The Occupy movement received a major boost from the progressive establishment which will impact American society and the upcoming elections. The 99% Spring movement has arrived and is already creating a stir at shareholder meetings and in the streets. This article provides full details on the 99% Spring (including their recent national trainings and links to their tools.) I also summarize media articles about the debate over whether the two movements are compatible. I believe they clearly are given that many of the same people and groups are involved with each. Read on in order to learn how and why to get involved with future actions.
I attended the three-hour training session in Durham, NC on April 12, 2012 (and have reviewed the entire seven-hour workshop training guide.) About 25 people were there – with only a few folks under 40. The training was well-designed and well-received. We gained important insights and skills – even from this abbreviated session. To provide a context, during my 25 year tenure as Sociology Professor at North Carolina State University, I designed and conducted similar training sessions and produced companion documents and videos (e.g., team-building, social change, community organization, and watershed management.) I also have written extensively about the Occupy movement since its beginning.
Click below to learn how you can join this important initiative.
One common criticism of the Occupy movement was that it lacked focus and leadership. This tends to be appropriate and necessary in the early days of any social movement. However, now’s the time for professionals to step in who know how to mobilize people, resources and media. The fact that unions, progressive political groups, human rights workers, eco-activists, and student groups are being trained and motivated by experienced and energized organizers is vital and unprecedented. This will draw a lot more attention to the growing gap between the richest one percent and the rest of us.
In my view, one of the most important contributions of 99% Spring will be to build a true sense of class consciousness among the diverse groups and individuals who are joining this broad-based and increasingly well-organized movement. To paraphrase Karl Marx, capitalism will only change when a critical mass of people realize and publicly acknowledge that we are all being exploited by the corporations and their government servants. We now see that many other people are in as bad or even worse shape than we are. Fortunately we also find out how much strength there is in numbers.
Early in the session we broke into small groups to tell each other our personal stories. This was very valuable for a number of reasons. We got to know each other and discover our common values and experiences. These stories focused on how the economic troubles have impacted our families and others. I found this personally very rewarding in terms of self-awareness. If you are interested in reading my own personal and professional story, please click here (coming soon.)
Before turning this article over to information about the 99% Spring movement, I want to promote my personal pet protest project – ending the wasteful war on marijuana. The drug war is unethical and ineffective – targeting poor, minority youth. I have outlined an innovative and easy approach to protest the immoral drug war in my recent article entitled “Occupy 4:20 for Civil Disobedience and Building Community.” Another related article (“Medical Marijuana: President Obama Must Lead or Get Out of the Way!!”) details why we all need to pressure the Obama administration to end their hypocrisy and abuse of power that threatens state’s rights and millions of patients. Anyhow, this particular issue will certainly engage and impact young people, human rights advocates, and people of color. OK – enough of my soapbox. Get involved if you want to have fun, make friends, and help people through Cannabis activism.
INFORMATION ABOUT and FROM 99 PERCENT SPRING
Now it’s time to learn all you could ever want to know about the 99% Spring movement – including how and why anyone can and should become involved. This section synthesizes information from their website.
Who are the “99% Spring”
NOTE: The 99% Spring was launched with the following letter signed by over 40 movement leaders and organizations.
DATE: February 15, 2012
RE: The 99% Spring
Things should never have reached this point.
Every day, the American Dream seems a little farther away. More of our grandparents are being thrown from their homes. Our mothers and fathers can’t retire because their pension funds tanked. Our brothers and sisters are burdened by student loan debt. For our children, budget cuts have resulted in crumbling schools, skyrocketing class sizes, and teachers being denied the supports they need to do their best. Our friends and family are being denied collective bargaining rights in their workplaces and are falling further and further behind. Our neighbors are being poisoned by pollution in our air and water.
The numbers are staggering: in recent years, millions of jobs have been destroyed, homes foreclosed, and an unconscionable number of children live in poverty. And worst of all: this is no accident. It is a result of rampant greed—the deliberate manipulation of our democracy and our economy by a tiny minority in the 1%, by those who amass ever more wealth and power at our expense.
We are at a crossroads as a country. We have a choice to make. Greater wealth for a few or opportunity for many. Tax breaks for the richest or a fair shot for the rest of us. A government that can be bought by the highest bidder, or a democracy that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people. The choice is in our hands. This spring, we will act on that choice and rise up in the tradition of our forefathers and foremothers. We will not be complicit with the suffering in our families for another year. We will prepare ourselves for sustained non-violent direct action.
From April 9-15 we will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to join together in the work of reclaiming our country. We will organize trainings to:
- Tell the story of our economy: how we got here, who’s responsible, what a different future could look like, and what we can do about it
- Learn the history of non-violent direct action, and
- Get into action on our own campaigns to win change.
This spring we rise! We will reshape our country with our own hands and feet, bodies and hearts. We will take non-violent action in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi to forge a new destiny one block, one neighborhood, one city, one state at a time.
