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Speaking up about speaking out against the Occupy movement

December 14, 2011
by

Over the past few weeks we have seen local and national outrage at the treatment of Occupy protesters by police. Who can forget the image of Seattle’s own Dorli Rainey, mercilessly hosed down with pepper spray while protesting peacefully? Campsites have been razed, often with little or no warning. The unified cry that has risen from these events? That such tactics are a threat to democracy.

No disagreement from me.

I have been vocal about Occupy in general, but also Occupy Seattle specifically. Many of you — but certainly not all — have been upset with me for highlighting concerns and flat-out failures of this movement that professes to represent 99 percent of the country’s population, of which I am a part. Many of you have taken the time to contact me directly to express your anger. I have been lectured about my (assumed) young age, my (assumed) ignorance of “the struggle” and my (assumed) lack of appreciation for the work of such legendary civil rights activists as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I’ve been told I need to stand for something, lest I fall for anything. I’ve been told that perhaps I shouldn’t be writing for a newspaper like Real Change, that my opinion stands in direct opposition to its mission. Some of you have even told me not to show my face around Occupy Seattle.

The majority of the emails I’ve received have been blatantly racist, referring to me in racially derogatory terms and making reference to petty, black cultural stereotypes. Here’s a sample, with misspellings in tact:

“You self rightios Black Power types are always all talk, no action. That goes for your entire race.”

All have come from folks identifying themselves as active Occupy Seattle protestors or those who stand in solidarity with them. Those same people who demand protection of their democratic right to protest somehow rationalize in their minds that it’s OK to treat me this way because they don’t like what I have to say. In reality, it’s reprisal for exercising a sacred democratic right afforded to all of us: the right to speak my mind.

No movement has been successful without those who were willing to step up and be critical. In the ‘60s, Bayard Rustin, an organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was so concerned Dr. King wasn’t living up to the foundation of the nonviolent movement he risked his life to confront King — and to demand better of a movement that stood to impact generations and claimed to work on his behalf as a man of color in America.  He was right. But rather than take the constructive criticism, people in the movement tried to cast him as an abomination and a communist. Yet he was right, and King recognized that.

Renowned activist Grace Lee Boggs came out critical of the Occupy movement. Should we challenge her entire life’s work or assert that because she’s not in a tent, she lays down to injustice? Of course not, that’s a ridiculous claim to make. But more importantly, she can stand for justice and be critical of Occupy at the same time, and that’s OK.

As a member of the 99 percent who wants authentic, sustainable change in this country, who is directly impacted by oppressive laws and policies, I shouldn’t have to prove my investment in fighting injustice as a means to qualify my concerns about Occupy Seattle. I shouldn’t have to trot out my history of civil/human/women’s/children’s rights work to validate my position or defend myself from the nasty rhetoric that folks keep trying to lay at my door.

I shouldn’t have to trot out my family’s history: How my grandfather, who lives in Seattle to this day, fought to teach in public education and wound up the first black teacher in the entire state of Washington. Or how his wife was one of the very first black students to be admitted to and graduate from nursing school in Seattle, and then integrated the nursing profession for an entire city. Or the work of my mother to fight systemic racism in the Seattle Police Department. Or how institutionalized racism directly contributed to the deaths of those I love the most. I don’t have to move into a tent to validate the work, sacrifice or legacy of my family, or to legitimize my criticisms.

I want change. I’m willing to fight for it, to suffer for it, to go to jail for it when it’s right. When that day comes, we’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder, right on the front line.

I have readily said the Occupy movement and Occupy Seattle is something. But I continue to question if it is what it claims to be. I continue to be concerned over the lack of cohesive direction and strategy, the lack of equitable representation of the 99 percent and those, to this day, who have always struggled under economic inequality and continue to at a disproportionate rate.  These issues have to be drawn out and highlighted for the movement to get stronger and grow. Thus, writing critically of Occupy Seattle is in itself a viable contribution to the movement.

I don’t want it to fail, but I fear in its current form, on is current trajectory… it will.

