On What I Learned – The Conclusion

The Preamble

Hundreds of people signed a large copy of the preamble of the United States Constitution as part of the mass action for Occupy the Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA on Jan. 2.

It took many sleepless hours, eyes red and burning, staring at desolate roads through narrow headlight beams, to get to where I was going. But in the end, it was exactly where I wanted to be. Everywhere.

It took 14 days and roughly 4,500 miles to complete my tour of the Occupy Movements in the Western U.S. I started in the South, visiting Occupy San Diego, and worked my way up through California and Oregon to the Occupy Seattle General Assembly, East through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, before finally head South through Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, and back to Los Angeles.

I was able to talk to all different kinds of people through this experience; young, old, rich, poor, students, teachers, factory workers and families. Everyone had their own reason for participating in the movement, but they also understood that those different goals could only be realized by working together.

The actions in each city were all a bit different. Some were able to work with police, secure permits and retain their encampments with help from local agencies. Others only maintained their Occupations through dedication and continued resistance to local government. Still, violence at the Occupations is usually coming from police.

It is true that there are still controversies over assaults, drug use and rapes that have occurred at the sites, but those are problems inherent to life in the open, not tied specifically to these actions. Neither the violence nor the drug use is condoned, but they are acknowledged as realities of life in the streets and at least being addressed; before the Occupy movement began drawing attention to public space, these issues were merely swept under the rug as the dirty little secrets of our society.

There are many issues this young movement is facing, as it is far from over, but at least these important discussions are happening.

In these small communities of conscious people, the discussions that will shape the future of our nation are happening. Between young and old, privileged and poor, all different races, cultures and backgrounds. People of all kinds are finally participating in the way we run our society. It is no different than the civil rights movement before it, or the fight for independence before that. There will always be those dedicated to the betterment of their country for the benefit of their peers.

This movement is dealing with the problems our society sees today. It is a sounding board for those who have been campaigning for individual causes their entire life, as well as newcomers, from all different strokes, who wish to take part in shaping their own futures. Many different groups are coming together, sharing their strengths, to build the country they wish to be a part of.

By stressing equality and community, these local movements are working towards a collective good through individual efforts. They are all trying to give the government back to the people, removing corporate influence over their decisions. They are working to stop exploitation of people, resources and environments for the benefits of individual companies who concentrate that wealth. They are doing all they can to reinstate the benefits of being part of this country to all those in it, not just a few. The people I met were all working altruistically, not just for themselves, but for all those being oppressed, especially the ones who cannot do it for themselves.

After seeing all these cities, all these different people, I realized that they were all working for one thing: each other.

– Serious Note

On Actions – Perseverance

To have a successful action, you must keep the crowd.

Today’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday “Occupy the Dream” action in San Francisco went well, with about 150 peaceful participants, but ended early. The cold weather and subdued nature of the protest, in the empty financial district, dwindled to about 20 people by noon. The action was planned until one.

The success of this action is that it gathered a good crowd in solidarity with 15 other cities holding actions. Coordinated events like this have a wide reach and great potential for impact. It shows a unified front and can greatly boost morale through numbers (Los Angeles apparently had a great showing and lively crowd).

Where this action was not successful, was in its lack of determination. On a day to honor one of the most tireless, dedicated non-violent activists in our nations history, protesters should have actually honored his legacy with emulate perseverance.

Leaving because of cold or hunger should not be an option. Occupiers in Denver are still holding strong with 24/7 Occupation in front of their capitol building in sub-zero temperatures. It’s true. I’ve seen it. A chilly day in the bay should not send Occupiers heading for warmer climates.

The designated ending time for the action was 1:00 p.m. PST. Having dismantled the action before the indicated time was disappointing to many in the movement. It also undermines the credibility and dedication of the organizers.

Those who did remain voiced their disappointment with the loss of strength and continued to hold discussions and chant in front of the deserted Federal Reserve building.

