Boston’s General Assembly is in full swing when I arrive from Lower Manhattan. They’re discussing full inclusion, in this case Tea Party members. I had heard talk of a letter circulating on the Internet–allegedly from a Tea Party supporter–warning the #Occupy movement not to be co-opted like the “original” Tea Party was by powerful special interests like the Koch Brothers.
The notion of a letter like this isn’t far fetched. I’ve personally talked to a number of Tea Party members who, like many in the #Occupy movement, oppose bailing-out major banks, shutting down the fed, and corporate tax loopholes, ones like Bank of America exploits (which allow them to actually receive hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds, while they introduce $5 debit card fees and lay off many thousands of people.)
“We can’t let racists into the movement!” argues one woman opposed to Tea Party inclusion.
It appears, though, that she is in the minority. This, I think, speaks to the remarkably inclusive spirit of the #Occupy movement. The Tea Party, like the #Occupy movement, are part of what these activists call “The 99%”–meaning not members of the 1%, who, it is estimated by most economists, control 40% of America’s wealth.
#OccupyBoston, I learn as I sit in on their lively General Assembly meetings, overall hold a very strong belief that the political polarization that has “infected” American politics should be left out of this direct democratic process. It is these two aspects–inclusion and civility–that stand out among the Boston and New York assemblies. I suspect that any overtly racist or anti-semetic elements would summarily be expunged if they became too much of a problem moving forward, as these assemblies continue hammering out a list of demands through the often slow, and sometimes frustrating path to consensus. Real democracy is a very laborious process.
The Boston occupation’s relaxed, almost party-like atmosphere is a far cry from the frenetic, adrenaline-filled one blocks from Wall Street, where marchers never know when the next NYPD crackdown will happen. Not that Wall Street doesn’t have its wonderful music and celebration, but the amazing cooperation and support the Boston police have shown the protesters certainly takes the edge off here. There are no barricades surrounding the perimeter, no counter-terrorism units looking down at you from their command trucks when you awake in your sleeping bag, and certainly no night sticks and pepper-spray. In fact, with just a few minutes notice, the police here will shut down whole streets for the protesters to march down. The Boston police force, so far at least, seem to understand that it is their duty to protect the rights of citizens and not harass them by tearing down tarps in the rain or arresting an occupation’s media team.
During my three days in Boston, I noticed how rapidly their membership was growing. GA members are in talks, reportedly, to acquire a larger space. By my third day there were no longer room for tents, and Nurses United had announced an alliance with the occupation, as well as a few student unions, who were planning walk-outs of area colleges in solidarity with the movement.
As I caught an afternoon bus from South Station to head back to #OccupyWallStreet, I couldn’t help but feel a sense that a major milestone was unfolding before my eyes, due in no small part to this tent city across from the Federal Reserve Bank o Boston, in the cradle of American revolution.
I’m now in Washington D.C spending time with #OccupyKSt/#OccupyBoston. I’ll leave next for #OccupyPhilly.
The Project will continue to bring you updates via live-Tweeting (@DavGolProject and @DustinSlaughter) as events unfold on the ground, as well as profiles and editorials. I’m also putting together a short documentary about the movement. But I can’t do it without your help.
Please consider donating just $10 to the Project’s Occupy Media Fund. Your help will enable me to continue my work as I literally live on-site, sleeping in plazas and tent cities as the American Autumn unfolds before our eyes.
Dustin M. Slaughter is the Founder of The David and Goliath Project.