Three issues surrounding Occupy stand out.
1. The vast majority of the 99% agree we are the 99%.
2. Currently, the Occupy groups are having difficulty speaking for the 99%.
3. Political/economic occupations are tactics to gain specific objectives
The discussions this week among the educators and community leaders with whom we intersect tend to focus on the positive impact of the Occupy effort to clarify the fact that we, the majority, the 99%, suffer at the hands of extreme wealth. This is a great step forward.
The same discussions lead to disappointment that the Occupy effort seems rigid and arrogant, and that some in the effort try to take organizing for a better nation into their own hands to the detriment of others. This lament focuses on Occupy’s apparent stiff arm of unions, community organizations, faith based organizations and others.
Our direct involvement in several occupations over the years seems to affirm that occupations are not just political statements; they are, first and foremost, a political tactic designed to force the adversary to give up sovereignty over the occupied territory. In the State of Washington we participated in four occupations. All four were successful, but two standout as good examples. In Seattle, the federal government owned an Army installation that had been closed. The plan was to turn it over to the city. A group of dedicated individuals, led by leaders such as Bernie Whitebear, occupied the base and negotiated ownership over part of it which became the Daybreak Star Cultural Center.
Another occupation took place on Puyallup tribal land that had been expropriated by the federal government decades ago. The federal government constructed a hospital on the site. In the 1950’s, the federal government, in violation of treaty rights, passed along the hospital to the State of Washington which turned it into a youth correctional facility. The occupation of the correctional facility by a large group of dedicated individuals and organizations, organized by Puyallup grassroots leaders, led to the Puyallup Tribe gaining control of their land and the former correctional facility.
Occupations are political and/or nonviolent military-like tactics to gain sovereignty and control over a particular location. The tactic requires a goal that is set by having a mission and a strategic plan for negotiations, resolutions and reconciliation. Occupations may be short term (such as taking over an office as has been done at various Universities) or long term such as Wounded Knee. The goal is to gain specific concessions and changes from the adversary and/or control and sovereignty over a specific place or territory.
Perhaps the most important element of an occupation is for the occupiers to be fairly certain that they can control and operate the liberated location once it is in their hands.