Wednesday, December 7, 2011

General Assembly Meeting Tonight Could Decide Occupy Tucson's Next Direction

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Tonight's general assembly, 7 p.m. at the Occupy Tucson camp could be the most important since the Occupy Movement took root in Tucson on Oct. 15.

On Occupy Tucson's Facebook page it was posted today that Peacekeeper Alex Maldonado had to disband the peacekeepers today "due to lack of personnel and unable to ensure the safety of those in the movement. In solidarity with the movement, Alex Maldonado."

Although unsure right now how Maldonado will remain involved in the local movement, to lose him and his fellow Peacekeepers is a huge blow to the camp at Veinte de Agosto Park in downtown Tucson. Maldonado is an upright activist with a big heart.

I know for several Occupy campers loyal to the cause the last few weeks have been difficult continuing to camp each night and deal with police issuing citations. There's also frustration dealing with the growing homeless presence at the camp and those with mental illnesses that bring their own set of challenges. Occupy Tucson forced to focus on citations and fighting to stay the park was also a tiring issue, although there is a small group working on foreclosure issues (future strategy, folks?).

What's next for Occupy Tucson?

Cliff Winton made this comment on the Facebook thread discussing the Peacekeeper issue:

what the next phase entails depends on the collective agreement. In my opinion, it signals a shift in focus away from spending 24/7 at the park, but I will maintain that it is critical to have a space such as the park for us to freely gather and collaborate, primarily during the day. Yesterday was the beginning of Occupy Our Homes, perhaps the people who have no where else to sleep be redirected to perfectly good unoccupied homes.

To Occupy Tucson, here is an analysis written by Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) in Los Angeles. Gonzales' piece focuses on Occupy LA before its forced eviction by LA Police.

The story was published in Narco News and certainly translates to Occupy Tucson. Give it a full read here.

The City of Los Angeles has offered you “incentives” to vacate City Hall. They’ve offered you 10,000 square feet of office space, a farm to grow food, and 100 beds for the homeless. They say you’ll be forcibly evicted on Monday if you don’t accept the offer.

I attended the General Assembly yesterday, and it was clear that it would be impossible to obtain consensus to accept the proposal. This is of little concern, since I don’t think the city’s offer is worth taking in exchange for leaving the camp. But I am troubled by the inability to reach consensus on a strategic way forward that would grow popular support for the movement, create momentum, and potentially leverage a substantial victory for the 99%.

At last night’s General Assembly, like in most of the Occupy General Assemblies I’ve attended, there were inspired moments of strategic thinking. But ideas quickly got lost in the clutter of the chant, “Whose lawn? Our lawn!”

Strategic decision-making and planning require analysis — an understanding of leverage and the dynamics of power. So let’s take a moment to process the offer on the table and what it means.

The city’s offer is a positive sign. It means that Occupy has been able to amass enough public support and pressure that it has gained concessions. Some of this is due to the tactic of occupation and successful protest, and some of it has to do with powerful allies. Just last week, the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor issued a statement calling on the city to allow the encampment to move to the Bank of America Plaza. Labor leaders, workers and community groups staged an action and subjected themselves to peaceful arrest in an attempt to move the encampment. This was impressive, to say the least.

Now imagine if Occupy formulated a demand that could leverage its power to not only protect thousands of Los Angeles residents from unjust evictions, but also force the city to take a concrete stance against the banks. What if Occupy locked arms with community groups and announced its refusal to move unless the city extends and agrees to enforce the moratorium (set to expire at year’s end) on the eviction of tenants in bank-controlled foreclosed properties? Hundreds of Los Angeles residents, most of them low-income people of color — as well as the community organizations that represent them — would stand with you.

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