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#OccupySeattle: The Michael Keaton of Pacific Heights

November 14, 2011

Last month I wrote about the growing failings of the Occupy Seattle movement, and the Occupy movement in general.

I said Occupy is a failed effort that lacks among other things, organization, unified messages and overall purpose- aside from taking up space, demanding attention and stroking each other’s misguided interpretation of revolution, Occupy, especially in Seattle, isn’t actually doing much to create the change it claims to want so desperately.

A month later, the same observations ring true, and despite my willingness to constantly re-evaluate not just my position but also Occupy’s effectiveness, alas…things have only gotten worse.

A few weeks ago Occupy Seattle voted to move from Westlake Park to Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill. The college responded by immediately notifying organizers their presence was not welcome and strongly discouraged them from setting up camp.

The effort failed, in part because the community college offers a legal loophole (camping on the school grounds is not illegal) and in part because once they set their minds to moving, and although the college and countless Capitol Hill residents voiced their opposition, Occupy Seattle was unwilling to do the one thing that often allows for avoiding failure; they wouldn’t change their minds.

And so, promising to be the bestest neighbors ever, Occupy Seattle moved to Seattle Central. It has resulted in a PR nightmare for the group, which didn’t have the best public perception to begin with.  SCC says Occupy is a menace which causes the school a whopping twenty thousand dollars a day in extra security, cleanup crews and repairs to school property. I can’t think of a better reason SCC could have to throw those protesters off their lawn- except that pesky state law; Occupy is suddenly the Michael Keaton of Pacific Heights.  The school can’t toss them out and could face legal ramifications if they tried. Instead, it has to go on under this forced occupation, picking up all the costs that come with it- not particularly ideal given the state’s revenue shortfalls and its impact on higher education.

Occupy Seattle is spiraling out of control, hurting itself much more than it is spreading its message and raising support. Over the weekend a group of protesters crashed a pro Occupy Wall Street forum at Town Hall, derailing the program and sending their own supporters in the audience running for the door. Even though Occupy Seattle was represented on the panel, it disrupted the event because, according to the Stranger, they opposed the “power dynamic” created by having speakers up on a stage using microphones. Oh, the horror.

The issue of representation in Occupy still exists.  Many insist minorities have more than enough representation amongst Occupy and its leaderless leadership, but others disagree and maintain the People of Color caucus is the only way the issues impacting POCs are heard and maintained. Last week they sponsored an event with Seattle’s “Hip Hop Occupy” slated to “redefine” protests and self-determination. This included a march, a gathering at Westlake Park, and a demand that Horace Mann School on Cherry in the Central District be given to a community program not currently housed there.  Protesters were called upon to occupy the building. Those who attempted to do so were taken to jail.

When I delved into Occupy last month, I received a lot of virtual high fives from people that agreed with me.  I also received a lot of boos from those who not only didn’t agree, but didn’t feel I was qualified to speak on the subject.  One reader emailed me and said by my age alone I’m not qualified to speak on social justice, and that I should respect Occupy movements because their organizers have been fighting the good fight longer than I’ve been alive (which doesn’t account for the quality of fighting).

But by definition, I am a part of the 99%. Thus this movement, and those protesters who claim their efforts are on my behalf, have a responsibility to listen to those who do not agree with them, and instead of shouting them down or insulting their intelligence (or age) should make a good faith effort to listen and make changes as needed. The ongoing refusal to do at least as much is why Occupy Seattle will continue to lose.  They’ve become a small, controlling group eager to shun and marginalize anyone who doesn’t blindly follow their leaderless road-to-nowhere.

Leaving Westlake Park wasn’t enough. It’s time to pack up the tents and go home altogether.



10 Comments leave one →
  1. Wildflower permalink
    November 19, 2011 10:41 am

    I don’t know if I could be more disappointed after reading anything in Real Change News as I am after reading your take on the Occupy Movement, Sable. I am a 20-something elementary school teacher in Seattle working with at-risk students. I have participated on several occasions in Occupy Seattle events. Most recently, I marched with them on Tuesday in the University District for the National Day of Action. My question to you is: have you participated? Have you gone down to voice your opinions in person? Because if you do, they will be heard.

