Practical Activism in 2013: One Occupier’s View

Below is a presentation one of OCV’s occupiers gave regarding his view of the current practice of activism and the Occupy Movement at a recent VFP Memorial Day luncheon.

“I am happy to report that, despite non-stop media coverage to the contrary, Occupy is alive and kicking and more effective than ever.  And, despite nationwide coverage of five people in funny hats in front of the IRS building, the Tea Party isn’t.”

“As activists, we must also be pragmatists.  We have to step back and ask ourselves, from time to time:  “Are we being effective?  Is our message being heard?  Are we making the positive changes that we want?  If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is often no.  Times have changed but many us have not.  Many of us are still stuck in the 60s.  We assume that marching and carrying signs is enough.  If we are honest, however, we must admit that we need to go back to the drawing board and update our tactics.”

“A little background.  I am one of those 60s activists.  I helped to organize the first Wall St. demonstration to protest the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. The NY Times called it the “Wall St Massacre”.   Was it a successful action?  By 60s standards, maybe so. We broadcast our message through major media. Would it work now?  Probably not.  Bloomberg would have the area in front of Treasury kettled off and protestors would be forced to a “free speech zone”. If they resisted, NYPD would wait until midnight and, then with the coordination of Homeland Security, would arrest the protestors with media denied access to the arrests.  There would be little mention of the arrests on the corporate media and America would tune out to watch reality shows and Dancing with the Stars.” 

“Can’t happen here? It did happen here. These same tactics were used to falsely arrest 7,000 Occupy activists nationwide, with little outrage; ninety five % of the charges were later dropped, but it didn’t matter.  The Constitution had been shredded, the activists demoralized, and the American public remained largely unaware of the erosion of their civil rights. Police response to activism has changed since the 60s.  The Patriot Act and the NDAA have created the possibility of a paramilitarized police presence.” 

“So how do activists respond in 2013?” 

1) “Always accept the precepts of Gene Sharp* (handout) and base all direct action on non-violence. The only sensible behavior against overwhelming force is non-violence.  Your rock is meaningless against an Apache helicopter or a drone and will be used as justification for violence on the part of the State.”

2) “Make sure that your direct actions are meaningful, by targeting a social, political, economic or environmental injustice that has local relevance.”

3)  “Become more of an expert on the subject than the groups causing the injustice.”

4) “Have a practical solution that can be presented to the public in direct action.”

5) “Use local media and the Internet to magnify your message.  Prepare professional press releases, videotape, blog, get creative and dramatize, write/perform songs, post on social media and YouTube, but frame the narrative, have a well-prepared message and spokespeople to give interviews.”

“As illustration of these 5 rules of effective activism, I offer you the Direct Action Committee Report presented at yesterday’s General Assembly:”

             DIRECT ACTION COMMITTEE REPORT 5/26/13

1)   Prior consent: 

a) Co-sponsor David Cobb speech on “Creating Democracy and Challenging Corporate Rule” at Crystal Fantasy 6/12 with Move-to-Amend.

b) Pass out brochures DHS Saturday, ABC, Kmart, Vons & Staters. 

c) Financial support for VFP luncheon.

2)   VFP luncheon. Noon, Monday, May 27

3)   A Better City for DHS.  Brochuring.  (Report Chuck, Bob, Rosie)

4)   Stonewall Democratic meeting (report Tracy)

5)   Occupy Dept. of Justice, D. C. mortgage action (report Deb)

6)   Drones (report Steve F.)

7)   Food not Bombs Monsanto action.  (Report from Carolyn, Tracy?)

8)   DSUSD work action (report Gabrielle)

9)   OurWalmart action.  La Quinta, Thursday 5/30 at 5 pm.

*For Gene Sharp’s precepts on non-violence, click on this link: 198 Methods of Non-Violent Action

For more information on Gene Sharp, see his book, “From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation,” widely disseminated and used during the Arab Spring, pdf available at this link: From Dictatorship to Democracy  or go to http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations9173.html

Food, Not Bombs Co-Founder Keith McHenry to Speak

 Elect to End Hunger & Poverty

You can change our world!