 

 

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. You're Not Alone permalink
    December 14, 2011 4:00 pm

    Finally, someone is speaking out about wtf is wrong with these Seattle Occupy people- and even though you drilled down into just one of the many things that is wrong with Occupy Seattle, it’s a critical point.

    Occupy Seattle is doing a horrible job at being an inclusive movement. I spent a week camped out at Westlake, but as a brown person, things very quickly turned hostile when I spoke about the reality of being brown and how this movement impacts me directly and indirectly, intentionally and unintentionally.

    It became like, racism and sexism were my problem, and could easily be solved if I just “let those things go” and act like isms don’t exist in the Occupy Movement. One of the main protesters involved with the Seattle effort even called me a “black cunt” as he stood behind me while I was speaking at a GA. Never mind that I’m East Indian, it’s that kind of talk that, for obvious reasons, immediately made me feel unsafe. When I tried to bring it up to other influential protesters, I was first told “oh he was just joking” and when I refused to accept that, I was shunned.

    Occupy Seattle is really popular, but it’s not very powerful when it comes to creating the change it says it demands. park of this is because it’s so clique-ish and closed off to accepting non-white people in a way that is truly equitable. And refusing to address that only makes it more glaring. But no one wants to talk about it. They want to focus on clashes with police and which Faith leader was pepper sprayed or roughed up by police, which is an outrageous act on the part of police, but the fact that Occupy protesters themselves either participate in outrageous acts like hate speech or intimidation, or go along with it by not calling it out, just makes their outrage come off as completely disingenuous.

  2. Jeff Crocket permalink
    December 14, 2011 4:03 pm

    The 60’s war protests were largely college students out in front for the cameras, but the drivers are some of the same people promoting OWS
    in the same way. SDS and Bill Ayer’s Weathermen fire bombed many ROTC buildings on campuses across the nation setting the protests. This history of ROTC bombings isnt even taught in schools today – whitewashed from history.

    The same will happen with OWS unless good people speak the truth with facts. Thanks Sable.

  3. Disgusted permalink
    December 14, 2011 4:27 pm

    I can tell you what disgusts me about Occupy in general, but really Occupy Seattle gets my blood boiling, is that their strategy is to make this an anti-police movement as a means to get what they want, when really, the police have nothing to do with what’s happening on Wall Street. But they are slowly, successfully increasing the outrage about how they’re being treated by the cops in their so-called quest for democracy.
    It’s pitiful.

    Every time I see the media give slanted coverage to these protesters when they clash with police, it makes me sick. Hello, don’t break the law and you won’t give police a reason to get all over you ass about what you’re doing.

    They’re giving cops a green light to pepper spray them, to drag them around and arrest them, BECAUSE THEY ARE BREAKING THE LAW.

    I believe in civil disobedience, but it has to be connected to the cause. Organizing a sit-in at the counter of a racist diner that refused to serve black people was directly tied to dismantling those laws of discrimination and that whole, separate but equal nonsense.

    Shutting down the ports on the West Coast doesn’t do anything to change the laws and policies that allow Wall Street and big banks to fuck us over on a daily basis, and it never will.

    But that’s not the story anymore. The story is oh these poor, poor protesters, how terrible they’re being treated this way, and the media, rather than covering equally just how royally screwed up Occupy Seattle is, just serves it up because it’s flashy and gets people’s attention.

  4. Artful Bodger permalink
    December 14, 2011 4:56 pm

    What is often not understood about Occupy Seattle is that it is an awkward hybrid — a social movement head grafted onto a insurrectionary anarchist body. The anarchist body is militantly opposed to “identity politics” … and non-violence. The head meanwhile talks a peaceful, inclusive game but can’t disown the body because it relies on it do the grunt work of occupying parks and showing up at actions like Monday’s port disruption.

    Despite the 99% rhetoric I have to say Occupy Seattle represents little more than itself.