    I also wanted to mention that my voice at the National Day of Action last Thursday was influenced by a speech I attended the night before at Green River Community College. Dr. Cornel West spoke on the reasons why he supports the Occupy Movement. His thoughts align with mine and so many others – this movement is about justice. It cannot fit in narrow bureaucratic hallways as no large movement (civil rights, sufferage, etc.) have, so it’s time that people take to the stress. West also reminded his audience on Wednesday night that when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the vast majority of Americans (including 55% of African Americans) disapproved of his actions and beliefs. That fact is so relevant today, Sable. I hope you take it into account when you consider your role in history. You are now taking on a role of opposition to change. Your voice is loud – louder than most voices in the 99%. You have a responsibility to look at things through a really clear lens. You have to think now of what role in history YOU are going to play. You have to decide whether you will continue to see arbitrary bureaucratic process and fiscal mismanagement as reasons to continue to oppose the movement OR if you will take your thinking out a step further and join the rest of us in a fundamental stand against oppression, corporate greed, inequality, and INJUSTICE.

    The last thing I wanted to address is that you spoke of this so-called $20K a day cost to SCCC due to the Occupy movement being on their property. I felt slightly embarrassed for you as I read that fact in your column – could you not have given your readers some kind of glimpse into that cost analysis? Did you not take a glimpse into it yourself? How could anyone (besides Kim Kardashian) spend TWENTY THOUSAND dollars a day hauling away garbage and standing guard? Damage to the property? WHAT damage to the property? I have been there, walked through the encampment, and saw no damage, Sable. If it is true, that SCCC is spending $20K per day to let people camp out on their lawn, there is some deep fiscal mismanagement going on. Did this not occur to you? How can you throw out a number like 20K without giving your reader some further details? Anyway…

    Since moving to Seattle a few years ago, I have heard your voice constantly, Sable. Between KBCS and Real Change, your voice has been a staple in my family’s life. I have agreed on many issues with you over the years… But I regret to tell you that with your stance on Occupy Seattle, I am now leaning away from you. I am greatly disappointed. Please consider attending an Occupy Seattle movement and sharing your voice in person. You will see that this movement is nothing without informed and creative voices behind it. No one can be blamed for your ideas not being represented except YOU. Take a stand for justice, Sable.

  2. Wildflower permalink
    November 19, 2011 11:20 am

    That was supposed to be “it’s tim ethat people take to the STREETS” (not stress).

  3. November 23, 2011 9:23 pm

    Hi Molly,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. On this topic, we agree to disagree.

    “No one can be blamed for your ideas not being represented except YOU.”

    My ideas are represented. I have multiple newspaper columns where I represent my ideas very clearly. I do not need to attend (though I HAVE) General Assembly meetings to feel like I’m being heard, or to seek external validation for my thoughts or opinions.

    2nd issue: “Take a stand for justice, Sable.” Well now that’s just passive aggressive and completely baseless. I stand for justice in my sleep, let along my daily life. I don’t have to go camp out at OS to prove that, or to get you or anyone else there to validate that I live my life in this way.

    3rd issue: If you’re not happy with the $20k number, talk to the college, they came up with it.

    4th issue: MLK has nothing to do with OS and invoking him sways me not one bit.

    5th issue, and please, feel free to be an ally and take this up with your fellow protesters. I am not welcome at Occupy Seattle. Even though constructive (and whether you like it or agree with it or not, as I’ve presented viable ideas that others have presented as well, my criticism IS constructive) criticism strengthens ANY movement, instead what your fellow OS folks have chosen to do is threaten me and send me racist emails CONSTANTLY. In fact, I just received another one before beginning this reply.

    As upset as y’all are about being smacked around by police and peppersprayed in the face and how you see that as a threat to democracy, those folks you stood shoulder to shoulder with? Yeah some of them are racist. Some of them would rather insult and intimidate a woman of color to get her to shut her mouth, rather than RESPECTING HER DEMOCRATIC RIGHT TO SPEAK HER MIND, WHETHER THEY AGREE OR NOT.

    Have I been critical of OS? Damn right. Have I threatened any of them? Nope.
    Have I threatened to come to their homes? Nope.
    Have I threatened to do something to them if they show their faces around MY HOUSE? Nope.
    Have I approached people who know people organizing OS in an effort to get their home addresses? Nope.

    I have done none of that. All I have done, is exercise my right to speak my mind, and I’ll tell you what, I don’t give a damn if OS folks like it, I don’t give a damn if they agree with it. I won’t back down. This is my right- to say whatever I want without be threatened with reprisal.

    You have no idea what it’s like to be treated that way, because you’re critical of something, outspoken AND Black. Don’t tell me to stand for justice. Why don’t YOU go to a General Assembly meeting and demand these folks act with the highest integrity they can muster, lest they undermine their cause before they’re able to successfully fight real change. Go find the folks who send me personal emails addressed to “SheNaiNai” and ask them what gives them the right to do such a thing. Demand an answer. DEMAND IT.

