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How the Occupation of Boston Could Fail.

If the movement co-opts itself. If its GA’s and working group meetings stray further indoors, to hotel lobbies, food courts, office buildings, first in the name of comfort and convenience, how long before expense account lunches and deceit; closing the door on complete transparency, no matter how it is looked at, unless these meetings begin to record themselves, to use the technology, resources, and funds available to stream, or put up for review online all proceedings; I fear, it will be in the back room talks and deals that this new concept of society will strike the contract, perhaps even with the best of intentions at the time, which could instead however be only willing its own life away.

The camp may fail if the grounds on which the protesting bodies find their rest each night are left to the idle, discard, decay, refuse, spit and rubbish, lack of oversight or respect for decency, cleanliness, or dignity, which would be required to court the best and brightest amongst society to the cause,… if the lack of sunlight, the closely arranged personal living quarters are allowed to hang, to remain and to further degenerate,… to not be replaced with winterized; communized arrangements,.. finding in close quarters the heat necessary for it’s purpose; if further disregard for sound reason, or, if repeated advice on proper drainage and run off of individualized structures is ignored, in some cases arousing hostility when individuals are exposed to an education of techniques to achieve these draining and ground rejuvenation procedures is to continually be met with hostility,…. if everyone can not be taxed with cleaning up after themselves, and further, their fellow occupier, even if the causal observer can not be coached into leaving the area better than they had discovered it, perhaps handed a trash-bag upon entering the camp will fail for sanitation reasons.

If the protesting bodies can not, or will not consent to a course of action to prevent onsite alcohol and drug abuse, verbal harassment, sexual harassment, as well as violence prevention; along with it’s over crowding issues; if women do not feel safe; if the most empathetic and capable continue to socialize with one and other to the deterioration and detriment of the herd, without coming out with firm process and handle on the current situation, if the sacrifice of self necessary to steer the wagon from the quagmire can not be mustered the safety of the camp will be further jeopardized and its own longevity threatened.

If the tents and insulating materials, purposed and in some cases purchased, do not arrive on site, soon, the camp will fail for logistical reasons. More, if the funds can not be made available within a reasonable time frame, with attention to the fact the an occupy timeline should move much faster than one of standard business, the camp could fail for financial expediency and oversight issues.

If the camp chooses to go the route of litigation, asserting to claim its innate right to the space, without consideration of all of its uses of said space; IE, if its most capable continue to let themselves be bogged down with bureaucracy, designated specialized tasks, and sociability; while effectively ignoring the core issues which would require public health, sanitation, crime and social workers to force their own involvement, the camp will fail for bureaucratic reasons.

If the camp relies on individuals, or small groups, to solve its major/minor problems, while maintaining a leaderless platform to the public, the camp will fail/be co-opted for legitimacy reasons.

I believe with all of myself in the right to protest peacefully; however, I question the peace which allows its neighbor to act out violently, if even to themselves.

7 Responses to “How the Occupation of Boston Could Fail.”

  1. Lauren C. says:

    Well said. Nearly every city that has come after/shut down its Occupy encampment has used sanitation and safety as its reason. The camp must be motivated, it must be tight, it must be efficient – it mustn’t give them the reason.

    With all the hands we have, it should be the cleanest place in the whole city. And if it’s the nicest place in the city, those on the fence who watch from the sidelines might decide this is a protest for them, too.

  2. Anna says:

    So the authorities have made use of the excuse that Occupy camps are dirty (and basically admitted that it was just an excuse!!) — and you want us to engage in their rhetoric, to be as scared as they want us to be, at the expense of our principles.

    Your devotion to camp maintenance and safety has repeatedly come into direct conflict with the movement’s devotion to principles of consensus and horizontal democracy. To get your point across, you consistently interrupt general assemblies, you shut people down, you yell at them or walk away from them. You bring so much negativity and aggression into every public discussion, it is bizarre that you are a key member of the Safety team. And yet when you’ve talked about what it means to be a member of the OB Community (when we’ve considered kicking someone out of camp or removing a tent), I’ve often heard you ask “does he even go to GAs?” — so, the rules of consensus process and community work might apply for everyone else, just not you. You see how you are parodying the process, to use your favorite words. You claim the issues that you care about to be emergencies, which makes other issues the rest of the community cares about unworthy of attention – you hold us hostage while you yell at us in general assembly.

