|From:||Bruce Wagner <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|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 http://goo.gl/U3jsn
OnlyOneTV | global television network
On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM, Lisa Fithian <email@example.com> 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, starhawksblog.org/, 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
> 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
> 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
> Lisa Fithian
> Lauren Ross (or Juniper)
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