1/3: J17 Occupy Congress Solidarity

Posted by & filed under Assemblies, Past Proposals.

A mass protest is being organized in Washington, DC on January 17th. Occupy DC is actively involved with a group called Occupy Congress. The thought is to have day-long actions on the 17th through 21st because the 17th is the first day the House of Representatives is in session for 2012. It’s an opportunity to bring our grievances to the nation’s capitol and interact with occupations all over the country.

I propose we express solidarity with the event on the 17th and use all means at our disposal to promote it. I propose we begin organizing a contingent of OWSers to go to DC and offer our support. Occupy Congress is asking for a liaison between OWS and them, so if we express solidarity with the event we should reconvene at another GA to choose liaisons, or not and just organize autonomously.

Solidarity isn’t an endorsement. I don’t believe it’s necessary to endorse the action, unless we want to, because solidarity with them is enough. Each occupation is invited to bring its own list of grievances or to simply send individuals to participate. We don’t need to decide on any grievances, but protest and participate like we’ve done at other mass actions here in New York.

Occupy Congress may be contacted on Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Congress-January-17th-2012/203536356392018?sk=info or atwww.occupyyourcongress.info.

All individuals are welcome to participate autonomously; this proposal is only to seek consent for an expression of solidarity and the use of our social media to promote the event.

The 21st of January is also the anniversary of Citizens United – another opportunity to voice our concerns.

I have copies of their call to action for review by the GA (or find it here: http://wiki.occupyyourcongress.info/index.php?title=Call_to_Action_to_Occupations).

5 Responses to “1/3: J17 Occupy Congress Solidarity”

  1. Aaron

    Recently, during the General Assembly’s discussions about actions around government institutions — in particular, the NY city council vote on corporate personhood, and the upcoming January 17th
    OccupyCongress action — I’ve seen on a number of occasions a line of argument that I feel is counterproductive. I’d like to address it here.

    Some members of the community have expressed concern that interacting with legislative bodies is inherently “reformist” — by which they mean of limited scope in its potential for change — or that
    acknowledging the existence of these bodies “legitimizes” them, subordinating our movement’s expression by packaging it in the language of demands. On an email group for OccupyCongress, a
    commenter offered what I think was a succinct summary of these concerns:

    “”
    Petitioning, protesting and such is great for media and an education campaign, but it essentially acknowledges that the government is endowed with the power to dictate our lives. We are asking them for permission at every step of the way. I say fuck that and the second we stop obeying, they will be shit out of luck. We should stop going to work and break these chains.
    “”

    I think that this concern is understandable. We absolutely do not
    want to devolve into another organization issuing policy prescriptions
    that get roundly ignored. But it is misdirected when applied to J17.
    Further, I think that our nascent movement should use the opportunity
    provided by this discussion to reflect on our role within society, and
    how best to continue raising awareness about the systemic problems
    that find such great resonance with our friends across the globe.

    Most importantly, I think there is a widespread misunderstanding of
    the planned actions for OccupyCongress, on J17 and in the week
    following. There are individuals who intend to meet with
    Representatives, yes, but the main events involve a full-scale
    Occupation of the public space that surrounds the institutions of
    federal government. Some will occupy legislator’s offices. Some will
    bring tents, some will bring drums, some will bring marching bands.
    There may be disruptive actions throughout the city, bringing
    attention to and perhaps even temporarily slowing the corrupt dealings
    of lobbyists and special interest groups. There has been talk of a
    plan to form a human chain around the Capitol, to symbolically (though
    certainly not actually) “shut it down”, on the first day of the
    legislative year. On the Mall, and on the steps of the Capitol
    building, there will be ThinkTank discussions, people’s mic soapboxes,
    and a full-fledged General Assembly. We will be explicitly
    demonstrating what real democracy looks like, alongside the crumbling
    pillars of our broken democracy. There are few more powerful,
    poignant ways to display the political structures that we wish to
    cause to exist.

    And it is just that, a display — a way to engage with the public,
    like almost everything else OWS does. The point is *not* to get
    Congress to “pay attention.” The point is to get the _nation_ to pay
    attention. People are spurred by their experience with Occupy, by
    seeing a GA, by taking note of our presence, by seeing that we are
    attacking what many people perceive to be the source of the problem.
    By going to where they are looking, we have the opportunity to say,
    yes, these people are corrupt, but what happens when you change the
    people… what do you do with the next corrupt bunch? What are the
    systems that make them corrupt? And by doing so, we invite many, many
    more people into the conversation about deeper, systemic issues, and
    how to address them. This is the opportunity of J17. The attention
    is already focused. Thousands of Occupiers are already coming, from
    around the nation. The whole world *will* be watching. What will we
    make of it? That is up to you, as a participant.

    But maybe none of this convinces you. Maybe we really need to speak
    to the underlying concerns. So I’ll say it: This sort of
    intransigence about tactics and targets is like shooting the movement
    in the foot before it leaves the cradle. Will you wonder why it never
    learns to walk?

    By insisting that we only act in ways that involve completely
    extracting oneself from society, you are marginalizing your own voice.
    You are ensuring that only those who have left society or seen the
    way out of it will hear you. You are not building the bridge that
    takes people to where you are, and could bring us all to where we want
    to go.

    Further, you are dangerously close to hypocrisy. You do not currently
    live in a way that is fully prefigurative of the society you wish to
    enact. Nearly every single action we take: every time we ride in a
    car, every day that we live in a major city, every time we use a
    mobile phone or a computer or the internet or any product that
    contains plasticizers and other industrial chemicals, every time we
    pay sales tax or use credit, we are leveraging the tools and
    furthering the operation of a system that inflicts daily horrors on
    billions of people across the world. If you truly wished to break
    those chains for yourself, you would completely withdraw from that
    system.

