1/24/2012: Community Solidarity

Posted by & filed under Assemblies, Past Proposals.


Does anyone wish to see the OWS movement become violent?


If we let a bunch of Occupiers, who have come from all over and have given their lives to this movement with the hope of changing this country and our world into a more inclusive space; if we let these people, who our movement has been taking care of, into the streets of New York at the beginning of February, without food and shelter, effectively cutting them off from the resources they have grown dependent on, we must understand there is a good chance one or a few of them will turn to violent means. Originally, this was brought to the GA as an emergency break-out discussion for the following reason: If any member of the OWS movement turns to violence, it creates an opportunity for the government to label the entire movement a terrorist movement and then every member must worry about consequences. Already the UK has given OWS the label, and rumor is our own government is waiting for the opportunity. On Wednesday night (01.18,12), at Spokes Counsel two fights broke out, fights that were caused due to there being haves and have-nots amongst us. If we don’t work to resolve this, we must understand this is only the beginning.

We are a community. We are a community living in the public eye of the world, demanding the larger world community work to take care of those amongst us that are disenfranchised. If we ourselves do not work to ensure all Occupiers are housed, fed, and working, we ourselves are no better than the society we are protesting. In the wake of housing options being cut, and access to G.A. funds being cut, we propose the OWS movement radically shift gears for a moment and work to ensure every Occupier become a self-sufficient member of our community. If we can become a self-sufficient movement, a group of people able to take care of their individual needs while protesting the great atrocities affecting all of us, then truly we can be a model able to change the world.

There is a huge disparity within our community, the top and bottom can and must learn from one another. Non-Occupiers need to understand that Occupiers can’t make it to many meetings as they’re forced to adhere to church hours, and Occupiers need to understand that non-Occupiers can’t always be out during the day since they have to work. And after this is understood, we must find a way for both groups to communicate and work together to ensure the weakest amongst us is self-sufficient and not seen as a burden or blight on our community. As a non-hierarchical movement, we must joyously lift up the weak amongst us while praising the already strong and everyone in between. We are a community. This must be our mantra.

We propose we work together to find every Occupier a home, a job, get those on food stamps that are eligible, get all those eligible for government subsidies on them, and ensure every Occupier is self-sufficient. And then, this Spring, when more people join our movement, ready to nonviolently fight with us, we must make it a priority to help them find employment and learn to be self-sufficient before leading them to places of protest.

During the Thursday GA (01.19.12), we broke out into discussion groups to address this topic. Many great ideas were already brought up: getting the Radical Social Workers involved; offering displaced Occupiers an easy transition into the New Haven and Newark Occupations for the remaining winter months; utilizing the Occupation force for fundraising, and have a larger breakout session outside of GA similar to Open Spaces. Almost everyone involved, whether they started hesitantly or supportively, at the end of our conversation was enlivened and understood the need for this. We ask that you join us on Tuesday as we solidify through discussion pragmatic ways to empower those Occupiers, who only three months ago, were being called heroes: help us form workshops immediately to offer our heroes key-knowledge, most take for granted, like resume creation and access to public welfare services, such as food stamps for those who are eligible If in three months, heroes can become bums, then the whole should once again cry, “Oh how the mighty have fallen.” But it will not be the heroes who have fallen, it will be the whole Movement, whether  in the Office or on the Streets, and we will all rightfully be chastised for our fall!

The people with money in this movement have many times been the ones in the office, the ones using OWS money, and now in the coldest moment of our Movement, many of these very people are the ones shutting down spending… now I challenge you, if you have, to actively seek to help those amongst you that don’t have, help them to enjoy in the having. If this idea scares you, then I must ask you, why are you here?

34 Responses to “1/24/2012: Community Solidarity”

  1. Sean McKeown

    Question: is there a contradiction between the reason behind the Occupy protests, and the idea of protestors applying for food stamps?

    This does strike a certain nail right on the head though: why are we still having General Assemblies and Spokes Councils starting at 7pm, when most of our occupiers who require housing support have to consider leaving early for these spaces and thus will inevitably miss at the very least the end of the meeting?

