Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ways to support Occupiers at UC and elsewhere

After the UC Davis pepper-spray brutality, Frog and Toad posted a comment with ways CMers could support both the protesters and the untenured UC English professor, Nathan Brown, who bravely wrote a public letter calling for the resignation of the UC Davis chancellor.

This post is to bump F&T's suggestions to the top with links and add a suggestion of my own.

1. Buy a tent from Nathan Brown's Amazon wish list. He's asked for 1000 and received 97 (well, 99 now).

2. Write a letter or email to CA Governor Jerry Brown or the UC Board of Regents.

3. Donate to the National Lawyers Guild, which is providing pro bono legal observers (witnesses) at the Occupy demonstrations and then meeting with and helping arrested protesters. Double your impact by earmarking your donation for the CS Fund/Warsh Mott Legacy matching grant, intended for hiring a national Mass Defense Coordinator for those arrested during the Occupy protests.

I'm partial to the NLG because they recently helped my newly minted college graduate son when he was jailed for "resisting arrest" at one of the California Occupy demonstrations (not on a campus). He went limp in order to appear completely nonviolent, so he wouldn't be beaten. Apparently going limp is considered resistance. He wasn't "beaten", just yanked backwards, without warning, down concrete stairs. He was taken to one jail, then transferred to another and released after three days, far from the city and without his backpack, which had his cell phone, wallet and keys. When he asked for these, he was told that he should have asked for that stuff to transfer with him to the second jail. They gave him a one-way subway pass, which he used to get to the first jail to get his things. But it was a Saturday; the person in charge of releasing property was off for the weekend; and he would have to FUCKING MAKE AN APPOINTMENT on Monday to get it back later in the week. He got loud (that's my boy!), so they gave him another one-way subway pass. Fortunately he had roommates who were home, so he had a place to stay and something to eat.

By the way, did you think you get to make a phone call when you're arrested? So did he. But the only access to phones was one hour per day in an exercise courtyard, and the handful of phones were controlled by gangs. Not being in with the gangs, he couldn't call me or anyone else. Still, the National Lawyers Guild had witnessed his arrest (along with 90 others) and sent a lawyer to meet with him in jail and let him know that people were working to help him.

The following week, he turned 22. I'm grateful that he was alive and well to celebrate it.


  1. Your anecdote helps to humanize these efforts.
    I bought tent number 91.
    It seems a delicious way to lend support from afar--and far, far cheaper than taking a plane out there to join in person, and I'm a little distressed to see how few have been sent.

  2. I wholly support OWS and the work of the National Lawyers Guild, and I'm glad the young man is ok after a harrowing experience. Thank you for the story.

    If I'm not mistaken, the technique of "going limp" originated with the civil rights movement and indicates a refusal to participate in one's own arrest. The tactic also has the added benefit of being a pain in the neck for the police, who must then carry away each individual protestor. Thus, the act of going limp isn't a direct expression of nonviolence (though is isn't violent of course) but rather expresses noncooperation (which isn't the same as resistance).

    The young man certainly shouldn't have been dragged down a flight of stairs, obviously. But I think it's important to understand the ideology behind the techniques of civil protest that are so much a part of our history.

  3. Fuck Occupy UC. Quit pretending this a revolution and for god's sake, quit comparing this to the Civil Rights movement. That's patently offensive to my brothers and sisters that fought for equality, not a god damned handout.

  4. Hey Charles: Gandhi called. He says to quit claiming that Americans invented non-violent civil disobedience.

  5. OWS has devolved into a left wing Tea Party. CUNY Admins taking extended leave to pretend being 99% = living in a van highlight the stupidity.

    "The" March on Washington wasn't a two month long fucking camp out. Even the movement off of which it was based had FINITE rallies.

    If this had blossomed into a long running, widespread series of ~36 hour "occupations", it would have been a whole lot more impressive. Now it's like endless Woodstock, and not to sound too Fox News about it, but the people really DON'T know what the fuck they're protesting.

    There is currently an "Occupy Wombat's Hometown". My hometown is an Ecuadorian ghetto transplanted north. You know why it, and not much more suitable targets, is being occupied? Because we have wide streets and a mayor and a news van and 100 wannabe Abbie Hoffmans (wannabe as in they just want the face time, but not the responsibility of being knowledgeable about their cause) can fit there with no real risk. I live in the NE in an area where a lot of the 1% lives. Occupy their fucking towns, idiots!

    I went to a super liberal SLAC and nothing bothered me more than the Vegetarian Alliance protesting in front of their own co-op building. What a bunch of pussies. If you really believe it, protest in front of Burger King.

    Occupy an Ecuadorian Ghetto takes no balls. Not a 20 minute walk east would put them in a village full of people who don't know what gas costs because their driver obtains it.

    But if they occupy a close to 1% village, they might get arrested.

    I swear to god, it's like a bunch of people about to graduate with inflated degrees because they kicked and screamed their way through college, watched Egypt last winter and thought "I want to tie a bottle on my head and throw rocks too!" (hear that in whatever tone your mother used when she read Madeline to you as a child).

  6. PS that's not to say the urgings you present are the same. These suggestions steer the sentiment back on track, I'd say. These are mature and dignified acts, and therefore, more persuasive.

  7. holy crap, I'm about to triple post because I still can't communicate my perspective....