  5. lindzanne permalink
    December 14, 2011 8:17 pm

    Crossposting my comment from facebook: Thank you so for this, and your refusal to be silent. I have to say your determination to call this stuff out has really helped me not lose my mind with all the similar frustrations I have. “You self rightios Black Power types are always all talk, no action. That goes for your entire race.” This is a blatant expression of racism–but this attitude is also rampant in a much more covert way. Both are doing the same thing–it isn’t that there is “all talk, no action”, it’s that they’re dismissing action that isn’t initiated by them. It’s nothing new, unfortunately, but man, I sure feel barraged by it lately. And I’m always really disappointed by the common response of, “well, come on down and teach us.” Yeah, not my job. Teach yourselves. Ok, rant over. Thanks again!

  6. Rachel M. Monto permalink
    December 14, 2011 9:33 pm

    W-O-R-D, keep up the honesty and always keep it real! Read your piece in RC an few weeks back and told my husband, “she’s spot on.” Thanks so much for your honest reporting and commentary, looking forward to reading you in the future!

  7. Artful Bodger permalink
    December 15, 2011 12:45 am

    Not surprisingly there is much overlap between “Occupy Seattle” and these folks:

    http://pugetsoundanarchists.org/node/1193

    You old middle class activists with your preoccupation with racial justice and non-violence!

  8. Richard Brennan permalink
    December 15, 2011 5:50 pm

    From what I’ve seen, central bankers have funded both the Tea Party and OWS. The purpose being to create a middle path between the two movements, as a sort of compromise. This compromise middle path is the original goal of the central bankers, but this goal is shrouded by creating two movements that appear to exist at polar opposites to each other. To those who know history, such tactics fall under the title “Hegelian Dialectic.”

    This name of this middle political path is Communitarianism, and it originally appeared in the documentation of the United Nations. Note that the two financial arms of the UN are the privately owned International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (the later having been created by two communists, Keynes and White).

    Communitarianism seeks to replace all organized religion with a single religion that is friendly to the central bankers. This religion will be a fusion of Gaya/Mother Earth paganism and Luciferianism (as outlined in UN “Agenda for the 21st Century” documentation). Note that Luciferianism is aggressively anti-Christian in nature.

    Communitarianism also seeks to put an end to compounded interest, and private property ownership. The rights of the individual will be balanced with the rights of the community, with the community rights having higher priority. The self-reliant (growing food locally) soviets of the former USSR are a good example of the structure that’s intended.

    I hope this provides proper context for the OWS protests, and the purpose this movement serves.

  9. December 16, 2011 7:49 pm

    I first went to Westlake Oct. 7th to meet my daughter and see what the presence was like. My daughter and i walked around talking while she longed to be part of what was going on. I had worn my crocheted, beaded mask i use for frontline performance art with my sign “Decolonize War $treet”. Many of those people of color who saw me gave me positive energy. I had already heard and read that white male dominance was a huge issue.

    I returned Oct. 15 meeting my dear friend who is a fabulous Indigenous artist/activist. The incidents of racism were several, but the worst was a tall white guy screaming at her to be quiet cause she had used her megaphone to amplify “Return the land, stand for the sacred Mother Earth and the coming generations”. She placed the megaphone between them to keep him from getting in her face. Another woman tried to stop his verbal assault, but he yelled at her not to touch him. I told him to back off as well. Pretty awful.

    My daughter, who is mixed race, told me that she had been supportive to an African mother of 3 who had tried repeatedly to be heard. She became very involved including putting a tent up on Oct. 15th till the move to SCCC where she also camped. She kept me updated on all that was going on from her perspective. Finally i was able to join her 2 weekends in a row for a total of 5 nights camping. I wanted to set up a Grandmothers Peace Camp to be a safe place for women as word was out by the about the rapes going on at Occupies across the country. I also wanted to find ways to address the obvious racism so many are oblivious to. sigh.

    What i witnessed is that it was flat out white male dominated. Over half of the campers were homeless and a significant number of them were addicts. Some of the homeless were people of color. Many of them were very troublesome, loud, sometimes violent and incapable of helping much. Others were street kids and young adults who grew up on the streets who found something meaningful in the presence in a manner i found very inspiring. I saw that we were the safety net for some of the most damaged and vulnerable people in the city as little to no resources exist for such people any more. Many are mentally or physically ill. Some are vets. It was an education above all else. Nearly 70% of the camp was male.