    What does it take to get GAs moved to 6pm, or even 5:30? Most people who work are the nine-to-five sort, and you can get to GA from almost anywhere in the city by 6pm if you leave work at five. But staying out till 11 or later is a massive issue with housing that has limited slots and a curfew… not to mention the fact that on days that start out nice, it can nonetheless be bitterly cold by the end of GA right now, and moving it earlier might cut into the freezing-cold-this-sucks issue.

    • Siobhan Ogilvie

      Right after the raid and people had no where to go, I suggested they visit the city’s HRA and apply for assistance on emergency housing and food stamps especially since it was the city that cost them their home. Well it was as if I suggested they go out and hustle on the streets for money. I personally believe in the social contract that is being whittled away by Bloomberg and our dysfunctional congress. I wish those in need would apply to the city for immediate needs for a few reasons. The first being that OWS is not financially able to provide long term support and I don’t want anyone to have to spend the night on the streets, subway or McDonalds. Food stamps in particular are not that difficult to get approved for within a day. I get pride. I struggle with it myself, but if people are in need these services are there and damnit – the city owes OWS imho

    • Stephen Boyer

      “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

      • Stephen Boyer

        But yeah! It’s important we change GA times so Occupiers can make it to crucial decision making that determines their lives… It isn’t democracy when the people voting on whether or not to support people living in churches are people that have never slept in a church.

  2. bopper

    3 proposals in a row. when the movement gets violent, the educated get writing. each proposal of ‘new’ policy and procedures more flowery and verbose than the next. i see the problem being one of people not have the resolve to eject disruptive and violent people and people who can not function within group parameters.
    until we get serious about this no amount of verbiage and bullet-pointed rules will solve our problem. we will be continually derailed by disruptors and those not mentally capable of ‘playing nice’.

      • JACK


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    • vets74

      Occupy Nonviolence

      Maintaining nonviolence depends on running training sessions. I saw this first hand in the 1960s with Dr. King and SCLC in much tougher environments than OWS NYC has seen so far.

      The cops at Zuccotti Park had their guns holstered. There is no KKK here. Bombs have not appeared yet, though there was one shooting in Oakland related to identification of someone. The worst of it is paid infiltrators, thieves, and drugs combined with the “homeless problem” that presented at Occupy sites in the large cities.

      There is an Occupy Nonviolence group on this site.

      We can certainly arrange the training sessions and get a “Nine Principles” out front for the main OWS NYC protests. Gandhi and King and SCLC got that work done for their marches — that is the key to staying effective.

      The ones who want to emulate “Jackass” ??? The provos who want to destroy OWS NYC as an effective organization ?


      • bopper

        vet, there is a very active non-violent communications group at ows. I took a training they gave at
        Charlotte’s Place and it was great.

        • Tara

          most weekdays between 2-4 at Charlottes place , NVC training, will help us all to understand what each other’s needs are. then we can work on creating solutions. everyone should do NVC training or NVC group phone call at 4 weekdays. it’s a powerful tool.

  3. joeaguy

    This is a beautiful proposal.

    How do we actually implement it though? The two concrete things I see to impelement this proposal are:
    – A statement from the movement of our commitment to individual self-sufficiency and that we will support each other in achieving that. A commitment to service with the participation and direction of those being served.
    – A working group that will specifically work toward these goals.

    Re @bopper, we need to and have dealt with disruptive people and behaviors, and must not tolerate violence. That is the symptom, and there are other proposals to deal with that. This proposal seeks to address some of the causes. People feeling marginalized in life and then experiencing the same in this movement, seeing this movement act inconsistently and not live up to its values, leads to escalating frustration that can and has contributed to some of the incidents we have seen. OWS has done a lot to care for a lot people, but needs to move from being enabling, to being empowering. That is the only sustainable and peaceful approach.

