Every Time I Think I Am Out, the Occupy Movement Pulls Me Back In to Write Another Blog Post

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 6, 2011

Behold the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the Occupy movement, as recounted by a movement member:

The newly formed Spokes Council claims to adhere to the “statement of principles” adopted by the New York City General Assembly, including “direct-democracy, non-hierarchy, participation, and inclusion.” The Spokes Council differs from the NYC-GA, however, in three main respects: the Spokes Council has the power to exclude new groups that don’t receive a 90% majority vote for admission; in the NYC-GA, everybody technically has the right to speak, whereas in the Spokes Council each Working Group has a spokesperson, who can be recalled only by a 90% majority; and the NYC-GA allows one vote per person, whereas the Spokes Council operates more indirectly, granting each Working Group one vote.

When I pointed out the contradictions these differences present to the Council’s stated principles, the leaders of Sunday’s teach-in insisted that the Spokes Council was the most participatory, democratic organization possible—the same slogan they repeated last month about the General Assembly. I felt like I was watching a local production of Animal Farm.

I’ve attended two mock Spokes Councils in the past month. At the Spokes Council in Washington Square Park on October 15, the unelected facilitators set the agenda: Occupy Washington Square Park. Then they set the terms of debate, breaking the group into three circles: those who wanted to occupy and possibly get arrested, those who wanted there to be an occupation and would assist those being arrested, and those who wanted to build the movement in other ways. I went with the third group.

The facilitators told each group to elect a facilitator, a note-taker, and a spokesperson who would read the notes from each group’s meeting. Almost immediately, one of the members of the OWS inner-circle asked my group if anybody had a problem if she facilitated. Nobody objected, so she was “elected.” Although she was in the one group that opposed occupying Washington Square Park, she lectured us about the need to occupy public parks.

I was vocal in my group, arguing that the fundamental problem in our hierarchical, bureaucratic society is the lack of a truly democratic, dialogic way of relating to one another—not that public parks close at midnight. I repeated the arguments I had raised in previous General Assemblies, concluding that OWS’ main goal should be to develop dialogic, democratic methods in the occupied areas, and to extend this way of life into every home, workplace and school, and in local, regional, national and international bodies.

My advocacy for radical democracy wasn’t particularly popular. Ironically, the predominantly middle-class, white men leading the movement claim that their hostility to democracy is in the interest of “protecting minorities,” referring to oppressed genders, races, classes, ages, and nations. Far from being “minorities,” these people make up the majority of the world’s population; the worldwide outcry for democracy vitiates the paternalistic notion that the oppressed need “protection.”

The discussion turned to which locations the movement should occupy, ignoring the question of whether occupation for the sake of occupation was a good idea. I suggested teaming with evicted tenants and former homeowners to occupy foreclosed homes, abandoned apartments and unsold condos—an act that would strike at the heart of the economic crisis, and endear the movement to the oppressed. This idea generated a lot of support, but was not repeated by my “spokesperson” when the groups reconvened.

Oh, and look: More violence!

A Zuccotti Park protester threw a violent fit in a McDonald’s yesterday after employees refused to give him free food.

Fisika Bezabeh, 27, ripped a credit-card reader from a counter and threw it at workers at about 2:30 a.m. at the Mickey D’s at 160 Broadway, a bathroom spot for protesters.

No one was hurt by Bezabeh, who has been seen hanging out with protesters in the occupied park, police sources said.

And more:

Police were called to two violent incidents at Occupy Los Angeles on Friday, adding to questions about the protest and its future.

In the morning, a woman was arrested at the encampment outside City Hall after she set another person’s clothes on fire, police said. In another incident hours later, a woman was arrested after protesters said she struck a man with a tent pole. Both were booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

Also Friday, police arrested a man on suspicion of climbing a tree and dumping fluorescent paint on a historic marble fountain that the city barricaded earlier this week to protect from vandalism.

The incidents are distressing, city officials say, because up until now protesters at Occupy Los Angeles have been mostly peaceful.

“We have not seen violent incidents like this,” Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. “But two felonies from the south lawn in one day? This has raised concerns for us.”

And more:

“Every single night it’s the same thing. I mean, some guy was a victim of rape!” an officer snarls. “There comes a time when it’s over. This is a disaster. It’s all we’re doing, every two seconds, is locking somebody up every time. It’s done.

“It’s done,” he repeats. “Occupy Wall Street is no longer a protest.”

Scenes like this — and far worse — have been playing out since the Zuccotti Park “occupation” began on Sept. 17.

The parcel is now a sliver of madness, rife with sex attacks, robberies and vigilante justice.

It’s a leaderless bazaar that’s been divided into state-like camps — with tents packed together so densely that the only way to add more would be to stack them.

And despite an NYPD watchtower overhead and the entire north side of Zuccotti lined with police vehicles, it is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places in New York City.

“Occupy Wall Street is no longer a protest.” Indeed, it is not. It is a crime scene. It’s time to treat it like one. And maybe if the media ever took notice of what is going on with the Occupy movement, it might be easier to take action against the violence and lawlessness that now attends the movement.

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