We know great change is possible. We inherit a history of everyday people standing up for their own dignity, freedom, and self-determination, shaping our direction as a country. The seamstress in Alabama who launched a bus boycott. The farmers in New England and Virginia who imagined we could be a free nation. The workers in Flint, Michigan who occupied their plant to win collective bargaining rights. The farmworkers in California who liberated our fields. The women in New York who dreamed they could one day speak with equal voice. The mother who stood up in Love Canal to stop the poisoning of her community. And the students who risked their lives during Freedom Summer to register voters.
In the last year alone we watched the teachers and fire fighters of Wisconsin stand for the rights of workers. And we joined those who Occupied Wall Street, inspiring us to stand with the 99%.
We will rise this spring, because we DO hold these truths to be self evident—that all men and women are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Will you rise with us? Can we count on you to join us April 9th to 15th to stand with the 99% for America?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about 99% Spring
Q. What is the 99% Spring?
The 99% Spring is a massive initiative to train 100,000 people in nonviolent direct action and the principles of economic and social justice, and then direct those people to opportunities to take action in their own communities. Behind the project stands an unprecedented coming together of hundreds of groups, ranging from climate activists (like 350.org and Greenpeace) to direct action practitioners (like National People’s Action and Ruckus Society), worker advocates (like Jobs with Justice, National Domestic Workers Alliance, United Auto Workers and SEIU) and netroots organizations (like MoveOn.org and Color of Change).
Q. Did I miss the 99% Spring trainings? Is it still possible to take part?
While the bulk of our in-person trainings ended on April 15th, there’s still plenty of opportunity to participate in 99% Spring trainings — we’re hosting excellent online trainings that cover the bulk of our material, and there’s still a smattering of in-person trainings. The online training takes less than 1 hour to complete – and you don’t have to finish it all at once. You’ll tell the story of how you’ve been impacted by the 1% economy, learn how we got here, and get the tools you need to plan an action in your own community this spring. Click here to Check out the 99% Spring Online Training
Q. Where can I sign up for upcoming actions? What types of actions are happening?
Their site provides an Actions Map, along with a full list of Upcoming Actions. They include Tax Day protests, major national days of action including May Day mobilizations, as well as protests throughout the spring targeting Wall Street banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, tax-dodging corporations such as GE, student debt, dirty energy polluters, companies that abuse workers’ rights such as Verizon and Walmart, and many more local actions. Here are some of the upcoming national days of action. Click Here to Find an Action Near You:
- May 1 May Day (support Occupy and Immigrant rights groups)
- May 3 Verizon shareholder meeting
- May 5 Connect the Dots
- May 9 Bank of American Shareholder meeting, North Carolina
- May 24 Sallie Mae Shareholder meeting, Delaware
- June 1 Walmart Shareholder meeting, Arkansas
Q. What kind of actions can I post on your Actions Map?
So long as you pledge that the action will be nonviolent in nature, there’s no built-in limit on what actions you can register on the community action site. Already people are pushing a number of big movement-wide moments. You can plan and recruit for your actions here.
Q. Where can I see people’s reports from their 99% Spring trainings/actions?
We have had so many reports from the training and the actions pouring in. You can find more reports from trainings and actions at our Tumblr blog, or by following the hashtag #99spring.
Q. How was 99 Spring organized? Are some groups playing bigger roles than others?
The 99% Spring is collaborative project that involves hundreds of organizations. It includes over 1,000 in-person trainings and tens of thousands of people are also being trained online. Different organizations have contributed to the 99% Spring in different ways, from dedicating staff and tools to help make this historic effort a success, to recruiting trainers, to turning out their members to attend. A diverse array of organizations and individuals are also organizing actions following the 99% Spring — You can find those actions on our Actions Map.
Q. 2012 is an election year — is the 99% Spring aimed at influencing elections?
The 99% Spring is about training activists in how non-violent direct action can be used to fight for fairness for the 99%. Elections are not discussed in our training program and the trainings are explicitly non-electoral in nature. Some of the groups organizing the 99% Spring also do elections work (though the 99% Spring is not part of that work), while other groups organizing the 99% Spring are never involved in elections. N Anyone can sign up to host a 99% Spring training, and as such there’s no absolute way for us to prevent a trainer from ignoring us, but we instruct all trainers to leave any element of electoral politics out of the trainings.
Q. How does this relate to Occupy? Will the 99% Spring detract from Occupy actions planned this spring?
The Occupy movement is one of the things that inspired the 99% Spring, as did other recent non-violent direct actions, including last year’s demonstrations inside the Wisconsin state capitol and the Keystone XL tar sands sit-in in front of the White House. Many Occupiers led and participated in 99% Spring trainings. By introducing thousands of activists to non-violent direct action, the 99% Spring is increasing the pool of people who will be prepared and inspired to join various actions, including Occupy actions. The bulk of our in-person trainings were April 9-April 15 several weeks before Occupy-associated actions planned for May. Anyone can list any nonviolent action, Occupy-associated or otherwise, on our Actions Map. This includes organizers of May Day actions and mobilizations — several such actions have already been added to the map.
