Meet Me In Occupy#St.Louis

Revolution Now!! Occupy STL Poster
More than just a slogan...?

This is a report from a friend in St.Louis, who wrote it as an email without having the idea of it being published; but since he said "do whatever you feel like doing with it", I'm putting it up. Particularly as nobody else has even mentioned St.Louis. It gives a good flavour of the contradictions and excitement of this small but volatile assembly.

Submitted by Samotnaf on October 7, 2011

Email, Wednesday 5th October:

What a madhouse.

Haven't seen anything like it before. It's unclear where it's at now. As I was leaving last night they evicted the plaza after 5 days occupation - arrested 5-15 people (who wished that fate upon themselves) with a grand show of police force (some 50+ squad cars - twice as many officers).

I haven't been following it too closely in other places, so I don't really know how it compares. People have risen from the woodwork and it's a mess. What professional leftists/activists there are here have very little practice in political manipulation, so even after 5 days, what seems prime ground for recuperation, has stayed, quite frankly, a madhouse.

A friend described it as loads of people who, over the past couple years, have truly lost their faith in "the system" and it's devastating to them to believe in something so much only to be let down. And the popular outburst of anger/frustration caught many of our friends by surprise and failed to resonate with us immediately, because - well, the world crushed us what seems like eons ago and we forget what that losing of faith feels like.

It really is a mash-up of folks, many of whom were bold enough to come to the occupation on their own, without the safety of friends. People talk of the failure to communicate their excitement about the #occupy with co-workers or friends, so they come to the plaza to find affinity with people. Sure, lots of people come with their friends. but lone wolves are banding
together too.

I can't even start to describe the diversity of people down there. Black, white, men, women, children, homeless people, restaurant workers, trade unionists, conspiracy nuts, friends of friends, strangers, iraq war veterans... ok , i started. It makes almost no sense, why so many people have "joined"- why they see themselves as participants and not spectators.
Wonderful. and wonderfully unsettling.

This world has destroyed so many of us (mentally and socially, especially) and I think the movement can only be understood if that is understood.

There's many similarities to the anti-war movement that sprung up here in 2002-2003, but there's no war to stop - there's a "system" to stop. And when everyone defines system differently, it turns it into a cauldron of vague calls for revolution peppered with calls for (sometimes ideological) unity.

This 99% junk is responsible for a lot of this incoherence. A guy yesterday at a general assembly (a term that has now entered the vocabulary) explained how those between the 1% and 2% make $20 million per year. And instead of logically going on to say how ridiculous it is to be considered on the same plane as these people, he puzzles how to get them
to join us. And this was generally accepted as a part of the conversation of how to get more people to the occupation. But, from what I can tell, the make-up continues to be really working class in spite of this. Of course there's middle class elements and embodiments, but the craziness of it all, in my opinion, is keeping it from falling into some "preserve the
middle class" activism.

An important playoff baseball game finished several blocks away, and fans were pouring out streaming past the plaza, happy and drunk from the game. "Baseball game's letting out, lets go hold signs at the intersection!" - you
want your slice of upper/middle class america, you got it. A few drunk fans encouraging people not to be complacent any more, a few screaming "get a job"/"take a shower"/"my taxes subsidize trash like like you"/etc. First i was marveling, spectating. A furious demonstrator following/stalking some of the upper crust who had the gumption to insult the lower crust as he walked through our gauntlet. An old hippie responding with "fucking bourgeoisie piece of shit!" or something like
that. Then I joined - picked up a sign that said "tax the rich" and crossed out the "t" and stood on the street at this busy intersection wondering what would happen if any of my bosses or co-workers streamed by. Some nasty words exchanged by an over-eager friend of mine and an unsuspecting fan. Some chants of "gimmie your wallet." Some pleas of non-violence from some Gandhiites. Shit, we feel this way, what do we do with it besides hold a sea of ambiguous, rhetorical, and sometimes contradictory signs and scream our frustrations with this world? Some old protester guy screaming, "That's right - keep on walking, keep on shopping." Some youngster with tea party influence shouting "end the fed" like a broken record at the endless stream of fans. A black and red flag in the mess. A couple of traveling dirty hippie punks finding joy in walking against the tide of fans and watching them part for him "like Moses." But we weren't all a sea of 60s hippies. We were a fairly large spectrum of the population. Such worry in the meetings about our image, but then this. Just one more contradiction can't hurt!

