by Josh Bailey
edited by Chris Woo
My name is Joshua Bailey. I don’t typically use my real name, but it is important you know who I am. I have attended the General Assemblies in Occupy Springfield, IL since their third meeting. I identify as an Anarcho-Communist, and sympathize with Black Bloc tactics. I am here, like all of you, as a result of undeniable revelations that prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that our politicians are paid for, our wars are for profit, and scarcity is a side-effect of the greed our capitalist system rewards and empowers. Those revelations are brought forth by people who risk their whole lives for honesty, and I believe the ONLY way to perpetuate my awareness is by sharing that honesty.
Do not call your marches peaceful when there are errors. Explain the errors, the rationale for the errors, and allow the defense of tactics when they are logical and serve a purpose. Explain the errors when they are illogical and don’t serve any relevant purpose by way of direct action or education. If you don’t, and you believe that you will pull more people into awareness by lying, you are serving lies in the name of propaganda, and are no different than the media’s influence you seek to combat. You don’t have the funding or reach like THEY do (nor are you as good at it), and you will not beat this fire with your own.
This means that you must take credit for your mistakes. You must dissect them so that you may learn from them. If you don’t believe that, you’re no better than the politicians you seek to upheave, who lie to the public to serve their own selfish interests instead of perpetuating the values they spit from their face. So, let’s be honest about own our mistakes.
At the Occupy Midwest conference this weekend, several were arrested, some brutally, by the St. Louis Police Department on Thursday night. While I believe this was totally unprovoked and designed as a message, I believe it was unnecessary, avoidable, and meaningless. However, that’s not what Occupy needs to admit.
I left the Occupy Midwest conference on Friday night after Occupiers that had been drinking alcohol left a planned event in support of our network to march around in the street in response to the previous night’s police brutality. First error, drinking and activism do not mix. That is something, as a “recovering” alcoholic, I believe through and through, and I can’t imagine much dissent from the vast majority of Occupiers and activists.
Once in the street, some people chose to light bottle rockets. That’s right, traveling explosives in a city street on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. By my estimation, this was the second mistake, as innocent people could have been hurt, and I fail to see how it could have been triggered by any rational thought OTHER THAN “let’s get the police to come crack heads so we can lie about our behavior to try and make it look totally unprovoked.” Since it was a march in retaliation to the brutality the night before, someone was launching bottle rockets into the lot of the nearby police station, and one hit a police SUV on the road. The police did nothing in response. I think they caught the plot, not that it was real hard to do.
The business that gave its venue for this event ended up locking the doors so the marchers couldn’t get back in, as the ONLY stipulation for the use of the venue was that there would be NO demonstrations, because such a loss of control puts their liquor license in jeopardy. So, our third mistake comes at us in the form of hypocrisy – because it’s hard to act as though we’re trying to promote community over corporation when our actions could shut the doors of local business. This is simply a lack of forethought and disregard for the movement itself (many of them due to inebriation, no doubt), since this impromptu march was never approved by Occupy the Midwest at a GA, and I sincerely hope that it would not have been approved with alcohol as the pregame. Occupy the Midwest must take credit for getting everyone there, however, so we must acknowledge that 8 hours at a bar for speakers and recreation probably isn’t the best of ideas after a night of highly emotional situations.
As a result of the doors getting shut, all of the acts that volunteered their time played to a nearly empty floor, and the final act (another Anarcho-Communist that would identify even more than I with Black Bloc tactics in the right situations) was cut off all together. He’s a Producer, spent 12 hours on this free DJ set for those that didn’t care to hear it, and traveled two hours to be there. He wrote an Occupy Springfield, IL press release responding to Thursday night’s violence that was quoted in the Huffington Post, and is one of the most active members of Occupy Springfield, as well as an activist in 3 other groups. Fourth on that list of mistakes; screwing our own. I know several people that drove back home the same day they drove to St. Louis, because they were so frustrated with the thoughtless processes that transpired Thursday and Friday. How will you attract enough people to matter, if you can’t keep the ones you have?
Facebook (which I’m no longer a part of, because I practice what I preach, and refuse to support those companies that don’t support my ideals) was abuzz with very smug participants of this action claiming it was “the most fun they’d had yet.” I don’t participate to have fun. I have a lot of it, but I certainly don’t expect my actions to revolve around my enjoyment of their process. This isn’t a game, god damnit. The fact that many of the posts in defense of the action were so smug, while a young man that is sympathetic to the movement simultaneously posts that his parents were surrounded by a crowd of disgruntled drunks and made to feel threatened by the movement they support, proves, in my mind, that those smug enough to defend the action had given no thought to what it DID and DIDN’T accomplish.
I would also like to take a jab at all my fellow comrades that participated in such an action. How can you claim to have a worldview focused on COMMUNITY while entering another COMMUNITY of which you know little to nothing about and applying your own community’s strategies? This is a microcosm of America’s foreign involvement, in my mind. Let St. Louis handle actions in St. Louis, let Chicago lead the protests of Chicago, and stop acting like the whole world exists only in what you know within your tiny little glimpse of it. Many of the people that ACTUALLY invested time into planning the conference so that we could meet and network called this as a failed action before anyone left the room, and I’d have to say that their efforts for their community should have earned a lot more respect from someone that would claim to be a “communist.”
To be clear, the people on the street were a thin sample of those participating in Occupy the Midwest and a thinner sample of those occupying throughout the Midwest. Many of those who would practice legitimate Black Bloc tactics that had been drinking were inside the bar condemning any drunk action. This is the nature of our stigmergic actions in reach of the “idea” that is Occupy. I would never condemn the whole movement (since I understand it), but I will wholeheartedly condemn the “drunken fun” that people tried to claim was a legitimate direct action. Know that all those who DON’T understand it yet never will if you alienate them before they do, as they will be far more likely to condemn ALL of us on account of a few.
The media would have you believe we’re “useful idiots,” don’t give them fodder for that sentiment. If you were someone that was called by a tweet, you should do better to analyze where the idea comes from, and what the implications of following a bar tweet can lead to. When you acknowledge the mistake, admit it, and seek to avoid it in the future. If we can’t do this, our movement is doomed to fall into the same bureaucratic process we seek to unravel, with a bunch of selfish thrill seekers, resume builders, and stuff collectors fighting each other for our own interests.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the hope of leaving you with absolute clarity re: this post and the events that transpired, I present to you a summary of the above:
Basically, on Thursday evening rather than camp out at an already approved piece of private property, one of several, it was decided that those in attendance would take a city park. They were told to leave this city park after curfew by the STLPD and a city worker, and in doing so took to the streets for a very unorganized march which led to people walking in the streets, and others, being attacked by the STLPD. It is this editor’s opinion that any form of action planned and carried our over such a short period of time leaves a group open to mistakes, and vulnerable.
The following night, Friday, there were a whole evening of events from around 5pm to 1am planned at a local bar. Elements in the crowd planned a march at 11pm in retaliation to the previous evenings happenings. This should have been denounced immediately as it was not something that was planned and would/did result in bastardizing the planned events. The march happened right outside of the bar, which was horrible because one of the very few rules to using that space was to not march, not rally, not try to occupy the space. From there, as you read above, there were those who purposefully fired off bottle rockets at the police station, etc. There were those in gas masks before any police presence was around.
Many of us left that evening, still proud members of the Occupy Movement, but not wanting to be associated with this tomfoolery. We saw the signs of what was wrong with this as it was happening and had stayed in the bar, while the rest were locked out. The moral here, I think, is twofold. Those organizing such events need to make it clear that they are in charge and maintain that authority, and secondly, never be afraid to confront and denounce those who are damaging to your movement.