99% Spring Provides Great Educational Action Tools
The 99% Spring website provides three campaign tool-kits that are full of resources to help you plan a local action! These are well-written and short enough to enjoy. Note that the PDF files are very large. For convenience, I have uploaded them here.
1) What Banks and Financial Institutions are doing to our families and economy … And how the 99% is fighting back
Click here to open this tool-kit to learn how you can be part of campaigns working to hold banks and financial institutions accountable for bankrupting our economy, hurting our communities bankrupting our families. This toolkit include tips for planning actions to:
- Fight Foreclosures: “Occupy our homes”
- Move Your Money
2) Corporate Tax Dodging: How Corporations Are Bankrupting America … And how the 99% is fighting back
Click here to open this tool-kit to learn how you can help make sure corporations pay their fair share. This toolkit includes tips for planning actions that aim to:
- Send Wall Street, Corporations and the 1% the Bill on Tax Day April 17th!
- Bring the 99% to Corporate Shareholder Meetings: Hold Corporations, CEOs and board members accountable!
3) How Money in Politics Affects the 99%…And how the 99% is fighting back
Click here to open this tool-kit to learn about how you can help build the movement to get big money out of politics. Our elected officials should be accountable to the 99%. This toolkits includes tips for planning actions to:
- Expose Dirty Money: Fossil Fuel Subsidy Sit-Ins
- Crash Fancy Fundraisers
STORIES AND COMMENTARY ABOUT 99% SPRING
There are moments in civic life when our political system completely fails to address extreme moral crises. And within these instants generations of warriors for justice have been called to take action that involved risk and ridicule. We are in one of those moments right now. And while engaging in the most basic form of democratic practice, voting, is essential, it is clearly not enough to address the steady and strong attack on poor and middle class families in this country. …
That is why this spring, during the week of April 9-15, 100,000 people will train to engage in non-violent direct action in the name of a new economic vision. This will be learning for action: an opportunity to grasp what’s at the heart of our economic crisis, crossed with the lessons learned across centuries of movements that came before us. It will be a training that names names, and calls on the trainees to take action to expose those who created and perpetuate the extreme poverty and injustice that so many Americans are experiencing. …
We will have to fully expose who is perpetuating wealth inequality and the status quo. That is why following the 99 % Spring, thousands upon thousands will be engaging in non-violent direct action to shine a light on the exact corporate actors who created this historically unjust economy. Under the banner of 99 % Power, there will be more demonstrations leading up to and at corporate shareholder meetings this Spring than at any point in American history.
In this moment, we are called, like our predecessors, to act in ways that demonstrate the moral clarity of our purpose. Whether it’s been women risking arrest in the fight for the right to vote, African-American’s organizing lunch counter sit-ins and freedom rides to end segregation, or immigrants marching in record numbers in 2006 to stand down anti-immigrant legislation, there have been moments where we have expanded our participation in political life to end gross injustice.
Conviction without action is impotence. The question that many of us will ask ourselves in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years is this: When it was clear we were deep down the path toward untenable economic and political inequality, did our action match the power of our convictions? This 99 % Spring, we will prepare ourselves to ensure we have a good answer to that question. We hope you will join us.
Over the past several weeks, a broad coalition of progressive organizations—including National People’s Action (NPA), ColorOfChange, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), MoveOn.org, the New Bottom Line, environmental groups like Greenpeace and 350.org, and major unions such as SEIU and the United Auto Workers—has undertaken a far-reaching effort to train tens of thousands of people in nonviolent direct action. They have called the campaign the 99% Spring.
Starting this week, many of these same groups will be rallying their members and supporters to use newly honed skills to confront the shareholder meetings of corporations across the United States—charging executives with abusing workers, the environment, and communities in pursuit of profits for the 1 percent. They are calling the drive 99% Power. With prominent actions gearing up this week—starting with major protests at Wells Fargo meetings in San Francisco—the campaign may soon be coming to a city near you.
Although this month’s 99% Spring trainings have taken place in the shadow of the Occupy movement, the coalition building behind them actually predated the emergence of Occupy Wall Street. Last summer, a handful of organizers from groups such as Jobs with Justice, NPA, and NDWA had discussions in which they lamented the lack of direct action in recent years. As NPA Executive Director George Goehl explains, “We felt what was missing in terms of organizing and in terms of the broader fight was that there wasn’t enough energy pointed towards challenging corporate power: That’s not going to government and saying, ‘Reign these guys in,’ but actually going toe-to-toe with big corporations.”
