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Tactical Ninja - In which I get my arse down to Occupy Wellington

Oct. 19th, 2011

09:04 am - In which I get my arse down to Occupy Wellington

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Last night I sort-of took some of the advice I got yesterday. The Youth of Today wasn't home so I didn't bother cooking and I didn't do any unpacking. I'd used my weekly allotment of study time at work to finish the writing part of my essay so all that was left to do was find and add a bunch of quotes to back up my argument, and now there's only the fine-tuning to go. Since it's primary research I haven't gone as far over the word count as normal and I should have it finished today.


Then I went down to OccupyWellington and hung out for a bit.

The call had gone out in the afternoon for a variety of things including rubbish bins and blankets. Since I've been moving house, I have a few excess plastic bins with lids and also a whole lot of tuffsacks that can be useful for all sorts. And three spare blankets. So off I went. I ended up sitting in on the General Assembly.

While there I did a headcount, and counted 70 people. Not all of them were camping, but the tent city has also grown to about double what it was on Sunday.

To those in the US, I saw what happened in San Francisco and would like to make it clear that New Zealand is not like this. I heard there was some trouble in the South Island, but at the moment there is zero police presence at OccupyWellington. In addition, the council has not been hassling people and yesterday evening they gave permission for the local firespinning group to play near the Occupiers instead of in their usual permitted spot. For us, this is a good thing. We are tiny and protest here is tenuous at best - most people believe it doesn't work and that people who do it have something wrong with them - so if the Powers That Be caused trouble for us, it is just as likely that everyone would give up and go home as that a bunch more people would turn up as has happened in the US.

Anyway, it's growing without needing police brutality to garner sympathy, and for a protest in Wellington, 70 people is a pretty good turnout (with over 200 on the weekend).

At the General Assembly I was impressed to see that the discussions were practical, how to cope with the growth being a major one. Some of this was about how to form agendas and run the assemblies now that the group was so large - meetings were taking several hours and late nights in the cold were making people cranky. The suggestions raised included forming subgroups to brainstorm options for each type of agenda item, and come back to the main group only for consensus discussion.

Another issue is that the group is fast outgrowing the park.



As you can see the park is tiny, and since that picture was taken there are maybe twice as many tents. It's essentially full, and because it's spring and we're having variable weather, it's a bit boggy in places. It was suggested that it could expand to the park below where the Ugly As Fuck Rugby Statue is, but that park is an amphitheatre with a dip in the middle and rain turns it into a swamp, so isn't really a practical option. Other options require them to move en masse and there's a fear that if they leave where they are now, people will think they have given up. The best suggestion I heard was to start using some of the small square parks dotted around civic square - each may fit only 3-4 tents but I think it's important to continue in Civic Square as a central point where the occupation can be seen.

There was a reiteration of the kaupapa of OccupyNZ - He noho tahi, tena pea ka tika "Discuss together, that things may come right".

Another topic under discussion was how to deal with politicians. We're approaching an election and since the Occupy movment now has some legitimacy, it's an easy opportunity for politicians to be seen supporting the 99%. How to deal with this? As far as I know it's still under discussion but from what I gather, support is fine, self-promotion is not, since the movement is not affiliated with any political party. I don't think John Key should go down there though, just saying. That's my personal opinion, anyway. ;-)

Other things - they were discussing the erection of flax barriers to baffle the wind that's been a problem (hey, spring in Wellington). It's pretty easy to weave flax into the existing fences there, but they need flax to do it with. Anyone who knows where to get some in a reasonable quantity should probably go down there and talk with someone. It was Strypey that brought it up. They also need water but a few people there have bees in their bonnet about fluoride so tap water is apparently not a go. Shame because I have a principled objection to buying bottled water even for myself, never mind for a large-scale protest. They need first aid stuff and could probably do with more blankets as well.

In terms of food, they have asked that anyone who plans to bring lots of it talk to them first. They have had a lot of donations and have had to throw food away, so checking first is a good plan.

Hops (some of you on here know Hops) was talking about the possibility of accessing a large marquee. If anyone knows where such a thing could be accessed that would be awesome. He thinks it would help with the sogginess of the lower park, but I'm less sure because I think wet naturally flows to the middle anyway even if there's a roof over it. However, it's another option that's worth trying.

