|Occupy Poster by Rich Black|
I've been following some of the do's and festivities outside the conventions via that exciting new feature of something known as "the Intertubes" that someone has dubbed "the Livestreams," and it's been both surprising and satisfying (in some ways) that the "Occupy" presence is relatively minor. It's not absent; Occupy is the base of operations, encampment, and Protest Services in a sense, and the Occupy interest in shaming the banking sector is always appropriate and on display -- especially in a place like Charlotte which is nothing but a Banking Sector.
I'm surprised at the relatively low number of participants in the demonstrations, however. Most of the demonstrations and marches I've seen so far in both Tampa and Charlotte attract numbers in the low hundreds, some far fewer. There have been a few that attract a thousand or even two thousand. But it is nothing at all like the numbers of protesters we became used to at previous political conventions. This seems to be a deliberate strategy, by the way, by having a protest presence at (or rather, relatively near) the conventions, but not making a big deal of protesting at the conventions.
Whether that strategy was developed at/by Occupy Tampa or Charlotte or anywhere else, I can't say; the strategic discussions I'm aware of tend to either be about Big Picture or about minutiae, and the only events being discussed among the groups I'm still involved in were/are the Occupy National Gathering and the upcoming S17 Anniversary.
The conventions don't figure in those discussions at all.
After the really outrageous behavior of the police and authority in general at the 2008 conventions in Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul, it's no wonder. There were thousands of protesters and there were also mass arrests, pre-crime arrests, raids on participants, police attacks on peaceful protesters, massive police presence, and a general atmosphere of repression. Much of it was sickening. It was emblematic of how sick our political system had become by then, but for those in the midst of the repression, it wasn't emblematic of anything but the fact that they were being beat down, gassed, pummeled, arrested, and locked in cages for days.
The relatively low number of participating protesters in Tampa and Charlotte means that the massive police presence and their fancy Po-Po Troopers get ups looks -- and is -- silly. Oops. This was manifest in Tampa where formations of Po-Po Troopers marched hither and thither for some reason that nobody could figure out, and became an object of mockery and derision that went far beyond the usual choruses of the "Imperial Storm Troopers March" one hears whenever the RoboCop contingent appears.
When Po-Po Troopers by the hundreds protected the Westboro Baptist Church marchers (all eight of them) from the dozen or so Dirty Fucking Hippies (and the many dozen more camera people) in Tampa, the point of all this martial display was suddenly lost, and so far as I know, the the protective services at the Tampa convention never again dressed as if they were Going Off To War, and there were very few hostile confrontations with police afterwards. The most effective demonstration I saw via the live stream in Tampa was the Silent March Against Police Brutality during which there was a silent standoff with police at a blocked intersection, a confrontation that was resolved when the police backed down.
What? They backed down?
That's sure what it looked like. First time in a long time I've seen that at a major demonstration.
Most of the participants in the demonstrations at the conventions -- at least the participants in the demonstrations that have been covered by Nate and Tim, the two live streamers I've been following -- have appeared to be anarchists or their supporters. I'm sure there are many others involved in protests I haven't seen or have only seen bits and pieces of. Code Pink is there, Veterans for Peace is there, Planned Parenthood is there, immigrant rights groups and many, many other organizations are represented in the streets. Anarchists are featured in part because they have been crucial participants in Occupy from the outset, and partly because they seem to be the ones who are the most actively and consistently demonstrating.
But there are not -- and never have been -- a lot of them.
What they lack in numbers they make up for in energy, determination and enthusiasm. And don't forget the endless argument and dispute over which route to take now.
But so far as I can tell, the Occupy presence is generally quite small, and it appears to form something of a logistics hub. In its own way, this is consistent with the evolution of Occupy since the violent police raids and repression last year. This caused the dispersal of the "Occupy" idea and Movement far and wide, to the point where it is now pervasive, essentially everywhere. The creativity and innovation that characterized some of the encampments has now become an inspiration for alternative development, demonstration and idea generation in numberless low-key activist camps, squats, hostels, farms, and urban settings. It's everywhere. And no one can be unaware of the effect the Occupy Movement has had on our perceptions of the economic peril we all live under thanks to the renegade banks and the government that serves them. Names and faces have been put to that peril. Powerlessness is no longer an option, nor even an excuse any more.
The Peace Movement, the Immigrant Rights Movement, the Environmental Movement and the Worker Rights/Union Movement have all benefited from the efforts of Occupy to highlight their importance to the future of the country and of mankind. Occupy has been at the center of their resurgence.
But strangely there are still those who expect Occupy to form some kind of political bloc and to press their case (for what?) in the political arena, and they won't do it. The whole point of Occupy from the beginning has been to defy that system, to work outside it, and to develop alternatives to it.
The idea of Occupy becoming a political bloc, then, is absurd.
But those inside the political system cannot imagine Occupy not doing it, and so they are still puzzled at what Occupy "wants".
It's not about "wants" -- it's about doing.