Category: Blog

Facebook and violence

janewebI’m not one of the people who deserves the kudos and credit for conceiving and launching the brilliant #FBrape campaign. I’m just one of many people who saw it happening and jumped in to contribute. It was something I was thrilled to see happening and now feel proud of having supported.

 

I’ve seen some critique of the campaign lately (here is one:http://thelesbianmafia.tumblr.com/post/51621489286/our-thoughts-on-facebook-giving-way-to-campaign-against) – and I applaud efforts to have conversations about these issues, so I’m adding my thoughts as a way to support dialogue.

 

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DNC sadness

Last night Occupy Charlotte’s self described masochist-in-chief (IOW lover of long meetings) was alternating between shaking his head and staring at the floor. He almost walked out, something I have never seen him do in 11 months of occupying, though I have done so myself. We’ve been hearing from our Occupiers who travel to other cities that Occupy Charlotte “really has it together” when compared to other occupations, that we should stop being so hard on ourselves.  I admit I doubted that and assumed it was a pep talk (something we do, and were aware was unique).

As frustrated and meetinged-out as many of us were, we held a “locals” meeting after the other meeting we’d attended. I’m sure I’ve never said this about an Occupy Charlotte meeting before: It was a relief. Yes, we vented first. And then we put one foot in front of the other as we have always done.

Occupy Charlotte has always been aware that September was coming. Many times I’ve heard people say “we are the stewards of this area in advance of the DNC”. We’ve worked hard to build bridges, to develop respectful relationships with our local mainstream media and law enforcement and while there have been exceptions, we’ve had many successes.  This is the place where I credit those people in CMPD and the Charlotte media – they too have worked very hard at this. Of course there have been places where we were unhappy with both groups, and we have called them out, but overall in Charlotte we have not seen the police brutality, repression or the hostile dismissive media coverage that Occupiers in other cities have experienced. Occupy Charlotte focused on Politicians and corporate money, understanding that police and media are part of the 99% and are also harmed by the systemic problems in our political system.

When I am present for things like poor meeting facilitation, chants and actions that taunt police, antagonism of local media people, I feel sad. Yes, it feels disrespectful to the work of local Occupiers, but that is easier to let go of,  the issues facing us today are so much greater than our individual hurt feelings. The much deeper sadness grows from understanding where these behaviors in some of our visiting Occupiers come from. Soapboxing when facilitating grows from a feeling of not being heard.  F*** the police chants are started by people who have experienced police brutality for daring to express themselves peacefully. Jumping in front of camera people happens when people have seen their own stories so perverted by corporate media that they have lost all trust in a free press.

I have been watching, listening, soothing and empathizing as I look into the eyes and hear the stories of our Occupy guests in Charlotte. There are so many traumatized, wounded people whose response to the pain they are feeling is to stand UP, push BACK and lash out in anticipation of being hurt again. THIS is root of the deep sadness I feel today.

I admit to a brief moment (or three) of being tempted to sit out, to stay at home and watch the DNC protests unfold from behind the safety of a screen, but I know that I won’t.  I know that others in Occupy Charlotte won’t either.  We will continue to show up, to stand up, to work for the change we want to see in the world. I will do so with a greater understanding of the healing that needs to happen, even though I have no idea how to begin to help with such a monumental task.  I will put one foot in front of the other.

#handful-of-idiots

I am ready to cry reading the FBI/DHS document Potential for Violence or Criminal Activity by Anarchist Extremists During the 2012 National Political Conventions. I find it tragic that our own law enforcement agencies have lost credibility with our citizens (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and this document unfortunately continues in that tradition.

I appreciate this quote at the start “Within the context of this product, FBI and DHS do not consider civil disobedience tactics, such as protests without a permit, to constitute criminal activities about which we are concerned.” I also appreciate the clarity in the footnote on page 2 “The FBI defines anarchist extremists as groups or individuals who seek to further their anarchist ideology wholly or in part through force or violence and in violation of federal law.”

But there is much to be sad about when reading this document.  For example in the discussion on use of social media for communication there is this: “In May 2012, individuals coordinating criminal actions against the Bank of America in Charlotte communicated by using a free downloadable software application.” What?  WHAT? There was nothing, NOTHING that qualified the BOA demonstration as evidence for this document under the definitions just cited. The only “criminal activity” was peaceful demonstration and a bit of well coordinated, communicated in advance with local law enforcement, symbolic civil disobedience.

The section discussing training includes this “Anarchist extremists are possibly planning to instigate violent confrontations with law enforcement and other criminal actions if their plans include preparing for injuries”What? Street medic trainings, conducted in advance of any major demonstration, are considered evidence that people are planning acts of violence? Who has not seen the reports of violence by law enforcement used against peaceful protestors? Training people to stay safe, to help one another in the case of injury is being used as evidence of planning to commit acts of violence?  I want to cry.

In the section on Indicators: “Possible factors that may mitigate the threat of anarchist extremists using violence to criminally disrupt or threaten public safety at the national political conventions include:…Law enforcement arrests prior to the conventions deterring further actions by anarchist extremists.”   Arrests in advance of whom? The NATO protests in Chicago are cited as an example in this document but I have yet to see any mainstream media reporting of the role law enforcement played in infiltrating and provoking those arrests.  I have yet to see any significant coverage of the events that occurred prior to NATO, the video captured as the chicago police were threatening people in advance, the fact that the very same people who published the video were later arrested and charged with terrorism.

In an FBI/DHS document that refers repeatedly to potential “criminal activity” in my home of Charlotte NC I will once again point out that the phrase “criminal activity” has been rendered almost meaningless by local politicians passing new laws in advance of the DNC. Carrying a sharpie inside an “extraordinary event” zone is now a criminal activity. Think it can’t happen?  I was arrested with a lap full of crayons (I was later found not guilty because I was resisting an unlawful order).

Many of my friends have pointed out that this constant conversation about “violence” distracts us all from discussing the issues that call us into the streets in the first place. I hear that. And I will not give these reports all of my energy, I will not allow the distractions to shift my trajectory completely. But freedom of expression is dear to me, defending uplifting supporting it, is in fact one of the reasons I am an activist.

I suggest that we all, law enforcement, residents and visitors begin operating under the #handful-of-idiots assumption.  There are a handful of idiots in law enforcement, and a handful of idiots in activist circles. In both cases the people most likely to both resent and curtail idiotic behavior are found within that particular group.

Onward.

Living dreams

surfacingToday, I will slow down.

I believe in solidarity, in standing up beside and supporting others. I love the energy and jubilation I find in Occupy, in working together, in creating collaborative dreams. I also believe it is good for me to take breaks, to pause and reflect, to look backward and forward on my own.

Looking back I see that my participation in occupy hasn’t been very sustainable when I view the whole of my life. This has only occasionally approached the disaster zone, most of the time it’s been merely troublesome and i’ve been able to shimmy around picking up pieces as they fall. The sense of urgency, of possibility, is strong, magnetic, and I’ve been letting it pull me. Its felt like the right thing to do. I do know that I can’t act in ways that allow the other parts of my life to crumble, but it’s been seductive and often rewarding.

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Horizontal, meet Vertical

Jason Miczek / Reuters

Musings on the May 9th Bank of America protest planning

In November of 2011 Occupy Charlotte was approached by the (then named) Coalition to Protest at the DNC. Along with the subtleties of language like ‘join’ and ‘endorse’ it gave us the opportunity to consider philosophical issues about working with other groups. 

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