The groups envisioned bringing together organizations to work across single-issue lines, using more confrontational strategies. For the fall, they planned overlapping weeks of action in eight major cities—which resulted in arrests from Boston to Los Angeles of activists demanding accountability for the big banks and protesting foreclosures. Since the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park exploded into a nationwide phenomenon at the same time, these protests were largely covered in the media as part of the Occupy movement. Participants from the Occupy encampments joined in the demonstrations, and actions that had been organized by community groups, in turn, helped to create a sense of national scope and escalating drama for the movement.
The idea for spring trainings as a follow-up to these efforts coalesced early in 2012, and a wide range of groups signed on to make them happen in a remarkably short period of time. During the week of April 9-15, more than 980 trainings took place, covering communities throughout the country. …
As the 99% Spring trainings neared, they attracted some controversy. Significant debate arose about whether the drive was an attempt by established organizations to co-opt the Occupy movement. In particular, the involvement of MoveOn.org, which some occupiers consider part of the mainstream political establishment, drew fire from more radical activists.
The magazine Adbusters warned that the trainings were an attempt to “neutralize our insurgency with an insidious campaign of donor money and cooptation,” and that the goal of the effort was to “turn our struggle into a… reelection campaign for President Obama.” Occupy Oakland activist Mike King similarly charged that the true motivation of the campaign was to neuter the movement and divert it into electoral efforts. “We should not have our tactics determined by the Democratic Party,” he wrote.
Joshua Kahn Russell, a trainer and action coordinator with the Ruckus Society and 350.org, responds, “I think it’s healthy for grassroots movements to question involvement of bigger organizations. At the same time,” he says, “we need to see that groups like unions who might support the Democrats are not our enemies. We need to be building across some of these differences if we’re really going to be talking about the 99 percent.” …
While the coalition that backed 99% Spring includes MoveOn.org and major labor unions, which have significant involvement in electoral politics, it includes many scrappier groups as well, such as the Ruckus Society, the Rainforest Action Network, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and NPA. “As an organization that’s been taking over bank lobbies and doing direct action for 40 years, some of the criticism is a little tough to hear,” says NPA’s Goehl. “We’ve been as critical of the president as basically any progressive group.”
“Our main message is, ‘We’re all in this together,'” adds Tracy Van Slyke, co-director of the New Bottom Line. “This is about working across geography, race, creed to build an economy and democracy that works for the 99 percent. There’s a lot of appreciation for Occupy, and a lot of people from Occupy are participating. But there’s a really wide range of groups involved. We’re focused on what we can all do together.”
In many locations, Occupy activists were involved in organizing or were active participants in the trainings. “This is not an Occupy project,” Kahn Russell says of 99% Spring. “At the same time, there’s obviously a lot of crossover because our movements are interdependent. I personally have done trainings in support of occupations in many parts of the country since well before the 99% Spring, and I identify with the Occupy movement tremendously. I think there’s a lot of people who are playing that bridge role.” …
Apart from its engagement with Occupy, the 99% Spring brought together a remarkably diverse collection of organizations. Many of these rarely have occasion to see their work as part of a common cause. As Kahn Russell notes: “The thing that’s most exciting to me is that 99% Spring is putting union members together in the same room with environmentalists, with domestic workers, with peace and justice people, and they’re talking with each other for the first time. Big alliances like this are challenging. Seeing so many different groups agree on the need for street heat, to act directly without having power-holders dictate to us the rules of engagement—all that is remarkable to me.” …
While the 99% Spring itself did not agree on a common agenda for action, many of the same groups are involved in 99% Power. This campaign will involve confrontations at more than three-dozen shareholder meetings taking place between now and May. The New Bottom Line’s Van Slyke calls it “the largest mobilization around shareholder meetings in U.S. history.”
Describing the campaign’s goals, she says, “We want to go directly to the board members and executives of the 1 percent who are behind these corporations. We want to bring a unified set of demands that they stop pillaging our environment, that they create good jobs, that they get their corporate money out of our democracy.” …
Since these efforts are not exclusive with other spring protests, such as Occupy’s May 1 actions, the coming weeks promise to be a busy season. Trainings will also continue, but some of the most pertinent lessons may be gained through direct experience. “I believe the best way to train people to do nonviolent direct action is to go do nonviolent direct action,” says Goehl. “And that’s what’s going to happen.”
Since Occupy Wall Street emerged last September, debates over its impact have roiled both liberals and conservatives confused by the fact of a (successful yet) leaderless movement lacking concrete demands. … The simple fact that the cream of the liberal-left establishment is promoting direct action trainings in the six-months before a presidential election rather than focusing all its energies on the electoral horse race is dramatic testimony to Occupy’s impact.
After the trainings, a series of actions—referred to as “Shareholder’s Spring”—are planned to disrupt the shareholder meetings of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and thirty or so other leading multinationals along with a series of student-lead actions against Sallie Mae and other corporations that have profited off the student debt crisis.
“People are really suffering and feel like they’ve been walked over,” said George Goehl, executive director of the National People’s Action. “This spring, they’re going to stand up and more directly expose the crisis that most Americans are facing and bring it to those who created it.”
