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"The Needs Circles were safe spaces that allowed for us to put our hurts on the table."

http://thisiswhyioccupy.tumblr.com/post/18800600010/on-needs-and-solidarity

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Week 2 Day 5: Black Bagged in Albany

It was a cold sunny afternoon in Northampton when the Occubus took off to Albany, NY for day five of the Occutrip. Looking out the bus windows one could see frozen lakes and barren trees greeting the bus as it pulled north into upstate New York.

As the Occuptrippers (OTs) walked into town Occupy Albany stood outside their new office/gallery space brandishing signs and chanting All Day! All Week! Occupy Albany! to usher OWS into town. As soon as the OTs crossed the street the protest had begun. The press had gathered for a press conference with a mix of OTs and Occupy Albanyers (OAsto speak out against the N.D.A.A. One of the Albany natives was even black bagged by a black suit and tie in an act of political street theatre. But business must always be complimented with pleasure and so the OTs and the OAs fellow-shipped in the newly christened space.

Afterwards, everyone gathered together for a home cooked vegan meal. The rest of the night was pretty low key. A piano softly provided the undertones for OA’s first office party. It was First Friday in Albany which means art, food, and music so the Occupiers decided to Occupy culture. The OTs spent the rest of the night in their host homes. From fireplaces to late night media meetings, day five was a bit slower than usual — thankfully. The OTs are going to need that rest. Day six was shaping up to be a pretty adventurous outing.

Larry Swetman

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Week 2 Day 4: No Apologies

Like bees in a hive the Occupiers of OWS and Occupy Northampton (OHNOHO) would spend day four cross-pollinating passion from town halls to workshops to the streets. The day began with another display of the now famous Northampton hospitality. A local cafe, Haymarket, provided the OTs with fresh baked muffins, coffee, and a beautiful atmosphere, all gratis. But breakfast was not the highlight of the visit. After the feast 30+ people packed the little cafe for what would turn out to be a perfect picture of a town hall meeting.

The demographic of the meeting ranged widely. Long time activists sat next to folks who were attending their first Occupy event for facilitated discussions on topics ranging from consensus and violence to local political issues to student organization and outreach. With regard to the latter special attention was paid to the issues arising from predominately white privileged groups reaching out to poorer and more diverse neighborhoods. Gobi Krishna, himself a person of color, spoke, from experience, about the challenges of empowering these groups to address their issues within their paradigm from an ally perspective. “Our liberation is tied to everyone’s liberation. If your liberation is tied to my liberation, we can help each other out.” The students talked about the need to organize on a statewide scale, facilitators shared best practices regarding non-violence, and the good people of Northapmton started to debate how they could address their local issues. Old activists and new discussed how they could shut down the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant, form an alliance of affinity groups, and brainstorm other possible direct actions. You could almost see the seedling of community organizing break through the soil of Northampton.  

Later in the day, 4PM to be exact, around 300 fed-up western Massachusettians and 12 OTs hit the streets. With brass band blowing, snare drum snapping, and an upside down American flag waving, the protest marched from Pulaski Park, the site of ONOHO’s usual outside gatherings, to make stops at Bank of America, Verizon, ServiceNet, and an empty building which is being held in escrow from the public by the 1%.

Empty space for the public to meet in is a rarity in Northampton because of such hoarding. Julia Handschuh, a 24 year old Western MA resident and former Zuccotti occupier, yelled from the steps: “It has been so difficult to find affordable and accessible space in this town! We need space so we can come together and address the important issues! This building is empty and has been for a long time and is owned by the wealthy and the institutions that can wait for the highest bidder! We need some space! We need to take space! We need to take back space!”

As the march turned onto Main St. the people struggled with whether to acquiesce to the police’s demands and move to the side walk. However, they chanted “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” In one almost palpable instant you could see the people believed. They shut down the street and made no apologies.

Hearts emboldened and inspired the group gathered for one last flash mob lining the sidewalk of the street they had just taken beside City Hall with signs that summed up the message: “Occupy” and “99%.” Afterwards, most everyone headed over to the Universalist Church for a pot luck and the first Western Massachusetts General Assembly. The dinner/gathering topped out around 300 people from all around the region. They debated topics such as strategic targeting and educational institutions, actions, keeping small business alive, and a model society in the making. In more informal break out groups more focused questions were discussed such as organizing around the state, sustainable energy, electoral politics, and non-violence. After two hours of healthy debate the GA concluded with a discussion with one of the OTs, Tammy, about how inter-occupation communication and coordination. InterOccupy, which had two members present on the Occubus, including yours truly, offered their conference call services and led a discussion on participation in the Committee of Correspondence network.

And then the most amazing thing happened: we danced the night away. After all, a revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having. The day was long but the OTs ended the night where the day had began: Haymaker’s. The cafe had been transformed from a quaint cafe in to a byob dance floor. 4 hours later with a drive to Albany looming in the morning, the OTs laid down their weary heads after an inspiring day in Northampton. Yours truly marched next to Peggy Becht, a former Anti-Vietnam War activist who worked with Cesar Chavez. When asked why she had come out she replied: [Because] this is better than the 60’s. This is going to change the world.”