    I am calling you out on your state-of-emergency tactics. We are not in an emergency situation – we will not give into the discourse of fear. We’re here for the long run, we are building an ideal community, an intentional community, out of fragile alliances. The very ones I’ve seen you threaten or even destroy when you’ve appeared in a meeting or a general assembly to yell down at us, to shut somebody down, and to walk away without being held accountable.
    John, every bit of impatience is actually about power — not about inclusion, not about horizontal democracy — not even about labor-ocracy. because the people who have to work harder, after the big guys go in with the guns showing everybody how OB gets shit done, the people who have to talk to every single person shell-shocked after you storm off, that’ll be me, Alex, Duncan, Mike… you create this work for us, whereas we could be doing much more useful things if you weren’t so sloppy, so careless about people (as sloppy with people as you are strict and unerring about camp maintenance!!). If you waited and thought things through and talked to the people involved in the situation. If you saw your role as Safety means defending the processes we’ve set up at camp, defending against anger.
    You stomp all over “the process” because you like to get things done, you shit on the GA and the proposals and quorum and we end up with this joke of an “eviction plan” that Alex, tall Mike, – notice, not you – have to fix up afterward by mediating the conflicts that ensue, by continuing the census even though tents are being removed without any inquiries, and planning in nightly “Community Planning” meetings even though there are people who haven’t read a single one of the proposals removing tents at will because they look dirty.
    i am holding you accountable for encouraging this Safety team to be just like the old one: power-hungry macho guys excited about having radios and maglights. Outside of that, what kind of Safety are they? would you trust them to show up for you? Since you shit on the process (=make a protocol, approve it at GA, publicize it), the new guys never learn it, they never get any training – why would they listen to me, when I’m the only one telling them “you should have signed out on the radio and given it to someone else when you went off-shift,” “you shouldn’t be here with your 7 other Safety friends, creating a crowd situation when we’re trying to control one,” “I know John doesn’t look like he’s mediating a conflict when he’s yelling into some kid’s face about how filthy he is, but you, you new Safety guys, you have to be nonviolent, calm, concerned.” All you did was give them mag lights and to make them dependent on him — nobody can make decisions unless John’s there, nobody knows exactly what’s going on because screw incident reports, so i guess we just have to ask Nelson or John. The point of having more Safety people, as you’ve directly told me, is so that they could be your “eyes.” The point of my being there is, apparently, so that i can be a secretary. So even though Safety ought to get its mandate to enforce camp rules from its identification with the principles of the community, from its teamwork, under your guidance it has become about following the bully’s orders, because somehow we’ve all made you indispensable.

    Whereas the true leader would empower other people to handle difficult situations — and that calls for protocol, for training. I’ve been thinking for some time about how you weaken people. And this blog post has convinced me of it: you make people fear for their safety, you make them relinquish the values which they’ve built up at Dewey Square (horizontal democracy, which demands endless patience and dialogue). Instead, you offer a state of emergency, and you are the only one with the answers. You’ll yell them at us through a bullhorn.

    I am holding you accountable for disrupting yet another moment of great potential for the OB community – the OB Summit is at 2-5pm tomorrow (Saturday) and yet you’ve declared a camp-wide cleanup that is sure to divest vital energy from this event – an event in which campers and commuters will have a chance to mend some of the rifts that have formed in the movement. People have been working on this event for weeks. You – you’re just going to apply the bullhorn.

    John, I have not lost all respect for you, mostly because I’m creating an unfair situation, I’m confronting you online right now instead of in person (because I’m really sick!!! sorry!!). And also — because I trust that you’re too smart not to understand how much harm you bring to the community, along with the good that you bring. Please, stop, please, slow down. Learn the language we are teaching to each other here: the language of consensus, which involves hearing each other out, encouraging each other and enabling each other, rather than frightening each other and yelling and ordering.

