I dwell on this incident at such length because, unfortunately, it was the most significant event to occur over the weekend aside from the heavily managed Bank of America march. That and several non-starter attempts to establish basic principles, demands, etc. While I’m sure I made clear my fundamental ideological disagreement with Occupy Austin’s self-appointed ‘steering committee,’ I don’t think it would have mattered as much had we been a little more like Occupy L.A. That operation seems just as in love with the police as ours (oddly enough), receiving official support from the mayor and City Council. The only arrests attributed to Occupy L.A. were quickly disclaimed. However, they also seem to be much more effective organizers, making alliances with major unions (AFL-CIO) and progressive orgs. If we were visibly moving toward those goals, we probably wouldn’t have as much time to dwell on institutional compromises, nor the sense that they’re being engineered by a cadre of neoliberal hippies behind our backs (does anyone know if other Occupy groups require that all core value proposals be funneled through a Mission Committee?).
The absurdity of the whole thing highlights an important difference of opinion across the Occupy movement: is it an institution unto itself, with its own distinct goals and the right to exclude those who aren’t ‘universal’ or ‘inclusive’ enough? Or is it a resource, a clearinghouse of sorts, through which differently privileged, differently oppressed groups of people can provide mutual aid? Is it a proto-state, or an open call for help? The former is a response to media and institutional pressure to be ‘on message.’ Pressure from above. The latter is a response to pressure from below.
Yesterday, the same community activists who pushed for indigenous solidarity successfully helped organized an Indigenous People’s Day March for this afternoon, against the worries of the usual crew of white middle class End the Fed types that the movement is getting “hijacked” by “personal interests.” As a concession, we’re stopping at JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America on the way. There weren’t as many people last night as I would have liked, but I think amidst the chaos and abjection some people are changing their minds.