Ideas Working Group - OB in 3--6 Months - 2 May 2012

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Ideas WG Discussion: OB in Three to Six Months - 2 May 2012

Tonight's Ideas meeting took place at South Station. Our topic was: What would you like to see Occupy Boston do over the next 3--6 months?

We had two physical attendees and three virtual attendees. (The virtual attendees were folks who couldn't make the meeting, but sent in their ideas via email).

The Virtual Participants

(Note: all three virtual participants mention banks.)


What I would like to see Occupy Boston do in the next 3-6 months

  1. develop a common knowledge base re Wall Street economics and the practical steps Occupy can do to make financial institutions more transparent and function for the public good.
  2. develop an action plan around the above..both direct action and maybe wider organizational strategy involving other groups.

(Bank Working Group is having initial teach-in first half of GA on May 12 as a step towards this and I have just discovered OW has a great effort in this direction so they have been invited as well)


We need to be doing more direct actions as a whole community and they should be, in my opinion, direct actions with the goal of actually and concretely disrupting business as usual. No more marches or rallies unless they have a specified goal of blocking a specific business activity to which we object: so keeping a bank from doing its business, stopping or impeding a foreclosure sale or an eviction, deportation hearings, blocking or impeding business transactions of targeted corporations, Gov't entities.

We should brainstorm a list of corrupting entities, prioritize them by degree/magnitude of offense, identify the activities they do in the normal course of business and block one or more of those.

Over and over and over again.

We could form new small groups by who wants to block whose bad "business" processes.

If we do this, we can have clear messaging and we will have the support of various sectors of the 99%.

I think this is what the country is waiting for.

We can also, simultaneously, be engaged in exploring and promoting new processes & institutions: new alternative banking, etc.


Occupying the MBTA is of prime importance and also outreach and recruitment.

I hope we are still having Open House ?

We need to start talking about banks more.

Justin's agenda needs massive discussion night for all OB to come to.

A retreat for all OB-Thompson Island ? Two days of talk. And fun.

I realize this is stuff I wanna bring up at GA...hmmm...

The Physical Participants

This is a loose transcript of Joe and Steve's discussion about what Occupy Boston could do over the next 3--6 months, done over coffee and Diet Mountain Dew.

The Occupy MBTA campaign was our most engaging campaign, and it's still going on. I'd like to see that serve as a model for other campaigns, where we start with very big, lofty objectives, but begin with very simple, concrete actions. Where we set the other end is entirely up to our imagination. We dream big.

I'd like to see us revive outreach. Part of this comes from the May day event in East Boston, Everett and Chelsea. There were a lot of groups there, and the collaboration was really cool. If you have more groups involved, then you can do bigger actions.

Working with local groups, you can do things that are important to people who live down the block, in Arlington, JP, or where ever -- in addition to working on ways to change the world.

I like the thing from the last GA; the idea that we need to translate our rhetoric into "human". We can learn something from unions. I heard Richard Trumka (AFL-CIO president) talking on the radio the other day. I never hear him talk in language that's going to go over anybody's head. But he's talking about real economic issues. There's something about his style that we can pick up on. We're regular Joe Occupiers.

There's another reason I was thinking about outreach. I went to an Occupy Arlington GA last Sunday, and we talked about an action they had done for the Alewife watershed. There's a woman who's done a lot of activism for that area, and she was a little upset that this new group came in and did a demonstration without reaching out to her. I got the sense that she felt excluded. One of the things that came out of that General Assembly, at least for Occupy Arlington: when ever we plan a direct action, we should try to find outside groups to work with, and then work with them.

I read an article in this internet journal, called the Independent. It dealt with the fact that many occupiers were concerned about being co-opted by the 99% movement. The article turned it around to say "let's just invite them to come in. They can fill out our ranks as much as we can fill out theirs".

Many groups that have been doing progressive work for a long time. We have a community forum where we invite people in and talk to them. I think we could turn it around; invite outside groups to the community forum, and have them talk to us. There are groups that would come in, give a good talk, hand out literature, and then be gratified that we showed them that respect. We don't have to give up anything in order to learn from others.

The environmental issue might make a good connection with folks who are not particularly radical. Your typical American has been sold on the environment, and I think it makes sense to think about that. Environmental issues are already a part of people's conscience.

The environment could be framed as a 99% vs 1% issue. I don't think the Koch Brothers (say) care about clean air so much.