Overall, I'm impressed with the practical nature of the assembly, there wasn't much stuffing around or grandstanding, it was mostly "Right, we're here, lets get on with it" and forward planning. Interesting to note that there is a decent representation of older people there as well. They seem to be equipped to stick with it and I'm happy to continue supporting them. If you agree with their cause, you should too, in whatever way works for you. There are many ways. For a start, you can follow @OccupyWelly on Twitter to find out what they need. Or you could just go ask them - visitors are really good for morale, and it's kind of fun too. ;-)




Also, this morning (I do half an hour unpacking every morning before work) I found the floor in the study, got to the cupboard which is empty, and found my skates. The stuff still to put away falls into four broad categories: camping gear, party gear, sports gear and craft gear. The craft gear can stay out in the room (at least till Dr Wheel returns and needs desk space, at which point I'll consider a mezzanine with mah 12 foot stud), but the rest needs to find a place. The mission is to be fully unpacked by next weekend. Wish me luck.

I feel better today.

Comments:

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From:bekitty
Date:October 18th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
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(at least till Dr Wheel returns and needs desk space, at which point I'll consider a mezzanine with mah 12 foot stud)

Really? I mean, I know Joel's tall, but I didn't think he was that tall... ;)
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From:empresskylon
Date:October 18th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
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tehehehehe

Mezzanine's are the absolute most awesome thing to have in a house
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From:empresskylon
Date:October 18th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
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Am surprised to hear about trouble down here - was that possible in dunedin? as far as I know chch has been all good - apart from police targeting a protester when he was on his way home and away from the general group - but who knows if that was a legit story or not
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From:pombagira
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
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apprently in dunedin there was issues with them camping..

http://yourdunedin.org/2011/10/19/occupy-dunedin/ is an article..

*beasm*

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From:empresskylon
Date:October 19th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
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ah right

The chch occupiers are under water - just went down and filled up their hot water bottles for them
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From:pombagira
Date:October 19th, 2011 04:16 am (UTC)
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excellent.. you rock lady.. **loves**
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
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I'm curious about that mention of "few people there have bees in their bonnet about fluoride so tap water is apparently not a go", and last night someone said something about it all being communal meals which they didn't like. what's the story there? of course I could go down and ask. I mean if I was in something like that I would want to be free to do my own thing re meals, and this thing about several-hour-long meetings... Is it all rainbowey or something? I thought it was a "there is no leader" situation. have a few people decided that their version of consensus is the most important one?

As far as water goes, a bulk water run to the public spring in Petone seems like a good option (I hope nobody there would object to the expenditure of petroleum in making the trip).
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From:tatjna
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:20 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what the story is so you'd be best off asking. They were still eating while I was there and while they had a kitchen going on with people queueing to get fed, there also seemed to be people eating stuff that wasn't from the kitchen. I seriously doubt if anyone would try to stop someone going to get fish and chips - in fact there were two papers of chips doing the rounds when the GA started. So yeah, you'd have to ask for more clarity because from what I've observed that wasn't the case.

In terms of long meetings, nobody's obliged to attend the meetings but people do and the more people, the longer it takes to reach consensus and the more agenda items arise. This has nothing to do with leadership - lets face it, dictatorships probably have the shortest meetings so taking forever to decide things is a sign that voices are being heard, you know?

I was thinking maybe one of those filter things would be easiest so supporters could bring tap water but frankly, I reckon those who have issues with fluoride should perhaps provide their own.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
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yeah fully agree, I was a bit surprised at the person complaining about communal meals (maybe it was just a light whine for some reason) as I would be sure nothing would stop people from sorting their own out.

also fwiw people here at work were really surprised to hear that there are people camping up there when I mentioned it earlier.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
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Hehe and now they know. Excellent!

We tried communal food the first year at the Illuminati Temple, and it didn't really work. Having to be around for meals etc was just a pain and I suspect some combination of group cooking and fending for oneself would work best in an Occupy situation.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
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or, if you REALLY want to build "consensus" only serve food to people that attend meetings :-]

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From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 20th, 2011 12:37 pm (UTC)

Consensus, water, food

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"Is it all rainbowey or something? I thought it was a "there is no leader" situation."