    I’ve also seen you do this one-on-one with people. I mean I’ve seen you mediate (about as many conflicts as you’ve started!) and encourage, and I don’t understand why you can’t bring that positive energy you have in individual conversations into a conversation with the collective. Why can’t you bring the patience you have for individual people to a general assembly? Why is it that while you are obsessed with the short term goals, the long term ones – such as creating a community based on direct, horizontal democracy where everyone’s voice is heard – don’t seem to interest you? I challenge you to evolve in your strategies. I challenge you to become a true member of the community by adopting its values. Do not become a leader in a group that calls itself “leaderless leaders” – especially not by convincing us that we should be scared of the authorities calling us dirty.

  3. john ford says:

    Firstly, it is my fear which I speak of; but, also, it is the fear of the people who walk up and tell me of their own incidents and fears;daily. It is the fear of keeping the radio on twenty four hours, knowing that me and the 6 or 7 others who bother to listen to the radio, or could even access one if they wanted as so few exist on site, have our hands bound because the very basic principles of any society, enforceable rules of conduct, are absent, or not enforced, or not enforceable. I called emergency meetings and GA’s because many of us realized the problem; perhaps you still don’t.

    Anything not tied down goes missing. Violence is rampant. Drug and alcohol abuse is the norm for most residents; along with socially violent and alienating language; also, most residents do not, at all, engage the GA, or the process, at least I try before walking away,…better than raising an x over my head with my arms.

    The fact that the team of individuals who care at all is a small pool of a dozen or so is saddening, it shows how little empathy people have for the community, as opposed to the spectacle of it.

    The other day someone I respect on many levels told me,
    “When I am trying to go to bed and the radio gets crazy is when I shut it off.”

    I was saddened.

    It hurts my sensibilities to have to say this in public forum. That I have to defend that I think most people out there should have radio’s. I think it is quaint that you walked around with guards a few late nights to justify your nonchalance about the safety issue, both of which I was told were truncated shifts, leaving no watch, but I assure you, there is a serious safety concern, for me, at the very least.

    The fact we have avoided a fatality, is crazy, to those of us who respond to every call they can. If more responded to the calls, or were able to because they had a radio, a 20 dollar item which could connect you with everyone else on the line, the problems would begin to diminish.

    There is more to all of this than working group meetings, bureaucracy, and process; their is community building, on site. Unless, of course, the movement is trying to co-opt itself, indoors, and away from the Field. In which case, the movement will lose me,… I felt it had on Friday night, as the GA decided it was ok to send 3 people behind a closed door to negotiate with the city, without it being recorded, without an open hearing from the public, first, without more question of who would want their voice heard.

    For the last week and a half there have been nightly safety meetings,in the library, where first order is usually going over a deescalation procedure, you have been to one, alex has been to one, there was never any before very recently.

    I yell at you because you try to over talk me, always.You don’t ask what I think, you tell me what you think I think, or should think. This happens a lot around camp. I yell at the GA because invariable I feel my voice stifled, a voice which has taken the time to truly understand what is happening on the ground. Perhaps I should take a step back and dwell in abstracts, then go home at night, it is nice here,…see how much I got to tweet?,… However, with occupies shutting down all over the country, I will not be assuaged by this ten day crumb the city has tossed us, I know how badly the police want us out, it is obvious stated fact. I realize that we need, and now, to tighten our ship if we hope to sail through winter; as in, they are going to be building a case over the next 8 days against us, so if we can’t act, now, then I fear we are marked. This means more meetings, better protocol, more people on the ground, better sanitation and safety guide lines, and logistical materials, like trash barrels, fire extinguishers, an evacuation plan based around properyl spaced out tents, etc.

    I did help promote a site wide weekend clean up, sat 9-1 and all day sunday; hope you can make it, I plan on it, and then raising these issues at the summit.

    When capable people do not act to their full capacity the community suffers.

    And lets face it, the old guard only acted authoritarian when it took over peoples tents to get drunk in, at least the new team is seeking the tents which are health hazards, moldy, flooded drug dens, then letting the inhabitants know that will no longer be tolerated.

    And why wont it be tolerated? Because it is the type of selfishness that should be struck from any type of political protest; which, first, this is; and in that vein, it should try and strive to preserve itself in, with the hope and effort necessary to have it become a functioning intentional community, when it can serve as a model for a future society, but until then, it needs to realize that sometimes the base selfish drives of the individual do not come before the community. It would be ideal if they could, if people could be expected to be decent, or at least hold their shit or leave.