Families even brought their children to the event, only to be disappointed that it had already ended, because it was a peaceful day and safe environment to introduce them to the fight for their future. (This methodist family from Palo Alto brought their children specifically so they understand that this is part of a struggle to ensure their rights for when they grow up. They were not hippies. Not radicals. Just concerned American parents.)

It is true more actions could have been planned, or that there were not enough people to have an impact, or the place was deserted so what is the matter? But none of those are good excuses.

If the area is deserted, an impromptu march should not be out of the question.

If there were not enough people around, move to a new location.

If there was another, bigger action, TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT!

There is much strength in numbers. If you already have a crowd, USE IT. There is no reason for any action to end in desertion. Every opportunity should be used to its fullest extent through spreading awareness, information or actions. Letting people leave early without a completed action is a travesty to the movement and to activism.

Use your strength, direct your actions, have an impact.

– Serious Note

On Actions – MLK Day “Occupy the Dream”

In solidarity with the black community, and Rev. Martin Luther King’s struggle for economic equality, Occupy movements around the country have organized events at 16 Federal Reserve locations on Monday, Jan. 16.

The actions are an effort to bring visibility and awareness to the vast inequalities inherent to the financial system in America.

– Here is a quick primer on just what that that means.-

Those people without companies to hide behind bear the biggest burden of taxes.

Average Americans paid for the bail-out of the banking industry, even when that very industry was at the root of the problem. The Fed, who is supposed to be looking out for these people, instead works to preserve the current system of targeted lending and systematic impoverishment of the population.

As the regulatory agency for the banking industry, they failed to see the housing bubble, or do anything about it. They continue to allow repackaging of debt and risky lending practices that result in high foreclosure rates and diverted responsibility.

The following is an excerpt from their informational booklet on how The Fed works and what they do:

Today, the Federal Reserve’s duties fall into four general areas:

  • conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employ- ment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates

  • supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers

  • maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets

  • providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. gov- ernment, and foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation’s payments system

In reading those points alone, and seeing the shape the economy is in, how well the other banks are regulated, how well protected U.S. consumers are and how sound our financial system is, should give you an idea about how well they are doing their job.

Bankers are making money from trading nothing. The Fed distributes the money the U.S. mints and charges interest for it. They sell bad debt back to the government for cash, leaving consumers with defaulted loans and bankrupted companies that they will never get reimbursed for.

They regulate the system that created the financial crisis. Their policies are the reason banks and real estate companies got away with targeting poor populations for balloon rate mortgages on houses they couldn’t afford, that weren’t really worth what they were priced at, and then foreclosed on them as soon as possible.

Yet, we still pay them every year. We could go back to paying for government services through tax money instead of loans from The Fed, but that would mean we would actually have to pay taxes.

Not the average American though, because we already pay taxes, some pay almost half of their salary to the government, if they still have a job.

This means companies would actually have to pay taxes again.

The majority of tax cuts are for corporations and those already wealthy. If we actually demanded taxation at the same rates for the upper tier of Americans as we do on ordinary citizens, we might just be able to stop borrowing money and pay for our own programs.

Or we could stop spending so much on the military.

Or tax 94% of income over $2.5 million (at least the equivalent amount at the time) as we did in the 1940’s.

Or raise taxes (tariffs) on imported goods, incentivizing U.S. made products, which would stimulate job growth and internal spending.

But all those seem to be too complicated and counter productive to the private company that is supposed to be regulating the public economic sector.

For a simplified explanation of how the fed works, try this link http://youtu.be/Oe0fGXzKb1o. Click this one if you want to read how The Fed sees it http://www.federalreserve.gov/pf/pdf/pf_1.pdf#page=4 and here for some perspective http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2012/01/15/and-deliver-us-from-systemic-risk-the-fed-transcripts/.

I am not saying any of this is right, but these are just a few reasons people will be Occupying The Fed today.