A cross-section of the country — from carpenters and stay-at-home moms to business people, students and farmers —signed up for hundreds of sessions organized by more than 60 activist groups and the nation’s largest unions. A key issue is the power of corporations over working-class Americans, said Goehl, whose Chicago-based National People’s Action represents a network of grassroots groups.
Forty companies will be targeted, with protesters showing up and trying to block annual shareholder meetings. The biggest such action is planned for the Bank of America meeting in Charlotte, N.C., a month before the Democratic National Convention starts there.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, says his union will train at least 2,000 members to emulate the nonviolent methods of U.S. farm worker and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.
He said American workers have lost much of their bargaining rights — a problem first highlighted last year in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of workers demonstrated against proposed legislation to limit collective bargaining.
“We have to be in the streets, not only at the ballot box,” said Cohen, the Washington-based labor leader whose union represents about 700,000 workers.
The “99% Spring” Movement to Train 100,000 Activists: Co-Opting Occupy or Helping Spread its Message? By Jake Olzen, Waging Nonviolence March 26, 2012
Despite borrowing one or two of the Occupy movement’s favorite slogans, The 99% Spring hasn’t been called for by any general assembly. Rather, this massive and controversial effort is coming from the institutional left — a diverse coalition of labor unions, environmental and economic justice groups, community organizations and trainers’ alliances. While some celebrate what appears to be a mainstreaming of resistance thanks to Occupy, others are crying co-option. …
Joy Cushman, an organizer and trainer from the New Organizing Institute, insists that the intention of the project is not to compete with the Occupy movement. Rather, it’s a framework so that existing organizations can incorporate direct action into the work they’re already doing and capture some of the Occupy spirit. “The hope is that if people are not directly connected to campaigns, they will be able to take action locally for what is affecting them,” she told me.
What is now The 99% Spring actually began last summer. Inspired by the Madison Capitol protests and the Tar Sands actions, leadership from Jobs with Justice, National People’s Action and the National Domestic Workers Alliance realized that the 2012 election year needed to be about issues, not the candidates.
A meeting was called for November 2011 — and then, in mid-September, Occupy Wall Street began. “As a professional organizer, I was really humbled” says Cushman about OWS. “They were able to shift the entire national debate with the way they were organizing. We realized that nonviolent direct action is the way we have to go because the democratic system isn’t responsive anymore.” …
Both OWS and the organizations involved in The 99% Spring encompass a wide range of views regarding electoral politics and the means for social change. MoveOn.org actively campaigns for Obama, while other participating groups like the Ruckus Society are known for more radical, issue-based campaigns involving direct action. …
Former MoveOn.org employee Ilyse Hogue’s controversial article in The Nation, “Occupy is Dead! Long Live Occupy!” contends that Occupy’s modus operandi has outlived its usefulness — while having fired up the more established institutions. A 99% Spring, therefore, would seem to be Occupy’s grown-up, more institution-friendly replacement. The CounterPunch article has circulated on Occupy organizer email lists, spreading fears that progressive organizations are trying to hijack OWS’ energy or co-opt its message for their own purposes. …
The Occupy movement and establishmentarian anything — politics, corporations, non-profits — will always have an odd relationship, but that they would have some relationship is inevitable. Just as many Occupy organizers have backgrounds working in more traditional organizations, it’s hard to imagine The 99% Spring without the inspiration of Occupy. “It says something about the power of the Occupy movement,” says Zack Malitz, a Tar Sands Action volunteer who is planning a 99% Spring training,“to have made it politically possible for so many organizations to commit to training 100,000 people for nonviolent direct action.”
But OWS is about more than just direct action. Its emphasis on horizontalism and decentralization is at the heart of its approach to achieving social change as well. The OWS General Assembly’s “Statement of Autonomy” warns, “Any organization is welcome to support us with the knowledge that doing so will mean questioning your own institutional frameworks of work and hierarchy and integrating our principles into your modes of action.” It’s not clear to what extent organizers of The 99% Spring intend to do this. It may end up happening just by default, because so many people have been involved in Occupy encampments over the past few months, participating in Occupy culture.
99% Spring Training Is Mixed Bag, But Has Potential for Inspiring New Activists By Jake Blumgart, April 18, 2012
The 99% Spring was organized by a broad array of progressive groups to train thousands of participants in direct-action tactics. The most active groups include the UAW, Jobs With Justice, MoveOn, National People’s Action, Greenpeace and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Dozens of other organizations have proclaimed their support too. Signatories include representatives from the direct action-devotees of the Ruckus Society to progressive establishment bedrocks like the National Education Association.
This is unusual. The larger unions, not to mention MoveOn, generally do not devote their time, funds and energy to non-electoral strategy, particularly in a presidential election year. The very fact that the 99% Spring is as much their work as it is, say, National People’s Action’s is unusual, if not unprecedented, in recent years.