    Would you feel safe pitching a sole tent out there without being friends with the people you are, or sharing a tent like you do?

    I will admit, which I have openly, it is peculiar that an inveterate hothead like myself is in this position of mediation and safety, but I do know, that everyday I am able to catch hold of my frustrations a little more in my attempts to mediate conflict; with this I also have and will admit, that I am more and more frustrated at the GA; if that process is not rejuvenated with a heavy load of experiment and scientific rigor to what works, and doesn’t, if it can not be made into the highlight of everyones day, and soon, we will continue to not make quorem, night after night; as is, most of the actual campers do not come at all.

    Yeah, I fear.

  4. @YDT10 says:

    I like to see this sort of dialogue (and I hope it remains dialogue rather than confrontation) with people who have disagreements eloquently expressing their feelings and gripes and handling it in adult ways.

    I personally have somewhat of a soft spot for John because he utilizes foresight and action when everyone else seems to be living in the moment. Yes, John does interrupt GAs, yes John does seem to break process and have “emergencies” (which should not be in quotes because the issues of camp deterioration are very real and serious and were an emergency 5 weeks ago. This is frickin’ November now and we have no right to have allowed this bullshit to go on for this long), but by addressing these faults I hope John can grow to become an even better leader because the movement needs his perspective. We are all learning and growing from this movement and to not allow this to be a teachable moment is to shame ourselves. John is an incredibly intruiging person in that he hosts a raw passion rarely seen anywhere else which, depending on your viewpoint, is either inspiring or aggravating – perhaps a little of both.

    Anna does raise serious concerns but as I said before, these can be addressed and there is great room for everyone to grow. We need to take serious action very quickly to clean up our image and clean up our problems because they’re what will destroy us. This is actually admirable of John to try and undertake because as someone who was vocally oppossed to the court process he is still doing something major to help it be successful.

    Now, we do have the issue of the breaking of process for a lot of these issues of safety and security, and both sides of the arguement are convincing. One could make a very sincere argument to say that John knows as much about safety and camp proceedings as anyone else and we should be utilizing his knowledge and listening to him to help him articulate and pass motions with consensus in order to make camp a better and safer environment. This way we have a consensus-driven process, no one is breaking process, and everyone gets input rather than John Ford doing something that makes him seem to be a tyrant. Whether we like it or not we are all a team and we have the same goal of succeeding in this movement. Arguably that is the ONLY thing that members of Occupy have in common whatsoever, is that they wish to succeed in the movement. We will ALWAYS disagree on small issues regarding politics, tastes, and issues within the community, but we will NEVER disagree on that.

    So in summary: John, tone down the aggression, the passion is beautiful but the aggression is not. Anna, let’s help John in his sincere effort to make the community better :)

  5. Anna says:

    John, i had to think a lot about what i could possibly say in response, because when i wrote to you because i expected better from you than this:

    “quaint that you walked around with guards a few late nights to justify your nonchalance about the safety issue, both of which I was told were truncated shifts, leaving no watch”

    is “quaint” really how you think about nighttime female safety/mediation (of which i was the only representative at camp for more than a week?)? and you want to use the issue of my first-ever safety shift, which i finished at 6am instead of at 8am against me? “Nonchalance” is how you describe my approach to camp safety, so i can see that my volunteering to take on nightttime safety shifts and mediating in the daytime is insufficient in your view — rather, to show how much i care about camp, i have to be scared all the time about camp safety.

    Like the negative media on Occupy, you are constantly drawing attention to the issue of camp safety. your negativity trumps the positive processes at the camp — literally, a public meeting is interrupted by a bullhorn announcement, a relationship of trust between you and other Safety members is damaged because you yell at a friend of someone on the team about how filthy he is.

    John, you call emergency GAs and meetings so that you can facilitate them, rather than having them facilitated by consensus process. when you facilitate, you get to speak after every person. no wonder one has to talk over you, in order to be heard at all. although i think it’d be hard for you to find someone to confirm that i do that, or that the GA in fact stifles you. we all of us have been indulging your fears too much, just as we have been indulging the media’s negative spin. there’s absolutely no reason why the camp cannot become more safe and healthy without all your fear-mongering and negativity and aggression. less panic, more sustainable action.

