Tag Archives: social

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.

Iliana

Occupy Bias

I’m going to keep this short and sweet.  To me, the Occupy movement is all about stereotypes based on bias.

Occupiers are considered to be radical socialists and anarchists, criminals, racist (this too), lazy and homeless, except when members of this diverse group are none of these things.  The police are overly violent and are under the control of the big bad government, except when they are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability (llaurenfrank, asulkin, kjonach, ivazuka).  Corporations are always evil, unless they fund Occupy, and everyone in the 1% are trying to keep the 99% down, unless they use their power and influence in favor of Occupy.

People are quick to judge the movement and place labels on it, just as Occupiers are quick to judge and label those who oppose them.  But when those labels are laid out so simply, and the incongruities are able to surface, does it still make any sense?  No?  My thoughts exactly.

Iliana

“Don’t tase me, bro!” ~ “I wasn’t planning on it, sir. I’m just trying to do my job.”

Police brutality is nothing to be overlooked or downplayed. It is a serious offense. However, it is not the all-encompassing defining action of the police against Occupy. Mostly they are just trying to do their job.

As mentioned in my previous post, there has been an increase in criminal activity in and around Occupy protest sites. As a result of that activity, the police force has to be ever more vigilant at those sites to continue to protect their cities. But as the numbers of police officers increase to survey the areas of protest, tensions between the protesters and the police force rise.

Sgt. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, explains this tension. In a Fox News article, he states, “paralysis is occurring across law enforcement. It’s becoming a Catch 22 […] To go in there to clear the [Zuccotti] park is going to cause confrontation. To not do so is detrimental.” Regarding the specific pepper spray incident in Kara Jonach’s post, Mullins told the Staten Island Advance to “remember who created the atmosphere,” referring to the rowdy protesters that caused many well-mannered, professional police officers to respond on-scene. He goes on to say that Bologna, the man responsible for pepper spraying the girls, “made a decision to use the pepper spray and it wasn’t popular,” essentially saying that it was one man’s decision and his actions should not be reflected on the police force as a whole.

Since this event, the way the police interact with protesters at Zuccotti park has changed greatly. A New York Times article reports that “most uniformed officers have remained on the perimeter of the park since the third week of the protest, rarely venturing in,” and the only officers within the park dress in plainclothes and are just there to keep the department privy to planned marches and the like. This new hands-off policing has “pleased the protesters, who have had numerous run-ins with law enforcement officers and tend to view them negatively.”

Based on what happened with the pepper spraying incident, there is good reason for protesters to be weary of a heavy police presence. However, I do not see why Bologna’s unlawful actions should somehow equate the entire police force. An anonymous police official at Zuccotti Park stated, “We try to maintain a low profile and not antagonize the crowd […] and once you go in there, there’s a sense of hostility.” Is it important for protesters to watch out for the police that act out? Sure, absolutely. But does that mean that every boy in blue is a threat? Not at all.

Iliana

One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch

As explained in my previous post, there tends to be a bias against the Occupy movement regarding crime.  People tend to believe that when one person, or one group of people, act out and they happen to be participating in Occupy, then those crimes somehow come to represent the entire system that is Occupy, including all the protesters as a whole.  However, this is obviously not the case.

Komo News article reports that a man had been arrested for exposing himself in Seattle at least five times to children, and it turned out that “he had been at Westlake Park taking part in the Occupy Seattle protests” before his arrest.  Does that mean that all Occupiers are perverts?  Absolutely not.  He is just one man.  He does not, in any way, represent the Occupy participants who actually take part for a cause–there are discrepancies as to what that cause may be, but that is for a separate post.

Yahoo News article explains “at ‘Occupy Baltimore’ rape victims are being urged to not report their attackers to the police, but rather to a ‘security committee’ that will investigate the incident and, if necessary, provide ‘counseling’ to the perpetrator.”  Occupy Baltimore has chosen to deal with it in this way to protect the protesters’ anonymity.  However, just to be clear, this is in no way the norm for nearly all Occupy protest sites.  The volunteer security guard from Zuccotti Park states in an ABC News article that “‘we always encourage victims to go through the proper channels and contact police.'”

Fox News article gives a pretty in-depth look into specific examples of known sexual assaults at Occupy movements around the country.  I encourage you to read it for yourself if interested.  Furthermore, it highlights a few events where mobs of protesters acted out, such as setting off Molotov cocktails in Portland and threatening local establishments when they refuse to give their services to the protesters for free.  One such instance is explained here:

At the site of the Occupy San Diego camp, street cart vendors were forced to close up shop Monday when protesters, angry that they stopped receiving free food, ransacked and vandalized the carts. The angry mob not only scrawled graffiti on the carts, they reportedly splattered them with blood and urine as well. In addition, the vendors received death threats, according to local radio station KNX 1070.

And then, of course, there is the problem with the homeless population taking advantage of the movement.  Said Fox News article reports that “in Boston, homeless protesters were removed from Dewey Square after they were discovered to have knives and stashes of illegal drugs.”  However, if you read Sam Toolan’s post, you’ll know that no serious Occupier wants their name and their causes tarnished by those who take part in the movement for selfish reasons.  This does not only apply to the homeless, but to the sexual assailants and small radical groups within the movement as well.  Their actions may gain the most attention, mostly because it is bad attention, but they do not represent Occupy as a whole, and that is what many onlookers tend to forget.

