So you want to #occupywallstreet (Occupy Wall Street)

I've been watching the project to Occupy Wall Street.

How To Occupy - collection of resources

Twitter: #occupywallstreet

National list of occupation

Video Feeds
List of all the feeds: Occupy Stream

NYC: Global Revolution

Occupy Boston

Occupy Chicago

Occupy Philadelphia

St. Louis

Please upload resources (leaflets, posters, tactic suggestions, how to run a general assembly, etc) to

General Assemblies - a Guide to Group Dynamics - by Take The Square.

Occupation: A Do It Yourself Guide - for building or office occupations.

Sit-in: A Tactical Analysis - by me.

Group Process (Consensus Decision Making and more)

Tent State Organizing Model - Tent cities setup at universities. Very similar to the occupation model.

An Activist's Guide to Basic First Aid

SEAC Organizing Guide - read the section on choosing an issue and campaign strategy.

Guide pour organizer une occupation en Francais - Par l'Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Etudiante.

--------------------My Original Post-------------------------------

By the numbers, they have apparently only mobilized 1000-5000 people (on the first day). They currently are occupying a small park near the World Trade Center (a park that is paradoxically privately owned!). They might have 200-300 people staying in the park overnight. Unfortunately the park appears to be entirely made of concrete (hard for sleeping! and harder if it rains or gets cold and the police enforce a ban on tents).

The one positive thing I could see happening is that encampments or sit-ins tend to grow. I found this in my research of student anti-sweatshop sit-ins (you can see the shorter version or my full master's thesis). They showed x^2 type momentum and were typically 2-3 times bigger at the end than when they started. They also involved people who had never before participated in activism - the longer they lasted.

If they form lots of small affinity groups and take on many new projects, the movement can be very productive. They might want to move to an affinity group and spokes council model (where each group sends a rep to the spokes council) - to make the meetings more participatory.

It might have worked better in the spring. If Americans would have been motivated by the Tahrir Square movement (and it hadn't been too cold). I know I was super inspired in March, and much less so now that the revolutions are faltering.

I see several possible downsides.

Unlike Tahrir Square, there is no Muslim Brotherhood or April 6th Youth Movement (not to mention the many other Egyptian civic organizations) behind these protests. Instead we have Anonymous - a loose movement of liberal minded vigilante hackers and hacker wannabes. I'd trust their ideas on civil liberties, but not on democracy or anything else. They are more like nonviolent terrorists than grassroots democrats. And they might be less democratic than some violent terrorist (aka liberation) groups. Adbusters is far more legitimate but more of an arts project than a traditional social movement organization.

V for Vendetta is a fun movie, but a horrible method of doing activism.

I like some of the live video feed for the Occupy Wall Street, but don't like the music track and its conspiratorial leanings on Sept 11 and other issues. It makes me question the organizers' understanding of history and social forces. (I'm listening to the video feed and just heard someone recommend reading Sun Tzu's Art of War - I've read it and don't recommend it. I recommend reading a book on community organizing.) By contrast the people running the general public assemblies seem much more reasonable.

Another problem is that NYC and DC have perhaps the best trained and largest anti-protest police forces. If you want to takeover public space and build a base you are more likely to succeed in cities with more tolerant policing rules. For instance in Philadelphia protesters can get away with a lot. By contrast NYC has rules against two or more people wearing masks (masks or bandannas are useful if you expect to get tear gassed) - and if you are protesting several blocks from the Sept 11 attacks you aren't going to get lenient policing.

I don't think it is possible to organize a mass movement in the US with weird antics and without any major activist organizations involved. I think the organizers are semi-aware of this and if they can build something larger it could work.

An interesting counter-example is the movement to occupy Freedom Plaza in DC in October which is being organized by the more mainstream activist movement, especially the peace movement. Several years ago I went to a protest where a couple hundred people were surrounded and mass-arrested for doing a drum circle on that plaza.

Need Goals, Not Demands

The protesters don't need One Demand or Many Demands - they need an achievable short term goal and an achievable longer term one.

My 1999 Essay on Hackers and Resistance

12 years ago I wrote a graduate paper on hacking culture and resistance.

Of course it is now terribly out of date - notably there has been a lot of semi-progressive hacking since then (and an even larger increase in hacking for money). But a general thesis remains true - I'm skeptical about an anonymous/elitist movement of predominantly young white men.

Police Violence and $$$

Police violence and arbitrary arrests has a good chance of leading to court settlements in the favor of the protesters - however this can take 5 years. I know protesters got settlements for the April 16, 2000 protest against the IMF/World Bank in DC ($13 million or about $18,000 each, took 8 years) and for the FTAA protests in Miami (2003).

Live Video is Awesome

I think live video feeds of protests are very useful. The Madison stream was the best. The Occupy Wall Street one is suffering from needing batteries and/or a poor wireless connection - so it drops off a lot. But they can still get 5000 people regularly watching it which is amazing. 80,000 people *like* the Live Stream feed on facebook! Apparently 200,000+ people have watched it.

Getting Tons of Media Coverage

The Occupy Wall Street protest is getting 10-100 times more coverage (especially in activist circles) than the typical protest of the same size.

Of course all protests should be getting more coverage.

What is especially funny is how much coverage it gets by using the "this protest is not getting coverage" frame / message. The Madison / WI protests got more coverage because they had 10 times more people, were able to get in the capitol building, had organizational backing (Democrats, unions, etc) and had an achievable goal.

Occupy Wall Street is trying to essentially create a new organization from people most of whom just met, people who have very different ideologies and goals, anarchists (I'm an anarchist - but we tend to have problems with building longterm organizations) in a tent-city that cannot even have tents, on a concrete park, not near any residences, (where people could take showers, cook, hold meetings, get warm, etc), with a medium to heavy hostile police presence. This is very hard to achieve.

I'd love to see reliable numbers on the protest size. There are some people who exaggerate numbers. For instance on Twitter I saw that during one night there were two very different estimates: either 300 or 1000 people were sleeping at the square. My guess is maybe 10,000 people are involved but I really don't know. I've seen the LiveStream video feed go up to 7500 (and possibly higher when I wasn't watching).

According to the March for Life (prolife marches on DC) they have achieved the following numbers:

The First March 1974 20,000
March 1975 50,000
March 1976 65,000
Marches 1977-1998 Up to 100,000
The 25th March 1998 225,000
March 1999 125,000
March 2000 100,000
March 2001 225,000
March 2002 100,000
Marches 2003 - 2007 200,000

Tactical Diffusion

An advantage of the occupation movement is that it could spark a wave of similar tactics in other cities (similar to the Tent State student movement). Already Chicago, San Francisco, and Phoenix are organizing (and probably more).

The student anti-sweatshop sit-in movement (1999-2001) showed tactical diffusion as well - including to Notre Dame where I organized a spontaneous sit-in on Feb 5, 1999 (a week after the first sit-in at Duke on Jan 29). It was for LGBT rights, not sweatshops - but I did it because I was on the United Students Against Sweatshops email list.

Massive Tactical Diffusion

I'm surprised by the success of the tactical diffusion. There are currently (Sept 30) - 70 occupation efforts listed on The Occupy Philadelphia Facebook group has 3400 members and had a first meeting with 300 people.