    But you have not, and you have very good reason not to. Every day,
    you make the conscious decision not to. You make tradeoffs, you make
    decisions of degrees. You make those decisions because you feel that
    continuing to operate within this system will further the longer-term
    goal of freedom and fairness for people around the world. You realize
    that in order to get to that better world, you need to not just make
    it for yourself — which you very well could, right now, today.
    Instead, you want to “break the chains” for others, as well. You want
    to bring as much of the world along with you as you can. You want to
    undo the systems that are inflicting themselves upon those who did not
    make the choice to take part in them. You want to expose the
    possibility of another world to those who suffer within this one. You
    strive every day to apply yourself to a more effective activism.
    Which is not necessarily the most principled activism, because, as
    we’ve said, you have already decided against that.

    It is thus inarguable that our goal is twofold: to figure out how to
    build the better world, and to bring people along with us to help
    build it. So how do we do that?

    It’s simply this: we draw attention to the fact that there are many of
    us who are fighting this fight. You march in public thoroughfares,
    you hold signs, you drop banners, you disrupt the flow of capital, you
    Occupy public spaces. Merely becoming aware that others exist and are
    ready to stand up has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to this
    movement, and there are millions more who can be reached by continuing
    to demonstrate this simple fact. This approach has worked because
    people see in us the fight that they themselves want to take up. For
    many, the targeting of Wall Street was exactly that fight. For
    others, the message against Wall Street is less clear than the message
    against Congress (the most reviled institution in our nation, with
    nearly a 90% disapproval rating). There are a great many who, when
    they see us there, fighting the fight they believe to be right, will
    pause to listen to what we have to say, and will take the time to
    observe how we say it.

    How many of us came into this because we chanced upon a GA in Tompkins
    Square or Liberty Plaza? How many because we caught a group of
    strangers talking about the world in the way we always wished
    possible? How many because we saw a sign or a march or a projection
    or piece of art? How many have flocked to New York to join us,
    because of the discussions they saw happening?

    How many more have yet to have such an opportunity?

    Remember yourself before that moment. Maybe you thought change would
    come by the actions of a new leader. Maybe you thought change would
    come only in the ashes of empire. Maybe you thought change would
    never come at all. Maybe you were one of the lucky few who saw that
    change would come from the collective visioning of freshly empowered
    individuals, who saw within themselves the potential to live the world
    that they wanted to see.

    But before that moment of public prefiguration, before the mainly
    performative display that caught and connected, you did not see this.
    You did not see what we could become. And maybe you were even one of
    the fortunate enlightened few who did envision this incredible time.
    But even then i would hazard to guess that you did not see your place
    in it, and you most certainly did not share this new vocabulary we are
    creating, because we are creating it, all of us, together. So, by all
    means, create that new vocabulary. Make a general assembly that truly
    builds consensus. Feed and clothe and house anyone who asks to be
    fed, or clothed, or housed. Make a new world in the cast-off husks of
    the old. Build the new infrastructure and institutions. Because we
    will need them.

    But as we are living this new world and learning its language, let’s
    not let it become the provenance of a tiny minority who, by dint of
    fortunate experience, have chanced upon the alchemists workshop.
    Let’s *bring* that world and these words and these tools to the people
    who want them to exist, where they live, in those spaces that have
    been outside of the chance encounter that brought us to each other.
    Let’s show them we are here, we are them. Bring the display to where
    people are looking.

    I’m not saying we need everyone on board before we can make lasting,
    systemic change. I’m not even saying we need some mythical majority.
    But it would be the height of arrogance to pretend we don’t need to
    reach a whole lot more people. To pretend that we can build a
    participatory democracy without more participation is
    counterproductive. We are, currently, given attention that far
    outweighs our size — union marches, for instance, have vastly greater
    participation, but a fraction of our coverage. This is due in large
    part to our innovation in tactics and the resonance of our broad,
    inclusive message. We will lose that voice if we do not continue growing, innovating, increasing the number of participants in our new global commons.

    So, please, let’s bring this commons to the public, not obscure the way to it with inertia and exclusionary rhetoric. If you are skeptical of the value of engaging with Congress, I ask that you plan to amplify the institutions and discussions that should replace it. This action is happening, and its voice will be heard. Rather than withdrawing entirely, seize the opportunity to make J17 the action you wish to see. As you have been doing here, make the voice that is heard yours, as well.

  2. Siobhan Ogilvie

    Can anyone tell me why the hell we are “occupying the New Hampshire caucuses” yet we don’t want to “occupy the government”. We are funding state occupations all over, who ALL support J17, yet we hold back? I call SHAME on NY for not participating. This is a joke. This movement wastes months talking and no action. If we do not show up as a loud group in J17, we will entirely delegitimize ourselves if we haven’t already. Look at participation, look at contributions and those of you allowing this to happen better take a long look at yourselves. I am ashamed that this didn’t pass. We pass $30K to Egypt yet we don’t even support our own cause. It’s disgraceful. Wake up OWS – or just close shop and let the other occupies be the face of the movement because what is going on is destruction of the movement.

  3. James Hanaburgh

    Congress can’t get anything done because it’s full of bipartisanshit!
    We need to get some non-Republicrats in Congress. Vote-in some 3rd party candidates!
    I think OWS has much in common with the Green Party– why not help get some Green Party candidates elected to Congress?
    Getting a third party candidate into Congress will be easier this term, as the public has never been less satisfied with Congress before.
    Don’t get distracted by the Republican Primaries– they are irrelevant right now. The real battle is selecting Congress for the upcoming term. This can be organized at the grassroots level and will have a significant impact!!