Yes. Like rainbow gatherings, there are no leaders in Occupy. That means that everyone who wants to be included in decisions gets together in general assemblies, like Occupy Wall St, and the Spanish indignistas who inspired them. We are experimenting with different ways of keeping these inclusive, productive, and short.

We have supporters in Petone and South Karori who are bringing in clean water with them. There is also a clean spring at Moore Wilson's which we can access. See separate comment about fluoridation.

Food is being donated, including sometimes cooked meals. Sometime the camp organises cooked meals, especially when the weather has been cold and damp. These are made available to everyone, but people can do whatever they like about feeding themselves.
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From:friggasmuse
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
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It's amazing how global the occupy movement has become!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
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It resonates with *ahem* a large percentage of people! ;-)
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From:Will Marshall
Date:October 18th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
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Fluorine...

It's shit like this that makes it so easy to frame such protests as the lunatic fringe. Can we try to avoid being visibly nuts when under media scrutiny?
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From:tatjna
Date:October 18th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. Are you saying that they have it wrong and it's actually fluorine? I am unsure but google seems to think it's actually flouride.

Any group of people will have radicals in it and some of them will be radical about stuff that isn't scientifically provable. That doesn't necessarily make them lunatics or water down the message of the group, much the same as the woman who became Anonymous because pole dancing classes for children was her personal tipping point to begin to protest unbridled capitalism doesn't make protesting unbridled capitalism crazy.

From what I gather, these people are not pushing their agenda as a '99% message' and I really wish people like you would stop with they "Hey look loonies!" and get in behind what the group is actually about.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:October 18th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
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No, just iPhone autocomplete failing on me when I picked out the topic in question.

Protest groups like this are under a lot of media scrutiny. The standard media response to them disempowerment through laughter - making fun of them for being ineffectual hippies where possible.

Assuming the protests are committed to actually achieving something, there's a certain logic that suggests they should do their best to avoid having excess surface area available for mockery. They'll only be heard if they're seen as credible, and if they demand fluoride-free water they'll lose that credibility in approximately 3 seconds.

I'm interested in effective political action. One of the big things here is to pick fights that can be won, then go hell-for-leather on winning them. It's very hard for someone like me to fully get behind this (the Wellington one, not the global one, details there but not now), as there's a concern that people are going to shoot themselves in the foot. Not exactly unprecedented...

If you protest all the time it loses effect, so protesting infrequently and effectively is the sane thing to do.

The reality is, the people-categories you want onside for a successful protest are you, Jodi and Maddock. Dreadlocks don't count for much, because they do a fantastic job of undermining their own credibility before anyone else even bothers trying.

What concerns me is that someone like me, who's already broadly-speaking politically on-side and has experience dealing with hippies finds these protesters dubiously credible. There's no way they're going to get support from a broad enough slice of the population if this is the case.

TL;DR: Loonies, undermining protests since 1921 or some shit.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 18th, 2011 11:33 pm (UTC)
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Funny how so many people who are broadly speaking politically on-side choose to judge those who take action as loonies and use them as an excuse for their own inaction.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:11 pm (UTC)
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You might have missed the entire point.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
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I don't mean to be snarky, but you've basically said that it's not possible for me to have valid criticisms in this situation.

It's entirely valid to criticize those who take action on a specific issue, even when one is not involved directly in that action. You've proposed a catch-22 situation in which one has to engage in things in order to criticize them, which has some pretty obvious flaws.

I have a basic frustration that the left has a terrible tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot when we're politically active, combined with frustration that we carefully dance around discussing this issue rather than accepting and dealing with it. The right (especially in the US and parts of Europe) learned a lot about successful political action in the 70s/80s that the left is still not considering.

You can turn this into an uncompromising "we'll you're not protesting so STFU", but that's just a variant of "you're either with us or against us". It isn't helpful and prevents necessary conversations from happening.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 19th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
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The problem here is not that I'm missing the point. You are lecturing me on a topic I know pretty well already. I know your arguments, I've just spent the last X months studying them. I've just observed the way the media did exactly what you're talking about at OccupyWallStreet by focusing on the girl dancing with no top on and ignoring the 20 'normal' people standing next to her. And now you're doing it too.

