Notes from Occupy Listening 2 (South Berkeley BBQ)
These notes are from the Occupy Berkeley's May 20 BBQ at San Pablo Park in South Berkeley. I asked people their thoughts and this is what they said:
Occupy brings people together, lessons crime like turning a light on
in a dark room. steers away criminal behavior
Brings more people to occupy own homes
Effectiveness lies in idea of being independent, not owned by any
company, no religious orientation and so no pressure. Makes us
stronger people for progress
Like to show up later in events, look over people involved, make sure
people involved are aware of what is around
Involvement should be just involvement, not having to go up against
police in riot gear since Occupy is actually a pretty peaceful idea
Occupy is now a household word. It was a footprint necessary to
recognize our place of living
Rich should pay more taxes than non-rich. They can afford it.
Occupying is a good thing but sometimes people get carried away. Good
especially when they shut things down like the Port of Oakland. Wish
more people were involved
Top issues- jobs, constant job cuts, everyone wants to downsize, lots
of people laid off, tax the rich, free healthcare for everyone
Don't know if Occupy made any difference. Port Shutdown got attention
but also cost money.
People are struggling. Makes you wonder what the world is coming to.
Occupy is a good thing if it continues. Would be good to see more
people involved. Things work better with more people. Maybe it could
be encouraging people not to shop or buy gas for a day. Lots of people
have lost houses due to predatory loans. People that own homes are
jeopardized too because of job cuts and downsizing. Some people may be
afraid to get involved in Occupy or cannot because they have to work.
Since it is not racially balanced (mostly Caucasian) other races may
not feel comfortable. People are afraid to make waves. It is more
comfortable to go with the flow and just accept things as they are
even if they disagree. Two weeks ago my daughter's charter school
declared it would be closing this summer. Don't know where my daughter
will go next year. She will be at a new school for just a year before
she has to change again for middle school. It is hard making new
friends. People up there making decisions like these don't think about
or don't care about how it will affect everyone else.
I was born and raised in Berkeley and like the concern for human
rights and freedom of speech and supported the People's Park movement.
But Berkeley has become more prejudiced. People don't know each other
in neighborhoods. It is not what you know, but who you know that
matters. My mother was a well connected successful researcher at UC.
My great grandparents were slaves from Alabama. My father died 30
years ago. Wish so much that I had brothers and sisters. Have lots of
aunts and uncles in Alabama and can see what a difference it makes. I
didn't lead the kind of life my mother had hoped. Was a heroin addict
for 25 years, but for the last 5, I have been clean. In West Oakland
it is like a bomb dropped and people are angry, mad and hate each
other. Education is better for blacks in Alabama than California
because that is where all the black colleges are. Occupy is telling
the truth about what is happening in this country.
Top concerns- Helping people find work, discrimination in hiring based
on status (e.g. to homeless) getting rid of corporate personhood,
reducing power of corporations and lobbying
Occupy has a hard time getting people who are more middle class and
apolitical to understand what it is about. A manifesto in clear
English could help. Have been to a couple of protests but am nervous
about clashing with police and people breaking off and seeking
Occupy movement is great, but don't need violence behind it. OK with
standing up for what we believe in. My top issue of concern is
Keep the movement organized and don't let it get disorganized.
[Angry red in the face passerby shouting at tables of people eating
BBQ] I agree with your message but not your tactics. Go occupy
something else, but not Berkeley! [When I approached him to elaborate,
he said he didn't want to waste his time.]
Great that Occupy is trying to help people keep their homes. People
are in their homes for many years, raising their families there, only
to have them snatched away. Occupy hasn't quit. It is all around the
world. Don't stop. Have to keep pushing for it to work. Haven't tried
to get involved but might be interested in Occupy Berkeley's Knit-in
at the Sit-in.
Occupy has been trying to help us and and it has sort of been working.
Good that you give out food and help the poor. But don't think low of
us even if we have less education.
I went to the first General Strike in Oakland. In general, I support
the Occupy Movement, but stay organized! Pick 2 or 3 things stick to
them so that Occupy speaks for all of us. The message gets lost with
some of the actions. Stick to the big stuff. Things like Occupy Child
Protective Services are a big turn off to people, although CPS
probably does do some bad things.
My top issues- Republicans. The system is so corrupt. It seems
hopeless and I am not sure what to do. Corporations as people is bad.
People are free not to like Obama, but it should be based on something
real. Corporatization of America is bad. Middle classes are being
pressed. If things keep going as they have been, soon we will all be
lower class. People are grateful just to have a job at all. It
shouldn't be like that. Not sure if it will change things, but I still
get out there to protest. Would like to see a Congress that knows what
compromise is. Republicans are making it impossible to govern because
they won't compromise and fix the tax structure. The Nov 2 Strike was
good. Occupy needs to appeal more to the middle. The Nov 2 strike had
men with ties and women in dress clothes. If Occupy consists only of
unwashed hippies, it will be marginalized. It needs to be a broader
movement. My son is a hippy active with OO. People look at him and say
" Yeah, I know those sort of people, no one I need to pay attention
Tuition at community colleges has doubled. This cannot continue.
Occupy used to have more focus and have more general people. Need more
people to realize they are part of the 99%. Many people are oblivious
to the advantages they have had. Other people want to pull themselves
up by their bootstraps, but have no money to save and nothing to look
for except finding a job. Appealing to the mainstream is the only way
to make a different. It won't happen if people keep trying to occupy
Top concerns- 1) For the last 30 years the compensation for most
people has gradually diminished. 2) The corporations are people
This movement has to have staying power because it could take 30 years
to change things back. In 1982 I started squatting because banks were
takings properties, leaving empty buildings and people living on the
streets outside. Eventually Bloomberg gave the properties to the
squatters and started collecting taxes on them. Empty properties drag
everyone's value down around them. Empty weed filled lots hurts
everyone including the banks.
Question not being asked: Is capitalism working? It is not working.
There has been a boom and bust cycle especially after the railroad
system was built. They tried to smooth it out with farm subsidies and
Occupy could be doing better. It is not communicating enough. Can't
count the number of anti-foreclosure groups in Alameda County. Maybe
there are 10 or 12. If instead of each group doing their own flyering
and maintaining their own website, if they pulled together, they could
have say radio announcements instead.
Groups outside Occupy like Move-on are preying on it, trying to coopt
it. Other groups that Occupy works with like ACCE, Just Cause, and
Homeowners for Justice are good groups.
Occupy is doing a better job than most in looking outside itself,
reaching outside to other people and bringing them in to activity to
take on things they want to see. Good for Occupy to branch out and say
"What would you rather see in this community?" Occupy the Farm was a
good example of that. The Gill Tract has a beautiful Creek which is
Haven't seen this yet but what is starting to happen is Occupy
reaching out to other groups and learning from existing movements.
There is history in this park of people's movements. Emma Goldman and Big Bill Hayward spoke out about WWII here.
The effort to create a more pure leftist party (like a left Tea Party)
won't work well here, given what the laws are. It would be better if
we had an election for a single 3rd party candidate. If we go the
non-party route and become large and strong could be like the Detroit
Riot (1967) with the National Guard and 82 Airborne sent in to put us
down. At that point I would reconsider whether Occupy should use
violence. But at the stage we are at violent tactics are driving
people away from Occupy.
Occupy is trying to reach the very poor, but they have very limited
computer access. Marches and camping out are not good for the elderly
and disabled. America is aging. Need more activities that are more
easily accomplished by people. Need to do a much better job of
coordinating. With labor, labor moves slowly. Need to plan outreach to
them months in advance. Need to plan for the real revolution. What are
the steps we need to take for longer horizon planning.