    I was moved by the devotion of the young people who kept everything going; the information booth, medical, supplies, kitchen, clean up and the sanctuary tent. There were people of color involved in all aspects of the camp, but it was overwhelmingly white, male and lacking in awareness on many, tho not all, levels.

    My daughter was who kept me coming back as she did all she could to take on the issues she felt needed to be addressed. She was raised on the frontlines of life in this country on the Navajo Reservation where we lived with traditional Dine resistance elder, Pauline Whitesinger, opposing forced relocation and expansion of Peabody Coal mine. I took her to the lands of the Seri people along the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and she and i volunteered around Border Human Rights in Tucson. We lived most of her life in the mountains of northeastern Washington where she first had to deal with horrid racism that forced us to moved in 2007. Her sense of justice is wonderful and she has become very articulate. I think she would love to meet some of you and get your perspective on everything.

    She had issues with those promoting fighting with the cops, Puget Sound Anarchists among others. These are also people who are very negative to anyone committed to nonviolence. I do believe they are often manipulated by overeducated, domineering white men, but that is a long story…. I had encounters with some of them during the marches in Feb. around the killing of John T Williams. They are very insulated,called me names, censored and blocked me on their PSA website, wear masks during marches and actions, then didn’t talk when i saw them in the camp, just had their literature which reinforces their internet rantings.

    The media has never presented an accurate picture of the Decolonize Occupy Seattle. To find a sense of truth, one has to read a wide spectrum of writings, watch videos and participate in actions, rallies and events, which is not easy due to the lack of cross cultural awareness, etc.

    As an Irish Hippie Grandmother, i am committed to doing all i can to speaking out about patriarchal white supremacy and all oppressive behaviors. I appreciate reading the comments and hope that some way can be carved to change the overwhelmingly negative opinions expressed. They are valid, but simply don’t represent the whole reality that has been happening. I know i am not the only one devoted to authentic peace and justice. Hope dialog can happen, understanding blossom and solution enacted.

    Peace, love and justice,
    swaneagle harijan
    Frontline Irish Hippie Frontline Granny
    frontlinemom@yahoo.com

  10. Richard Brennan permalink
    December 17, 2011 11:04 am

    As an educated white male, I’d like to respond to Swaneagle Harijan’s comment here (” I do believe they are often manipulated by overeducated, domineering white men, but that is a long story…. “).

    I agree that educated white men are dominating the financial world. Their education or color is not the issue, however. It never is in these situations, historically. It’s about power and control. It is about their intent to fill the spiritual hole inside themselves.

    These men have been around for a long time. Their first central bank was created in London, England, more than 300 years ago. Since then, these same white families have spread their influence to create more than 150 central banks worldwide — virtually one in every country.

    Our Federal Reserve Bank in the US is just one central bank. All of these central banks are privately owned.

    In the 1930s, 57 of the most prominent central banks created their own corporation, called the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), based in Basel, Switzerland. This is the most powerful corporation in the world, and it is not subject to audits, transparency, or the laws of any government. The “overeducated white men” in Swaneagle’s comment are the owners of the BIS. They use the BIS to do their bidding.

    The central banks of the BIS have the power to control the money supply and interest rates in the countries they are in. When central banks coordinate this power, they have the ability to control governments in these countries, since the central banks control the economies of those countries. The BIS can apply much pressure on a government to conform to its agenda by threatening to debase the country’s currency in a very short amount of time. This is how governments weaken and fail, and get replaced by regimes that are friendly to the BIS.

    SInce the central banks of the BIS have the ability to create money at will, they have the ability to purchase mainstream media, politicians, blog owners, and just about any opposition that stands in their way. Much of the paradigm shown to us on the TV and in the newspaper is dominated by money coming from these central bankers. Much of it is propaganda, designed to ensure the average person knowns nothing of what I just wrote, above. You can see how effective this has been, if you are learning about these things for the first time.

    I take time out to provide this information, because while overeducated white men are the problem, it is a very specific few white men that are of concern. Not all educated white men are the problem, as most of us are being victimized and abused by the central bankers just as much as anyone of any color or income level.

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