“Within the current margins of our politics you are not going to truly address the political and economic inequality just through elections,” said George Gohel, executive director of National People’s Action, an innovative and confrontational nonviolent activist group. “The missing ingredient is not that there isn’t enough energy or noise around elections, it’s this other piece that’s been missing. The primary goal of the 99% Spring is to equip more people to engage in nonviolent direct action and to inspire and move more nonviolent direct action.” …
The campaign comprises 981 trainings in 49 states, and organizers for National People’s Action and the National Alliance of Domestic Workers held events in Chicago, New York, Iowa, and Michigan that were filled to capacity. The UAW organizers leading the Fort Washington training, who had just returned from upstate New York, told me they had 60 attendees in Buffalo, and 40 in Syracuse. “We hear every day that trainings have had to be moved because they’ve outgrown the spaces they were originally scheduled for,” said Ai-jen Poo, director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, citing tiny Vashon Island off the coast of Seattle as an example. “We are reaching remote places where this kind of activism isn’t necessarily a big part of the culture.” …
Reports suggest the 99% Spring should not be condemned based on one dud training. As you might expect with any endeavor on this scale, the quality of the trainings, and their outcomes, will vary. While my subdued Fort Washington experience could only loosely be described as training, others did go through with the full instruction course. The Saturday training in downtown Philadelphia, for instance, put attendees through a full day’s training, while maintaining a sizeable crowd throughout. A minority of training sessions even resulted in immediate direct actions.
Following a Michigan Organizing Project and Alliance for Immigrants’ Rights training, 200 attendees marched against the Mastronardi Fruit packing plant, a Trader Joe’s supplier, to demand an end to wage theft and employer abuse at the facility. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement organizers immediately bused training participants to the home of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage president, Michael Heid, where they protested his bank’s egregious behavior — on his lawn.
In New York City, a session led by Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and supported by MoveOn, trained 180 people. A hundred participants promptly formed an action targeting Bank of America’s New York headquarters, personally delivering letters of condemnation, telling their stories of abuse in front of the skyscraper, and demanding a meeting with the bank’s chief operating officer, Thomas Montag (total compensation: more than $14 million).
“The action — how well it was organized — showed that we can organize peacefully but still be very impactful,” Anthony Feliciano, GOLES member and Lower East Side training participant, told me in an email message. “[The training] was a chance for me to learn and understand how we got here in the first place and to connect to other people from different socio-economic backgrounds.” …
Some of the more overbearingly dogmatic occupiers have been wailing and gnashing their teeth about the 99% Spring’s “co-option” of the movement. But if executed well, a 99% Spring event connects people with like-minded citizens, and possibly, a local activist community group. From what I’ve seen and heard, the 99% Spring seems to draw a different, older demographic than Occupy. The Iowa training, for example, included a contingent of over-50 farmers. If organizers are actually invested in the campaign, a 99% Spring event gives people “a place to plug in,” along with direct-action training. (Also, there seems to be little electoral boosting — a big fear among occupiers — although one UAW organizer did have some choice words about Mitt Romney and Republicans generally.)
Last Sunday, the weekly Occupy the East End (OEE) protest here at the Sag Harbor Windmill homed in on an unlikely target: like-minded activists. …
Charlie Lulay, who came to Sag Harbor all the way from Huntington wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “I can’t afford a lobbyist: Occupy,” said he believed the 99% Spring Movement is simply “a front group” for MoveOn.org, the liberal, non-profit political advocacy group. He said Occupiers feel the movement is now riding on the tailcoats of the headway they’ve created in the push to reform current U.S. policy.
“We are not co-opting them,” clarified local 99% Spring facilitator Michael Clarjen-Arconada. He further added that MoveOn.org , like Occupy, is merely one group that falls under the wide-reaching umbrella of the entire 99% Spring movement, a national group. …
The goal of Sunday’s spring get-together was to focus first on training all participants in the methods used to conduct non-violent protest. “We want a team that’s focused on generosity and kindness,” said Clarjen-Arconada. “Occupiers are using an overly aggressive approach, which drives people away.”
The kerfuffle between the two protest factions began in large part because of overlapping schedules; the 99% Spring movement had planed to meet from noon to 7 p.m. during regularly scheduled Occupy hours. According to some Occupiers, they were not asked to share that space and time, but were rather told the 99% Spring would be there at that time.
And thus, the Spring organization altered its plans. Of the estimated 100 people who were expected to show up for the training at the windmill, Clarjen-Arconada said all of them instead went to scattered locations across the East End (mostly churches and homes) where different training sessions were conducted.
I get the desire for ethical purity in a progressive movement. But I’d argue that ethical purity is what resulted in the Occupy movement winding up as nothing more than a late-winter scuffle over the right to post tents in public spaces. You can’t win a battle if you’re picking fights with every side, as Ron Paul fans are learning right now. I think if Occupy wants to make a difference, they’d do better by supporting Barack Obama at the top of the ticket and also promoting a slate of more progressive politicians in local races. They also need strong leadership that understands the importance of compromise while still keeping the core message pure.