In fact, because of crimes against Occupiers by other Occupiers, many protesters have joined together to create “a de facto security team […] bolstering their numbers with volunteers from outside their ranks, including former gang members” to try to keep protest sites as safe as possible at all times, as reported in a New York Times article. One volunteer security guard at Zuccotti Park–the same one mentioned earlier in the ABC News article–explains that “‘it’s much harder with the tents’ [to spot crime] but, he added, criminal activity was ‘very low,’ according to his observations.”  Members of the security force are there to de-escalate tense and potentially violent situations, and women-only tents, as well as tents for transgender individuals, have become havens for those who might worry about the few who act out during the demonstrations.

It seems the true representation of Occupy, in terms of criminal activity, is to prevent it.

Iliana

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

I happened upon that YouTube video when looking for evidence of crimes that occur during Occupy protests.  The video sounds like a great resource at first: they haven’t articulated their mission, you say?  Why yes, having read their call to action, it does seem like they are without a specific goal.  They seem to be protesting “everything under the sun,” you say?  I agree, it does seem like people just label everything as “Occupy something” nowadays.  But wait a minute, “unorganized group of punks and entitled socialist dirt bags”?  Okay, maybe this video isn’t so unbiased after all…

However, putting the opinions of the vlogger aside, there is a lot of solid content about crimes that occur to and by Occupy protesters.  This lead to my search for unbiased reporting on the criminal acts at Occupy protests, and let me tell you, this was no easy feat and I feel that I am still very unsuccessful.  As David Meyer said in an ABC News article, “’These protests have a history of welcoming everyone and just assuming they’re on your side'” and as a result, people with maligned intentions have the ability to misuse the cause for their benefit.  However, onlookers do not simply consider that the relationship between crime and Occupy “was just random variation and no causal relationship had been definitely established,” like Ben Adler did in his article for the Nation.  Cara Buckley explains in her article for the New York Times that “stories of crimes and dangerous behavior […] have been used as fuel by those who say the protesters must go.”  As a result, especially within the media it seems, the actions of the few somehow end up representing the masses who attend the Occupy demonstrations.  Thus the bias.

Such is the case in a Yahoo News article by Mark Whittington.  When delivering a break-down on crimes that occurred during the Occupy movement across the country, he muses that “’Occupy Oakland’ has devolved into something resembling Lord of the Flies” and reports that the protesters who are a part of Occupy Oakland are “a group described as ‘bullies, the mentally ill, drunks, thugs and anarchists’ [who] have turned the encampment into something resembling a state of nature, where the strong terrorize the weak, and where ad hoc rule making has caused a combination of anarchy and oppression. ”  Whether this be the case or not, there is no need for name calling.

You can find my post on the Occupy crime report findings here.

Iliana

What do We Really Want?

While it may seem like the Occupy Wall Street movement is original and wants to bring about a change in society, it also reflects something that we have seen before. Of course, I am talking about the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, sometimes referred to as the October Revolution. Before the revolution shook tsarist Russia, there was turmoil among the Russian people in regards to social, economic, and political relations. The cost of living had dramatically risen, workers wages fell 50% from 1913, the Russian national debt was 50 billion rubles. By the time of the revolution, there had been several thousand uprisings against landowners by the peasants. However, while the revolution in Russia was seen as welcome at the time by a majority of the proletariat, the upper classes and those who belonged to the Menshevik group protested the rise to power of the Bolsheviiks, who were led by Vladimir Lenin. The peasants redistributed the land seized by the Tsar, and Russia officially became the Soviet Union. Not to make any major accusations, but the OWS does seem to be heading in this direction. They are protesting the social, economic, and political relations in the US, as well as the national debt and the huge class gap. Do they really want to make everything equal for everyone, in the sense that everyone lives in a communal lifestyle? Look how well that worked out for Russia in the 20th century. Also, the Soviet government first started out being run by Vladimir Lenin, who was supported for the most part by the Bolsheviks and many other groups in Russia. During the Russian Civil War, the Red Army was supported by the people. However, after Lenin’s death, Stalin came to power and changed the whole dynamic of the Soviet government. Stalin changed the policy of equality and communal living to that of fear and obedience. What if the OWS movement became a less radicalized Bolshevik movement? Do we really want to tear down the institutions that we have now and replace them with more socialist institutions? Lenin was seen as a true nationalist, which seems like a positive thing to be called. Is it? Is the OWS movement heading down the same path as the Bolshevik Revolution? I don’t have the answer. Any thoughts?

-Erin

Ample Networking

Logistics is the detailed management and coordination of a complex operation. In Ben Brandzel’s article, he examines claims made by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell adamantly states that online organization is not effective in creating long-lasting social progress. In other words, the background operations (flow of goods, information, and people) of prior grassroots movements trumps logistics implemented by today’s online Internet-enabled activism. Gladwell also argues how Internet activism is only able to result in small social changes, which lack the huge societal impact that riots and sit-ins did during the Civil Rights Era.

To completely dismiss Internet-driven social activism is ignorant. Gladwell states that the only promises that Internet and social media platforms can make are for an unparalleled flow of information and the potential for learning. What Gladwell failed to analyze is how even though the approaches to activism organization have altered throughout the past couple decades, the yielded ambition has not. Gladwell points out that organizing online promotes tapping into weak relationships. These relations should not be seen as weak connections, but as opportunities. Now, through Twitter, Facebook, and countless other social media platforms, one is able to tap into these “weak contacts” and make them acquaintances, in turn, enabling them to spread the word to their close friends. The Internet’s supposed only promise of flowing information is the upheld and manifested through the creation of a vast network of consciousness and engagement.

-Meechie