From:   Bruce Wagner <>
Sent time:   Thursday, November 10, 2011 7:37:49 AM
Subject:   Re: [september17discuss] Open Letter to the Occupy Movement

Check out our interview with Lisa Fithian. It's great.


The Occupy Wall Street Show – Episode 004 – Lisa Fithian




Only Love,





Bruce Wagner

OnlyOneTV | global television network

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On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM, Lisa Fithian <> wrote:



> Here's the open letter from Alliance of Community Trainers, my training

> collective, about issues of nonviolence and tactics.  Please spread it

> around widely.  To comment or endorse, go www.trainersalliance.organd its

> also on my blog,, love Starhawk


> Open Letter to the Occupy Movement: Why We Need Agreements


> From the Alliance of Community Trainers, ACT


> The Occupy movement has had enormous successes in the short time since

> September when activists took over a square near Wall Street. It has

> attracted hundreds of thousands of active participants, spawned occupations

> in cities and towns all over North America, changed the national dialogue

> and garnered enormous public support. It’s even, on occasion, gotten good

> press!


> Now we are wrestling with the question that arises again and again in

> movements for social justice—how to struggle. Do we embrace nonviolence, or

> a ‘diversity of tactics?’ If we are a nonviolent movement, how do we define

> nonviolence? Is breaking a window violent?


> We write as a trainers’ collective with decades of experience, from the

> anti-Vietnam protests of the sixties through the strictly nonviolent

> antinuclear blockades of the seventies, in feminist, environmental and

> anti-intervention movements and the global justice mobilizations of the late

> ‘90s and early ‘00s. We embrace many labels, including feminist,

> anti-racist, eco-feminist and anarchist. We have many times stood shoulder

> to shoulder with black blocs in the face of the riot cops, and we’ve been

> tear-gassed, stun-gunned, pepper sprayed, clubbed, and arrested,


> While we’ve participated in many actions organized with a diversity of

> tactics, we do not believe that framework is workable for the Occupy

> Movement. Setting aside questions of morality or definitions of ‘violence’

> and ‘nonviolence’ – for no two people define ‘violence’ in the same way – we

> ask the question:


> What framework can we organize in that will build on our strengths, allow us

> to grow, embrace a wide diversity of participants, and make a powerful

> impact on the world?


> ‘Diversity of tactics’ becomes an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions

> of strategy and accountability. It lets us off the hook from doing the hard

> work of debating our positions and coming to agreements about how we want to

> act together. It becomes a code for ‘anything goes,’ and makes it impossible

> for our movements to hold anyone accountable for their actions.


> The Occupy movement includes people from a broad diversity of backgrounds,

> life experiences and political philosophies. Some of us want to reform the

> system and some of us want to tear it down and replace it with something

> better. Our one great point of agreement is our call for transparency and

> accountability. We stand against the corrupt institutions that broker power

> behind closed doors. We call to account the financial manipulators that have

> bilked billions out of the poor and the middle classes.


> Just as we call for accountability and transparency, we ourselves must be

> accountable and transparent. Some tactics are incompatible with those goals,

> even if in other situations they might be useful, honorable or appropriate.

> We can’t be transparent behind masks. We can’t be accountable for actions we

> run away from. We can’t maintain the security culture necessary for planning

> and carrying out attacks on property and also maintain the openness that can

> continue to invite in a true diversity of new people. We can’t make

> alliances with groups from impacted communities, such as immigrants, if we

> can’t make agreements about what tactics we will employ in any given action.


> The framework that might best serve the Occupy movement is one of strategic

> nonviolent direct action. Within that framework, Occupy groups would make

> clear agreements about which tactics to use for a given action. This frame

> is strategic—it makes no moral judgments about whether or not violence is

> ever appropriate, it does not demand we commit ourselves to a lifetime of

> Gandhian pacifism, but it says, ‘This is how we agree to act together at

> this time.’ It is active, not passive. It seeks to create a dilemma for the

> opposition, and to dramatize the difference between our values and theirs.


> Strategic nonviolent direct action has powerful advantages:


> We make agreements about what types of action we will take, and hold one

> another accountable for keeping them. Making agreements is empowering. If I

> know what to expect in an action, I can make a choice about whether or not

> to participate. While we can never know nor control how the police will

> react, we can make choices about what types of action we stand behind

> personally and are willing to answer for. We don’t place unwilling people in

> the position of being held responsible for acts they did not commit and do

> not support.


> In the process of coming to agreements, we listen to each other’s differing

> viewpoints. We don’t avoid disagreements within our group, but learn to

> debate freely, passionately, and respectfully.


> We organize openly, without fear, because we stand behind our actions. We

> may break laws in service to the higher laws of conscience. We don’t seek

> punishment nor admit the right of the system to punish us, but we face the

> potential consequences for our actions with courage and pride.


> Because we organize openly, we can invite new people into our movement and

> it can continue to grow. As soon as we institute a security culture in the

> midst of a mass movement, the movement begins to close in upon itself and to

> shrink.


> Holding to a framework of nonviolent direct action does not make us ‘safe.’

> We can’t control what the police do and they need no direct provocation to

> attack us. But it does let us make clear decisions about what kinds of

> actions we put ourselves at risk for.


> Nonviolent direct action creates dilemmas for the opposition, and clearly

> dramatizes the difference between the corrupt values of the system and the

> values we stand for. Their institutions enshrine greed while we give away

> food, offer shelter, treat each person with generosity. They silence dissent

> while we value every voice. They employ violence to maintain their system

> while we counter it with the sheer courage of our presence.


> Lack of agreements privileges the young over the old, the loud voices over

> the soft, the fast over the slow, the able-bodied over those with

> disabilities, the citizen over the immigrant, white folks over people of

> color, those who can do damage and flee the scene over those who are left to

> face the consequences.


> Lack of agreements and lack of accountability leaves us wide open to

> provocateurs and agents. Not everyone who wears a mask or breaks a window is

> a provocateur. Many people clearly believe that property damage is a strong

> way to challenge the system. And masks have an honorable history from the

> anti-fascist movement in Germany and the Zapatista movement in Mexico, who

> said “We wear our masks to be seen.”


> But a mask and a lack of clear expectations create a perfect opening for

> those who do not have the best interests of the movement at heart, for

> agents and provocateurs who can never be held to account. As well, the fear

> of provocateurs itself sows suspicion and undercuts our ability to openly

> organize and grow.


> A framework of strategic nonviolent direct action makes it easy to reject

> provocation. We know what we’ve agreed to—and anyone urging other courses of

> action can be reminded of those agreements or rejected.


> We hold one another accountable not by force or control, ours or the

> systems, but by the power of our united opinion and our willingness to stand

> behind, speak for, and act to defend our agreements.


> A framework of strategic nonviolent direct action agreements allows us to

> continue to invite in new people, and to let them make clear choices about

> what kinds of tactics and actions they are asked to support.


> There’s plenty of room in this struggle for a diversity of movements and a

> diversity of organizing and actions. Some may choose strict Gandhian

> nonviolence, others may choose fight-back resistance. But for the Occupy

> movement, strategic nonviolent direct action is a framework that will allow

> us to grow in diversity and power.


> From the Alliance of Community Trainers, ACT


> Starhawk

> Lisa Fithian

> Lauren Ross (or Juniper)


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