You do have a point but I am disappointed in you because of all my post up there, talking about how impressed I was with this group's maturity, organisation and general practical approach to the occupation, you chose the 'few people with a bee in their bonnet about flouride' to make your entire comment around. You're doing the same thing that you accuse others of doing.

In other words, I don't give a rat's arse whether you get out there personally or not, but if you agree with their cause, please stop choosing people you see as 'loonies' to focus on because you of all people should know better.

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From:Will Marshall
Date:October 19th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
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Even though you're specifically making an effort to look at the competent, organized people, the flouride bunch are still visible. It particularly sticks out to be because it's so very characteristic of the media credibility issues OWS has been having this entire time.

I've just observed the way the media did exactly what you're talking about at OccupyWallStreet by focusing on the girl dancing with no top on and ignoring the 20 'normal' people standing next to her. And now you're doing it too.

I don't understand what you're trying to say. The media will always pick out the topless girl, as would most casual observers. In fact, you'd have to making a very specific effort not to: by default we notice and focus on the noticeable things.

Whether this is right or not is basically irrelevant. This isn't a question of how the media should behave, but how it does behave.

You seem to be saying that recognizing this and suggesting maybe doing something to ameliorate it is "doing the same thing"?

In my opinion, the occupy movement has in some ways been successful in spite of itself, due to a bunch of factors including the tubes, massive public support for the basic principles, some instances of amazingly good framing (99% = fucking brilliant cleverness). In spite of that, they had to force media recognition (especially in the US) by some rather circuitous routes, in part I think because of a persistent perceived credibility problem.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 19th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
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You do understand what I'm trying to say, because the topless girl is just an example. If you really don't understand, go have a look at some of the media pictures from the first week of OWS and check out the backgrounds - the media picked out the funny-looking people (for whatever reason, topless girl merely being one of them) and ignored the 20 normal people standing right next to them.

But I don't think you need to do that because you already know. Just like I already know most of what you've been saying.

It seems your method of 'acknowledging and suggesting' is to go "It's shit like this that makes it so easy to frame such protests as the lunatic fringe. Can we try to avoid being visibly nuts when under media scrutiny?"

So basically you're saying the fluoride people should STFU so that the nice normal people don't think they're crazy. I believe this is known as an appeal to worthiness and it's one of the four classic displays that protests are supposed to engage in. Again, this is not news. What frustrates me is how fast YOU labelled them nuts and wanted to make it all about them instead of the actual issues.

In addition, in today's post you'll find an example of how even if the fluoride people weren't there, the people who want to discredit them will find a way - yesterday being having a go at the quality of their tents to label them either too wealthy or too dole-bludgy to be legitimate. That's what haters do.

So, we both understand the issue, and like you I think it would be nice if the movement met all the criteria that other people apply for legitimacy, however I also know that it doesn't matter what they do, people will find ways to delegitimise them, even if it means changing the criteria of legitimacy. And the best thing the movement can do is stick with it and garner the support of people like me and yesterday's CEO - who care about the cause, not the fluoride.

Edited at 2011-10-19 09:54 pm (UTC)
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 20th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
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"I'm interested in effective political action. One of the big things here is to pick fights that can be won"

Just for the record, have you actually indulged in any political action at all? Because there's always a dozen reasons -not- to go ahead with any form of political activism, from voting Labour to assassinating Stalin.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2011 05:21 am (UTC)
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Is this directed at me, or at Will? Because if you read this blog for more that 25 seconds you'll know exactly how politically active I am.

Also, please use some kind of identifying marker (initial is fine) when you post here, otherwise anonymous comments get confusing)
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From:Will Marshall
Date:October 20th, 2011 07:42 am (UTC)
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If that is directed at me, then yes. Rather.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 19th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
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And it is also the case that the people I've observed engaging in this behaviour fall into two categories: those who disagree with the point the protest is making (ie the right), and those who agree with their point but fire shots at them anyway for not being worthy, while not actually doing anything themselves.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
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Your reasoning is why people said the Occupy Wallstreet protest would never last or go anywhere. Except now it's global, in it's 5th week, and has attracted those that do have this credibility thing you're talking about.

