Friday, October 7, 2011

Inside #Occupy Cleveland

On Thursday, a friend and I made the trip to downtown Cleveland to check out the #OccupyCleveland protest. The Facebook page predicted there would be 800-ish people attending, but the actual number on opening day was closer to 200. We dressed to blend in with the crowd so we could fully embrace the experience, spending the better part of the day with the protesters.

The first thing we noticed was that this event was barely planned. #OccupyCleveland had a few individuals who appeared to be coordinating the day's events, but it was clear there was no schedule and there was no real preparation for the adult pajama party that was supposed to happen that night.

As we eavesdropped on conversations and asked around, we discovered that the coordinators were unsure about whether they would be permitted to camp at the park - they were negotiating most of the day with City of Cleveland officials and City Council members. In the end, the best deal they could get was permission to sleep on the sidewalks as long as they weren't blocking any walkways or businesses.

To their credit, they were very intent upon obeying the laws and respecting law enforcement. They emphasized that law enforcement officials were part of the 99%. Well, for now, anyway. There were warnings from the leaders about what might happen if anyone so much as stepped outside a crosswalk.

There was no food supply planned except for a small stash they were giving away after the first hour. They were Tweeting throughout the day that they were accepting food handouts donations. We were grateful for our free Anarchist Apples and Che Cheetos and lounged around on a blanked for an impromptu picnic with the rest of the slackers. The only restroom facilities available were in the Federal building across the street. We were told they "had to let us in" as long as we had an ID. However, after hours, they will be left without running water or toilets. Lake Erie's a half mile away, so maybe that's the plan?

This was the entire food stash. Most had already been given away by 3 PM

We sat in on the Tech Team meeting and discovered that although they had plans for a cell phone charging station, they realized they had no source of electricity and city ordinances prohibited them from having electric generators in the park. Plus they didn't have extension cords. Oopsies.

It was a mostly white, age-diverse crowd. The reality is that there were two completely different protests occurring simultaneously. Check out the bipolar selection of photos below:

Note Communist fine print

I don't remember the last time I've been somewhere with so many smokers

Nice tribute to Capitalist Steve Jobs

Abolish Capitalism

As you can see, the unions were well-represented at this protest. Rather than young, disaffected college students, the featured speakers were from the traditional arms of the Democratic Party. There was a woman from the SEIU, who called herself a Community Organizer. There was someone from the AFL-CIO and a representative from Rep. Dennis Kucinich's office. There was an activists urging protesters to vote against Issue 2 (Gov. Kasich's union reform bill, which the unions are trying to repeal) and against Issue 3 (the Healthcare Freedom Amendment). Someone also urged us to sign the petitions being circulated to put a measure on the ballot to repeal the recent election reform laws passed by the GOP-controlled legislature. We were approached several times by various people circulating these petitions.

And of course, what protest (of any kind) would be complete without this guy?:

When someone introduced a representative from, I'm not sure what I expected, but I did not expect a white-haired man in his 70's. He wandered up to the microphone and said - I really don't know what, these speeches were SO boring - something and then came back and stood near me. He leaned over to a woman about his age who was perhaps his wife and said, "Was that OK?" She nodded in approval. Then he said, "I'm thinking maybe I should get some business cards that say "" I think that would be a good idea."

Wait, what? This is the great and terrible This old man who had nothing even mildly interesting to say and failed to get more than a yawn out of the loosely gathered crowd? Well, kids, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain or you might see that this is a bunch of smoke and mirrors, just like the rest of these "protests."

Eventually, one of the leaders told the crowd that it was time for the march that was planned. They said that anyone who had an opinion about where we should march should come to the microphone to share their thoughts and we would have a democratic vote. Sheesh! I briefly considered proposing a march to Kapitalist Krispy Kreme, but restrain myself to keep from blowing my cover. Since only one person actually had an opinion, the majority decided to march to Public Square and City Hall.

About half a block into the march and the "This is what democracy looks like" chants, I had had enough. We had marched passed several construction workers in orange vests - people who were actually working. I looked up at the buildings around me and thought about the people working hard to earn paychecks for their families, including my own husband, who was working in one of those buildings to provide for our family. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like I was betraying my country and everything I believed in. It was one thing to stand on the outskirts of that group, listening to the speeches, but I could not march with them and become one of them. We fell out of the march and headed back to our cars.

On that walk back to the parking lot, my friend and I reflected on the huge contrast between this group of protesters and those at the Tea Parties. Even though Tea Party members are angry and frustrated with the government and taxes and a host of other issues at times, the rallies are overwhelmingly uplifting and positive events. They are hopeful and focus on positive solutions. Even the music is designed to inspire and encourage. #OccupyCleveland, in contrast, was the opposite. In was depressing, negative, unfocused, and offered no solutions. Add mindlessly boring to the list as well. There's nothing worse than a completely unplanned, day-long open mic program.

I do, however, kind of like my fake tattoo. I think I might keep it for a few more days.


The Real Amurica said...

