On October 26th, just a couple of days before the first arrests of Occupy Nashville protesters, I posted this short note on Facebook:
As I understand it, there are three jurisdictions of law enforcement involved in policing the Occupation Nashville site on Legislative Plaza...Metro, state troopers, and the capital police. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that if just about any other event besides the occupation were to report violations of the law on the plaza, there would be a response that resulted in arrest if the responding officers could determine on arrival that a law had been broken. Seriously. If a wedding, for example, was held on the plaza (and one was last Saturday), and a member of the party was physically assaulted by someone who crashed the party under the influence of alcohol, they'd go to jail. Of course they would.
So, why are law enforcement officers from not one but three jurisdictions not making arrests when there are security issues on the plaza caused by people not involved in the occupation and their assistance is requested? You tell me.
For now, I'll tell you that, imo, it's untrue that the local authorities have been "wonderful" as I and others have been reporting. It's "wonderful" only if it means you haven't been tear gassed or assaulted or evicted yet. It's less than that if you're being set up to fail. And, I'd think it should be intolerable that your right to protection under the law doesn't exist because you're exercising your 1st Amendment rights.
UPDATE December 20, 2011: For clarification, the plaza itself is the security and law enforcement responsibility of the State of Tennessee Highway Patrol, as the plaza and capital grounds are state property.
On October 28th, after the first arrests, I posted this entry, also on Facebook:
This Is What De-Mock-Racy Looks Like
Occupy Nashville began their occupation of Legislative Plaza three weeks ago in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping the country. The Tennessean quoted plaza authorities as saying the protesters had the right to assemble there as long as they didn't break the law.
Security for Legislative Plaza is the purview of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and it's customary for them to patrol the area. They did, until at some point over this past weekend. By Saturday night, their presence was notably absent. The occupiers experienced ongoing harassment and assault from some outsiders not part of the occupation and called police for protection. Even when an occupier was injured by an assailant using brass knuckles, police response was to question the assailant and allow him to return to the plaza immediately without arrest. The Occupy Nashville participant had to be treated at the hospital.
There then followed several days during which Legislative Plaza was markedly not patrolled, all the while there were illegal activities being conducted by people unrelated to the Occupy Nashville movement. Hypodermic needles lay on the marble, and sex was had in the bushes. Marijuana was bought by undercover cops (from someone not associated with Occupy Nashville). But still, no policing for the security of citizens exercising their 1st Amendment rights to assemble. Occupiers tried valiantly to police the plaza on their own to assure the safety of their participants but were told pointedly by law enforcement that it was public space and that they (Occupy Nashville) had no right to police others.
By Thursday, yesterday morning, the state had the videos they'd made of illegal activity (but had not made arrests about and did not involve occupiers) and used the safety and security problems they created by abandoning security patrol at the plaza days earlier to justify the eviction of the occupation and to set in place new "rules." By 3 a.m. this morning, about a hundred Tennessee Highway Patrol officers, K9 units, and SWAT teams swarmed the plaza to arrest about 30 occupiers.Before the night was over, 17 THP officers stood and did not move one inch, did not make one call for help, as a local Fox TV cameraman tripped on wire on the sidewalk, fell unconscious after hitting his head on the pavement. This was after the arrests and on the sidewalk between TPAC and the plaza. It was livesteamed at the time and is recorded as well.A judge refused to sign the warrants of those arrested on the plaza this morning, but THP then held those people for at least four and a half more hours, while their attorney did not know where they were, before charging them and releasing them.
This is what happened here. Whether or not you support what Occupy Nashville does, you should be horrified that the state of Tennessee can do this to its citizens. It is a demockracy and must not be allowed to stand.
After the Occupy Nashville stream team posted a question on the ON facebook page asking viewers which stream team members they wanted to see get more camera time, I suggested that the better question might be about what content would people most like to see get streamed. On November 8th, I wrote and posted this:
Occupy Nashville - 'Ssup?
It occurs to me that I shouldn't suggest that you poll about content for Occupy Nashville live stream unless I'm also willing to offer concrete ideas in that context, so here ya go...
1) Occupy Nashville live stream groupies aside, the live stream and chat are probably most often accessed by people who want to know what's going on with the movement in general and in particular with Occupy Nashville. Those who chat on the site are mostly supporters of Occupy, but many of those who are lurking and watching are genuinely curious about the movement and trying to figure out if it's something they want to get involved with or not. When you're considering your audience, I think it most helpful if you consider your entire audience...not just those who already agree with what you're doing.
2) Occupy Nashville has three clearly defined and publicly posted goals for its movement. Any time spent discussing any other issues is time not spent furthering your stated agenda and therefore a dilution of effort. We have common ground in those goals and more opportunity for divisiveness every time we veer from those points.
3) A federal judge granted Occupy Nashville a three week window in which they enjoy the possibility of occupying the plaza and concentrating on getting their message out instead of having to fight in order to just stay on site. We're over a third of the way into that time frame; have you made progress in educating middle Tennessee about why you're on the plaza? Would daily press releases be helpful to get your message out? And, is there more that can be done to get any press releases actually in the public eye?
4) Humans are occupying this movement and they need a place to just "be," a place where they can express frustrations, share frivolity, de-stress, etc. In front of the camera on live stream is probably not the best place for that to happen. Might I suggest an area on the plaza just for that? A place where the camera doesn't go? Giddy comments about new loves and how many new "friends" you have on facebook because of your involvement with Occupy Nashville are probably better there than in front of a camera too.