    Fear-mongering is not conducive to a sustainable community (think how Fox news, with their terror tactics, creates a fake community of people in fear). this is why time and time again i’ve urged you to work within the consensus process. instead you’ve chosen to do things in a way that is sloppy and disrespectful towards individual people and the community in general — all while justifying it as an emergency situation. Instead of sustainable action like training new Safety people to be accountable on the radio, creating protocols and taking the time to publicize them (to gain the community’s trust) before they are enforced, record-keeping, etc, you’ve taken up safety meeting-time to express your fears and rave about how filthy the camp is. i’d been calling daily safety meetings and trying to get you to come to them, if you remember, before you told me that none of them count when you aren’t present. but it’s precisely at those meetings that i had some time to introduce the proposals that Safety team had passed, as well as do some basic mediation training.

    i think there is something very wrong here, when you treat me as an enemy of the camp or the movement because i insist on slow process and sustainability. we are working for a common goal – and that work towards improving the life of the camp would be much, much easier if you didn’t bring all this state-of-emergency discourse into it. panic is not necessary to build a community, consensus process, however, is.

    so i’m calling on you to stop disrespecting it, and stop being disrespectful to people who are working on issues in the movement that are not camp-centric or safety-centric. if you want to improve the GA, send an email to facilitators, or show up at their meetings, and propose an improvement. Eric did this once, and we adopted some of his proposals right away. rest assured that facilitators are constantly talking about what worked and what didn’t at each GA, and trying to propose changes in the system. they’d probably cry out of happiness if you could offer your suggestions.

    if you want to improve the relationship between campers and commuters, and get commuters to understand the life of campers, then encourage the campers to go to the Summit. enable campers to build trust with commuters, and to take care of themselves – without this top-down rhetoric of “they came to me with their fears” or this tyrannical approach to safety as “letting the inhabitants know [drugs etc] will no longer be tolerated.” this is not the military. everybody should be taking care of each other and of their community, and you should see it as your job to build positivity and trust — not to convince people to feel the appropriate amount of fear and anger. and certainly not to mock the efforts of someone like me who volunteers for nighttime safety shifts.

    the bottom line: your tone, which is panicked and aggressive, massively detracts from the whole point, which is to build a community. evolve your tactics. i’m expecting that you, as a strong person, have the potential to make other people strong, and i am challenging you to do that, instead of what you have been doing so far.

  6. john ford says:

    I just want to point out that you barely touch on the safety issue, but instead traduce me as an individual and my efforts at camp to make your point.


    “i think there is something very wrong here, when you treat me as an enemy of the camp or the movement because i insist on slow process…..”

    Yes, this is one way to make me an enemy, stall long enough until something way bigger than we can control happens,death, rape, OD,.. and then this is all over, at least where it sits.

    If you call that view, “fear mongering” well, oh well; it is how I feel, unless you are asking me to stifle an unpopular opinion, in which case, no.

  7. Theresa says:

    Please be aware that everything you post is searchable on lists and everywhere else Anna. It’s advice you have given others, yet, if you were following your own advice, I wouldn’t have been able to get to this discussion via google. Perhaps he could approach this differently, but is this the best way you could think of to discuss this with him?

    You may not agree with John’s tactics, but he has worked tirelessly with campers and commuters to try and improve the safety of those camping and visiting. He is frustrated, why wouldn’t he be? He has been calmly trying to prepare Occupy Boston for winter since September and yet here we are less than 2 weeks from December without a plan for surviving the cold. His patience is wearing thin.

    He has a loud voice, and you may not like his tactics. But it is not up to you to censor him, his voice or his direct actions at Occupy Boston, and most certainly not on his own personal blog. The process is not more important than the people. He is not fear-mongering. He is calling serious issues to attention. The fact that you call it fear mongering is as offensive to me as your offense to him using the word “quaint”

    I have not yet had the opportunity to meet you. I was hoping to do so this weekend at the summit, but unfortunately that did not happen. I hope to have the chance to meet you in the future. I appreciate the amount of work you have been doing at Occupy Boston.

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