I have seen this posted on several blogs now. How many under cover agents actually went? The article says "me and a friend." Yet with all the copying and pasting it seems like hafe the crowd were undercover agents of some bizarre super conservative sect. Why do you care and feel the need to infiltrate? I'm not aware of many "liberals" infiltrating tea party things. Are you afraid of something that you need to find out what "really" is going on? Threatened maybe? You are the ones that need to get a life, not the occupiers. Seriously, some of the things they want are what a true conservative would want. Ending the Federal Reserve? Can't get much further right than that. If one is intelligent enough to parse through some of the more liberal ideas (many of which I oppose) promoted by the occupation see the centrist and more right leaning ideas you'll realized this isn't some great evil to America. The overwhelming consensus of the movement is to end the unequal representation in government by special interests that helps create super political polarization that more often than not leads to unhealthy gridlock in Washington and hurts everyone in this nation. Thanks to Citizens United, lobbyists, and some unconscionable acts by Wall Street bankers these special interests (and I'll even throw in national union leaders, although the individual policeman, fireman, and teacher in some of those unions work as hard as anyone and should not be demonized) the average American will be less likely to become the "1%" no matter how hard they work. I'm not exactly sure how pandering to those with money to buy lobbyists makes the United States a free country, with a free market economy, and everyone being created equal. It seems like a certain group of people have gamed a system to disadvantage the people they need to ensure they keep making money. And I support the ability to make vasts quantities of money, that is if everyone has a chance to do it.

The Real Amurica said...

And oh yeah, the occupiers also denounce the bailouts. Isn't that something you reactionary conservatives hate too? I thought so.

The Real Amurica said...

*half and I think I needed to add an "and" at one point.

Don't hate my perspective due to typos. Thanks

Paula said...

Thanks for dropping by. We wanted to spend a day hanging out with the protesters to find out what the real story was, free from the media spin and hype.

Was this a monolithic anti-capitalist movement as much of the media has been portraying? Was it a well-orchestrated union operation? We wanted to find out for ourselves the story the media was not telling.

You are mistaken if you think there are no liberals infiltrating tea party events! I have friends who have been involved in planning the events and they have had to deal with everything from hecklers to vandals to "fake" tea party members showing up with offensive signs. For every event they have plans in place for how to deal with these people if they show up.

We didn't bother anyone or disrupt anything at the occupation and were polite and friendly to everyone we encountered.

Just as a side note, there were a LOT of attendees who had pads of paper and were taking notes and/or conducting interviews, so I suspect we weren't the only observers in attendance.

I think we might agree on some of the problems facing our country today, but I suspect we differ drastically on what the solutions should be.

In Peace....


Anonymous said...

Paula, I think you misunderstand this.

You saw yourself that the Occupy movement is not some ultra organized union movement. It's a real grass roots movement, just like the tea party used to be.

Notice that no one has been pitching solutions. Only issuing grievances and demanding an end to corruption on both sides of the aisle.

We hope that you will join us in that, because only when the corruption has ended can we fix the real problems confronting our society.

Paula said...

@ Anonymous: Here's the thing. Complaining and inconveniencing people is not a strategy for change. It's just complaining. Why not, like the Tea Party, pick a problem or two and work on those? OC and OWS can't because the democratic process (a concept of government that will never work in the U.S.- read the Federalist/anti-Federalist papers some time!) will not allow the movement to pick and choose a direction or focus on one problem at a time.

If you ask people what the protests in the late 60's/early 70s were about, they will tell you it was civil rights and the war in Vietnam.

If you ask people what the Tea Party is about, they will tell you it is taxes and big government.

I heard one of the OC leaders say that they don't all agree on what the problem is, just recognizing that there is a problem. Um...with all due respect, how do you fix that?

Here's the other thing. OC is protesting "corporate greed" outside the HQ of Sherwin-Williams, a company that employs 3800 people in Cleveland and thousands of others in its stores across the country. They hire 700 college grads every year and pay their summer interns $12.50/hour. They have excellent health insurance and pension plans and it is consistently rated as one of the best places to work.

Last year the company paid $200 million in income taxes - nearly 1/3 of their income. That's $30 million more than in 2009.

I must ask you, how much more do want them to pay? 3/4? 7/8? If you made $12.00/hour and you knew someone was skimming $4/hour off the top, would it be worth getting out of bed in the morning?

I want SW and companies like it to be wildly successful. More power to 'em! The more they succeed, the more stores they can open and the more people they can hire to run those stores. That's great for communities and families!

Finally, you must recognize that the government does a very poor job at almost everything. Between cronyism and government waste and fraud, every dollar we send to Washington is reduced to mere pennies on the dollar by the time politicians get done with it.

OTOH, private charitable organizations do a lot more with a lot less without forced coercive "charitable giving" in the form of taxes. Haven of Rest in Akron is a fine example of what private citizens can accomplish without the government's help.

Despite the popular narrative, the "greedy millionaires and billionaires" often are the most generous benefactors to private charities. Reduce their taxes and they'll have even more to give.