A good part of the reason I started blogging was because I went to a history conference at a UT branch up between Dallas and Fort Worth and found that, contrary to belief, many well known academic historians have found community history projects to be invaluable because of their focus and details. Photos rated high. Photos with details rate high. Interviews with participants in events rated high. Interviews with older people rated high if you cover their experience and perspective.
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“Protest works. Just look at the proof”


The last place you will hear about the new American labor movement is in big American outlets.

Via lambert, via susie. See them, their blogrolls, Twitter hash tag #1u and just about any other outlet where citizens can get the word out.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)

The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Via.


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Occupy Wall Street and the great unmasking

Here was the scene last night at Occupy Wall Street (OWS):

I think this might end up being the signature event of the movement, because it will represent the moment when the powers that be dropped the pretense and gave us all an unvarnished look at what they are really willing to do. The arrests over the first weekend might have been sold as just breaking up another protest. The much larger arrests last weekend could have been spun as a public safety issue, or of maintaining access to public infrastructure.

Last night, though, there really was no purpose other than to beat the protest out of existence. There was a march happening towards Wall Street, but no unrest. It was met with a pure display of power - and that is where I think many observers have been looking at the whole situation backwards. There seems to be this sense that the world is ruled by Human Resources, and that a wave of bad publicity is enough to make an institution reverse course. (I am not entirely sure how this belief persists considering that even the most awful executives walk free, cash out their companies for enormous sums, and the newly-branded operations continue to wreak havoc.)

That may be true enough when the populace is docile, but when folks start to make some noise we see what lies underneath the smooth talk: brute force. That is what last night revealed: If the rabble refuses to go along with the program they will be beaten into submission. The problem is not that they don’t understand us (can’t they see how bad this looks?!). It’s that we don’t understand them. These - and likely more - are the lengths they will go to in order to impose the current order on us. They do not care how bad it looks at the moment. The PR spin can wait until later. The exigency of the moment is to end this thing however they can, and the sooner the rest of us understand that the better.

Happily, there is a hitch. The organizers at Zucotti Park have chosen nonviolent occupation, and both parts of that are undermining their opponents’ efforts. At the beginning many tried to dismiss OWS as basically the same as the WTO unrest in Seattle back in 1999, but the resolute embrace of peaceful protest has deprived critics of the kind of visuals that have discredited direct action in the past. There are no broken windows, no tear gas, none of the pictures of chaos in the streets (at least, not as prompted by participants) that make casual viewers recoil and side with authorities.

Second, occupation is a long term tactic, but deploying muscle is a short term one. As long as the occupation remains peaceful, each successive police action will generate increasing sympathy for the occupiers - and diminish support among the police force itself. Again, look at the arrests so far and think about how the officers involved might have felt. First one: Another protest, break it up, yeah that Bologna guy was a jerk again but that’s how he is sometimes. Second one: Gotta keep the bridge clear for traffic, but what the heck was the deal with clearing the way for them? Third one: This again, and why exactly this time? They aren’t bugging anyone, why not just let them be? It only makes us look bad.

Each time the NYPD has another round of mass arrests it just makes them look worse and worse, and to no good purpose for them. In fact, it becomes counterproductive. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall New York City’s criminal element agreeing to scale back on their activities while the police once again go in huge numbers to round up citizens who aren’t bothering anyone or jeopardizing anyone’s safety. Think they don’t still have robberies to investigate, suspects to question, paperwork to fill out? Who could blame them if, each time out, they feel a little bit more like chumps being sent to do someone else’s dirty work?

What happens as support among the police wanes? I honestly have no idea, but I feel pretty certain it won’t be helpful for those who want the protesters to go away. The nonviolent occupation has time on its side. If the folks in Zucotti Park keep it up they will slowly but inexorably erode a crucial pillar propping up the 1% they have arrayed against. It is an absolutely brilliant model - and it is succeeding.

Reader Comments (3)

Even the so-called "Battle of Seattle" wasn't what we think we know about it. It, too, was brute force intended to either break the protesters or convince the world that the protesters were the cause of the violence. I think the historical record is clear that the police provoked the violence and, indeed, that perhaps law enforcement arranged for the "Black Bloc anarchists" to provide some mischief as cover for police wrongdoing.

Some excerpts. Neil deMause, FAIR:

most news outlets ignored the police assaults that preceded the looting, preferring to believe that it was the acts of a few out-of-control protesters that led to the violence, and downplaying police use of force. ...Direct Action Network spokesperson Karen Coulter, who reported that "Our legal team has gone in and found out that beatings in detention were severe, and there has been repeated use of pepper spray in detention."

Patrick Gillham, UC Boulder:

During the police assault, the number of vandals increased, as did the intensity of their attacks. Just before police slowed their attack around 11 a.m., small groups began breaking windows of retail stores such as Nike and The Gap, using hammers and crowbars concealed inside backpacks, as well as newspaper boxes and heavy steel grates protecting trees. Retail stores owned by multinational corporations believed responsible for human rights abuses and global environmental degradation were targeted. With little success some demonstrators opposing the vandalism tried policing the more disruptive activists by actively interfering with those breaking windows and by reminding them this was a nonviolent demonstration

National Lawyer's Guild:

To the extent that law enforcement tactics are based on a foundation of avoiding "the failures of Seattle," such tactics are inherently flawed and miss the point:the mass violations of law in Seattle were carried out by the police. Finding that police in Seattle acted inappropriately, the Report of the WTO Accountability Review Committee of the Seattle City Council emphasized that: "[T]his city became the laboratory for how American cities will address mass protests. In many ways, it became a vivid demonstration of what not to do." The report goes on to say: "Members of the public, including demonstrators, were victims of ill-conceived
and sometimes pointless police actions to 'clear the streets'.Our inquiry found troubling examples of seemingly gratuitous assaults on citizens, including use of less-lethal weapons like tear gas, pepper gas, rubber bullets, and ‘beanbag guns,’by officers who seemed motivated more by anger or fear than professional law enforcement."


The American people have been so heavily propagandized that we form our worldview and take action based on history that never happened.

October 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

Here's an example of the allegation that police agents started the riots, supposedly from the AP, appearing in The Guardian:

Reporters watched as the police appeared to use the staged scuffle as bait to pull protesters into it and then use it as a pretext to charge into the park. A second charge emptied the park within minutes.

The masked assailants, some of them apparently wearing earphones, had gathered in groups on the fringes of the protest march as it arrived at the park after passing down a dozen blocks of the boulevard.

They were wearing knapsacks and carrying sticks, but were able to walk freely past police, pull on their masks and position themselves between the edge of the crowd in the park and the police lines 25 yards away.

The fight began when one man grabbed another and pulled him to the ground. Others from the same group began kicking and slugging each other.

When demonstrators saw what was going on and joined the fight, the police charged into the park. The men and women involved in the scuffle walked through the police line and boarded the vans.

A reporter asked one of them if they were police. He at first said yes, and then said no, before walking undeterred by police to the vans.

October 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

Great stuff, Charles - thanks much. I'll excerpt & link tomorrow (I hope).

October 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterDan

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