The first day I stopped by Occupy Chicago’s Headquarters at Jackson and LaSalle, I was surprised by the numbers of people hanging out on the sidewalk – none of whom I recognized from the more “established” left-wing groups. The organizers had no donation box set up yet (if I remember correctly), but they had a table with food and coffee; people were driving up in cars and handing donations to guys who were hanging around, ostensibly members of Occupy Chicago. These were the street hustlers I had expected to find… they’d stand around talking with activists and acting like they were interested in the politics, but what they were really there for was to snag every opportunity to pocket cash donations and to eat the free food. As soon as a car slowed down in front of the occupation, people who were just hanging around sitting down on the sidewalk in front of the Bank of America building would leap up and rush the car as it slowed and opened its window; then there’d be an argument between the people over who saw the car first, and the biggest guy would stick his head all the way into the open window and secure the donation… and immediately stuff it in his pocket. Some of that money made it into the general donations envelope, but a lot of it just disappeared. Some of these hustlers eventually became part of the “Security” committee somehow, and so were placed in between the donors and the donations box. How much money vanished, no one knows, because no one in Occupy ever took the responsibility to issue invoices for donations or to make sure that all the cash actually made it to the organization. It was a free-for-all.
To a normal, responsible human being, this state of things – the utter lack of recognizable leadership and the total lack of accountability – would be considered to be absolutely unacceptable. But to the “leaders” of the “leaderless” Occupy Chicago movement, it was exactly the way they wanted things! When an organization claims simultaneously to be “leaderless” and that “we are all leaders” then that organization has a serious problem. And that was the kind of nonsense spouted by most of the Occupiers. There were a few intelligent and serious people who were very concerned about the state of the situation with donations, but they were never able to get control of the situation during the two months or so that I was working with them – including the time when I was on the so-called “Donations Committee”. No one was concerned that the utter lack of accountability for the cash and non-cash donations that were pouring into the organization from working people all over the Midwest would become a major problem for the Occupy Movement – even though they intended to be 100% financed through donations from the public.
[To Be Continued]