99% Spring: In The Trenches

I spent this lovely spring afternoon at a training meeting for the 99% Spring. This is a new effort backed by a long list of organizations to utilize the momentum begun by the Occupy Movement and to put the power elite on notice that the Occupy movement wasn’t a flash in the pan, and the second act has just begun. The meeting I attended was at full capacity—175 people—and they came ready to learn, to strategize and to make a difference.

The focus of the training was on three things:

(1) The Economy: How we got here, who’s responsible and how we fix it.

(2) Non-Violent Direct Action: Taking a cue from previous movements that used non-violent methods to achieve goals and putting those methods to use.

(3)  Action: Planning campaigns to effect change both locally and on a national level.

The first thing I noticed was the great preponderance of older people in the group. There were some young people in attendance but they were in the minority. I’m not sure of the reason; although I suspect they were simply unaware the meeting was taking place. I do know the email I received notifying me of the meeting was organized by MoveOn in cooperation with Rebuild The Dream Innovation Fund and the dozens of other organizations that have come together to form the alliance. Whether it was the demographics of the email list or apathy on the part of the youth, I can’t say.

The meeting kicked off with a video detailing social movements in the country, from women’s suffrage, to worker’s rights, to civil rights. It was a rah rah kind of video and served to remind everyone in the room that although these things take time, social action movements can and do accomplish all sorts of things that at the time seem insurmountable.

In preparation for actions, there were role-playing exercises, one of which was called The Hassle Exercise, where each of us got to take on the roles of either a banker whose bank had just been invaded by 99% protestors, or one of the protestors. We then got to reverse roles. I suppose the purpose of that was to illustrate how it would feel on both ends of the issue, but I didn’t really find any value in it. The truly informative exercise was when the room was divided into three large groups: protestors, bank employees and observers. Admittedly, the five or ten minutes prep time wasn’t sufficient to form a real action plan, but the exercise highlighted the need for having a real strategy before proceeding with an action. If a mere role-playing exercise devolved into chaos with people shouting disparate demands and having no unifying sense of what they were doing and why they were there, in a real action, all that would be achieved would be chaos and fuel for critics. That one short exercise drove the point home better than any lecture could have done.

There are those who would complain that the Occupy Movement is being co-opted by MoveOn and all the other organizations that have come together to make this huge push for social justice. But as one of the organizers of the meeting said, being co-opted isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a compliment to the energy Occupy has infused into a country sick and tired of being overrun and pushed around by the monied interests that have stolen our homes, our retirements and the future of our children. Nobody is talking about marginalizing Occupy. The intent is to focus that energy, expand on it, hone it and point it with laser sharpness at those institutions that have taken what is ours.

This past week, there were 977 training sessions around the country. That’s thousands of people who are now fired up and ready to roll. I’m waiting for the next email to show up telling me where I’m needed. I’ll be there. And I’ll let you know what happened. This was just the first shot in a volley that won’t stop until we get what we want: social justice and accountability.

If you want to learn more, log on to MoveOn.org and go to the 99% Spring page to find out more about what’s happening in your area.

The following organizations have called for a 99% Spring: Jobs With Justice, United Auto Workers,National Peoples Action, National Domestic Workers Alliance, MoveOn.org, New Organizing Institute, Movement Strategy Center, The Other 98%, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, Rebuild the Dream, Color of Change, UNITE-HERE, Greenpeace, Institute for Policy Studies, PICO National Network, New Bottom Line, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, SNCC Legacy Project, United Steel Workers, National Education Association, Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, United States Student Association, Rainforest Action Network, American Federation of Teachers, Leadership Center for the Common Good, UNITY, National Guestworker Alliance, 350.org, The Ruckus Society, Citizen Engagement Lab, smartMeme Strategy & Training Project, Right to the City Alliance, Pushback Network, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Progressive Democrats of America, Change to Win, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future, Public Campaign Action Fund, Fuse Washington, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Citizen Action of New York, Engage, United Electrical Workers Union, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Alliance for a Just Society, The Partnership for Working Families, United Students Against Sweatshops, Presente.org, Get Equal, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Corporate Accountability International, American Federation of Government Employees, Training for Change, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), Student Labor Action Project, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Green for All, DC Jobs with Justice, Midwest Academy, The Coffee Party, International Forum on Globalization, UFCW International Union, Sunflower Community Action, Illinois People’s Action, Lakeview Action Coalition, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, Resource Generation, Highlander Research and Education Center, TakeAction Minnesota, Energy Action Coalition, Earthhome.us.

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