You can visit the Occupy the Dream Website for more information. Actions will be held in places like LA, SF, NY and elsewhere. See the list below.

All actions are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

Washington, D.C.

20th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20551
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

  • Pastor Jamal H. Bryant – Dr. Jamal H. Bryant is the Pastor and Founder of Empowerment Temple Church

Contact person: Nicole Kirby
(410) 225-3494
nicolekirby@occupydream.org

Atlanta

1000 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 498-8500
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

Boston

600 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 973-3000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

Chicago

When: 3:00 PM

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 322-5322
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

Cleveland

1455 East Sixth Street
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 579-2000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

Dallas

2200 North Pearl Street

Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 922-6000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

Kansas City

1 Memorial Drive
Kansas City, MO 64198
(816) 881-2000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

Los Angeles

When: 3:00 PM

950 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 683-2900
Map

More Details

Minneapolis

90 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 204-5000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

New Orleans

Clergy Point of Contact

New York

33 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10045
(212) 720-5000

Map

Clergy Points of Contact

Philadelphia

When: 3:00 PM

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 574-6000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

Richmond

701 East Byrd Street
Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 697-8000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

San Francisco

101 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 974-2000
Map

Clergy Point of Contact

St. Louis

One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza
Broadway and Locust Streets
411 Locust Street, St. Louis, MO
St. Louis, MO 63102
(314) 444-8444
Map

Wilmington, Delaware

Clergy Point of Contact

On Names

Robbery

The crowd grew as the Occupy Rose Parade march advanced down the route on Jan. 2, passing many of the same institutions it was protesting, confident in their constitutional rights to free expression and peaceable assembly.

They already know who we are.

During my trip, as I was getting to know some of the most socially conscious people I have ever met,  it occurred to me that publishing their names was probably not the best idea. As the trip went on, though, it became abundantly clear that it did not matter whether I printed them or not.

People have had their computers hacked into, websites infiltrated, communications intercepted and information seized. This is apart from all those already identified through arrests, protest participation and video coverage.

This movement is peaceful, nonviolent and LEGAL. There is technically no reason for protestors to be afraid of showing their faces. Sadly, this is not the reality. Law enforcement keeps track of participants, period. People get beaten, pepper sprayed and tear gas cannoned to the head.

Those who are trying to hide do so out of self-preservation. And with good reason. After the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, and the coming H.R. 3166: Enemy Expatriation Act, government sanctions on perceived threats are becoming much more severe.

The NDAA authorizes indefinite detention, with no contact to the outside world, no right to trial and no avenue towards release other than through the system that put you there. H.R. 3166 threatens to strip you of your citizenship in the United States and deny you all the rights thereof.

I did not want to unfairly endanger anyone for exercising their rights. Sanctions against those speaking out seemed far to severe and unconstitutional. If I printed names I could not ethically justify contributing to these sanctions.

As my trip progressed I began to see things differently.

The people I met and interacted with were all aware of what being part of the Occupy movement means. The challenges they face. The repercussions of arrest. The fact that they become targets for law enforcement.

Those who have already been arrested have confirmed this, guards and officers have admitted it. Reporters and activists have been visited by agents from the FBI and other departments regarding their involvement. Communications via secure servers have been intercepted and used to identify participants.

In hearing all this, from so many different sources, I began to realize how little it mattered what I chose. The government already knows who is participating, they watch the live streams too.

Still, it should not matter. Protesters are not doing anything illegal, Oakland Black Bloc actions aside. It is a constitutional right to participate in these actions. There should be no need to conceal your identity, but in reality, certain threats to civil liberties do stem directly from political participation, which just goes to show you which direction this country is heading.

All said, I decided that what is most important is that I share the information I gathered on this trip, the names are irrelevant. I am sure the government already knows who they are, but publicly declaring themselves is up to them, they know what they face.

