Impressions with an OWS Organizer

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By Rebecca Chapman

From the goals of Occupy Wall Street to its public relations problem, I sat down with an anonymous OWS organizer to discuss their impressions of the movement thus far and what they see as the next step.

First, why don't you want to be identified?

I don't want to use my name because I can't be as honest if I have to defend myself as a public spokesperson. I also don't necessarily want to be giving out lots of information about myself.

The lack of structural leadership in the movement has been a source of criticism. Can you explain the format of the movement and how it is organized?

The idea is that it's a way to organize a certain amount of agreement in protest. It's not just about being upset. I think it's pretty clear how using nonhierarchical processes and not using leadership is a political decision. It's not just arbitrary-you are being willfully ignorant when you don't understand what it's about.

Being leaderless allows for more action because you don't have to get things approved. The GA [General Assembly] is sort of like the Senate, except no one is elected. Sometimes people use it to ask for permission for things, which is not actually what we want-it's what we're against. There are some ways that the GA is just about people coming together, getting things done and letting each other know, "Hey, this is what I'm working on."

There are a few people who have repeatedly portrayed themselves in media coverage as "leaders" or "organizers"-are they just lying?

Whenever anyone says they are a leader they are lying. But everyone is an organizer who is part of it, although that word does mean other things to other people. It can be more authoritarian. Here it is not. Saying you're a leader-you are lying, you misunderstand the movement, and you are actually against it.

Was Zuccotti Park a strategic, informed, choice for the location of the movement or was it an accident that the park ended up being in a legal gray area as far as public/private ownership is concerned?

No, that was totally an accident. We were planning to go to Chase Manhattan Plaza, but the cops found out. We had backup plans, and had printed flyers that had a list of 10 back up GA locations. We went to Chase Manhattan Plaza and the police had closed it off, so we went to the second location, Zuccotti.

It's important to note that OWS is not just Zuccotti Park. The park is complicated because it's surrounded by police and pretty much controlled by the police. It can be a very scary place because of that-it's like a police state. For minorities or just those who are poor, the feeling of being intimidated by police is very familiar. So a lot of people are participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement who are not part of Zuccotti Park.

Is OWS today what you expected it to be?

Ha! Dream big, right? Some of us had a contingency plan to meet up at 8 p.m. on the evening of September 17 in case the police managed to disperse the protest by 6 p.m. I mean, we were doing an unpermitted protest in the Financial District! I hoped we'd make it through a weekend-a week would be great. It is as much as I could have possibly expected, it is less than I want.

What more do you want?

Oh, you know, total overthrow of capitalism and revolution. I want an overthrow of representative democracy and, ultimately, democracy itself. I do not feel that all we need is just a better democracy. I am 100 percent against work as it currently exists. Think about how many people actually work on forms of production that are necessary to sustain life and how much unemployment is based on the creation of surplus goods.

Why do you think there has been so much outcry looking for a set of concrete demands from the protesters?

I think it's more sinister than just wanting to fit everything into a category.

But I think a lot of people feel that if there were some specific demands they would be more inclined to support the movement.

This situation has nothing to do with a flaw in the democratic system that can be fixed; this situation is built and produced by capital. It doesn't matter who's in office, it doesn't matter if it's a Republican or a Democrat. Crisis is always inevitable.

What are the next steps?

We should be occupying everything. We shouldn't just be saying that. An occupation doesn't necessarily mean "camp out and live there"-you could have a dance party in a bank. I want Zuccotti Park to be open forever. We don't need to be choosing, we need to be occupying everything. Winter is coming and we will need walls and a ceiling. But there are a lot of abandoned buildings. There are a lot of banks. Most of the space in New York City is not on the streets, most of it is inside.

I'd also like to see calls for a general strike. I'd like to see it get weirder. I'd like there to be more camps outside Zuccotti in New York.

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