Larry Swetman

Week 2 Day 3: Fellowship and Cinema

           On day three of the Occutrip, the bus rolled into Northampton, Massachusetts. The Occutrippers (OTs) were greeted with a contingency of paparazzi ranging from local print media to community television to a photojournalist from the New York Times. As shutters snapped and smiles widened, the OTs realized that they had arrived in Occupy-friendly country. This would become increasingly apparent as the day went on and Northampton’s hospitality was put on display.

 

            After leaving the bus/photo-op, the OTs were taken to a quaint little church where a home cooked meal of chicken, chili, and fresh-baked cookies were served. It felt like home. The meeting room itself even resembled an encampment. Signs and posters plastered the room with phrases like Tax the Rich, Feed People Not Corporations, and Home Sweet Occupation. Truly, OWS had arrived among allies.

 

            The day’s “business” began with a facilitation and consensus training moderated by a team of OWS and Occupy Northampton (ONOHO) facilitators. Around 30-40 Occupiers, mostly women and older activists, packed the little room hailing from a myriad of locations around the region including Amherst, NH, Arlington, VA, Brattleboro VT, Granbury MA, and Northeast Connecticut among others. The conversation ranged from the finer points of consensus theory to general questions such as “what is a GA?” Sharon Tracy, a 30+ year activist from the Hudson Valley, was one of the facilitators. When asked why she thought consensus was important she remarked, “We all have conflict. We could be two peas in a pod and still have conflict [but] we have the capacity to transcend our own personal conflicts and create something greater. Consensus is a message of unity to get us to that place. Everything has a crack but that’s what let’s the light in.” The room seemed to agree. After two hours of letting the light in, the meeting adjourned to make way for another home cooked meal courtesy of the good people of Northampton.

 

            With stomachs full and spirits warm, the OTs and ONOHO walked down the street to the Academy of Music in downtown Northampton for a film screening and panel discussion entitled “Occupy Cinema.” The project, a collection of 19 shorts documenting various components of the Movement, conjured a sense of nostalgia and inspiration. From Barcelona to London to New York, the film recounting the history of our young Movement including marches, encampments, evictions, processes, and actions from around the world. When the applause subsided and everyone sat back down from their standing ovation, the OTs were invited on stage to answer a few questions from the 600+ people in attendance.

 

            The OTs were asked questions ranging from how the Movement can utilize non-corporate media platforms to how to propagate non-violence to how predominately white privileged neighborhoods can work together with less privileged communities. In a especially moving response to the latter question, one the OTs, Jodi spoke of the need for pointed confrontation of racism in our communities. She spoke passionately about how racist tendencies are so engrained in our culture that often we do not even recognize our presuppositions. Introspection and open/honest communication, she continued, were the only ways to break down the barriers of fear and misunderstanding.

 

After two hours of questions, answers, and the occasional song from the crowd, the night, and day three of the Occutrip, came to a close. Tired and exhausted, the OTs headed off to their respective host homes for a good night’s sleep because day four was going to be a big day.

 

Larry Swetman

Teach your children well, y’all. #OccuTrip

OWSBus + Occupy Providence Rally in Support of Women’s Rights.

Week 2- day 1 recap

As we have moved into phase two of the Movement it has become increasingly apparent that inter-city, interstate, and international communication and coordination are going to be essential for our growth. With this in mind several dedicated Occupiers set out from Wall Street to comb the north east and spend some quality time with our comrades in the region. We set out on this Occutrip with one goal in mind- togetherness.

Week 2 began with a visit to Boston. The Occutrippers (OTs) arrived  just in time for the fourth month anniversary of the Boston branch of the Movement. The celebration took place at the E5 meeting place where there was a buzz of activity. Screen printers and button makers toiled away in the production of the people’s propaganda, pizza, falafel, and birthday cake facilitated a community meal, and Occupiers from Boston, New York, and Philly broke out into groups to discuss anti-oppression training, improvements on the consensus process, and regional action planning. Reflection has sparked a renewed vigor in New England.

Among the many stories that were written that evening one was especially moving. Angela is a middle-aged woman that has been the victim of several foreclosures over the past few years. Her and her wife are facing a fourth foreclosure after failing to make their January payment. After the candle was blown out on Occupy Boston’s four month anniversary cake, the room was sobered as Angela began to recount her protest of Bank of America that afternoon. She began to remove one article of clothing after another to paint a picture of the dignity that has been stripped from families every day in this country. In an amazing show of humility Angela stood in front the room in her nothing but her underwear, symbolizing the brokeness of America. 

Day 1 was a surreal mix of celebration and temperance. The Occutrip is about tearing down the barriers of geographical location and building relationships with those with whom we have so much in common. Up until now we have been isolated from our brothers and sisters across the region. This trip is about tearing down those walls and uniting with our comrades around the northeast. After all, whether we live in Boston, New York, or Philly we are all Angela struggling with a system that victimizes us and strips us our dignity. However, the message of the Occutrip is clear— you are not alone. When we fight together we win. Let it begin.

We teach the people of Occupy Providence the Takein Our Homes Song

OccuTrip YouTube

While we are just posting a selection of the videos from the road trip to the tumblr you should go and check out the youtube for all the amazing videos from the trip!!! 

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This is a video from the first day on the bus, learning how the occubus gets down!