By John Iacovelli, Scribillare
“The exhausted political machines and their PR slicks are already seeking leaders to elevate, messages to claim, talking points to move on. They, more than anyone, will attempt to seize and shape this moment. They are racing to reach the front of the line. But how can they run out in front of something that is in front of them? They cannot. For Wall Street and Washington, the demand is not on them to give us something that isn’t theirs to give. It’s ours. It’s on us. We aren’t going anywhere. We just got here.”-–Unsigned editorial, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, Issue 2
I’ve had occasion recently to review several Declarations of Occupation from U.S. cities large and small. Many are straight copies of Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration. The ones that differ, though they may not speak for all the movement, provide additional explanation and perspective upon the national messaging and plan of action of the movement.
These Declarations, approved by the General Assemblies of their respective cities, are the messages and talking points of the movement. At the present time, the movement’s most famous tactic, sleeping in tents in a visible public space, is under withering attack. Directly quoting the goals, strategies and tactics mentioned in these Declarations is one way to weigh the importance of tents for the movement.
Let us start with a word on the typical structure of these Declaration statements. In general, they follow the New York Declaration’s structure. They contain a short introduction of a paragraph or two describing who the authors are and how the present situation came to be. Then a list of twenty or so grievances follow. A short paragraph with a vision for creating a solution to the grievances follows, and finally, a very short call to action.
You’ll find links to all the quoted documents and others at the end of this summary, along with short characterizations of each individual Declaration.
But enough of my words…
- “Build a democratic, just, and sustainable world.”– Declaration of the Occupation of Washington D.C., November 15th
- “We have gathered here to dissolve the bonds between corporations and government… reestablish justice and ensure economic, social, and democratic equality; and to promote the general welfare of the 99%”– Declaration of Occupation, Lexington, November 8th
- “We stand together to take back control of our government from those who use their wealth to obstruct the democratic process.”– Declaration of the Occupation of Jacksonville, November 23rd
- “…the opportunity and power to effect change will be evenly distributed amongst all.”– Declaration of Occupation, Missoula, October 27th
- “Create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.”– Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, October 1st
- “…face them together in Peaceable Assembly, acting in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. and the numerous Occupy movements around our Nation and the World.”– Declaration of Occupation, Lexington, November 8th
- “…start(ed) a nationwide conversation about the realities of economic inequality and the meaning of Constitutional rights.”– Declaration of Occupation, Boston, November 29th
- “…to raise awareness about corporate greed and corruption within the major banks as well as to bring attention to a multitude of community interests (including, but not limited to: assisting the homeless population, assisting our education system to meet the needs of students and teachers and decreasing violence in our neighborhoods)… We will educate the local community, regarding issues of National interest that have and are contributing to the collapse of the economy and to the saddening reversal of the American Dream.”– Declaration of Occupation, Atlantic City, November 7th
- “Our response to these myriad issues rooted in undisguised greed, corruption, and inequality is to face them together in Peaceable Assembly…”– Declaration of Occupation – Lawrence – 2011-10-15
- “…a call to all individuals to become actively involved in the financial, political, environmental, and social decisions that impact our lives and the well being of those around us.”– Declaration of Occupation, Lexington, November 8th
- “Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space.”– Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, October 1st
- “Exercise your right to peaceably assemble and reclaim the commons.”– Declaration of the Occupation of Washington D.C., November 15th
- “Together, we set a precedent and provide a foothold (emphasis mine) for people to demand a truer, more horizontal democracy (at the occupation).”– Declaration of Occupation, Boston, November 29th
- Goal: the Declarations are very clear and consistent that their goal is a more democratic government and a more equal society.
- Strategies: again, the Declarations clearly and consistently call for education and discussion at a national level to generate solutions acceptable and accessible to all.
- Tactic: consistently call for use of the right of assembly.
The latter point about tactics, the call for assembly, could certainly be confirmed by the widespread and seemingly coordinated raids upon the occupation camps by local police forces. It’s not difficult at all to imagine an unfriendly analyst making a similar analysis to this one and then recommending a strategy of breaking up the movement’s ability to peaceably assemble. I believe, however, that the destruction of tents and semi-permanent structures as a tactic does not fulfill that strategy. It’s a simple matter for movement members to return during the day, without tents. Indeed, for some cities in the North, the authorities are probably doing the movement a favor; they could return for an “American Spring” far stronger than ever. It is worrisome, however, to consider that the authorities may realize that breaking tents is not effective, and that the militarized police forces may escalate to even greater levels of violence than those we have seen so far. America may see the return of the goon squads, as was once seen in the Pinkertons’ actions against the early labor movement. That would be another sign that the OWS movement is comparable to the great social movements this country has seen in the past.
A final word on the use of “goals, strategies and tactics” as an organization for this commentary. The military and the business sectors sometimes use these terms as a hierarchy to organize discussion of the why’s and wherefore’s of an overall plan of action. This is a link to a short article written by an Australian blogger which I found in a search. I thought that article might be helpful to anyone who may wish further reference as to the differences between the three terms.
Below you’ll find links and quick-take summaries on all the local Declarations of Occupation that I have found. Note that in cases where an occupation has adopted the New York Declaration with virtually no changes I have not listed them. These are in alphabetical order by city. I guess it’s just my inner librarian surfacing. My apologies if I have gathered some of the documents from unofficial sites; there may be cases in which the search results promoted such URLs much higher than the official ones.
- Declaration of Occupation – Atlantic City – 2011-11-07: emphasis on community education and good citizenship.
- Declaration of Occupation – Boston – 2011-11-29: emphasis on the occupation as a microcosm of an alternative, better society.
- Declaration of Occupation – Jacksonville – 2011-11-23: emphasis on community education and subsequent action. Note: while all the Declarations are implied calls for accountability for those responsible for national economic problems, this may be the only one that does so explicitly.
- Declaration of Occupation – Lansing – 2011-10-24: variation on the New York document, incorporating local issues.
- Declaration of Occupation – Lawrence – 2011-10-15: mostly a meeting announcement, but with a refreshing candor. “The problems which we face are numerous, and they cannot be distilled into a single issue or demand.”
- Declaration of Occupation – Lexington – 2011-11-08: calls for community education and participation. This is one of the more moving of the Declarations. Note: the photo of the little girl above is from the news article which printed the declaration.
- Declaration of Occupation – Missoula – 2011-10-27: probably features the most attention to environmental issues of the documents reviewed.
- Declaration of the Occupation of New York City – 2011-09-29. The mother ship.
- Declaration of Occupation – Tallahassee – undated: a short “who we are” statement.
- Declaration of Occupation – Texas State University – undated: focus on education and community.
- Declaration of Occupation – Tucson – 2011-11-12: many condemnations and demands. Much more a policy guidelines document than a grievances document.
- The Declaration of Occupy (Washington) D.C. – 2011-11-30: somewhat greater emphasis on the anti-war and governmental power aspects than others.
This article originally appeared at scribillare.com.
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