space (to accommodate all those who choose to be physically present). (c, e)
6) At winter’s end, we can begin talking about re-occupying something longterm, when we have the logistical experience and widespread popular support under our belts (or at least improving). (c)
Remember the key is to build a widespread, peaceful and sustainable movement!
Of course, the great thing about this popular consensus model and movement is that if there are good reasons for us to stop doing something we’re trying out, or to start doing something differently, that option is always open to us. (And additionally, we can continue doing all the many things that have and continue to work!) So I hope that this and any other suggestions generated or decided on in the coming weeks regarding the future of this movement will carry with them the caveat that we can always reconsider. But we have such a huge opportunity to take this to Occupy Portland 2.0 that I could not resist sharing my ideas.
If this movement is an organism, it was conceived October 6 and born on Sunday. Now, let’s help it learn to walk and talk!
Thanks for your time!
[Note: This is a living document. Changes will be made (see below).
Edit Nov 10: Yeah. I definitely had two #4s and two letter ‘d’s in those lists. Whoops. Results of being rushed ‘to press.’ Fixed. Also I’ve gone through and cleaned up a bit here and there.
Edit Nov 14: Edited for timeliness, as clearing has already occurred.]