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Occupy Dallas – There’s Somethin’ Happenin’ Here

Submitted by on October 13, 2011 – 10:17 am3 Comments

photo - Dallas Morning News

There’ something happenin’ here…

Three years after the economic melt-down brought on by a handful of financial institutions a group billing itself as Occupy Wall Street took to the streets of New York to protest what I interpret as a sense of economic financial injustice.  Since then similar groups have taken root in several metropolitan areas. Claiming solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Dallas went live October 6th and much like Occupy Wall Street, their agenda lacks clarity.

What it is aint exactly clear…

The Occupy groups are concerned about corporate greed and the high concentration of wealth in the hands of very, very few people.  But their skill set does not lie in framing the problem nor the solution very well and they’d do well to look to other movements for tips.

When people were protesting the Vietnam conflict the message was clear: “end the war” and even “hell no I won’t go” was a common and easy to understand expression.  The civil rights protests during the 60s were

note the unambiguous message

equally simple; people of color wanted to vote, and women wanted to do crazy things like own a home, earn a living, not get pregnant.   Even the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 have a clear list of grievances (you suck) and a measurable solution (you relinquish power now, buster).    The grievances and proposed solutions by the Occupy groups are not well defined.

As best I can tell the message seems to be greed is bad and we’re not gonna take it.  While that sounds poetic I’m not entirely sure what it actually means.

They don’t clearly define “greed” other than to suggest if you’re in the top 1 percent of income earners you’re somehow guilty of something (full disclosure, I am not in that 1 percent).  And the “we’re not gonna take it” is not a strategy as much as it is a declaration of  dissatisfaction. 

You can’t legislate greed away any more than you can pass laws that make everyone a good Christian. Instead you seek policies that are favorable to Main street and while keeping a leash on Wall Street excess.

A lack of clarity of one’s own message and solution makes it difficult for many people to determine if they support or oppose the movement.

There’s a man with a gun over there

So far the demonstration has been a peaceful one.  On Tuesday the Occupy Dallas site was warning people that they were being “surrounded by law enforcement” but so far no cop action to speak of.  There has been some reports of protesters actually trying to antagonize the cops, but those efforts have failed so far.

I saw a comment or two on the OD forum where anarchists were trying to network for like minded folks. Perhaps they were looking for someone to share a harmless cup of tea, but I took it as a not so good sign.

I lived in Seattle during the WTO Riots in 1999 and saw much of it from the outer edges.  What started out as a peaceful protest was quickly hijacked by a small group of self-described anarchists, then things got ugly. The Seattle cops went way over board and lots of head busting took place.  It was very ugly.

Seattle 1999 photo djbones creative commons

Much like libertarianism, or conservatism, anarchism is actually a defined political philosophy/theory.  At the heart of anarchy is a lack of authority and a community based on cooperation.  Think utopia but you have to deliver your own mail.  Most, not all, self-described anarchists I have come across over the

Children throwing a temper tantrum. photo Harley Soltes Seattle Times

years are better described as infantile trouble makers who only want to indulge in public temper tantrums, taunting police (so that they can claim police brutality) and indulge in garden variety vandalism.  Son, busting out Nike’s windows is not going to improve the working conditions for Nike workers.  it just doesn’t work that way.

From what I’ve read it sounds like some of these trouble making folks are present but have not yet gained any traction.  That could change quickly.

Tellin’ me I got to beware…

A few developments have taken place in the last 48 hours. The City of Dallas has terminated its agreement with the group for the lack of an insurance policy.  According to NBC DFW, “Occupy Dallas had a special permit from the city to stay in Pioneer Plaza overnight provided the group acquired $1 million in liability insurance by 5 p.m. Tuesday.”  To publicly demonstrate a group has to buy a million dollar insurance policy?  What the hell.

Occupy Dallas attorney Cameron Gray said, “I have spent half of the day trying to find an insurance company that will write an insurance policy for something like this, and guess what? There isn’t any, so this business of asking for a million dollars worth of insurance is asking for something that’s an impossibility to comply with — simple as that…”

What the hell?

Did Gandhi or Martin Luther King have to get insurance coverage?  Did Rosa Parks delay her civil rights protest until her insurance agent confirmed her policy covered not giving up her seat on the bus for a white dude?

This is the sort of insurance nonsense just encourages riff-raff.  The OD group has now filed a federal injunction against the City of Dallas and are now fighting for their right to exercise their right to peacefully demonstrate.  How crazy is that?

Occupy Dallas camp site. photo

 It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound everybody look what’s goin’ down

Three years ago a handful of financial institutions brought the American economy to its knees. If destroying the economy is not a crime I don’t know what is, but can you name a single Wall Street or other financial suit who’s behind bars today for their kamikaze shenanigans? Trillions of dollars in value just vaporized from the stock market and home equities.  This is the worst ec0nomy we’ve seen in decades and it’s actually refreshing to see people blaming the folks who caused it instead of blaming Obama.  Don’t get me wrong, Obama’s performance is worth of scrutiny, but it’s about time the folks who actually caused the melt-down get some of the credit.

I think outrage the Occupy folks are expressing is justified but they could use some help channeling that outrage into a coherent agenda with measurable solutions.  Saying “greed is bad” won’t get you too far when it comes to policy making or garnering support.  I hope these groups gain focus and establish a cohesive agenda that can translate into some sort of action.  Best of luck.

Before I sign off note that Tori See spent an evening with the Occupy Dallas folks and wrote about her experience on her Pedestrian Two Points!  blog.  Read her Occupy Dallas thoughts here.

 – Chris

ps: while you’re here check out Stephen Still and Neil Young when they were youngsters.

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Chris started riding a bike again when he noticed the Preston Ridge Trail being constructed across the street from his house. Since then he co-founded Biking in Dallas, has gone through countless Craigslist bike projects (some better than others) and can be found pedaling around town on a Electra Ticino with a camera in tow.

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