5) What sort of information would be most helpful to people who are thinking about whether or not to get involved in Occupy Nashville? If General Assembly is where the work of the movement is determined, I'm not sure there should be a higher priority for the media team than to live stream those GAs and at least some of the working groups. It's an impressive process that has the potential to excite bystanders and lead them to join in. Please, somewhere in priorities about who's getting camera time in fancy new tents, could we focus on the workings of the movement?
6) In addition to GA info, identifying just what all the working groups are as part of Occupy Nashville and what they do would be helpful too. Even a one sentence report daily from each group about what they're working on, if anything, would show people where they might fit in.
7) Clear information about direct actions would be helpful too. When people ask on live stream if certain events are going to occur and where/when they'll take place, the media team in front of the camera should probably have the answer at hand. Do you need a better internal communication system to facilitate this?
8) The mainstream media is doing a piss poor job in reporting on who and what this movement is about because, in large part, we don't fit the old political paradigm they want to mold us into. I maintain it's incumbent on us to become the media and use that platform to hammer the three stated goals of Occupy Nashville. Discussions of any other issues are probably best referred to the Occupy Nashville forums.
None of this makes any sense, of course, if the goal of live stream for Occupy Nashville isn't exclusively about supporting the movement. Perhaps the best place to start is to decide exactly what you want live stream to accomplish. An old teacher and mentor taught me a long time ago that it wasn't wise to do something if you didn't know why you were doing it. I respectfully suggest the same to y'all.
This was published November 9th on my facebook page for "friends" involved in the Occupy movement:
Principles Before Principals
Depending on which mainstream media source you're getting your news from and on which day, your perception of those who are part of the Occupy movement may be that we're all either: aging hippies grateful for any protest to be in; disenfranchised spoiled rich kids with our hands stuck out; godless heathens hell bent on establishing permanent anarchy; anti-Semitic haters; sans purpose and/or leaders. Did I miss anything?
Truth is, we're a bit of all that. And more. Much more. I guess I could write here about the wonderful, committed people I've met during the past month + of Occupy Nashville, but what I'm feeling the most need to do this afternoon is to remind myself that principles matter more than personalities. The Occupy movement is so richly textured, so not the monolithic stereotype the media wants to make us, that something is becoming very clear to me. We must, repeat, must, be ever vigilant about staying focused on the goals of the movement and leave aside for the moment all other issues.
Occupy Nashville has three clearly stated goals, as published on their website at occupynashville.org:
1) Remove money from politics 2) End corporate personhood 3) Support the Occupy Wall Street movement
That's it. That's all. This is our common denominator, our principles, if you will. Every time you or I use the platform of Occupy Nashville, whether it's through facebook, live stream and chat, on the Occupy Nashville web site, or on the plaza, to argue or promote any agenda that's not exclusive to these three stated goals, we're doing harm to the movement because we're opening the door to the divisiveness that's the only thing that can keep us from winning this fight we're in. This is not a movement exclusive to the interests of those with either liberal, conservative, libertarian, green, or any other political affiliation.
It took almost a month to get media to start covering this story and they've spent most of the ensuing time trying to make us fit into a traditional political paradigm they can label. They don't know what to do with us. We have to teach them. But we can't do that if we diffuse our message by making it about anything other than our stated goals, no matter what our personal interests are.
Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because I know how much I personally support the goals of Occupy Nashville and even I am finding it difficult, repeatedly, to stay committed to the effort because of my frustration with those I see doing so much promotion for themselves and their particular causes. Make no mistake about it: I have my own agenda too. Of course, as do we all. But the bottom line is we cannot do a damn thing about any of the things that are important to each of us if we don't first, yes, take care of numbers one and two of our stated goals. This isn't rocket science, y'all. When people use Occupy Nashville to promote political ideology that I not only disagree with but that I abhor, I want to run screaming from this movement. If I feel this way, you can bet there are others who feel the same. And, remember...I actually believe 100% emphatically with the goals of the movement in the first place. Something to think about, huh?
So, here's the deal. Please, STFU. No, really. Just STFU about whatever else you're disgruntled about. If it's not about getting corporate money out of politics or getting rid of corporate personhood and supporting the larger Occupy Wall Street movement, then don't bring it up on the Occupy Nashville dime. We really are the 99% if we stick to our shared concern here. The only way we cannot win this fight is if we let the 1% split us along other issues. And, if you've spent any time at all talking with others in this movement, you understand fully that the potential for horrendous splits is there. Stop it. Please.
On November 16th, I posted this, after watching the live stream of an Occupy Nashville direct action:
Is This Funny?
Heard this a little bit ago and the person who said it prefaced it with, "Wanna hear a joke?"
A priest and a rabbi were talking together at a party.
The priest said, "I really want to fuck that little boy."
The rabbi said, "Out of what?"
Do I need to keep better company? Well, perhaps.
But I didn't really have an option to not hear this "joke" unless I'd quickly closed the tab I was watching live feed from Occupy Nashville on. I seriously did consider that, however, because I'd just seconds before heard the person with the "joke" scream at people in a window of the building on the grounds they were occupying that they were "fucking Illuminati."
Here's the deal. I support the Occupy movement and, more to the point, I support Occupy Nashville. I spend hours every day confronting, in every way I'm capable of, the hateful lies and distortions in the media about the Occupy movement here and elsewhere. I do not sit on the sidelines offering criticism without genuinely attempting to be part of the solution. But, damn it, when people representing this movement act like this on live stream, it makes it difficult to defend. It really does.
Please. Clean your act up. That's all.
This is all of the facebook Notes I wrote about Occupy Nashville. There may yet be some lengthy commentary which I posted in association with some photos, but I will post that on another page as/if I find them. (Updated December 22, 2011.)