Maybe Occupy Tucson will start tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 15) like the Occupy Wall Street mother ship did with just a handful of people taking over Zuccotti Park in NYC’s Financial District eventually growing into thousands. During the Steve Leal Show on Thursday, Oct. 13, one of the volunteers said he hopes to see at least 1,000 show up at Armory Park.
As one of the cities with the highest foreclosure rates in the country and a community supported by a continually growing class of working poor, it shouldn’t be too hard to find 1,000 times ten in Tucson who are angry and frustrated and can easily identify as the 99 percent.
However, before the protests have even started, a few questions grew out of the Occupy Tucson planning meetings. At first, frustrations presented to The Range were not unexpected — some venting about the collective consensus process used in making decisions that it is cumbersome and time consuming. One example was the second planning meeting on Sunday, Oct. 9 that started with almost 250 people, but by the time votes were finally taken on the first agenda items, the crowd was down to 150.
This is the meeting where everyone decided nicely to abandon using the Pancho Villa park during Tucson Meet Yourself and occupy Armory Park. The general assembly still needs to decide what to do after the folk festival — go back to the smaller park that is more visible or stay at Armory.
Zeitgeist Tucson or Occupy Tucson?
Then the unexpected — calls to the Range included frustrations over anti-Semitic comments, lack of women or people of color represented in the leadership, and then worries that those taking early leadership roles in planning were all part of the Zeitgeist Movement, and then the final concern was that anyone questioning these issues were being pushed out.
During the Steve Leal Show (which you can listen to above), Craig Barber, an Occupy Tucson volunteer and co-organizer, responded to these concerns. He’s an admin on the Occupy Tucson Facebook page, and part of the Occupy Tucson IT Working Group. He was also featured this week on Countdown with Keith Olbermann talking about putting together Occupy Tucson. He came into the radio station studio with another Occupy Tucson volunteer, Ethan Beasley, to discuss the movement.
Barber told us that the second planning meeting was scheduled on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur but the need to reschedule it was addressed. The general assembly voted to change the meeting from Saturday to Sunday to “accommodate those in the Jewish community.”
When Zeitgeist was brought up, Barber said the group was democratic and couldn’t control if there was any type of fringe element or demonstrators associated with controversial groups. Although, it was acknowledged that Asshat has been at the planning meetings.
“We are aware of him,” Barber said.
Why Zeitgeist (also known as the Venus Project) was brought to the Range’s attention as a concern is that some view the movement as a cult based on conspiracy theories on the illegitimate power of the federal government. But in Tucson some are more sensitive about the mention of Zeitgeist because of Jared Loughner. According to his friends interviewed after the Jan. 8 shooting, Loughner didn’t have any political allegiances, but an obsession with Zeitgeist. Loughner’s YouTube videos touched on Zeitgeist references on the Federal Reserve currency system and a government led system working to turn citizens into slaves. Much of this is available online in a series of videos produced by Zeitgeist, which have a large following.
“As I mentioned before we are open to everybody who wants to come out and peacefully say their peace,” Barber said. “You will hear from a fringe element in our society…. We are not going to censor anyone who comes out, say for someone who instigates violence. You might hear a Zeitgeist person come out and speak, but don’t let that shape your perception of the group as a whole. Let what shapes your perception of the group as a whole in what the general assembly decides.
“No singe political organization, no single religious group, no sort of elements politically have co-opted this. This is a grassroots community oriented group. All decisions are made by the general assembly,” Barber said.
Another concern raised is about the structure of the leadership people see before the general assembly and planning meetings — all male and mostly Anglo.
“It’s not just about inviting us to the dance, but sharing power,” Leal told Barber during the show. During break, Barber said they are aware of this issue and they are working on addressing changes. Another idea thrown out is to use progressive stacking, which would have to be voted on before the general assembling at the park this weekend — it means giving women and minorities first go in making comments and bringing ideas before the general assembly.
Occupy Feminist-Style or Doctress Neutopia Gets Pissed
One person Barber and Beasley may want to reach out to is Tucson’s own Doctress Neutopia, Libby Hubbard. Hubbard sent the Range a press release today that there’s going to be another Occupy event going on in reaction to feeling pushed out by Barber and another Occupy Tucson organizer Jon McClane. McClane is a one-time Green Party candidate for mayor who was unable to run because he did not live within city limits. McClane ended up throwing his support behind Republican Shaun McClusky.
According to Hubbard’s release, she and Tara Carreon have started Occupy Tucson for Everybody, “a newly-formed group that has its own take on the “Occupy” movement. Noting that "Craig Barber and Tucson Green Party mayoral candidate Jon McLane already started one Occupy Tucson movement …”
“OTFE is focused on instigating social change. Barber and McLane are focused on creating a cadre of believers, and they are silencing the voices of people who want to have input. I tried to post some quotes from John Stuart Mill on their Facebook site, and they banned me. So I figured, what the heck, protest is too important to monopolize. The “Occupy” concept is valid, and the discontent being voiced on Wall Street is felt by a lot of people here locally. But I don’t want to subordinate my voice to the will of people like Barber and McLane, so I’m starting what I call an auxiliary group,” Carreon is quoted saying in Hubbard’s press release.
“OTFE is an auxiliary in that we are a second group with similar goals and different methods. We will attract people who are not comfortable with the doctrinaire attitude of the Barber/McLane crowd. Take for example this ‘consensus’ decision-making process, that they claim is better than majority voting for reaching agreement. Consensus is the title of a book written by European anarchist Peter Gelderloos. I’m not an anarchist. I believe in majority voting, in getting things done, not in talking about them forever, which is what happens in a consensus decision-making environment.”
Occupy Tucson for Everyone has a website at occupytucson.us and they will be protesting at University Boulevard and Park Avenue, at the U of A front gate, 10 a.m until 12 midnight on Saturday, Oct. 15.
How Will TPD and City Hall React to Folks at Armory Park?
If you’ve kept up on what’s been going on with other Occupy events across the country, then the arrests made in Boston when police wanted protestors off a public city park should be a concern, especially how police may react in Tucson.
Barber said Occupy Tucson reps met recently with city of Tucson and Tucson Police Department officials and have tried to reach all city council members for support.
“Some of the organizers have reached out to the city just to assuage fears. What is it that people react most violently against, what they are afraid of,” or don’t understand, Barber said. The group wanted to meet with police to communicate that Occupy Tucson is nonviolent and peaceful, and to make sure there are open lines of communication.
There was some confusion that perhaps Occupy Tucson applied for park permits to allow them to assemble at Armory Park through the weekend. When the Range first talked with TPD public information officer Sgt. Maria Hawke, she said the police respect the protestors constitutional rights to assemble, but that TPD was waiting to hear back from the city on if a special permit was being provided.
Barber confirmed that Occupy Tucson has not applied for any permits, “because we have the right to assemble. thanks to our first amendment rights, on public land.”
According to Fred Gray, director of Tucson Parks and Recreation, the city, parks and police officials have all been communicating and did meet with Occupy Tucson representatives. Gray said they were advised of the city’s rules and regulations, “and likewise informed us that they don’t intend to request permits.”
Armory Park closes at 10:30 p.m., so if protestors stay they will be in violation of city code. There’s also an irrigation system in place and the sprinklers are on a schedule. When permits are filed for park use, those sprinklers are turned off — but in this case they remain on.
What will happen to those at the park Saturday and Sunday night at 10:30 p.m.? Gray said that is not up to him, but up to TPD. The Range is still waiting to hear back from Sgt. Hawke to get an answer to that question.