This past week in Chicago, there have been some celebrations by members of the “Occupy Chicago” group on their one-year anniversary.
We have no idea what it is they are celebrating. Last year, after their meteoric rise from nowhere, they quickly grew into a vibrant, wildly eclectic group of hundreds of people; their General Assembly meetings drew hundreds of participants every afternoon (in fact, they often had 2 GAs a day); there were Occupy groups springing up all over the country, in big cities and small towns. Literally millions of people were energized by the movement and hit the streets, gathering on busy street corners and having political discussions with total strangers. In over 30 years of political activity, this writer had never seen anything like it in the US.
Now, one year later, until their sudden reappearance this past week, their organization has withered away to almost nothing. All over the country, Occupy groups evaporated over the past 12 months; succumbing to senseless infighting over minor issues as well as a general lack of coherent program and direction. Here in Chicago, it appeared that the organization was taken over by a bunch of union-leery activists from MoveOn, the Democratic Party’s fake “alternative” political sandbox for pro-capitalist youth. The Occupy Chicago leadership rendered itself irrelevant by conducting an obscene struggle over the money that was pouring in to the organization, scrambling for control of finances and leadership posts using bureaucratic methods that would have made Stalin proud. They ran roughshod over their opponents, rigging votes at the GAs and Committee meetings; they held secret meetings of their committees and then drove out concerned Occupiers who attended their meetings. They and their cohorts either stole cash money and donations outright or stood by as others did the same. They threw away thousands of dollars on several huge office spaces in a deserted area of the city until the cash ran out, then closed down the unused spaces and shrank the operation until there was nothing left. A couple of months ago, they were reported to be nearly broke.
As if this record isn’t pathetic enough, they also ran one of the worst homeless shelters in Chicago –Grace Place Episcopal Church, a.k.a. “Grace Place” – where two punks from Occupy dug themselves into the woodwork, avoiding any kind of oversight of their operation; hoarding if not stealing thousands of dollars of donated food, clothing, and who knows what else, and even treating the homeless people in their care – people who worked long hours manning the original “Occupation” at Jackson and LaSalle Sts. in Chicago with no support from the Occupy Chicago leadership – as if they were bums. Only allowed to sleep 5 hours a night – if Occupy’s shelter crew felt like letting them inside – they were made to wait out on the street in the rain and snow while the 2 “Occupiers” running the show sat inside all nice and cozy, until the Occupy shelter “staff” deigned to let them in. Donated food was allowed to spoil in storage; a young Occupier who wanted to use the shelter’s full kitchen to prepare hot meals for the homeless was denied access to the facility and insulted and threatened at the GAs for invading the 2 punks’ turf at Grace Place.
Those of us participating in the so called “Housing Committee” who brought these shocking issues up at the GAs were completely ignored by the Occupy Chicago “leadership” clustered around one Kieran Aarons, a fake anarchist/philosophy professor at DePaul, who was too busy forming his own clique of followers who were intent on running Occupy Chicago THEIR way, no matter what devious methods needed to be used to accomplish this. Their puppets on the Housing Committee denied that they had any responsibility for the Occupy Chicago homeless shelter! This left the 2 street hustlers running their sordid operation at Grace Place free to rip off the homeless people staying there, denying them food, access to donated clothing and forcing them to remain out-of-doors until late at night, sometimes until after midnight!
So, it was not a surprise to us when we read in an excellent homeless advocates’ magazine from San Francisco, California that THEIR experience with the Occupy movement on the other side of the country was parallel to ours!
Click on the link above and you’ll be treated to yet another sad account of how the Occupy Wall St. movement was an enormous disappointment to homeless advocates and homeless people in the San Francisco Bay area. In the article, Gray-Garcia writes of newspaper accounts from around the US where yuppie “Occupiers” sought police assistance to “help” keep the homeless away from “Occupied” city parks which had formerly been the homes of the homeless people:
” Occupy was never for me. I’m Pour’, I’m a mother, I’m disabled, I’m homeless, I’m indigenous, I am on welfare, I never graduated from a formal institution of learning, I have never had a house to be foreclosed on, I am a recycler, panhandler, I am broken, I am humble, I have been po’lice profiled and my mind is occupied with broken teeth, and a broken me. And I am a revolutionary…
“I’m not hating. I am glad, like I said when it all first got started, that thousands more people got conscious. I am glad that folks woke up and began to get active. What I am not glad about is that in that waking up there was a weird tunnel vision by so many ‘occupiers’ of the multiple struggles, revolutions, pain and deep struggle of so many who came before you, upon whose shoulders and already ‘occupied’ native lands you are standing on. This is what I have now come to realize is a strange form of political gentrification… Like any form of gentrification there is a belief by the gentrifyers/colonizers, that their movement is different, new form, that it has little or no historical contextual connection to the ones before it. And that it owes little or nothing to the movements and/or communities already there, creating, struggling, barely making it.
“And yes, race, class and educational access matter. I have heard from elders that a similar thing happened in the 60’s with the poor people of color movements raging on like Black panthers and Young Lords then suddenly the ‘anti-war movement’ sprung up, driven by white middle-class college students and the political climate suddenly got large.
“This ironic disconnect was never clearer than the way that houseless people, people with psychological disabilities existing outside, were treated, spoken about, problematized, and ‘dealt with’ in the occupations across the United Snakkkes this last year[:]
” ‘We are very excited because the police agreed to come every night and patrol our “camp” because we have been having so many problems with the “homeless people” coming into our camp’, said an occupier from Atlanta, Georgia… ‘It took us awhile to forge a relationship with the police, but now that we did we feel “safe” from all the homeless people who are a problem in our camp,’ said an occupier in Oklahoma… ‘We have been able to do so much with occupy in this town, but we are having a real problem with “security”, its because of the large contingent of homeless people near our camp,’ Occupier from Wisconsin.” [Source: POOR Magazine: “Occupy Was Never 4 Me – (1 year later)” by Lisa Gray-Garcia, 16 September 2012]
As far as we’re concerned, the sooner Occupy Wall St. kicks the bucket for good, the better. They’re a bunch of misfit reformists who like to throw major tantrums in front of large buildings housing banks, government offices, etc. They refuse to produce a political program worthy of the name, because that would completely shatter their class-collaborationist organization. They refuse to form a political party – WHY? The only reason we can think of – aside from the impossibility of creating a party programme that would embrace their ad-hoc coalition of cop-loving, anti-abortion, fake-anarchist, spoiled college student, disaffected Democrats and badly lapsed Republicans – is that they don’t want to upset the Democratic Party applecart as it trundles its way to the election in November.
We have a lot more to say about “Occupy Chicago” on this one year anniversary of their existence. The only thing they’ve been able to accomplish is to prevent the rise of what could have easily been a serious (albeit politically diffuse and reformist) third-party challenge to the Democrats and Republicans in this year’s national elections. They could have really screwed up these elections, causing all the billions of dollars that have been spent by big corporations as they attempt to rent out the White House for four years to have been spent in vain! We’re still waiting for the “Occupy Wall St.” movement to finally endorse Democrat Barack Obama as the “lesser evil” candidate – what else can they do? We don’t expect we’ll have to wait much longer.