The term "environmental racism" really made me realize that. We have to make sure people understand that corporations aren't dumping industrial waste in upper and middle class neighborhoods. They're dumping it in poor areas. You air's worse, your water's worse, and you have fewer trees. The same thing happens when you, say, throw out an old cell phone. It ends up in a big heap in some other country. Most of our electronic garbage ends up being dumped somewhere else.

It's possible to use the market to punish companies that do bad stuff. We shouldn't be afraid to pick up that club and use it. We have a long-term objective for a society that prioritizes humans over profits. Living wages would put more dough into people's pockets, and that would only make them more powerful, and more independent. I don't know if we need a big summit or a big pow-wow to talk about this stuff. Just a forum where everyone could kick in their own two cents -- what's a specific campaign that Occupy could pick up.

I thought that Ridgely and Linda had good ideas. Ridgely mentions Wall Street and the banks; Linda is interested in actions that focus on very specific objectives.

There were folks talking about Bank of America. They're already a little wobbly, so why not wobble them a little more. If they're already caving, then I think it would be totally legitimate to push harder. If everyone in the 99% started making a go at Bank of America, then I think they'd wobble like hell. It's totally legal not to consume a product. All you have to do is ask people "aren't you just so damn sick of Bank of America?"

I was talking with Matt last night, after the funeral procession. He'd like to see more street theater, and more theatrics in protests. The theatrics take more work and require more preparation, but this could make the protests more engaging. I'm trying to think about the kinds of street theater we could do outside Bank of America. (Hmm ... Snidely Whiplash, anyone?)

Someone, maybe Noah, had an idea for an action. Ask people to go into Bank of America, close their accounts, and take out all of their money. When they come out of the bank, ask them how good it feels.

When you open an account, banks used to give you something like a toaster. When people close their accounts, we could give them ... like, some toast. Anything to turn it into a ritual.

I don't think that anyone should be nervous about having a joke at the expense of Bank of America. How about a bunch of people dressed up as Death, standing outside Bank of America?

Anti-tax groups have targeted corporations, and presented them with tax bills. Take the normal corporate tax rate, subtract what the corporation actually paid, and hand them a bill for the difference.

Wait, here's an idea. Figure out how big of a tax bill to send to Bank of America, and then divide that by the number of people who paid taxes. That's how much Bank of America owes every American. Maybe it's something like $100.00. Have a bunch of people go into Bank of America one at a time, and demand their hundred dollars. Plus, a specific number could really drive home the point that Bank of America is getting away with murder.

Now, have a look at Jen's ideas. She also mentions banks; everyone on the virtual stack mentioned the topic of banks. Nobody will have any sentimentality about banks. And, that's how the whole Occupy movement got started.

(Discussion drifts off topic, to Mass. Gubernatorial elections, Chairman Meow, Vermin Supreme, and the Pirate Party.)

For the last few months, Occupy Boston has been spread pretty thin. I'd like to see us do is to take up fewer campaigns, but put a lot more effort into each individual campaign.

The MBTA campaign pulled that off. It was mostly a small group of core people, but they busted their tails, and they were really clever about what they were doing. They got a huge amount done, just by sheer focus. The found an issue where the system created a venue for them. The election might provide a similar kind of opportunity. There will be debates, political conventions, and plenty of opportunity for people to make a fuss. Especially if we find a pet issue to push.

We could have our own convention, or jamboree. Bring occupiers together, and do Occupier stuff.

What about pushing for a state-run bank? North Dakota is the only state in the country that has one of those. A state-run bank could be a nice alternative to private, evil capitalist banks. They could loan money to small enterprises, and branch out from there. For most of history, banks were easy to run, because they stuck to basic, low-risk ventures.

Now banks take a lot of dumb-ass risks, and they've gotten so damn complicated. Even government organizations have gotten into the game. The MBTA gambled money on credit default swaps, and lost around fifty million bucks in the process. A state-run bank that didn't take dumb-ass risks should be easy to run.

It's an election year, so folks will be more interested in politics than usual. Even if we don't endorse candidates, we should try to find ways that allow the interest in politics to give us an audience. Maybe like what Occupy groups did for the New Hampshire primary.

We could do a lot with sustainable community projects. Little enterprises, more sustainable consumption habits, and that sort of things. We could change the world one community at a time -- Charlestown, East Boston, JP, and so fourth.

There's plenty of good things to do this year.