Traction Message Board › What I Learned About Occupy
|A former member||
At our last meetup, Libations and Deliberations, we had the chance to talk with Heather Epes and Harry Phillips, two of Occupy Chapel Hill’s activists. It was great to get their insight into the movement, their goals, and their upcoming actions. I thought I’d summarize a little bit of our discussion for those of you who, like me, haven’t been entirely sure what this whole Occupy thing is about, especially now that it’s in its 2.0 model, moving on from occupying spaces to effecting change. One of the first questions I had was about the point of occupying spaces, because I’ve struggled to understand what purpose that served. I took away two main points: (1) It raised awareness of the varied issues that Occupiers felt needed attention simply by being physical present, essentially sending a message of we are here, we have concerns, and we are not invisible. (2) It has been an exercising our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. I asked where the limits of those rights were, and Heather and Harry talked about how that was the point—drawing attention to the ways in which we’ve limited our rights through various city codes and other laws, and by exercising the rights without regard to the laws that seem unjust, they draw attention to whether or not those restrictions should be in effect at all. However, it’s important to stress that no one who has participated in Occupy is expected to take any action they are uncomfortable with, and that includes breaking any law, even something as small as jaywalking. Occupiers celebrate their diversity and understand that each person in the community has a different level of comfort.
That diversity stands out as a positive aspect of the Occupy movement in general. A critique is often that Occupy has no main focus or goals, but that’s part of the reason it works, too—it’s open to anyone for any cause. Did you know that Occupy Chapel Hill holds three different general assemblies a week in front of the Chapel Hill post office to talk about what they are doing next and educate each other on issues? Heather stressed the great diversity of opinions as one of their strengths—everyone gets the chance to talk, and no one is expected to participate in anything they don’t agree with or support. There are bunches of different actions constantly proposed by members, and if you look at Occupy Chapel Hill’s range of events, you’ll see how much they have going on.
One of those events is Occupy the Courts, and tomorrow night, the local Occupy branches are doing just that in partnership with Move to Amend. They are marking the 2nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that effectively granted corporations personhood. Occupiers will be protesting that decision in front of courtrooms across the country. Our local branches are meeting up in front of the Terry Sanford Federal Building in Raleigh tomorrow from 11 to 5, then they are also holding a drum circle on Saturday at 4:30 across from the NC Supreme Court. If you’re interested in participating in either action, the details are all here.
And if you’re motivated to learn more about Occupy Chapel Hill or any of the other local branches, check out their website for info on where to find them and what actions they are taking that may appeal to your passions. I’m pretty sure I’ll be checking out a general assembly soon, and I’ll put up a meetup to let you know when, in case you’d like to join me.
Becca Gomez Farrell
Author, Question asker, Tractivist