    • Stephen Boyer

      I’m tired, so this won’t be very elaborate… But ONE idea that comes to my mind: we need a jobs board on the nycga site. If you know of a union that is in solidarity and is hiring, post it there! if you want a maid to clean your apartment and your in solidarity, let the occupiers know! if your office is hiring, let the occupiers know! if you know of some construction crew looking for extra labor, let the occupiers know! – Changing the world takes WORK! We can’t be afraid of WORK! Anyone that spent a lot of time in the park knows, it took a lot of WORK! And since we’re not occupying a park anymore, lets get Occupiers into the workforce so they can be engaging fellow employees in conversations! That’s just one idea… Many more are sprouting up….

      • Lopi

        really? hire an occupier as a maid? is this the new world we are creating? Have you ever been a maid?

        • Rami Shamir

          No one’s really saying “hire an Occupier as a maid, Lopi.” What Stephen and I (and it seems many other people) are saying is that we should at the very least offer Occupiers SOME choice, and if that choice is nothing more than, for example, “Here’s how you can become a maid!” then great. That’s better than just saying, “We’re fed up with some people’s behavior. Everyone out on the street to fend for yourself in the coldest moment of our Movement!” If that’s the case might as well just stick to the same old draconian institution we currently have set up. If we can’t listen to the better angels of our nature, well, the worse ones have already provided us with a brave new world and we might as well just swallow it down. Politics is no more than the way we treat each other on a day to to day basis. All else stems from the seed we plant there, and to jump to mega-politic without paying attention to micro-politics of human relationships in which we’re involved is equal to chronic masturbation. I fear that if we can’t humanely deal with each other on a one to one basis here and now, then we don’t deserve to change anything at all, because all we’ll be doing is repeating: Tsarism falls to Communism falls to the Soviet falls to the Corporation. So, Lopi, I call on you to come tonight and to bathe away the classist disease to which we all, as if by birthright, have fallen, and join in the baptismal cleansing of this kind new world we all have sought out to instate.

          • Lopi

            sorry, i don’t do organized religion.

            seriously though, Rami, I would be behind a jobs board if it were posting ethical jobs like from idealist.org or a list of worker run co-ops.

            I went to the employment office (aka, in my mind I call it the “unemployment office”) the other day. I asked them for a job as a muralist or an artist of some sort. They didn’t have any listed.
            I’m an artist. I don’t want an office job. (I have worked as a stage hand forever. it’s an exploitative job. i cant do it anymore, I can’t allow myself to be exploited and be happy too.) I have lived beneath the poverty level my whole life. (i’m old too, btw)

            My only point here is that I don’t think the majority of people in OWS, homeless, jobless or occupation-full, joined to find crappy soul sucking 9-5 jobs for fellow occupiers or themselves. I can’t be behind that. You can accuse me of all kinds of outlandish things in response, but I will still maintain my position. You encourage me to wash away my classism at the same time you are reminding me of a very classist perspective. Get the po folks jobs cleanin’ houses.

            what about dignity? what about jobs that suit people’s desires for a new world??

            what about worker’s co-ops? would you also post jobs for occupiers to join a wall street firm?
            I heard they pay alot.

            Actually this whole conversation reminds me a hell of a lot of the most common thing people like to shout at us when we are protesting “GET A JOB!”

            little do they know, we already have an occupation and we have to help each other step up to the real next level, not go backwards.

          • Lopi

            my FA to this proposal would be to set standards on what jobs get listed on the jobs boards.
            some examples:
            worker’s co-ops
            green jobs
            art jobs
            independent jobs
            jobs benefiting communities underserved by city services

            also, set up some serious skill share workshops on things like

            dumpster diving, rooftop gardening, growing food, how to set up worker run businesses
            proposal writing, grant writing, diy fund raising

          • Lopi

            I will volunteer to do skill share workshops on topics I know about (building houses, growing food, grant writing, DIY humanitarian projects, throwing underground dance parties)

      • vets74

        AMEN ! The original three primes were:
        1. We are our own leaders.
        2. We oppose Wall Street’s corporate corruption.
        3. We want jobs.

        Guess what was forgotten completely ?