    The first long comment is not meant to be against the original idea of OWS - it's just dissapointment with the execution over time.

    A movement isn't an excuse to give up on responsibilities. If you have a job, take two days off and participate, and then go back to work and maybe write some letters.

    If you don't have a job, protest every other day and job hunt in between.

    The two things that bother me about what has come to be with this are:
    1) the continuousness
    2) the underminding of the innuendo in naming it "occupy" when you change the branches from "occupy Wall Street" to "occupy a depressed shitty little village"

  8. @Charles, in Surly's first comment I see nothing comparing the goals of these two movements.

    @WOTC, I agree that more focus and organization would benefit the Occupy demonstrations, but hope that if it's become a Tea Party, its public support (which is strong) lasts long enough to affect the next election.

    @Surly, thanks for the clarification, which I'll pass along.

    In the spirit of putting things into historical perspective, setting up tents to "occupy" a public space in the U.S. may have originated with the Bonus Army in 1932. These were WWI vets demanding the bonus they'd been promised after the Great War. It was widely supported, but eventually the U.S. Army (with leaders including MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton) routed the camp and set fire to the tents. Repercussions included the election of FDR later that year and the GI Bill after WWII.

    Smithsonian Magazine story (2003) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/marching.html

    NPR piece (November 2011)

  9. Wow, now if ever there was a comment that violates CM's ground rules, Charles's last one was it.

    I read the tent cities as invoking Hoovervilles.

    And the UC students sure as hell do know what they want. If you think the privatization of what was once the country's finest public university system is a good thing, well, you're part of the problem. The UC master plan was set up so that EVERYONE had a chance -- even if they began at the open-admissions community colleges, they could transfer up to a CSU or a UC. From there, they could do a Master's at a CSU or a Ph.D. at a UC. So that was once a route to a college or graduate education, and now it will not be. Call it a handout if you want, Charles, but the master plan was vital to many of your brothers and sisters in the state of California.

  10. I think we need a Godwin's law for how long it takes one commenter to tell another that "Jesus says go f*** yourself."

  11. Wow, I really did not expect such vitriol from Wombat. Charles, I hate to burst your bubble, but the civil rights movement did not attain freedom. If you are at all familiar with the plight of the majority of the people in the world, you'll realize that there is a lot of work to do.

    And it's about time SOMEONE began talking about it. The occupiers and Adbusters are doing wonderful things. You know they struck a nerve because so many government and corporate powers are trying to discredit and hurt them. If they were going on about imagined fears -- LIKE THE TEA PARTY -- then they would be left alone. It's when there is an actual challenge to power structures that there are consequences.

    Eskarina, your son sounds amazing. I work with prisons in my discipline, and I know that violence your narrative has masked.

    Frog and Toad, you remain a hero of mine.

  12. @F&T - I don't think the blog needs more police. Charles' remarks were somewhat crude and lacked supporting evidence, but we don't need to call "foul" when we can keep the discussion going. I agree with you on the substance of your remarks about the UC system.

    @S.Temple - I don't see where Charles claimed that Americans invented anything. BTW, Gandhi had read Thoreau. Thoreau was a bit of a poser, of course, his night in jail rather harmless. I wouldn't ever claim that "without Americans, no Gandhi." That would be silly. But Americans, not just Thoreau, have been part of the world-wide tradition at issue here.

  13. @AS--I see what you mean about Charles' original comment, and you are correct. My response to him was a glib reaction to a broader sense I got from his post that the American civil rights movement was and is somehow a unique and uniquely sacred phenomenon that ought never to be compared to any other movement, ever. I dislike that sort of parochialism, so I sought to emphasize the global and historical sweep of civil resistance as a response to oppression and to counter Charles' denigration of the OWS protesters.

    Tolstoy was an even bigger influence on Gandhi than Thoreau in terms of passive resistance, by the way. It's always surprising to me how little understanding there seems to be of the profound role of Christian thought in Gandhi's career. Which all just goes to support your point about the global nature of the tradition.

  14. @ S. Temmple - The influence of Christianity on Gandhi is another idea I can add to my arsenal. Thanks! I like bringing in the history of religion when I teach history, something some of my colleagues tend to avoid, and I am always looking for modern examples in particular. While I am atheist and tend to take a critical view (and I knew that Gandhi's associate Gora was godless), I need examples to bring in ambiguity and complexity to help destabilize not only my own views, but those of the occasional fire-breathing skeptics I get in class. The problem is that most defenders of religion among the students are steeped in their own theology and their contributions are hit-and-miss - good on the occasional ancient history aspect, good at Bible quotes and stories, but often poor on later contexts. They tend to know an awful lot about some very narrow angle.

    In my next world history class, I'll recommend the Tolstoy-Gandhi connection as a term paper. Some grad student can bring me up to speed.

  15. AdjunctSlave - what Charles put up, comment #2, said that "Jesus called" Surly Temple and told her go fuck herself, and was taken down after I wrote that -- it clearly violates the minimal terms of this blog. His first comment was not the one I was referring to. Sorry for the confusion. In general I am for minimum interference with comments.

    Academic Monkey, thanks! I always imagine I'm one of those people that the discontent write to RGM about, 'cause I don't really have a sexyfun schtick, just strong opinions.


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