There's been daily demonstrations. I went to one yesterday afternoon at a bank headquarters that was initiated by this activisty anti-foreclosure group who re-negotiate loans with banks. Lots of police behind fencing, boring chants, restless followers. Afterwards we navigated our way to a bank branch a few blocks away and the organizers jumped on board like it was their idea. No police. Nice lobby. Nice couches. Some trash thrown. Loud music (Bonzo Dog Band thrown in for kicks :) ). Paralyzed security guards. 5-10 minutes of spontaneity and back to the plaza.

Some of us awkwardly (better than not at all, I think) proposed we go to the wealthy neighborhoods and disturb them on Friday [note: today]. We'll see if it pans out.

When we got there yesterday there was a very brief scuffle with a businessman taking pictures of us getting out of our car a few blocks from the occupation. He thought we were tea party and took our photos and flicked us off. A friend tried to knock the phone out of his hand and both looked liked they were about to hit each other, but the man scurried off. In retrospect, an apropos start to the day.

The day ended by watching the mammoth police operation from across the street with an off-duty private security guard (who works at the federal building) who had come to participate. He joked about him and his girlfriend starting a famous high school riot over discrimination a few decades ago. I dont think mutiny is around the corner, but I'm understanding more what that looks like.

To give you a better idea, at it's max, there's been a couple hundred people, but probably over a thousand have been through at different times in support.

I just got word that there's 50 people down there now re-occupying it, for the daytime, at least.

As they say down here in nutterville - less serf, more surf!

Thursday 6th, evening:
It's still going on. Just as many people down there. I had a heated exchange tonight with a local Fox news crew for shining a bright light on the assembly. It was not taken well by many of the "organizers" or the crew itself. The reporter herself flicked me off. 99% of the year I keep my mouth shut, but I taste a little bit of freedom at the occupation - enough to where it's hard not to feel emboldened to unleash my anger at those who deserve it.

Trying not to get ahead of myself. Of ourselves.

But it's fucking hard.



12 years 6 months ago

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Submitted by Samotnaf on October 10, 2011

There's a radical blog on St.Louis here, and they've posted this, amongst other things, that seems relevant to issues going on in other Occupy! movements in US cities:

Evening of Day 7, Autonomy Affirmed
Posted on October 9, 2011 by antistatestl
Two things happened tonight concerning the “Last Night Was Awesome” leaflet that both ended up being really affirming, and as I hear more and more stories about how badly things are going in some other cities it seems worth sharing.
The short of it is: some people at the General Assembly this morning were upset about certain things at the march last night (it’s unclear whether or not they were on it), particularly the “Burn the Banks!” chant. It’s okay they were upset with it and it’s fine they brought that up but what they tried to do next definitely wasn’t. They apparently tried to propose that there be a policy put in place to not allow certain kinds of phrases, expressions and ideas to be used in general. The group considered it censorship and didn’t go for it, but it seems like in other cities that groups are going for it or that conversation isn’t even being allowed to happen in the first place. People are just taking charge and presenting their own ideas as givens and not allowing them to be debated.
Fast forward to the evening when the leaflets are being distributed: to our face we only got positive feedback. Lots of “It was awesome!” but maybe a dozen times individuals sought us out to thank us for writing it and that they were really into it – how the hell often does that happen when you’re leafleting? If nothing else, this occupation will have helped us meet like twenty new comrades (if not much more!)
But then we heard that the leaflet was upsetting some of the same people that were upset earlier. It seems like they got even more defensive, were possibly trying to get another proposal put together with even more restrictive measures in, etc. But luckily the communication committee continued to stress the leaderless principle of the occupation, and instead of accepting the proposed additional power of being able to label things appropriate or not, they drafted a proposal that encourages anyone to make and distribute literature.
Occupy St. Louis is made up of many different people with many different beliefs. We support a free and open space that promotes dialogue. All flyers and language are welcome but do not represent any official language or statement from Occupy St. Louis.
Perhaps it could be helpful for comrades in other cities dealing with control and censorship issues to point to another occupation’s agreement.


12 years 6 months ago

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Submitted by Samotnaf on October 13, 2011

The Fourth Official Statement of the Occupy St Louis General Assembly
October 11, 2011
This statement was approved in the night time general assembly on Oct. 10, and has been approved by morning assembly on Oct. 11. This is an official stance of the General Assembly:
1. From this point forward, we offer our support for all strikes taking place in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.
2. We commit to offer practical and creative support to those who walk out from union or non-union work places, with or without union leadership.
3.This statement also applies to student strikes.
By issuing this statement, we wish to send a message to everyone in this city, that if you are fighting back, then we got your back. Talk to your co-workers and fellow students. Every grievance against this system is worthy of a collective response.
We encourage everyone, ourselves included, to no longer let our discontent boil beneath the surface. We believe the time to act is now.”
–the Occupy St Louis General Assembly

- from here.