        I did try to arrange a small Job Fair regrouping. The was after the “Occupy a Job” rightie silliness. That was a good idea, apart from the source. Turned out they were easy to talk to one-on-one, anyway.

        But that routed to Winter Garden. We lost that venue when a protest went sour. Provo interference… seventeen unplanned arrests.

        — Anyway, the idea of running a job board at this site can’t hurt anyone. Might help. Might be a key to requesting/demanding job creation from the wall Street firms.

        — There’s also the local office for Manpower.com at Pine Street. The checks cash. We’ve used them and the temp workers seem happy enough with the arrangements. The types of jobs go all over the lot.

        Work is good. “A day without work is a day without food” — from Zen.

    • Tara

      @joeaguy You’ve touched upon something that I’ve been talking about for weeks. We do need to empower instead of enable. One thing that I believe we have to do is reach out to those of us with substance abuse issues. Officially we did not tolerate drugs or alcohol in the park, but many of us turned the other way when it was around. If we said something about it, it would not be appreciated.
      There’s a difference between getting our groove on in our own time and showing up at Charlotte’s Place or 60 Wall (places where we are trying to get work done) nodding out or piss drunk. Acting out like this is probably the reason why it’s become OWS’s problem to begin with (instead of non-OWS relations).

      Many people suffer from the disease that nobody wants to talk about. Maybe it’s because we don’t have the means to treat it. If we could only find treatment programs for those of us who need it, we could really do great things for a lot of great people. It’s a very time and energy consuming problem to treat. There is always the question of who will take the help and who won’t. In my experience as someone who has been listening to these people, and in my own way trying to guide them to healthier options, I have found that many do not want the help.

      We must decide if we are going to ignore the problem or face it head on. If we face it, we will need professionals who can counsel them and get them on the right track. We would need a lot of work hours from some very dedicated and experienced people. It is only until that happens that we will truly be transitioning from enabling to empowering.

      @stephen , i love that idea as i told you last night. #EmployAnOccupier! Why not? I also like the idea of barter but that’s another convo for perhaps another WG! I have more ideas but I, like you, am tired. More soon. ..

  4. Lopi

    The problem with your suggestion about getting a job for every occupier is that the work force by and large, exists to exploit labor. Many of us actually quit jobs to join the movement because we no longer wanted to be exploited.

    I agree we need to create a model of self sufficiency but I would call for a more radical sustainability to be movement wide. Not to create a false appearance of sustainability by enlisting occupiers into jobs that exploit labor. That is supporting the old paradigm and by doing so is not in line with what the movement stands for imho. We want real change, not to support some capitalist notion of being a productive member of society by allowing a boss to get rich off of our labor.

    As a transitional crutch, maybe use the social services of the government, but it also seems to be a conflict of interest to me. I do support this aspect of the proposal, however, to enlist the help of radical social workers. Also the placement of occupiers in thriving occupations that have room for more people and resources to handle it.

    In my mind, what we ought to be working feverishly to create are worker run collective businesses, where the labor of the workers is not exploited, but rather equally valued. We could be using fund raising efforts, money from the general fund to establish new businesses based on this model, with a solid business plan and then really put those of us who need jobs to work creating a new paradigm.

    I do not support a jobs program for occupiers unless it is the creation of worker coops that will provide the jobs. Otherwise, I feel a deep ethical conflict with putting occupiers into jobs that exploit labor.

    People are welcome to do what they do to get by autonomously. We are welcome to accept exploitation of our labor on an individual level and that is all well and good. A movement sanctioned program to put occupiers into jobs en masse that support the old model of capitalism, I am not in support of. I feel it presents a mixed message to the world of what our movement is about.

    • Stephen Boyer

      But you’re okay with putting people on the street in February? I’ve worked all sorts of jobs, and yeah, “maid” is one of them… The reason I put that in as an example, I was trying to show that we should offer a wide range of jobs, something for everyone. I think your idea of creating worker run coops is a GREAT idea. However, I think it’s of equal importance that we realize the real human need of those that are going to be in the streets come the beginning of February. THAT IS URGENT. Have you ever lived on the streets? It’s a quick road to insanity. And for those that have spent the past few months giving their all to an activist movement, for them to suddenly be treated without any value by that group, could very well lead them to a violent action which in turn would place a label on all of us.