Until then all I can say is that I am exercising my duty, as a journalist, to share the information the public wishes to know, the information corporate media is blatantly ignoring.

My name is Frank Thomas Cardenas. I publish this website and I believe in my constitutional right to do so.

– Serious Note

On Support

I’d first like to thank everyone that helped make this trip possible: My family and friends, who all contributed what they could to make this a reality; the many Occupiers I had the privilege to meet, all of you were amazing, always so hospitable and open, dedicated to the movement and sharing the good word (yes, I said it); and the American Government, without which this trip would have been totally irrelevant. 

This movement is a group effort.

Without mutual support and cooperation nothing will be accomplished.

That was exactly how my trip went, and I am so thankful it did. Today I made it back to base in Los Angeles, safe, sound and in one piece. Though the initial part of my trip is over, this is only the beginning of my mission.

During my tour I was able to interact with people throughout the movement. I talked to them about the issues they were facing, the tactics they employed, what was working and what wasn’t.

My goal in all this is to create a forum for discussion between occupations. It is a personal analysis of what I’ve seen and what people have told me they would like to know more about. It is a resource for those who wish to learn more about the movement and how to get involved. I am not advocating that anyone take any particular action, these are just the things I have seen and heard.

It is this mutualistic collaboration that I saw as so powerful during my trip. People were genuinely interested in each others well being. They supported one another and worked towards mutual goals, contributing whatever talents and skills they had. It is many people supporting each other, however they can, to bring about a positive change in this country.

There is no way I would have been able to take the trip if it was not for the support of those around me. Someone lent me a car, others sent me information en route. Some housed me, others fed me, and still others contributed funds. There is no way I would have accomplished this without their help.

And in taking this trip, I was able to help others. I shared information that people could not get elsewhere. I shared ideas with them, that came from others, that helped with their individual actions. Everyone was so appreciative, yet I was only doing what I felt was right, I appreciate that they were receptive to what I am trying to do.

Therein lies my point, this movement requires support, and people appreciate it. Whatever you can contribute, whenever you can come down, whatever you can share. Some have time, some have art, some have ideas, some have money. The movement needs it all to keep things going.

This is my contribution, make yours.

– Serious Note

 

On Reasons for Involvement – Experience

Chan Kil joined the Occupy movement because he has seen this situation before.

Kil was born to a farming family in Daegoo, South Korea. They usually did just fine; harvesting their rice fields and growing vegetables in a greenhouse over winter. But, after years of living under martial law, they fled for their lives to the U.S.

The family arrived 1988, when he was only 13. He was too young to work at the time, but not too young to remember why they left.

South Korea was governed by a serious of harsh dictatorships  and strictly enforced martial law during the1980’s, while Kil was growing up. It was a tumultuous few decades, with several government coups and political assassinations, following Korea’s civil war and U.S. intervention in the country. He remembers particularly the Gwangju Democratization Movement  and subsequent massacres.

His eyes glazed over as voice got low as he spoke of his experiences.

“The whole city was united in protest,” he said. “People were losing their families and their children. I couldn’t even count the bodies; there were corpses everywhere.”

Kil’s cousin, a college student at the time, participated in the populous protests against the government. He was subsequently detained by police for his actions and never heard from again.

“[The army] went neighborhood to neighborhood, door to door, busting in, looking for college students who were protesting,” he said. “They came in and killed everybody who protested. Many of them were not even protestors, but they had laws like NDAA, so they were detained anyway until they admitted it.”

Kil said he tried to ignore the similarities he was noticing between modern America and the Korea of his childhood, but once he heard about the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), there was no more pushing it aside.

The NDAA is a $662 billion “defense” spending bill. This year, however, it also contained clauses (1021, 1022, 1026, 1027, 1028) authorizing indefinite detention of American Citizens and other such precedents.

Kil said that, because of the current legislation, he fears what already happened in his homeland will reoccur in the U.S.

