#OccupySeattle: The Michael Keaton of Pacific Heights
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.