I am currently down in the Bay Area on business, and I happened to see that OccupySF was setup across the street from where the conference I am attending is at. I decided to check it out, and see what was going on.
What I did see was actually really cool, and reminded me of what I saw 9 years ago in Vancouver when I heard about the Woodwards Squat on Vancouver Indymedia. I was super idealistic at the time, and a friend of mine who worked at a local Student Union in Prince George is like “This squat in Vancouver is insane, not even the fucking pigs are going to touch it man”. Except that he was wrong, by the time I got down there (I was there for totally different reasons), everyone was just evicted. I was totally an outsider to the whole thing, all I knew was that the DTES was this place where people pushed the poor, and that the poor pushed back. It did seriously change my outlook on the world, and most definitely for the better.
Anyway, back to Occupy SF. Occupy SF is really interesting, since it’s people camping out on the street for months on end. It’s also interesting, because once again I’m an outsider looking in. It’s not like all those years that I spent volunteering for shifts at Spartacus, or attending meetings, going to marches and protests, and building relationships with people, figuring out which people to trust, and which people are not worth anything. From the outside, it actually is surprisingly organized. However, the General Assembly was actually pretty chaotic, with people demanding process, and at times the people’s mic being used to slam down dissent by the majority yelling down the minority. The only difference between watching OccupySF work and watching Woodwards happen is that I’m more experienced now. I think that if done right, these occupy movements in the US could have some real, solid, results. Namely that they could change how people relate with one another, organize and it could make big wins in a huge number of areas, especially around housing and poverty.
As for OccupyVancouver, due to the fact that they organized a meeting at W2 Woodwards, and invited the VPD to attend, I haven’t attended any of their meetings. I’m disappointed to hear that the majority of the activists were white, and that nobody seriously brought up the police question, and namely why people felt it necessary to invite the VPD to the event, or even talk to the VPD at all. Furthermore, the fact that anyone who disagrees with the OccupyVancouver twitter account is deemed an agent provacateur, or violent and is someone to be excluded is ridiculous, and I drew a couple conclusions:
- OccupyVancouver claims that they didn't reach out to seasoned activists! - In fact, they did. Despite the fact that Chris Shaw sold out ORN after Heart Attack, and the fact that nobody really likes him anymore, he does have enough sense to not talk to the VPD. All that happened is that someone took this article from Rabble and said that he was misguided, implying that he was actually advocating violent overthrow of the state. Given the fact that Chris is one of the few directly offering these people help, it's amazing how he was discredited!</li>
- OccupyVancouver refers to people who ask for answers for real questions like "how do we deal with the police", and "who the hell invited them to our meeting anyway?" as coming from a fringe element</a></li>
- OccupyVancouver appears to be mostly white, middle-class people who have never broke the law in their life and seem to think that thinking violent thoughts, or writing about the possibility of violence is somehow violence. Sorry, but thoughtcrime is something we expect the state to prosecute, not a movement that is supposed to be inclusive. That's how you lose people!</li>
- OccupyVancouver seems to have leadership positions occupied by ex-Security Guards and ex-Military. In contrast, since it's Fleet Week in San Francisco, the facilitator at OccupySF asked the Navy to leave the General Assembly. It wasn't unanimous by any means, and people disagreed with it then (and now) but it was asked. Nobody who attended OccupyVancouver's GM asked for the cops to leave, and in fact based on how people respond on Twitter, that would probably never happen</li> </ol> The cool thing about Occupy is that when it's actually based on consensus decision making and when people start occupying right away, it works. When people have meetings in secret, invite the VPD an the Business Associations, and start telling off the Anarchists, it doesn't work. There are a lot of peculiar questions that need to be asked about OccupyVancouver.
- Why can't a single normal person use their twitter account? Min Reyes takes everything personally without justifying any opinions, and the new person running the account is sketcy.</li>
- Why are there all these out-of-town people involved in this. The domain is registered to someone who lives in Quallicum Beach, not Vancouver. The twitter account is now run by an ex Canadian Forces Intelligence Operator, which is spooky, since CF has done intel on activists during the G20. A lot of OccupyVancouver doesn't actually seem to be run by anyone who lives in town.</li>
- What will happen when the VPD arrests people for putting up tents in Vancouver? Is the leadership of OccupyVancouver (because there clearly is an executive branch) going to sell out anyone who broke the law because breaking the law is somehow violence?</li>
- Given the fact that members of OccupyVancouver have openly denounced any ideology that isn't their own, why should we bother attending THEIR action, since their action will most likely get anyone who disagrees with them arrested with false allegations since they are political enemies.</li>
- OccupyVancouver claims that they were unable to reach out to any experienced activists. I personally find that claim false, since many activists are high profile, and Vancouver, unlike a lot of places, has a radical bookstore that people still sometimes go to. If this was strictly online, perhaps I could see that, except that many people are visible online. I call bullshit on this as well</li> </ol> In short, OccupyVancouver STILL smells like a waste of time at best, and at worse a trap for the state to round up its enemies. They make decisions without going through their General Assembly when it's convenient for them, and force their opponents to go through the GA where they control the discussion. I'm glad that some people showed up to put through a token acknowledgement of being on unceded Coast Salish Territory, but honestly, given the fact that so many shady people are involved, I'd be extremely cautious about showing up on the 15th.