Guest Post: In Defense of The Occupation Of Lee Park

Guest post by Kali Cichon of Occupy Charlottesville.

On October 15th, a group of people met in Lee Park with the intention of occupying a public area in protest of corporate greed and corrupt government. We quickly realized that many who had also been failed by our current social and political systems had beat us there, and it was decided by consensus that as part of the 99%, the homeless should be welcomed in solidarity. A little over a month later the occupation is no longer just strangers and protesters sharing public space, we have become neighbors. I am here today to defend not only my rights to free speech, but also my neighborhood.

Many people have advised me that I should not be so attached to having a physical location for the movement, and warned me that I’m losing sight of the important issues by focusing on the people who now call Lee Park home. Instead they want us to pursue loftier political goals. I would like to know what political issue they think is more important than caring for the people we love and live with. Imagine a world where everyone made choices with the good of their greater community in mind. How many of the harmful political policies that currently threaten an American citizens chances for a better life would exist in the first place? How many criminals, white collar or otherwise, would walk our streets?

It is the sense of belonging, mutual respect, and accountability to a group that has caused many in our camp to find reasons to start regulating their substance abuse, moderate violent or disruptive behavior, or even just consider acting more altruistically and diplomatically than they have in the past. I have been inspired to be a better human and a better citizen just by existing as part of this community, and I know many others who feel they also have grown and learned from their experiences. In addition, many of the people now living in Lee Park have no other place to call home, and the shelters in the area, while offered with kind intentions, are too few and too restrictive for everyone to make use of them. Their inherently temporary and strictly regulated nature also actively discourages any permanent supportive communities from forming. In fact, every social service currently available seems to exist with the goal of re-integrating people into the very system that failed them to begin with or covering up the failure to do so with short term solutions. There must be other options besides conformity or failure. I feel that the open autonomous community that has begun to form in Lee Park may offer hope for finding alternatives to a broken system. Members of City Council, if you want us out of Lee Park I must insist that an alternative safe space be provided both for the purposes of peaceful protest and shelter for those who need it. The humanitarian issues made more visible by this occupation will not disappear if they are ignored. We must either address them now, or admit that we are too cowardly to face the ills our own society has created. I am the 99%, and I stand with my friends and neighbors in Lee Park.

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Note from Xiane: Lee Park is located in the heart of Downtown Charlottesville, VA. Despite the image that the city has of being well-off and fairly liberal, there has always been a large population of homeless folks, per capita. And the provisions made for those homeless has not been enough despite the efforts of organizations like PACEM. Occupy’s open agenda is the perfect place for these sorts of issues – often ignored or swept under the rug – to be addressed.

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Try and stop what we do – Rise above – When they can’t do it themselves

Change comes from within.
Change comes at a price.
Change comes when you least expect it.
You can’t fight change. Change is.

Jealous cowards try to control
Rise above
We’re gonna rise above
They distort what we say
Rise above
We’re gonna rise above
Try and stop what we do
Rise above
When they can’t do it themselves

We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us it’s no use
– Rise Above, Black Flag

I have some acquaintances who seem hell-bent on discrediting Occupy.
Not always because they disagree with the message, although there are some who feel that way.
But because of how the message is being put forth. They like to poke at the movement by finding every negative bit of press and posting it on Facebook – sometimes even to my own wall. They only ever look at the criticisms and no matter how I try to explore both sides of the discussion – and I *do* post about the good and bad issues of Occupy – they only want to push the agenda that Occupy is Wrong. And even more telling – these are always people who have not gone to visit any Occupy site. It’s all hearsay and what they believe without any personal substantiation.

I welcome discussions of what Occupy is doing, with your opinions attached. But ONLY if you are achieving these opinions via real, concrete observation and interaction. Otherwise, you’re just being an asshole who fears change and should fuck off.

In related news, here’s a great link from someone with experience who suggests how to deal with Assholes within the Occupation – Occupy’s Asshole Problem: Flashbacks From An Old Hippie

And another good link from the same person – What To Do When The Media Says A Protester Attacked A Cop

1) Challenge the assumption that the violent protester(s) are actually Occupy Wall Street protesters.

The media move fast, they don’t believe it is their job to know who started the violence, just that it started. If someone looks like an Occupy Wall Street protester, they are an OWS protester, even if they are an editor from the Right Wing publication American Spectator who is at the protest specifically to discredit the movement.

2) Scour all the footage and photos you can find of the instigators of the violence at the protest.

3) Crowd-source the images and ask for help identifying them.

4) Write a post about it on a blog with info on the person(s) and their background.

5) Contact the media and point out who that protest was started by.

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And you think you’re so clever and classless and free

You can discredit so easily; disparage the unimportant things. Criticize the methodology as “not the proper or most effective way.” Insist that there’s no clear message. Refuse to show any of the “credible” majority, choosing the fringe element to spotlight.

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

You’ll never be able to do it right, not in Their eyes. You can’t.

You’re not passionate enough. You’re too passionate.
You’re not organized enough. You’re too organized.
You don’t have a clear message. We don’t like the message you’re sending.
You don’t wear the right clothes. We don’t like the way you look.

We’re all angry about how we’re treated. But you’re doing it wrong. You need to go through their channels to get results. You need to do this the way we expect you to do it.

We’re too busy to come out and see what you’re doing for ourselves. Besides, you’re all kids, hippies, dirty, losers. You’ll never win. You can’t fight them, they’re too powerful, too big to fail. No one takes you seriously. This will blow over and you’ll all look like the fools that you are.

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

* John Lennon, Working Class Hero

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