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Why I occupy — by Paul Weiskel

Sept. 21, 2011 — Before you read the blog below by Coffee Party volunteer Paul Weiskel, please watch this 1-minute video, where you will get to meet him.

We ask you to do this because there is an orchestrated campaign right now designed to intimidate us into silence. Part of that campaign is a guilt-by-association ploy that is supposed to make us afraid to, not only speak out, but also to assemble and to associate.  We are going to arrange a Coffee Party radio show to hear from Paul about what he witnessed at the Occupy Wall Street event.  If you have strong opinions, feel free to call in.

We believe that Americans should have the courage to exchange ideas with anyone.  That's why we defended Shane Brooks, a member of our community, who was attacked for identifying his favorite among the Republican presidential candidates (Ron Paul) and why we are talking to the Tea Party Patriot leader, Mark Meckler, at conconcon.org today and tomorrow. 

That is also why we have an open door sign-up to speak at the Enough is Enough rally.  For democracy to work, we must have faith in the collective wisdom of the American people.  If this is truly a trans-partisan movement, we're going to need to prepare ourselves to interact with people who have different points of view. 

We encourage you to have faith in the spirit of democracy as embodied in the First Amendment and engage in dialogue and reach for understanding. We must not be afraid of our differences; instead, let us see that diversity is a distinct cultural advantage. Democracy needs to be valued and protected because it facilitates collective decision-making recognizing that it is our nature to have various views and dispositions. It is a process that enables us to be diverse and united at the same time. 

If we deny ourselves exposure to a diversity of thought and culture by seeking out only those with whom we agree, we rob ourselves of our highest potential to understand and contribute to society.  If we judge and fear people based on a matrix of stereotypes constructed by the Powers That Be, we're giving our power away. 

So watch the video, please, and get to know Paul.  He's a really good, thoughtful, courageous person, who deserves to be heard and understood. 

— Eric Byler and Annabel Park

PS: Read Paul's original blog, the lay-out for which blows this page away, here.

Why I occupy

My motivation for taking part in this defense of democracy and a call to action to anyone who has the ability to support these members of the 99%.

by Paul Weiskel

After a particularly long debate in the first General Assembly of the occupation of what is now named One Liberty Plaza, a protester stood up and said, "This is the best example of democracy I have ever seen or been a part of."  I could not agree more. Taking part in true democratic decision making, no matter how small, is liberating and life changing. Especially when it is within earshot of Wall Street.

I don't need to tell you my political reasoning for supporting #OccupyWallStreet, you are obviously at least an observer of the Coffee Party so I won't lay the regular deluge of statistics and critique of this corrupt system and how it has subverted our democracy.

I will however explain my perspective on why I feel this particular action is so important to our movement to bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable democracy, of, by, and for the people.

I stood on the picket lines with Verizon union workers in Boston, I spent my spring break in Madison, Wisconsin supporting collective bargaining rights, and when I first heard about #OccupyWallStreet I knew I had to be there. I spent 4 days in New York including the first 3 days of the occupation. I live in Boston, Massachusetts, home to Wall Street's favorite congressmen Senator Scott Brown who has taken in a disgustingly huge portion of campaign donations from Wall Street coffers. It is a flat out lie to think this represents anything larger than 1% of the people of Massachusetts. I know what is at stake and I believe taking it to the sidewalks of Wall Street is the next step in our movement.

We are the 99%, the people with student loan debt, the families with homes foreclosed on, the minorities who are wrongfully discriminated against by the American 'justice' system. And we will no longer tolerate the abuses and corruption of the 1%. The fight to end corporate personhood, stop foreclosures, save Troy Davis, abolish student loan debt, and put Washington into the hands of the people are all the same fight. And coming together in New York City is were we can be heard the loudest.

There have been truly beautiful examples of what human beings can do when we come together and cooperate to bring about change. At one point the police prohibited the use of any amplified sound so we used 'The People's Microphone' when one person speaks and those sitting close by repeat it in unison and all our voices coming together as one are amplified louder than any bullhorn. We made a call via twitter for food donations and received over $10,000 worth of pizza, salads, and felafels from around the world! International solidarity at it's finest! Groups were sent out on expeditions to gather cardboard for bedding, donations of blankets, and go dumpster diving for edible food that would otherwise go to waste. Word has been spread mainly through independent journalists, photographers, and videographers who aren't just documenting this historic event but also taking part. We need to reject that the only source of news is on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and other corporate propaganda outlets.

Every single one of the occupiers has been completely nonviolent and the only aggression has come from police, we understand that while the police are ordered to protect the interests of the 1% they themselves are part of the 99%.

While the demands are yet to be formalized and concerns are coming from every end of the political spectrum from anti-capitalists, environmentalists, small government libertarians, workers and students crippled by debt, and even 'ex-wall streeters against wall street', one of the calls that is sounded most often and most loudly is getting money out of politics.

The process of consensus decision making makes sure everyone's voice is heard, even if you are someone just passing by on your lunch break. Even the smallest minorities concerns are highly valued and it takes more than a simple majority to get a final decision. But unlike how Washington has worked for so long, these smallest of minorities do not take a debate hostage and stomp up and down until they have their way. Collaboration, compromise, and debate bring out the best in everyone with the results now very visible in this fast growing movement.

This action is not the end all be all of direct action and if its success is based on getting its demands met it will be considered a failure. But that is not how its success should be gauged, it's success should be based on its ability to bring back radical protest into the American mainstream and showing that consensus based democracy is a beautiful and powerful tool. The only way this can fail is if there are too few people who take part, and the only way there will be too few people is if you don't take part and support in some way.

These people are standing up to one of those most harmful institutions in the world and forced thousands of police to put it on a near complete lock-down. Police are taking away people's most basic rights in an attempt to make sure these protests don't grow into something larger and spark a movement that could pose a real threat to the corporate elites way of life. This may not be Syria or Egypt, but brutality is all relative, and people are being arrested for laws that are 150 years old and dragged away violently without respect for human dignity.

So to end this I would just like to make a call to action, any support you could possibly lend, to people who are attempting to turn the tides of this decades long class war. Here are Alternet's 11 Ways To Support #OccupyWallStreet. And spread the word. Join if you can. Tell a friend to join. And to all my brothers and sisters who are still in Liberty Plaza and to the one's on the road to join, I want to say thank you, I stand in solidarity, and I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with you all again soon.

________

 

Paul Weiskel was one of the original occupiers of Occupy Wall Street beginning on Sept. 17, 2011. He wrote the essay "Why I Occupy" a few days later at the request of Eric Byler, who introduces him in this speech recorded on Oct. 29, 2011 in Washington DC.