“[America today] is very much like where I came from,” he said. “They already passed [the NDAA] and they [could] detain you, torture you until you admit that you are a terrorist.”

He joined Occupy Salt Lake City specifically because of the 2011 NDAA.

“I just feel like I want to runaway from here again,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do now. If they don’t let us fight for [our rights] I’ll probably have to move to another country.”

Kil said he dreamt last night. It was a nightmare.

He dreamt that he was asleep like normal, but that someone crept up and poured gasoline all over his tent, then set it on fire. He woke up startled as if he was about to die. The stress of his fears was taking its toll.

“I heard about the NDAA and it made me scared,” he said. “That’s why I had that dream.”

The similarities of what happened in Korea, and all over Asia, to what is currently going on in America alarms him. He was never one for politics, but could not stand aside any longer.

“I don’t want this to happen again,” he said. “NDAA is the worst thing for me. I am afraid for myself and want to fight for my freedoms.”

Kil joined the movement on Oct. 6, 2011 and has been trying to inform people ever since.

“Maybe if I fight for them, I have a chance to fight for everyone’s freedoms, not just mine,” he said. “I would rather die than not have my freedom.”

– Serious Note

Success in Salt Lake City

I was reinvigorated today.

The Occupy Salt Lake City movement is truly remarkable. Occupations were first established in Pioneer Park and nearby private land, but fell to police pressure and issues with drug use, vagrancy and violence, as have other Occupations throughout the nation.

Still, dedicated organizers were able to Occupy the Federal Reserve in Downtown SLC. When police threatened to shut down that camp as well, even though the previous problems were not longer an issue, the Occupiers were able to work with them and secure a new location.

Occupy SLC now has a permitted Occupation at Gallivan Plaza, right between the Wells Fargo and Chase corporate offices, across the street from Goldman Sachs, and around the corner from U.S. Bank, Merrill Lynch and the Federal Reserve.

The Occupy SLC movement now has a permitted space in the middle of downtown in the center of many financial institutions it is protesting against. Financial giant Goldman Sachs looms large behind the collection of tents and central meeting dome of the movement.

The movement now has about a dozen tents for personal use, supplies and other specific functions, as well as a main dome tent that serves as a meeting place, library and welcome area. One of the keys to success, they said, is that they have been actively working with police, not against them.

One organizer said that once they were able to relate to the officers on a personal level, and see their common goals, things became much easier. The camp does have a strict non-violence code and zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol.

Problems that have plagued many Occupations, including previous Occupy SLC sites, were circumvented in this case by a sort of vetting process. Only after Occupiers have contributed to the camp for a few days and participated in discussions can they reside there.

Organizers say this approach has helped prevent many of the issues of drug use and violence that plauged other camps. It is a movement, not a squat they said. Occupiers are able to see the value the camp offers and that it is a privilege to stay there.

The camp is a peaceful place for discussion and planning. Occupiers hold several informal meetings throughout the day and formal GA’s several times a week.

They are currently working mostly on local issues of community building, foreclosure support, prison advocacy (with support from American Legislative Exchange Council), financial system reform and helping troubled local businesses.

Also, they are planning various events in solidarity with the MLK March, Longview Action, Move to Amend People’s United and Occupy the Courts.

Occupy SLC’s main focus, however, is education. They are trying to educate the public, and themselves, on the major issues facing modern America. They said only by spreading awareness and information about what is going on can real positive change be achieved.

“Knowledge is power, and knowledge should be free,” one Occupier said.

– Serious Note

* I was initially planning to skip Salt Lake on my tour. Only now do I realize what a travesty that would have been. It was amazing to see the depth of discussion and dedication these Occupiers had to their cause. Their movement is not just a political tool, but a reexamination of cultural consciousness. They are trying to change the way Americans have come to relate to one another by engaging the public in discussion about important issues of direct significance to their lives.

Occupy Knowledge. Occupy your Mind. Long live the Occupation.