      • Lopi

        Yes, I have lived on the streets. For a year in the late 80’s, also on and off in the 90’s. I have also worked as a maid. I think you missed my point, but you are quick to make a wild allegation that my assertion’s logical conclusion is that I want to put people on the street in February. Sorry, I didn’t say that. Thanks for trying to put words into my mouth, but I aint eating your words.

        • Stephen Boyer

          Lopi – you’re so quick to make attacks. I’m not attacking you.. I’m merely stating that if we go through with all these cuts and do not come together as a community to try and help ensure everyone is self sufficient/ self sustaining, then people are going to have major problems. No need to attack me and I’m not attacking you.

          • Lopi

            If you think that by asserting my position strongly and reminding you that the words you said were not my words, that I am “attacking” you, I really can’t help you. I know what I believe, I know where I stand and when someone twists my words to suit their argument, I call them out on it. This is not an attack, it is a clarification.

            So, again, I will correct you. I am not attacking and I am not quick to attack. Your misrepresentation of my actions are inaccurate and slanted to suit your aims, which seems to be to push your agenda without really listening to my perspective. I will continue to correct anyone who twists my words. I don’t care who it is, Fox News or a fellow occupier. I’m a stickler for accuracy, is all.

            I also see an intense need to create a self sustaining movement where everyone’s needs are met. Our ideas of how to arrive to that end is different. If you can respect that I disagree with you, then we might actually communicate.

          • Stephen Boyer

            I think it must have been your first comment that threw me for a loop, didn’t seem like you wanted to communicate, just criticize – “really? hire an occupier as a maid? is this the new world we are creating? Have you ever been a maid?” – forgive me if i’ve misread your words…

          • Lopi

            I forgive you. you misread the words you read between the words I wrote. because there were no words in between the words I wrote, just honest questions.

      • vets74

        Doing things that work ??? The one route to getting our homeless under roof is the city shelter system. Suck it up and help folks avoid freezing where we can.

        This is a triage problem. Some of the folks who have been staying at the churches will pack up and go back home without assistance. Or they will make their own arrangements.

        The bottom of it is the crackheads, laptop thieves, etc. There is nothing to be done with them that we know of. They weren’t here with OWS NYC to do anything useful, anyway. We were their targets.

        The middle is the problem. OWS NYC followed its patented “leaderless” pattern. There was no authority/responsibility for the unpleasant task of arranging this help. Church closings were a surprise. No relationships were in place with hiring firms. Nothing happened.

        Out of work ? It’s not that OWS NYC is part of the 1%, but these are difficult problems. Talk about “worker cooperative” is typical of the disconnect. Emphasis on the aims of the Antisec Movement is a disconnect.

        These are Real World people. They don’t fit to theory. They don’t fit to bad management.

    • bopper

      The people who are being disruptive in meetings and causing problems in churches are not currently ’employable’. They suffer from mental illness; drug addictions; etc.. that keep them from being able to function in jobs and also in ows groups. Jobs are great, but are not a solution to this problem which we are not facing. (Well, I guess expelling N. from spokes is the first time). As I said, until we get tough about this we will continually be derailed. Freud said every defense can and will be tried… and that’s what we’re doing – trying all kinds of things to avoid doing the hard thing – gently but firmly expelling people who are causing havoc in the movement.

