Friday, December 9, 2011

2011-12-09 "A message from the Executive Director: Occupy the American Dream" by Jon Riley, Executive Director of the Napa Solano Central Labor Council
December 9, 2011. A pretty great thing happened in Napa last week. Over 100 people braved what seemed at times to be near hurricane force winds to show support for the local Occupy Napa movement at Saturdays Rally and March which was pretty good. And the support by the local community at large that showed up to help feed the occupiers that stayed over the three nights at Napa Community College was even better. The great thing was what actually happened in the weeks prior to the Occupy NVC action even starting!
The Napa Occupy movement is made up of mostly young activists from the College who have braved the elements and continued the Occupy movement in Napa since it began. At one of the Occupy events, the topic was discussed of how to best continue the message while also addressing the negative light in which the various movements were being viewed. Whether it was the way civic leaders were handling it, or how the occupations were increasingly being infiltrated by those with different agendas or just basic needs. They were looking to take Occupy to a different level, to identify what was turning focus away from the message and help keep the movement relevant. After reaching out to community groups that had been supportive all along and getting their feedback, they decided to focus on the impacts of the abuses of the financial institutions from which the original Occupy Wall Street derived their name. They realized that the same people who were dealing with these same devastating results, cities, education, mental health institutions and their employees also had to deal with the negative impacts of some of the Occupy movements themselves which further dipped into their already dwindling resources. What they decided to do was to have an action with a defined start and end point, focused on specific impacts that are consistent with what THEIR general assembly believed in and to take the necessary steps to ensure that the action would be safe, clean and in cooperation with the College, who they were there to defend by shedding light on the cuts that are being forced on them. Now these are pretty lofty goals for anyone let alone College Students.
I had the privilege of participating in a couple of meetings between the students and the administration of the College. I was quite impressed with not only the College staff, who had the safety and well being of the students as their number one priority, but also with the young people involved. The Occupy movement is perhaps the largest leaderless group exercise in history but just like life the cream has a tendency to rise to the top and the students are lucky to have Alex Shantz, Julio Soriano, Jenna Goodman and Nick Watters to speak for the group and come up with meaningful solutions.
It was very heartening to see that while the President and Chief of Police at the College were very concerned about the issues at other colleges, they were also very open to seeing to it that the students first amendment rights were honored while maintaining student safety. The students chose to open up discussions with the College prior to the actions and were able to take the concerns back to the general assembly of the Occupy Napa group and come back with compromises that not only addressed safety but also dealt with sanitation and clean up. In other words, they came up with what should be a model for any future actions that will keep the focus on the core issues and not the negative impacts of long term occupy actions.
As for the action itself, it went off without a hitch. It was a very safe, clean and orderly environment and besides the wind was a perfect day. The closest thing to a pepper spray incident happened after a young man drove by several times yelling for us to "GET A JOB". I looked around the group I was with and asked "you got jobs?" Yep, Engineer, Teacher, Nurse.......... After his third trip our eyes were certainly watering from laughing! Every time there was a lull in the conversation from then on one of our occupiers would shout out "GET A JOB" and it would start all over.
The fact of the matter is this, some out there think the Occupy/99% movement is dead because the encampments are being torn down, but this is about a lot more than the WHERE and a lot more about the WHY. This is looking a lot more like Re-Occupying the American Dream! And that message will never die, especially if the young people I have seen at these events have anything to say about it.

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