The early days of Occupy were an inarguable success. Occupy got the message out to the masses. Economic injustice is now a major issue. But seizing banks and camping in downtown squares is a first, attention-getting step. That kind of behavior isn’t going to make a difference in the long run, and failing to support a candidate because he’s imperfect is frankly stupid. It’s better to get behind that candidate and make sure he knows he owes you once he wins. That’s how politics works.
What’s the Future for the Occupy Movement? (Total votes: 725)
- Support the ticket nationally, be very progressive locally. 470 votes (65%)
- There is no future for the Occupy movement. 149 votes (21%)
- There should be no national Occupy movement. It should be local-only, and it should stay pure. 54 votes (7%)
- It needs to go pro: The kids had their turn, and now it’s time for the Democrats to take over. 52 votes (7%)
The 99% Spring’s links to established progressive organizations has led occupiers to worry about being enfolded in the effort to re-elect President Obama, and has prompted Adbusters, the magazine whose call for a Wall Street occupation ignited the movement last fall, to announce that the very soul of Occupy is in danger. A post on Adbusters’ blog asks, “Can we co-opt the co-opters? Should we simply ignore the 99% Spring? Or do we need a more visceral response?” …
Throughout the seven months since Occupy began, Adbusters has acted as a kind of Greek chorus commenting on Occupy’s actions. In blog posts and interviews, Adbusters has wrung its hands over the state of the movement that it started, alternately declaring victories and worrying about co-option. But co-option has been a part of Occupy Wall Street since the beginning, starting with Adbusters’ involvement in the first place. …
But if any organization counts as “professional left,” it’s Adbusters, an organization that has been running anti-corporatist campaigns for years. It touts its endorsements from groups like Greenpeace, another supporter of the 99% Spring, and pays staff members to produce its content and campaigns. Adbusters produced the iconic ballerina on the Wall Street bull poster, and Adbusters put out the original call to occupy Wall Street, which gave specific directions:
“On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.” That one simple demand was never made, and Adbusters’ directives were rarely listened to. A day before New York authorities cleared protesters out of Zuccotti Park, the magazine suggested that protesters “declare victory” and leave on their own.
The protesters themselves are wary of outside groups — “there’s a wariness and it’s on both sides and it’s part of the bargain,” said OWS organizer Max Berger — but that hasn’t stopped them from teaming up with union members and other groups for the May 1st actions themselves, which will involve a concert and rally at Union Square and demonstrations in the Financial District.
As the summer months approach, Occupy Wall Street is reemerging from its winter hibernation. But we shouldn’t expect the same beast. Tired of chaos, activists in Bremerton are re-organizing the movement to appear as tamer, wiser and more localized.
“We’re going to figure out what to do instead of sit here with our feelings,” Jo Walter announced to the 20 or so people gathered inside Kitsap Unitarian Church on April 14. The group had sacrificed a sunny Saturday morning in favor of attending “The 99% Spring” non-violent action training and Walter, an Occupy Bremerton member, was facilitating the assembly.
As I gazed around the room, the stereotypical Occupiers — “grungy unemployed hippies” and young anarchists, as Fox News dubbed them — were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the church classroom was filled with older folks, most of them long-established active members of the peninsula community. No inflammatory signs or V for Vendetta masks, just people saddened by the country’s income inequality and sick of feeling powerless about it. …
While many in the room had long histories in activism, it was Kathleen Kish’s first time at an event like this. The Bremerton nurse had lost her best friend to illness last June. She died without health insurance after months of unemployment, a “victim of the economy.” Kish’s voice strained when she shared her story, her guilt for not spotting the sickness sooner. “A lot of people don’t realize that it could happen to them,” she said. “Maybe she was put here to move me to make change.”
The 99% Spring workshops were sponsored by MoveOn.org and invited any interested person to participate. Just a click of the mouse would provide volunteer facilitators with the necessary materials — pamphlets, workbooks and an instructional video. Some Occupiers took issue with MoveOn’s involvement in the movement, saying it had been co-opted by the Democratic Party, but Walter didn’t mind. “Any kind of collaboration is good,” she explained. “We need to move this forward.”
The attendees were eager to do just that. While the instructional video lectured on the origins of the Civil Rights Movement and called for ample self-reflection and role-play, the group clamored for the “meat and potatoes” of the meeting — the solution to this whole economic mess.
It was immediately clear that protests and tents were not the answer here. Even Sonny Kalabom, the only self-proclaimed hippie in the room, agreed it was time to calm down and try a different approach. “I’ve been through all the fights and the battles,” Kalabom recalled of her WTO riot days. “I even got maced and everything.”
