Hello comrades, sorry for the long absence away from these message boards. Skype discussions have been my main platform lately--- make sure to add me, my handle is “ pI2pgnda ” (thats an “I” and the no. “2”)
Anyways, I have continued my involvement with the Occupy movement since my last posts, as paradoxical as that might seem to many. On Tuesday, Occupy Greensboro went up to Washington DC. I wasn't really sure what to expect, I wouldn't have been surprised by your typical anti-war, anti-globalization demonstration of 200,000+. Instead what we got was diehard “Occupiers” from all up and down the East coast and a few from the Mid-west. I'd say 10,000 people is a good estimate, probably more towards the conservative side. The media was reporting much less. It had the feeling that it was a sort of Occupy convention, I remember that being my initial impression of the crowd.
Ok so after arriving and picking up a few bites to eat, we headed back to the capitol lawn. A number of those in my group scheduled appointments to talk with our congressmen and senators, and as far as I know an aide was the most anyone got to speak with. More on that in a second.
The cops had lined up along the main walkways, as to keep them open for any officials coming in or out of the Capitol building. This of course became a main source of tension between the Capitol police and the protesters intent on causing confrontation between the two groups. The first arrest happened when some people were crossing lines they were clearly told not to, seemingly with the purpose of simply disobeying the cops. However, there were 3-5 arrests that I witnessed which were unwarranted, mostly happening around the arrival of retired Philly Police Capt. Ray Lewis, whom the police attempted to arrest and ultimately ended up detaining for the better half of an hour.
In the early Afternoon, a core group of anarchists who I detracted were the events organizers (recognized more than a few of them from Zuccotti park) called everyone in for a GA. I have to say it was really energizing when all the banners from the different Occupies turned facing each other. Everyone who was there had to be quite committed to the cause, even if it was a largely misguided one--- future revolutionaries one day perhaps. After some practice with “the peoples mic”, the GA officially kicked off. The core organizers gave some introductions, stating that the intended purpose of the events was for “Occupations” to further coordinate, as well as to take our regions malcontent directly to our representatives in the federal legislative system. After the GA we broke up into “smaller” groups of 50-75 with the topics ranging widely. Most became dominated by people just soap-boxing really, but there was one in particular that I participated in at length that I will mention more on shortly.
I have two main criticisms of the GA. The first being the insistence on using “the peoples mic”/hand signals, and the second being that halfway through the Police began arresting people a couple hundred yards away and they did not break the GA for this, even for the initial confusion to subside. A couple hundred kinda lost their place and sorta drifted around confused until the next collective action kicked off. All the while there is a microphone and PA system right next to us which they had been using for live music all day.
The small discussion group that caught my attention was on the topic “Diversity of tactics” and consisted of each person around the circle stating their name, origin, and one tactic they could thing of which occupy could use. I think that I was literally the only one who mentioned any kind of industrial action. While my small discussion groups was just one of many, you couldn't help but notice the complete absence of that discussion.
After a short rally and some more music/food, we reconvened collectively on the Capitol lawn. The time had come for the appointments with the senators in congressmen, which were in the buildings just blocks away. People were guided to the buildings where their congress peoples offices were, and what resulted is about 3000-5000 people simultaneously trying to enter three buildings with quite strict security. Initially the police were very oppositional to our entry. After it was proven and reiterated that all our appointments were scheduled weeks in advanced (how they did notice hundreds of these meetings beforehand, I don't know I assume it relates to winter recess) they began letting people in one by one with rigorous security checks all the while other government officials were brought to the forward. People were getting pushy, I'm sure there was an arrest or two for any given reason.
An hour or so later, the majority of us got in the actual congress buildings. It was a weird feeling, walking around with these high ceilings, ancient portraits and memorabilia, senators and aides walking around. And then there was us--- a bunch of liberals, radicals, and scraggily looking (mostly) young people roaming around with an adventurous yet slightly mischievous grin on our faces. I'm sure business for the day was interrupted, and I don't think one senator met with us face to face. What result was a lot of protesting in the offices of the senators to their aides, which was quite entertain I have to say. For many it was an opportunity to see how little common folk have to do with this “democracy”, and for others simply an opportunity to say “fuck you” to “the man” right in his own face.
Later in the evening we had a big rally, which briefly occupied the front steps of the Supreme court (which is actually illegal to trespass) and also the tourist areas in front of the White House. When we got to the White House, people kinda of lost it a bit--- climbing the fence/trees, throwing stuff in the lawn. The security reaction was pretty intense, a bunch of secret servicemen with assault rifles came out and began yelling at us from across the fence. At some point a smoke grenade was fired, people scattered, and the media later blamed the smoke on the protesters. Riot police showed up, and people left fearing arrest.
After that we loaded up the bus and went home. Quite a typically DC protest, some of the older heads in our group related it to Bush I era anti-Iraq War protests. I would agree it had that 90's-00's anti-globalization feel, but I think the sense that the tone is starting to change was definitely there. One thing I didn't see--- any of those “official” protest groups funded by the Democrats, they usually come to these sorts of things with a somewhat large presence. Moveon.org, etc were completely absent. So to wrap it up, lots of youthful idealism and commitment, but not much in the way of substantial revolutionary rhetoric. The one positive thing was that many people must have had an epiphany about representative “democracy” in this country, but whether or not x-amount of people overcame the illusions of electoralism I can't say exactly.
Personally, I'm starting to view Occupy as an anarchist attempt at a mass populist organization/party, ironically unknowingly to many of the participants. Its faults are near to intentional ones, sustained by some misguided individuals influenced by Maoism on one hand and Syndicalism on the other. It might be productive to seek out the power players who conceived of this movement up in NYC and opening some theoretical dialogue with them. In other words, it would be necessary to critique the hell out of OWS' main anarchist influences.