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Washington, D.C.: Mutual Aid in Mass Mobilizations

Posted 1 year ago on Nov. 25, 2012, 3:44 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: mutual aid, washington dc, occupy dc

photo of occupy action in DC from Dec. 2011; aerial shot of protesters forming "99%" in formation inside a plaza with the washington monument in the distance -- via <http://uprisingradio.org/home/2011/12/09/take-back-the-capitol-occupy-dc-activists-get-busy-and-stay-strong/>

The District of Columbia is the nation’s Capital and therefore a lightning rod for national organizing, but it is also the home of 600,000 people who deal day-to-day with the consequences of many of the important issues that get protested downtown. Often, there is a great divide in DC between locally and nationally focused groups even though these groups encounter the same difficulties, require many of the same resources and often have similar goals. This leads to competing for attention, attendees, media and support while wasting that most valuable of resources, time, by duplicating efforts. Often times there are class and race divides between local and national organizers, adding to the power dynamics and complicated relationships.

DC license plate reading "taxation without representation"

Thus begins the Washington Peace Center’s Principles for Organizing in DC, a set of guidelines constructed by DC activists in response to decades of frustration with missed opportunities and unintended consequences of poor communication with national action organizers.

The guide came from a workshop at the 2010 US Social Forum titled “DC’s Not Your Protest Playground” – a reference to the common misperception that DC is little more than the seat of federal government. This concept of DC is especially painful when it comes from allies, as it is the underlying logic that excuses DC’s status as the federal-tax-paying seat of federal government – whose 600,000 residents have no voting representation in that government.

“The colony of the District is a microcosm of a lot of the injustices that face the nation,” says long-time organizer and trainer Nadine Bloch, “and when people come here without acknowledging that, there is an underlying reinforcement of the problems that exist.”

The call to get buy-in from local organizers – a principle that applies in DC or in any other city – is not only a call for respect, but for efficiency and mutual aid. Like guerrilla fighters know their own terrain, DC organizers know their city – how to get permits quickly, how to negotiate the dozens of different types of police forces, and the politics of getting turnout from relevant groups.

“Why would you import all these people [from around the country],” says Robby Diesu, who often helps organize national actions in DC, “when there are five million people who live in the DC area? It’s Organizing 101 – if you don’t get buy-in, nobody’s going to help you.”

In turn, both local and national groups often miss out on providing each other crucial support.

Successful examples of mutually beneficial cooperation are hard to find, but they can make a difference. People who traveled to Occupy Chicago’s NATO protests might remember being recruited to march on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house to support a local campaign against his closure of mental health clinics, calling national, if brief, attention to the issue. Sonia Silbert, who helped write the Peace Center’s Principles, recalls watching Medea Benjamin get a crowd of mostly out-of-towners to call DC’s mayor and tell him not to give Lockheed Martin tax breaks to move to the city.

“We shouldn’t be anybody’s token,” says Basav Sen, a DC-based activist who helped organize large anti-globalization actions until he began to feel they were taking away from building a grassroots movement with staying power, and excluding the many people who can’t come to them, “people that should be your closest allies.”

“To be involved in the local struggles and in the global struggles, and to see them as part of the same struggle,” he says, “that’s vital.”

13 Comments

13 Comments


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[-] 1 points by graysunlight (1) from Prescott, AZ 1 year ago

I think this is what Occupy needs to become as an institution, a united group with united goals that is a conglomeration of thousands of other lobbying groups. Before occupy, I worked with Greenpeace, the ACLU and many other "left" leaning activist groups. The massive injustices experienced in our country all have common roots--corporate greed and exploitation of the masses by the wealthy. The only way Occupy can maintain its legitimacy is by not being co-opted by one of the tens-of-thousands of well-intentioned non-profits/NGOs out there with similar goals. Unfortunately, many of these groups become victims of the mentality that "money-makes-the-world-go-round" and end up shooting themselves in the foot due to their unwillingness to share the spot-light (their funding, and their constituencies) or get on board with larger causes. Occupy needs to remain the cause of the public. It is the default cause in-and-of-itself. I read a great article on alternet.org a while back about why the right usually fares better in advancing their agenda than the left, because they are more homogenized, hierarchical, efficient, and authoritarian. These are values and tactics that the left abhors, and rightfully so, but we must come together somehow to stand up to the tyrants that oppress us all.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (27660) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

I have lately begun advocating to the various social environmental Cancer Charity Health groups to reach out to each other and support common cause initiatives. OWS is what it is - and then more. OWS points out the ills of society and gives a place to discuss and organize - OWS also Organizes efforts and shares/circulates issues.

[-] 1 points by EdgeBender (17) 1 year ago

What's called for is a comprehensive alternative agenda taking authority over the resources of the natural commons and derived from an intelligent application of our collective wisdom, harming no one.

That's the obvious. We are not our conflicts. We are our opportunities. Who will fund peace.

[-] 1 points by fuchschristian (2) 1 year ago

What's the role of social media in occupations? Find out by participating in the OccupyMedia! Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WG7JRG2

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

Is this spam? If so please refrain.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (27660) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

There should be an on-line meeting place for all social groups to get together and form solid concerted efforts/actions. Plans solidified in group interaction - then disseminated from there to each individual group membership.

[-] 1 points by ranger1 (1) 1 year ago

There a free app called Zello app that could be used in coordinating and broadcasting big events. It's a PTT or walkie talkie app, but you can also create "channels" like big chat rooms for subscribers to chat with each other or listen in real-time. You could create a channel for Occupy Wall Street for example. You can make it public or password protected or just for announcements. Set up a designated time for subscribers to log on and chat/listen. 'Zello is free and runs across Iphone, Android, Blackberry and PCs. Subscribers call be anywhere in the world. Think of it as Twitter but for voice. Runs with wifi or 3G/4G connections. SNU has used it at rallies as a PA system with smartphones running a Zello broadcast channel on megaphones:

http://snuproject.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/occupy-spain-introducing-project-megavoice15m/

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (27660) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Send this into the Forum Site. They can make use of it in future outreach group organization considerations.

General Inquiries general@occupywallst.org

Press Inquiries press@occupywallst.org

Inquiries Re: OccupyWallSt.org info@occupywallst.org

[-] 0 points by henrylowery (4) 1 year ago

bring all the tribes together in jan. during the crownin of the king should not have to get a premit for that dc is very freindly for sleeping on the streets and plenty of spots by the river and all the camreas will be their so what ever your issues is red or blue or just shut it down it only comes every 4 years this may be our last chance time is runnin out

[-] -1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 1 year ago

I think that is a fantastic idea. We should get those big head poster boards that they use at college basketball games behind the basket.

Obama, Boenher, McConnel, Reid, etc.

[-] 0 points by engineer4 (272) 1 year ago

The population of DC should be rolled up into the state of Maryland and represented in that manner. There is no need to create additional members of congress when we have enough dopes there already.

[-] 0 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 1 year ago

Incredible post. Thank you.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

We need each other huh?