    How dare you. How dare ANYONE who has ANYTHING to do with OS, try and belittle my contribution to THE struggle, one I have been in since I was born brown in this country. The fight isn’t new to me, and it’ll go on long after folks have packed up their tents and gone home. When it comes to me, what I do, how I do it, and how I am TREATED because of it, you haven’t a sliver of a clue. When you bury a child in the fight against INJUSTICE, then we can talk. Until then, by all means, lean away.

    Peace and Blessings,

  4. Richard Brennon permalink
    December 9, 2011 11:08 am

    Not sure what to think of your article. Adbusters (amagzine) organized the first OWS protest in New York. The George Soros-funded Tides Foundation helps finance Adbusters. George Soros co-owns Cede & Co., better known as the DTC, which is part of the privately owned Federal Reserve central bank.

    In summary, central banker money is tied to OWS. Since OWS claims to be against the 1%, isn’t it odd that the top 0.001% of the 1% is helping to organize and finance the OWS protests? The richest people in the world, essentially. They privately own 150+ central banks worldwide, one in each country. These banks all have the power to create money out of thin air.

    In addition, the first OWS newspaper was organized by two pro-communists. It’s no secret that several pro-Nazi, communist, socialist, and Marxist groups are now backing OWS.

    What the central bankers really want is a fusion of the Tea Party and OWS. They covertly created both movements so that the fusion could be born, which is their end-goal. The name of this new party is COMMUNITARIANISM. You can read more about it at Niki Raapana’s blog, located at –

    In a nutshell:
    “We support the shift of our economic focus from translational corporate “fusionism” to regional subsistence. Subsistence economy focuses on a “natural” way of living. This is not “back to stone age”. It rather means a spiral, wavelike progress out of the life-destroying habits of today’s so-called civilization and accepting and welcoming the complexity of life.

    We support the development of sustainable, decentralized, that is local, high-tech production, combined with local use of local resources. and the redesign of our monetary system according to a fourfold model: 1) economy of gifting (a basic matriarchal feature), 2) counter-trade (barter) economy, 3) complementary local monetary systems for regional trade, and 4) unified currency (for example called “terra”) for interregional and global trade. In our eyes compound interest has to be abolished. Also the concept of “owning” land must be reconsidered.”


  5. Emerald permalink
    December 11, 2011 9:52 pm

    Dear Sable,
    Thank you for your well written response above. Would you please publish the hate mail you’re receiving? Shine a light on this, please! Else others will continue to say it isn’t happening. Thank you.

  6. December 11, 2011 11:53 pm

    I’ll be running something specific on this, this week. It’ll publish in the paper and online on Wednesday. But also, I’m not out to “convince” anyone it is or isn’t happening. I don’t need their validation to know/prove the truth. Folks can say what they want, to make themselves feel better about the hatred they allow to fester and grow while they stand silent and do nothing. #postracialmyfoot

  7. Jim Page permalink
    December 19, 2011 12:51 pm

    Dear Sable,

    This is a good argument you’ve got going here. I think it’s important to do this in public. Regarding that 20K a day, I just found this. Maybe you’ve seen it. I know it’s posted on the OS site but it originated from SCCC faculty.


    Jim Page

  8. December 19, 2011 1:41 pm

    Hi Jim, Please quote from the document you’re referring to, I think that might be easier and will keep readers in the loop. Happy holidays!

  9. Jim Page permalink
    December 20, 2011 11:46 am

    Okay, here’s a couple of paragraphs:

    “The point is, facts and first-class propaganda have nothing to do with each other. Only a fool would deny that. Quite the contrary, our administration knows what they’re doing. We’re not talking amateurs. This is poetry in motion. Salute!

    “Rats, trash, and needles hits ‘em in the gut, but you gotta do more than that. You gotta hit ‘em in the head, too. That’s what numbers are for. Well, how about $20,000 a week? That’s the price of Occupy on this impoverished campus, according to the administration. And that means killing off classes. (Maybe $20k is just a “ballpark” figure, with no documentation, but prove me wrong!). How about 2000 square feet? That’s the size of the lawn the Occupy hoard is crammed on, according to the administration, like slum dwellers in Mumbai. (It’s actually about four times that size, but who’s measuring?)”

    But I think your readers deserve to read the whole piece. It can be found by Googling “jeb wyman occupy” and the piece shows up as “SCCC Faculty member Responds too…”

  10. December 20, 2011 12:00 pm

    This is very helpful Jim, thank you. I have read and shared the post as well. Much appreciated.

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