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#OccupySeattle Needs to Take Leave

October 25, 2011

Alright, this is it; what I believe to be my final, FINAL 2 cents on #OccupySeattle.  As regular readers already know, I not only write for the blog, but also for community newspapers, including Real Change.  Because of this (and the power of the Editor’s pen), different versions of what I write on the blog wind up in the paper.

Real Change’s Editor put this spin on it:

Occupy Seattle lacks the diversity and leadership needed to make a change”

An Editor from a separate paper came up with Occupy Seattle Needs to Take Leave, which I personally think captures my opinion a bitter better, though there’s nothing wrong with the RC headline either.

I’ve written about Occupy on the site before, but the following (final) article takes all of the concerns and issues I’ve considered, pointed out, and heard from others into one less-than-800-words article. When folks ask me to explain why I am against the Occupy movement, this is what I say:

It’s not the most popular opinion of late, but it needs to be said: The Occupy movement in its current form isn’t going to work.

Some are going to be mad at me for that. They’ll accuse me of being out of touch. They’ll say I don’t support “the people” or, the most ironic of them all, that I “don’t get it.”

Even if those things were true, it wouldn’t change the fact that Occupy misses the mark. Never was that more evident than over the weekend, when the local effort, known as Occupy Seattle, called for people to fill up Westlake Park.

But Occupy Seattle is failing at its mission: “…to focus elected officials and the voting public on the majority’s desire to take our government and country back from the big money interests that currently hold undue sway over decisions affecting us all.”

No comparison at all

Participants in the Westlake occupation say the location is critical because the area around the park — the shopping district — is Seattle’s Wall Street. Only, Seattle’s protesters aren’t impacting Seattle’s economy or the ability of businesses to function, just like New York’s protesters aren’t impacting the ability for corporations to make money on Wall Street.

If the goal of Occupy Seattle is really to focus elected officials on the plight of — and demands for change/accountability by the people — the campout at the park is a failed strategy. The cost of police overtime and city hall resources put into this matter is absorbed by the taxpayers, not corporations.

That’s not all. For some foggy reason, Occupy Seattle calls itself a “leaderless movement.” This strategy is the most self-defeating of them all. A movement without leadership lacks clear vision, strategy and message. Yet, for some reason, they claim leaderlessness and wear it like a badge of honor.

Many have claimed they mirror this effort on the “Arab Spring.” Newsflash: The revolution in Egypt had clearly defined leadership. They had a strategic plan. They had specified spokespeople.

In fact, there isn’t a single popular social-justice movement on the planet that succeeded while leaderless. It’s time to get real.

Occupy is something — I won’t say it’s not. But it cannot and should not be compared with incidents that persecuted, tortured and murdered countless people around the world in the fight for absolute freedom from military dictatorship.

No one is walking through the streets of Seattle or any other Occupy city with AK-47s, opening fire on random people. Neither is Occupy Seattle the “new” civil-rights movement, the Watts Riots or Tiananmen Square.

Doesn’t represent everyone

Finally, and this is crucial, even if ironic: The Occupy effort claims to represent the 99 percent of the population who are not the richest people in the country. But ask yourself this: What percentage of the 99 percent is deciding the trajectory of a movement that claims to represent nearly every human being in the entire country? A very small percentage is the answer, and it is not diverse; it is predominately white.

In the last week and a half, criticism of the lack of authentic diversity at Occupy Seattle has increased, with groups of people of color coming together to talk about it. Yet, the more it is brought up to the leaders of the leaderless movement, the more they fumble the issue.

Instead of working to find ways to genuinely include people of color in the process, Occupiers have turned to rationalizing the lack of color in the crowd. After all, Seattle is 70-percent white, so it’s only natural so few black and brown people would be there, right? And heck, race doesn’t matter, because we’re all in the same situation, right?


Just because a person of color is not in the top 1 percent, and a white person is not in the top 1 percent, does not mean they are in the same boat, and yes, race is an uncompromising factor.

People of color suffer at a disproportionate rate to their white counterparts. Take blacks, presently buried under nearly 17-percent unemployment and rising. Unemployment for whites is at 8 percent and falling.

People of color are feeling the brunt of the economic downturn, yet, particularly in Seattle, they overwhelmingly feel Occupy Seattle doesn’t represent them or their issues. They don’t want to sit in the park either because they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t feel included or they don’t feel it will make a difference. It’s certainly not because they “don’t get it.”

Time for ‘direct action’

Symbolic protests of solidarity do nothing to abate suffering. It doesn’t put people to work, feed children, keep the heat on or a roof overhead. It doesn’t help older members of our community stay in their homes or pay for their prescription medications.

To be sustainable, Occupy Seattle must take direct action on the specific issues impacting the city’s people — all of the city’s people.

Short of that, it’s time to leave the park.


One Comment leave one →
  1. David W. Townsend permalink
    December 19, 2011 6:13 pm

    Quite so, you are right. If only we knew what the “direct action” step should be.

    Ralph Adams Cram, the noted architect and part-time Jeremiah, eloquently denounced various socio-political evils, but also wished to point out a way forward. I enjoy his rather purple prose, as in this excerpt from his 1919 book “Walled Towns”:

    “It is not sufficient to hate the tawdry and iniquitous fabrications of the camp-followers of democracy; the gross industrial-financial system of ‘big business’ and competition, with the capital versus labour antithesis it has bred. It is not enough to curse imperialism and materialism and the quantitative standard. There must be some vision of the plausible substitute, and while this must determine itself slowly, through many failures, and will in the end appear as a by-product of the spiritual regeneration that must follow once the real religion and a right philosophy are achieved, there must be a starting somewhere.”

    Cram specified sacramentalism as a “right philosophy”, but was more vague on the subject of the real religion. His recommendations included bringing back the medieval guild system of labor. It might well be an improvement over the present-day mess!


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