Sunday, October 23, 2011


For the last several Sundays, there has been verbal violence, and today, almost physical violence between the Occupy Burlington crowd, and those in City Hall park before the OB crowd arrives.

People, some homeless, some drunk, some just hanging, are sitting at the chess tables, around the fountain, and on neighboring benches when several hundred OBers march into what has previously been their space -- as if they, the marchers, owned it. Any peace and quiet they had been having, any fellowship with others in situations similar to their own, is over, and now they are unwanted, unwanting guests at someone else's party.

Often there is obscene yelling in disagreement with what they are hearing at the people's mike. Signs are torn up. Someone twice tried to jump through a Bread & Puppet INSURRECTION banner, ripping it down.

Small skirmishes occur, with face offs and threats. Claims of "I am homeless, are you?" are met with invitations to go up and say "Mic check," and then to phrase their passionate observations in two-beat phrases. "You're free to speak, too." "Yeah? Fuck you!"

What I'm describing is an occupation different than what most of us think we're doing, an occupation more like that of Palestine than that of Wall Street. What are our assumptions about claiming the park whenever and however we will? What happens to the natives when the Occupy Burlington troops roll in? And how will this situation develop or devolve in the future, if City Hall Park becomes full-time occupied, and the homeless and other chronic park-dwellers become strangers in their own land?

I suggest we be aware of this issue.


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  2. It's true in Worcester MA too; the Occupy movement looks very white, very male... reports I've heard of the occupation camp itself make it sound like an ongoing crust-punk frat party, complete with illegal drugs and alcohol. My friend heard someone there say, "If you're not with us, you're just in the way". So much for the 99%.

    There was an "Occupy Clark" GA last night at my university, a gentrifying force in a poor neighborhood which is mostly people of color. The gathering of students wanted to occupy the park across the street. I told them we're already occupying the neighborhood. We could at least be repentant about it.

    They decided to occupy the library, where they're allowed to be anyway. They're doing their homework there; it's now the status quo, with tents.

    I think part of why this movement is so popular is that folks can be part of it because they're part of the "99%", but they don't need to understand systemic privilege or oppression.

    As a queer white woman, I hope to start a working group to make the space more friendly to women and gender minorities: hopefully other folks can make similar ones for people of color and differently abled people to try and address the privilege and exclusivity of this movement.

    Boston has a good start with its De-colonize Occupy Boston working group and its statement in solidarity with indigenous peoples. I hope we can build on that vision of de-colonization rather than occupation.