Occupy and the No Confidence Rally by Phillip Reynes
Occupy and the No Confidence Rally by Phillip Reynes
It's cold as I walk to the park that has come to be Occupy Denver's focal point for these past few months. It's also early, nearly 10:00am, and there is not much happening as I survey the occupiers. The numbers are low as they have been at this time of day, in the middle of winter after a night of freezing temperatures and snow. Yet, they are there - the usual ones - I see week after week some homeless, some just middle class and a step away from homeless, and those actively protesting or supporting those who have stayed the night. Not really much to look at at the early hour on a cold day but considering the weather and the season it still looks like a good indicator that come spring the movement that is Occupy will be back and strong.
As an anarchist I have such mixed feelings. I look at these people and see a lot that anarchist like me and hey have in common. I also see such great differences. Occupy Denver will be holding a rally tonight that they call a “No Confidence Rally.” They sent out an email that said;
“Participants will be invited to cast a simple vote of “no confidence” as an act of protest against the current state of our government."
I reflect upon this line in the email and think it illustrates well one of the main differences I feel between Occupy Denver and my anarchist self. They still believe that government has the answers and that it can be a tool to control the excesses of capitalism. As an anarchist I can only feel that government exist to enforce the power of the rich over the powerless non rich and poor. It's a big philosophical difference.
I walk around the park trying to feel warm and fail, and so, I resolve to go home and come back to cover the protest at the fundraiser at 5:00pm. It's at the Sheradon Hotel Downtown where the Democrats hold their annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner a fundraiser attended by the 1% that costs between $125.00 and $10,000 a plate depending upon where you sit and who you get to sit with.
It's cold as I park downtown and walk to the Hotel. The hotel security and the police presence is out in force. I look around the hotel entrance at the protesters who are gathering and then enter the lobby to check out the dinner venue. The contrast is a sharp one! Outside you have 100 to 150 demonstrators (all members of the 99%) and inside you have 1,200 of the 1%. Outside you have people who have been marginalized by the economy and income disparity, people who work hard and make little, while inside you have people with more then they know what to do with – it reminds me of the Louie’s of France before the France revolution. In my mind I can almost hear Marie Antoinette saying "Let them eat cake."
The group Thunderdome a radical kitchen that has helped feed the Occupy Denver movement served food as did the democrats inside the hotel. I marveled at the stark difference between the two meals. I think of the record number of people on food stamps and the homeless who hold down fort at Civic Center Park. I think of the fancy cars of the Democrats who pull up to the val-lay parking with there passengers dressed in expensive evening attire and those who protest on the street with their working class cloths. The two groups have little in common.
I go back inside and chat with two photographers who work for the Democratic party. They are Democrats and I ask what they think of the protesters. The gave rather vague answers but basically reinforced all the negative stereotypes of the Occupy movement – out of work, dirty, lazy, now core message, etc. I think again that these two groups have little in common. The two photographers are middle class, they don't struggle with job loss or chronic unemployment. The photographers eat well and don't worry about hunger, or feeding their kids. As we talk they recount how no one wanted them to take their picture when they went outside and I can't help but think that the two groups – the Occupiers and these photographers are indeed from different classes. Maybe the term class warfare is appropriate I think. I reflect upon the Occupy protest and their issues and realize the people in this grand hall have no clue as to what the protesters are protesting.
Consider this statement from Occupy Denver:
“In the wake of brutal repression of Occupies across america, the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act, the militarization of the US police force and the growing rich and poor gap it has become obvious that the government is ready to go to war with its own people. Obama, the Democrats and their “get out the vote” organizations are use the language of the Occupy movement for their own ends while ignoring the brutality that Occupiers have endured by the state that claims to protect them. Our government cheered on protestors in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and across Eastern Europe. When those same protests erupted in the US they slandered us in the mainstream media, threw provocateurs into our midst to disrupt our activities and attacked us brutally, repeatedly. What we are seeing in the US is a modern reincarnation of the same social movements that got us the 8 hour work day, minimum wage, and civil rights, and our government is engaging in business as usual. We will not stand for the phony populism on display in Washington DC. We are not fighting for a few token gestures so we can all go home and feel good, we are engaging in a ruthless criticism of everything. Today less than 1% controls the wealth and thus the politics in this country, much of it facilitated by dinners like these.”
I tried to address theses issues with the two democrats but they where either dismissive of or marginalized the topics. These things just do not effect them. The democrats at this fundraiser do not deal with unemployment, they do not see the poor arrested of hit with police batons, they ask why should I care if the police are militarized, nor do they question how the mainstream media in America slanders the Occupiers. Yes the people in the dinner have very little in common with the people on the streets.
The dinner and program featured fine food and wine and speakers as well as entertainment. Singers and Indian dancers all designed to give the impression of patriotism, and benevolence to the poor – I guess that’s why the Indians are there – and in doing so it's a sort of look how good we are night for the 1%'ers. Personally, I feel bad for the Indians as I watch them dance and reflect upon the statistics that point to the chronic poverty and alcohol and drug abuse. I remember that as late as the 1950's the government and social agencies that these very Democrats support actually used to take -yes that's take forcibly – Indian children to be raised away from their parents and culture.
I then reflect as I leave the venue that these to groups, the Occupiers and the Democrats do have a few things in common. The biggest in my mind is that they both believe in government. I can't help but think that what makes anarchism what it is is the belief in the negation of authority over anyone by anyone. This is a concept that in our society is very very hard for a Democrat or an Occupier to rape their head around and really look at. The majority of people it would seem have completely lost faith in the idea that anybody can achieve anything or do anything without the support of either one of two things: corporations or government or put another way the power of the markets or the power of institutions. I shake my head and feel that this is a shame. After all Occupy wants to relieve social disparity by controlling corporate greed through government – institutional power. Yet we as anarchist know well that the power of institutions and the state in the end exists to enforce an inequality and maintain the privileges of a minority protecting there power and wealth. This state may be fairer or less fair, they may give up more or less wealth, but in the end it will always protect an elite over the masses.