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Chad Kautzer
Published: Thursday 1 December 2011
“Here, internal strains have led some—including many women—to start an alternative group, more centrally focused on anti-oppression work.”

Women in Occupy Denver

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Occupy Denver (OD) has been a tenacious occupation—and some say the angriest—fighting on despite external pressures and internal strains along the fault lines of oppression and privilege. The following is mostly about the latter, particularly the role and projects of women organizers, but the external pressures are great and not unrelated, so let me first say a few words about them.

The two greatest external threats to OD have no doubt been inclement weather and aggressive policing under the direction of the Democratic political establishment here—the first in the nation to forcibly uproot an Occupy encampment. Three weeks after OD’s emergence, John Hickenlooper, a pro-business Democratic governor, gave a press conference with Democratic Mayor Michael Hancock, declaring the encampment illegal. Days later, riot police carried out a middle-of-the-night raid, arresting dozens and removing some 80 tents from the encampment near the Capitol building. It would be the first of three forcible evictions.

Wesleyan demonstrators at the governor’s alma mater symbolically revoked his degree two weeks ago at a protest against his campus visit. They have an online petition, which reads in part: “As members of the Wesleyan University community, we denounce the actions of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Class of 1974, toward the Occupy Denver encampment, particularly his support for violent eviction of demonstrators by state and local police.”

The Denver Police, recently in the national spotlight for incidents of police brutality, currently ranks second in the nation for its rate of police misconduct; a public image problem not helped by the batons, rubber bullets and tear gas used against protestors, or the recent practice of ticketing drivers that honk their horns in support of them. When I asked Terese Howard, one of several women organizing in OD, about this behavior, she noted its galvanizing and critical effect. “As the police act more brutally and more absurdly,” she says, “the people see their power more in connection with each other and not the state.”

Terese joined OD early on, attending its original General Assembly (GA) on September 27 with a few hundred others; the first gathering four days earlier resulted from a tweet by Jeannie Hartley, now a highly visible member of OD, serving on the Media Committee. Active in anarchic, democratic, DIY communities in Denver for many years, Terese co-founded the Denver Free School in 2007 and is a member of Occupy Denver’s GA Procedures Committee, Declaration of Purpose Drafting Group, and the newly formed Education Committee. She is, one could say, all in, helping to build a “leaderless” movement, which really means recognizing “forms of leadership based in knowledge and hard work, as opposed to institutionally bundled authority packages,” she says. “In order for OD to move forward toward concrete success and productive change, we need to collectively understand how to be a leaderless, transparent, diverse, active movement.”

I asked Liberty Shellman, also a member of Occupy Denver’s GA Procedures Committee, about how this movement can be made sustainable. She speaks of the “need to address the systemic problem of oppression.” Liberty says she is presently focused on “women and other gender marginalized communities of the movement,” because, she said, “numerous women speak to me about their experiences and feelings of marginalization. I don’t think that the dominant gender in our movement is being intentionally discriminatory,” she says, “I merely believe that they are the products of years of indoctrinated prejudice.”

Terese notes that men “have a history of privileges making it easier for them to be in and organize with OD” and that women face additional risks in the encampment. Shortly after our discussion, a resolution addressing resource and safety issues for women and LGBTQ people in the movement was unanimously passed at a GA. It reads, in part, that “a movement where women and LGBTQ individuals are not safe is not a movement that serves the interests of the 99%,” and that GAs should “empower women and LGBTQ occupiers with the time, space, and resources necessary to ensure that every occupied space is a safe space.

It’s an issue that Terese and Liberty have been working on. This past Sunday, November 27, the GA Procedures Committee proposed and the GA passed a significant schedule change, replacing Tuesday and Thursday GAs with community building” and “Get Involved Nights.” These activities might include teach-ins, potlucks, or as Liberty suggests, “fishbowl caucuses” for women, transgendered, and non-cisgendered individuals. “We need to reach out to marginalized communities and make sure their voices are heard and recognized as we begin to build our new foundation,” she says.

In this spirit, Candace Johnson has been going door-to-door, reaching out to communities of color in Denver. She recently facilitated an event on Occupy Denver and the civil rights movement at the Frederick Douglass Center in Five Points, a predominantly African American neighborhood. In addition to this kind of outreach, Candace says OD needs to address legacies of oppression and expressions of privilege within itself. “For many of the occupiers in Denver, oppression has not been an everyday issue in their lives,” she says. “If we are to really have change, we have to challenge things like white supremacy and male supremacy, which are prevalent in the corporate culture. These issues are surfacing within the movement and have to be confronted.”

This, she says, is where Liberate Denver is coming from. Here, internal strains have led some—including many women—to start an alternative group, more centrally focused on anti-oppression work. “Still,” says Candace, “Liberate Denver and Occupy Denver work closely together and the members overlap. The more diverse the players in this drama the better I say.”

Terese is also very positive about the future of Occupy Denver, because, she says “I see power in human collaboration on a grassroots level. I am hopeful because I think we hold common goals, in spite of our difficultly in expressing it, and that maybe, just maybe, we can recognize that and take it upon ourselves to enact those goals.” And Liberty truly believes that “at the end of this movement there will be great change, in ways we are unable to yet imagine.” Candace agrees, sensing a historical rupture ripe with possibility. “The momentum is here,” she says, “this is what so many of us have been asking for, the chance for a revolution.”

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Did you ever wonder what Republican / Wall Street big shots say in their ivory towers?
Here you go.