  5. stephan geras

    seems to me that this discussion about jobs as a cure for violence is misplaced. Among people with jobs there’s violence. Anger always surfaces in impassioned discussion and argument.and anger escalates to violence partly because people haven’t learned that civility and collegiality accomplish more. People in America have lots to say, many different perspectives but they are used to being dis-empowered, margianalized, not being listened to so you can expect people to believe that their voices are going to be silenced and so get angry and don’t listen anymore but only try harder to be heard. Brute violence, it seems, is as much a symptom as a disease in America where the social and political processes favor limbic behavior (of the borders or margins, emotions in lower brain functions) over co-operation and civility. The work to be done is in “Land, Work and Power.” We all need to organize, organize, organize, move outward, get out of the internalized obsessions with “the movement” and think strategically about the future, What’s also important is not just individual belief in the goals and principles people have chosen to support but respect for the truth that nearly everyone working in this occupy process regardless of skin color, gender, age or spiritual practice holds those same principles as you inviolable. We should be fighting for each other not against each other.

    • Stephen Boyer

      Love this! – “We should be fighting for each other not against each other.” – Thank you!

  6. Dallas

    I’m still not so sure about this idea that a privileged few instituted the spending freeze. If money is spent like water, I hear people blame Finance. If the *GA* consents to a freeze before all the money is spent like water, again the assumption is that somehow a privileged few (that may not even have been in attendance) are responsible for the GA’s public and transparent financial decision.

    That said, I fully support the idea of focusing on workshops for resume creation, skills training, navigating public services, job agencies, etc. We’ve been providing our brothers and sisters with a lot of fish which may soon run out. We probably should have been handing out more fishing rods and boats from the outset (phone/net access, social services guidance, resume writing, job fairs, skills training, professional looking attire) – let’s make sure to provide some tools while the resources are there.

    And on a less… flowery… note: let’s all keep in mind that most people hustlin’, stealing, dealing, and tricking on the street to get by did not end up in that life by well-executed design.

    Being judgmental and unfriendly doesn’t fix any of the factors that keep people in these situations, it just makes the situation colder and uglier. Please ask yourself before passing judgment: What have I done (for the disruptive/unethical party) to help provide an ethical and positive alternative to their actions?

    • Stephen Boyer

      Thanks for the support! I agree that its not “a privileged few” that executed the decision on the spending freeze… However, I SERIOUSLY question and wonder the true motives as to why it was proposed during the coldest months when people need resources most… I remember living in the park months ago, and we all anticipated the winter months being a very communal time for the movement, we were anticipating a cuddle fest of sorts to keep one another warm, and instead we’ve ended up at the other end of the spectrum. If nothing else, I’m hoping we can foster a conversation that brings us back to a more communal mindset.

  7. sumumba

    good points to all of u…im not sure the percentage but lets face it there are some ‘OCCUPIERS’ who are NOT employable or house-able….it’s sad but many won’t take medication and or refuse therapy. housing or anything that looks even close to being a positive contributing member of society…the sooner we get out of the ‘PC’ mindset and face REALITY the sooner it is we can move fwd in this movement

    • Dallas

      Well, don’t take it as I am glad to see another smart black man having to live in the shelter system…. but thank you so very much for being in that situation and still keeping it 100% real talk on this subject. I *mean* that. It’s kind of sad that it seems that most of us have waited for you to be the one to point out the ugly truth: Many are without a home of their own due to problems with the economy, bad luck, unforeseen circumstances…. but some people are homeless because no one will employ them or work with them, and they aren’t interested in counseling or medication to try to address the situation from their end. At that point, that becomes an issue for professionals IMHO…. most of us are no more qualified to deal with mentally ill individuals with a history of destructive behavior than we are to deal with a heart attack or a sucking chest wound. Dumping people in the cold streets in January/February in NYC is brutal, esp. when most of them haven’t done much wrong beyond sharing sleeping space with the wrong person at the wrong time… but IMHO it’ time to start helping those who are willing and receptive to help find the resources and social services they need elsewhere.

      We need to be more about the government providing the services our taxes are supposed to be paying for, and less about paying the taxes and then trying to provide the services ourselves. Frankly if hundreds of homeless and transient individuals (some of whom are quite employable) can’t find a better resource for housing and food in NYC than OWS, OWS isn’t the biggest problem in that picture at all.

      Forget the pity party and the PC stuff – focus on the fact that in a city where a billionaire is just about a self-appointed emperor, people are looking to *us* for housing and not the “Emperor”. WTF?!