Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Kalamazoo Formed in Awesome Organizational Effort

The Occupy Wall Street movement has come to Kalamazoo and it illustrated the power of social networking, decentralized organizing and the leadership skills of area college students and young adults.

Earlier this week someone posted a Facebook page (!/pages/occupy-kalamazoo/154049934687409) along with a date to meet Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. in Bronson Park.  That got the ball rolling in Kalamazoo where about 100 people joined together to plan public actions.

The meeting lasted only 90 minutes and during that time people shared their concerns about corporate power,  college debt, unemployment and what it means to be one of the 99%.  They made proposals about what to do and set dates to hold demonstrations.  The crowd was a mix of age groups.

"Twenty-three people were on Facebook yesterday and 100 people are here today," said Jason, who created the FB page.  By morning on Friday, it was reported that the FB page had 250 views.

A facilitator asks participants to offer their concerns and suggestions for action.  People raised their hands to speak as others listened quietly.  Discussions were calm but passionate as issues were identified.  It was obvious that the group was highly informed,  well-educated and applying their communication skills.

The group discussed when to demonstrate and when to hold organizing meetings and agreed to the following dates:

Saturday, October 8 around 2 pm
WMU Homecoming

Tuesday, October 11 from 530-830 pm
George and Steve show what they think of the Wall Street bull in 2009
meeting and sign-making for the demonstrations
2101 Wilbur Ave, next to the flagpoles at WMU

Wednesday,  October 12 from 11 am to 1 pm
demonstration in front of PNC Bank on Michigan Ave. and Burdick

Saturday, October 15 from 10 am to 5 pm
Lansing State Capitol

Thursdays at 530 are regular meeting days 
Bronson Park (for now until an indoor site is determined)

The group also discussed how to demonstrate and whether or not a permit was needed.  It is not.

"But don't block the street or sidewalk.  Be respectful to passersby.  Don't shout.  Be polite to the police and remember they are part of the 99%, they just don't know it yet."

"Assume the media is not our friend," warned one participant.  "We need to tell our story."

A variety of tools were suggested to do just that:  Facebook, blogs, YouTube videos, listserves, flyers, posters, word of mouth.  A number of people were already snapping photos, recording video and taking notes at the meeting.

A Western Herald reporter, who had a video camera, said he would be covering activities of Occupy Kalamazoo as part of his beat.

Jobs to be done were also identified and volunteers were solicited.  Volunteers came forth readily. 

"I'm out of work now so until I get a job, I'll work full time on Occupy Kalamazoo," said one woman volunteered to serve as secretary.

Others talked about making signs and flyers.

Another suggested the need for an indoor meeting space while another pointed to the Wesley Center at WMU as a possibility.

The meeting was an amazing example of non-organizational organizing, which has typified this movement. 

"You guys have made this possible in no time," said Jason.

Participants show their agreement to others' remarks with a show of hands.

A participant reads the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly statement passed in New York City on September 29 at one of its early meetings.  The Occupy Kalamazoo group will soon write its own statement. 

Older participants offer suggestions for more effective impact but the youth were clearly in charge and leading the conversation.

WMU and Kalamazoo College faculty members offer comments and suggestions.

Members of the Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War, who have been demonstrating against the war in Iraq since Sept. 1, 2002, were present and offered their support for Occupy Kalamazoo.  Earlier this week they discussed via e-mail how to support Occupy Kalamazoo

The group ends the meeting with a circle of friendship, purpose and solidarity.

1 comment:

  1. It would be nice if you attended the remaining Kalamazoo City Commission candidate forums. Three forums have already been held, including Thursday at 6:00 in the Epic Center, while all of you were screwing around in Bronson Park. The attendance at all three forums been pitiful. Here are the remaining forums:

    * Wednesday, October 12 at noon at Michelle's restaurant (4010 Gull Road), sponsored by the Northside Business Association,

    * Thursday, October 20 at 5:30 p.m. at Theo & Stacy's restaurant on Portage Road by the airport, sponsored by the Kalamazoo County Democratic Party, and!/kzoodems

    * Tuesday, October 25 at 7:00 p.m. at WMU Fetzer Center, sponsored by WMU Institute of Government and Politics and Western Student Association!/wmuwsa

    The purpose of these forums is to help you become an informed voter (election day is Tuesday, November 8). Reading voter guides and getting hearsay from your "friends" is no where near as informative as attending a forum and asking questions yourself. A forum also lets you see how well these people speak in public and how clearly they communicate their ideas. These people will be your representatives in city government for the next two years and their decisions impact your life much more directly than the people in Washington D.C.