THE ELECT TO END HUNGER AND POVERTY TOUR

with Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry

Food Not Bombs, more than a meal, we are a movement with a message. A presentation sure to inspire your community to take action and change lives.

Thursday January 31, 2013 7pm

Crystal Fantasy

268 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA  92262

Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry will share the story, principles and current activities of the movement including the participation by volunteers in the occupations. Keith will also invite the audience to participate with their local activist groups. This is a great way to inspire participation in your local social justice community.

Most people would elect to end hunger and poverty but many of those elected to political office have another agenda, cutting social services while transferring our tax dollars to wealthy military contractors and their corporate friends. Food prices are increasing as crops fail because of the climate crisis. Oxfam and the UN are reporting that hunger will be on the increase leading to civil unrest and violent police repression. The industrial food system is not only causing millions of animals to suffer but is directly responsible for an increase in hunger and climate change gasses.

Food Not Bombs is responding to the economic, ecological and political crisis by recovering, preparing and sharing vegan meals and groceries with the hungry in nearly 1,000 communities. Many have expressed that the presentation was an inspiration saying that they were moved to participate in efforts like Food Not Bombs, Food Not Lawns, Homes Not Jails, the Food Not Bombs Free Skool and other exciting projects.

Editor’s Note: What follows is an interview with Keith McHenry

 “An Interview with an American Visionary” from the August 2012 People’s Tribune, By Chuck Parker

People’s Tribune: How did Food Not Bombs get started?

Keith McHenry: Back in 1980, when I started to collect the discarded produce from my job at Bread and Circus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I looked for people that might enjoy free food. I found a cluster of dilapidated public housing buildings a few blocks east of the grocery. Groups of skinny children and their mothers huddled in the cold on the steps of these broken buildings in the shadow of a group of modern glass towers where scientists were busy designing guidance systems for intercontinental nuclear missiles. This sure made it clear that what people really needed was food not bombs.

PT: How do you get your message out?

Keith: By sharing free food without restrictions, we illustrate the fact that there is an abundance of the things we need, and that scarcity is a fiction that benefits a small minority. By always sharing our literature with the free meals under our banner of Food Not Bombs, we seek to educate the public with a message about the national priorities of the U.S., pointing out that half the Federal budget is spent on the military while millions go hungry every day.

PT: What about the new laws against sharing food in public?

Keith: Yes, it’s gotten so much worse than it was in the 90’s. For example, why do you think cities like Philadelphia and Houston have passed laws against sharing food outdoors? These are cities with huge homeless populations and terrible poverty. They are trying to make you go inside so no one will see you. We have really active Food Not Bombs chapters in these cities, and we expect to be arrested, but we are getting prepared. We can’t change things if we don’t risk arrest.

PT: How are you preparing?

Keith: You build lots of super, super support by being well organized and staying committed to non-violence. With more outreach which illustrates that the government and the corporations don’t have your interests at heart, it will make the movement bigger every time they attack you.

PT: What will be going on at your World Gathering outside the Republican Convention in Tampa August 20-26?

Keith: Besides feeding the protesters, we will have entertainment such as puppet shows and street theater and music. We will be evaluating problems that have come up in the Occupations, and how to regroup. One of our most important workshops will be on improving intergroup communication.

PT: How can people find out about the gathering and what can they look forward to?

Keith: The occupations of 2011 could be the initial step in the journey towards a post capitalist society based on compassion and mutual aid. Instead of acting as a charity, we are feeding the movement to end the policies that cause poverty and hunger. The next thirty years could be crucial to building a free and sustainable future. Help us make the changes we need. For more information go to: www.foodnotbombs.net/gatherings

Please go to www.peoplestribune.org  to read the complete interview.

Read Keith McHenry’s new book: “Hungry for Peace: How you Can Help End Poverty and War with Food Not Bombs.” www.foodnotbombs.net