Forum raises the question of what's next for Occupy and the audience offers myriad answers
The Occupy supporters who turned their backs on Quan and interrupted her didn't do it because they are inexplicably rude. They gave their reasons, including still being hurt and angry after Quan unleashed police using tear gas, rubber bullets, and aggression to break up their encampment on Oct. 25.
Quan also was displeased about that night's events, saying that "No one is happy about what happened around the tear gas and mutual aid."
The second reason for the reactions was what an Occupy Oakland protester who mic-checked Quan called her "misrepresentation of anarchism." This has been dismissed and mocked by many press outlets, as if to say: What's the point of bothering to understand anarchism?
Many people who identify with anarchist principles and tactics are involved with Occupy groups. This has contributed to the growth and development of autonomous communities at camps, as many anarchists have extensive knowledge and practice in building alternative communities based on horizontalism and collective management of resources. Occupy's anarchist roots go deep.
This has also created controversy when tactics like property destruction and the black bloc, both associated with anarchism, become a part of Occupy. One example was the bank windows smashed and vacant building occupied during Occupy Oakland's General Strike on Nov. 2, and riot police again responded with tear gas that night. The next day, 700 attended a General Assembly meeting to focus on discussing violence, its nature, and the ethics surrounding it.
Many have been quick to characterize this ongoing debate as a division in the movement. But if unity is to be achieved, these tough conversations are necessary.
Bringing it home
Occupy has been criticized for its lack of leaders, but that has left it open to exciting possibilities. To start a new Occupy project, you just have to convince some people to help you out—you must gain approval from no one. Some have described the organization as a "do-ocracy." Don't ask for permission, they say, just do it.
As such, the ideas for moving forward span from handfuls of people on street corners to millions converging on Washington.
Lakoff presented one of these concepts to the group at the Commonwealth Club, what he called "Occupy Elections." Lakoff said, "Join Democratic clubs, and insist on supporting those people with your general moral principles. If you join Democratic clubs soon, you decide who gets to run. This is how the Tea Party took over."
Like most ideas floating around in Occupy, there's already something similar underway. Berkeley resident Joshua Green started the Occupy the Congress initiative, which hopes to organize and fund efforts for candidates "who support the declaration of the occupation of Wall Street." Congressional candidates such as Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Norman Solomon here in California have expressed support for and goals similar to the Occupy movement.
Occupy Washington DC has taken the message to Congress in other ways. In an open forum with supporters and renowned economists, they developed their Budget Proposal for the 99 Percent and are coordinating with Occupy groups throughout the country to call for a National Occupation of Washington DC starting March 30.