I’ve been doing a little bit of work with the Occupy Tallahassee group and have been covering Occupy Wall Street for Crooks and Liars and I thought I’d share a few suggestions based on what I’ve observed. These protests present an historic moment for people who think the system is broken and who want to really make a change. The protests have brought in thousands of new people across the country who don’t like the way things are going and want to do something about it. But the other side has more money and more power and has faced opposition before. In order to avoid losing to them once again, there are some things that local groups need to pay attention to…
1. It’s all about attracting more and more people. The way we make change is by gathering together so many people that they can’t ignore us.
2. Get information about everyone who shows up. We have to be able to contact people for future events and actions.
3. Give people something to do. Protests and rallies are nice. They get people fired up and they can get some media attention. But they aren’t enough. We have to take those people who show up to the rallies and give them something concrete to do that will make a difference.
4. We all, every one of us, have to know what we’re talking about. The number one way to lose momentum is for us to allow the media to marginalize us as kooks or crazies. If we are all educated and we only give the media educated, thoughtful responses, then we take away the opposition’s major weapon.
5. We have to have a coherent message. The media and the opposition are already trying to paint us as having no real point. If they succeed in convincing the public that is true, the movement will die off. People will go home and nothing will change.
6. We have to walk a thin line when it comes to the law. Civil disobedience is a valid tool and it changes the world. But not if it is violent or disrespectful of the very people the 1% are already screwing over. We have to be better than the other side, not fall into their tactics or fall for the traps they are setting for us. And keep in mind that law enforcement and other people who may appear to be our opposition at times are getting screwed over by the 1%, too. We should be recruiting them, not antagonizing them.
7. At the end of the day, when the protest is over, we have to realize that just showing up and protesting and occupying isn’t enough. It is an amazing start, but protests are never successful if they aren’t coupled with actions that can change the world. Lawsuits and elections are the key tools in American history (and beyond) that have changed the way the system worked and created progress. We have to use the mass mobilizations as a way to get politicians elected that will fight the 1% (like Alan Grayson and Bernie Sanders, for instance) and we have to fund lawsuits that will enforce laws that already exist that protect our rights. Without these tools we can’t win.
8. We have to win the media battle. This isn’t going to be easy, because the 1% owns the media. But they don’t own the Internet. Well they do, but they can’t stop us from using it. And we have to use it well enough to force the rest of the media to pay attention and do the right thing. When a reporter lies about how many people were at an event, we need to use the web to tell the truth. When a reporter tries to spin a story to undercut what we’re doing, we need to use the web to tell the truth. They won’t do it unless we force them to.