“Uh, Mr. Cantor, did you say…Michael Moore is a hit, or…put out a hit on Michael Moore?” …Ohhhh…right…we’re Republicans.

“ I ran the numbers J.B., and it’s cheaper to pay out for a few dead people than build safety controls into our food processing equipment.”

“We use Walgreen’s for our women’s healthcare. They have drive-up breast exams now.”

“So J.B., is bringing back slavery still off the table, or…..?”

“The Koch brothers new how-to book, “Fun with World Domination” is a must read.”

“Cantor, Ryan, Walker, Bachman, are all actually Cybernetic Robots. Wow, you really gotta hand it to those Koch brothers!”

“These grapes from Argenovia are dirt cheap. Of course I don’t eat ‘em, are you crazy? They use their own urine as a pesticide.”

“A classroom size of 85 gives kids the “tools” to understand a kill-or-be-killed work environment.” said Governor Walker.

“What oil spill? People will love these self-igniting shrimp.”

“Get your fresh dolphin filets here!”

“Let’s cut more Firemen. People have garden hoses don’t they?”

“Let’s cut more Policemen. People can run can’t they? Hey, remember that Seinfeld episode where that fat guy got mugged? Now that…was funny!”

“So J.B., you never answered me about that slavery thing…”

“Global warming, pollution, deteriorated o-zone, blah, blah, blah. What can happen?”

“Get your fresh polar bear burgers here!”

“Nice job killing off Planned Parenthood. Sweet! Now we’ll have enough new product coming in to launch our “Buy a Baby at Wal-Mart” program.”

“We made billions each time we moved our off-shore manufacturing from America to Japan, to China, to India, and now…to Africa. Ha, ha, ha! Sure, it’s great sticking it to the Germans, British, and Italians…but we really love screwing the French!”

“Air safety, nuclear safety, food safety…blah, blah, blah. What can happen?”

“Hey boss, that’s a great idea, putting nicotine in baby pacifiers. “Start ‘em young” we always say right? Haw, hawww!”

“FEMA was too costly, but now we’ll give you earthquake victims the “tools” to be self-sufficient. Here’s a shovel. Oh, and we’ll want that back later.”

“Get your fresh snow leopard fritters here!

President (!?) Walker said today, “As a cost cutting measure, every state will only be allowed ONE air traffic control tower…but it should be really, really tall.”

“Hmm…you know J.B., I’m really warming up to this slavery thing….”

“We’re cloning chickens for KFC, making mystery meat for McDonald’s…hey, so why not Soylent Green in school lunches?

“Hey kids, get your fresh Soylent Green meat-balls here! Mmmmm…yummy…”

By V

You may not like the message,

You may not like the message, or the messenger for that matter, but there is no question about the validity of their diverse messages. There can be no question about the corruption that is taking down our economy, or the disastrous consequence it is having for those less privileged. The concepts of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”; and upward mobility for the middle class and poor are a bitter memory. They are not looking for handouts; they are looking for the opportunity, jobs and justice their parents enjoyed.

Please keep in mind that these Occupy movements welcome all, including those that society forgot, and share what little they have with them. With this generosity comes problems, but in the end they are good Americans peacefully making their many voices heard. Although this poses inconveniences to you on your way from your home to your place of business, remember that many of the people you pass along the way have lost one or both through no fault of their own. 

As a small business owner, I would like to remind everyone  that it is in our best interests to help get these folks back on their feet as soon as possible, even it is only by trying to understand the validity of their messages.

They are Americans behaving exactly as our forefathers did when faced with injustice.

The Boston Tea Party Revisited

They come from many different backgrounds. About one-third of them are skilled craftsmen, and a much smaller number are professionals, doctors, educators, lawyers, merchants, and the like. Although we do not know the occupations of all the participants, the majority are students and from the working class. About two-thirds are under 20; few are over 40. Most are locals, but some came from great distances. They have one thing in common, their committed opposition to a government which ignores the needs of the people in favor of the rich and powerful. Regardless of their financial or social origins, they work as a team of self-sacrificing patriots against an oppressive and seemingly all powerful enemy. Although the words were yet to be written, they stood for “the Right of the People to alter or to abolish any Form of Government that becomes destructive of inalienable rights of men such as Life, Liberty and Pursuit of "Happiness”.

This describes the majority of both the Occupy movement and the modern Tea Party, but in fact, it paraphrases the words of the Boston Tea Party Association’s description of the participants in one of America’s proudest moments.

Like the rank and file members of the Tea Party, the “Occupiers” have the same central agenda; fairness, equity and opportunity. They don't have a Robin Hood complex and do not want to steal from the rich, they just want the crimes of the powerful punished and their plunder returned to those they stole from; this is not theft, it is justice. They want the opportunities enjoyed by their parents and grandparents. Their common goal is the return to a world where there was a vibrant and growing middle class where anyone who was willing to do the hard yards could improve their lot, and that of their families; they are not seeking a redistribution of wealth through conscription. Neither ascribes to the mean spirited rhetoric of those at their extremes. Nor would they knowingly yield to what appears to be the divide and conquer tactics of those amorphous individuals at the highest levels of power.

In the end, these modern American patriots are following in the footsteps of our forefathers; those which led to the creation
of our democracy, and they are doing it in ways that would have made them beam with pride. If they can set aside the voices of their most radical leaders while sharply focusing on their commonalities & band together to bring their core values to reality, all Americans triumph. If they don’t, they will simply cancel each other out while the bad guys win once more.

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