Now, she planned on working from the background and making her preferences clear as a consumer. “As a citizen, we only have one vote, but we have a whole bunch of them in our wallet. Start voting with your money,” she instructed. “Go to Mom & Pop stores instead of the big chains. If we’re going to change the world, maybe we should change the neighborhood first,” Garrido said to approving nods.
While tackling the national economic divide seemed impossible, the room had no shortage of ideas for local fixes. They included providing information resources to homeowners in danger of foreclosure, moving the county’s financial holdings to a local credit union and counteracting home-shattering deportations for frivolous traffic violations with Bremerton’s Immigrant Assistance Center.
Kyli Rhoads, the youngest member of the training at 27, was the first to mention the May Day General Strike, Occupy’s biggest upcoming event this year. The movement asks all its members, here and internationally, to take a stand by walking out of work and school on May 1. The Seattle branch of the event hopes to dramatically “shut down the city” and asks it participants to generate a rebellious game plan.
We’ve been telling you about The 99% Spring, the collective protest movement backed by Democratic Party activists and the labor movement. Earlier this month, The 99% Spring trained 100,000 protestors. And today, they took on their highest profile target: General Electric.
Protestors massed outside GE’s annual shareholders meeting in Detroit (yes, it met in the Motor City). Several thousand people marched at the Renaissance Center, according to The Detroit News. Some made it into the meeting room, where they were escorted out by police.
It was the second day that GE faced protests in Detroit. On Wednesday, protestors interrupted a speech by GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt at the Society of Automotive Engineers. GE tried to head off the headlines about the protests by making a jobs announcement. It said Tuesday it is adding 300 positions at an advanced manufacturing and engineering center in Van Buren Township, Mich.
In his SAE speech, Immelt took issue with protestors’ accusations that GE is a tax dodge, saying the company paid a 29 percent corporate rate last year. But in retrospect, it probably was bad timing to hold a shareholders meeting in Detroit when a main backer of The 99% Spring is the United Automobile Workers union.
Outside the annual meeting, protestors carried signs reading, “Fighting for Pension Fairness” and “COLA Increase – Affordable Health Care” referring to cost of living allowance increases. One protestor, Earl Hornung, told the News that he drove up from Indiana to show how he felt about his retirement situation.
“We’re trying to get a raise in our cost of living allocation,” said Hornung, who worked for GE for 28 years. “We have one fellow here who is 90 years old who retired 30 years ago. He’s hurting really bad due to inflation. I’ve been retired for 10 years and inflation is eating away at my pension, too.”
In a press release last week, The 99% Spring told of its plans to disrupt the GE meeting. “In particular, holding the meeting in Detroit—a city that has been dramatically impacted for the worse by the sort of tax dodging GE engages in—makes GE very much a target for the kind of disruptions we’ve seen at other shareholder meetings,” the organization said.
In recent days, The 99% Spring protestors have disrupted or shut down several corporate shareholder meetings. The group claims its protests led to a shutdown at EQT Corp.’s meeting, prompted executives at Carnival Cruise Lines (NYSE: CCL) to cut its live broadcast and resulted in two hours of interruptions and ejections from the BNY Mellon meeting.
The 99% Spring protesters to disrupt shareholder meetings of Amazon, others by Kent Hoover – April 23, 2012
Corporate America, get ready: The folks who brought you Occupy Wall Street last year may confront you at your next shareholder meeting. Activists with The 99% Spring coalition already have disrupted shareholder meetings this year at EQT Corp. (EQT), Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) and BNY Mellon (BK). Now they’ve announced a full schedule of “non-violent direct action” at shareholder meetings, starting next week with Wells Fargo and General Electric and also including Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc.
The coalition, which is composed of groups ranging from MoveOn.org to the Service Employees International Union , plans to block entry to the Wells Fargo (WFC) annual shareholder meeting in San Francisco April 24. What’s their beef with Wells Fargo? They want the bank to stop foreclosing on homeowners and pay more taxes — the bank’s effective tax rate has been low in recent years because of losses at its Wachovia acquisition.
The main branch of Wells Fargo in Seattle was the target of a Tax Day protest last week where demonstrators expressed similar concerns. The Wells Fargo event was linked to an “Occu-pie” protest, also on Tax Day, at Amazon.com’s headquarters in Seattle that raised issues about the company’s corporate tax rate. …
For Wells Fargo and other companies targeted by anti-corporate activists, the demonstrations will be a hassle and a public relations challenge. But they also will be an opportunity to tell their story, and explain their business practices. For The 99% Spring, the demonstrations will be an opportunity to, in its words, “confront CEOs and other members of the 1% over their economic concerns.”
On May 1, protesters will hit three shareholder meetings: the Hershey Co. (HSY) in Hershey, Pa.; Great Plains Energy (GXY) in Kansas City; and Peabody Coal (BTU) in St. Louis. The Bank of America (BAC), Wellpoint (WLP), Pepco (POM), Amazon (AMZN), NextEra Energy (NEE), Comcast (CMCSA) and Walmart (WMT) also are on their hit list.
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