If they were actually making the protest about flouride it'd be different, but as far as I know it's just their personal opinion.

Infrequent protesting is ineffective. It's much easier to dismiss and placate people who infrequently protest. All you have to say is "there there, we see what you're saying, we'll fix things now". Then make some motions as if you're doing something, then forget about those silly protestors who won't protest again until next year.

In this world, attention is a scarce commodity. If you're protests are also scarce, you'll never get anyone's attention.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:03 am (UTC)
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Clearly that last statement was hyperbole.

You'll get attention from infrequent protest, but only from a small section of the population and government. The more frequent and persistent they are, the harder they are to ignore as temporary discontent.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
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there is also something to be said for "practice makes perfect".
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From:tatjna
Date:October 19th, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
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Certainly at last nights general assembly I saw some techniques that were tested in Zucotti park that have been picked up and are working here too.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:16 pm (UTC)
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My reasoning is why most protests, most of the time haven't gone anywhere.

Note: I never said this about the original protests here, nor have I said it's specifically an issue in Wellington. It's just an observable and well-documented organizational issue on the left. One of the reasons the right has such power is that it's been much more conscious of this dynamic than the left has.

Protest is intended to disrupt. Regular events become normalized and cease to draw attention.

Violence is pretty shocking too, unless it happens in Oakland in which case it's totally normal and doesn't draw comment.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 20th, 2011 04:34 am (UTC)
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So sporadic peaceful protest doesn't work, constant peaceful protest doesn't work, violence doesn't work...

I'm guessing that you're feeling that snarking on the internet and being a DJ works pretty well, though.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2011 05:34 am (UTC)
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I am only unscreening this comment so that Will gets a chance to answer it himself. I do not appreciate unrelated personal attacks on people who are discussing things in this blog, particularly from people who do not identify themselves.

Any further comments from your IP address of this nature will be deleted without being unscreened.
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From:wildilocks
Date:October 24th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)
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I know this is old a ded and all, but I have to respond to you here Will: "My reasoning is why most protests, most of the time haven't gone anywhere."

I just have to call complete bullshit on that one. Protests with a core agenda, which address fundamental issues of inequality, have been extraordinarily successful.

The reason we have a civil society, in which people are not allowed to own slaves, in which racial discrimination is illegal, in which women are not considered property and are allowed to vote (first in NZ by the way) - all these things which to us are considered NORMAL once were not, and guess how things changed?

Yup. Protest. By people who could see that things were NOT fair, and who decided that they'd had enough and were going to kick up a fuss. That eventually those in power had NO choice but recognise what was being protested was reasonable, and needed changing.

These previous larger movements went somewhere, and laws were changed. OWS feels very much like one of these larger movements. So what if rich white kids and hippies with dreadlocks and topless women including themselves? The message is valid, and the less attempts to derail the validity of the movement by focusing on individuals rather than the message, the better.
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From:neoterik
Date:October 19th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC)
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"From what I gather, these people are not pushing their agenda as a '99% message'"

In my understanding this is more a case of personal preference and has nothing to do with pushing an agenda at all. They have organised getting water in from the springs and 'clean' sources for those that want it. Others are quite happy with town-supply.

The situation is similar with food preferences. When bringing food for sharing it is nice to consider the preferences of others but there is no agenda being pushed and they are generally appreciative of all donations.

I agree that this is the sort of issue that the mainstream media may pick up on to discredit the movement. If this kind of reporting becomes obvious then hopefully it will only end up discrediting the media.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 19th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
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At teh moment I'm observing a section of media (and the general public) making snide remarks about #occupywellington in a similar vein as was done to the #occupywallstreet protest in the first week.

The academic in me is interested to see if this changes in the same way the longer the occipiers stick with it.

When Amanda Palmer shows up to jump on the bandwagon, we'll know we've won!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 20th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)

water fluoridation

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Are you implying that it's "visibly nuts" to oppose the artificial fluoridation of drinking water? I suggest you do your research. I'd start with this video with former Auckland Principal Dental Officer Dr John Calquhoun:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plOFVhRPTx4
Text version here:
http://www.fluoride-journal.com/98-31-2/312103.htm

The New Plymouth council recently decided to stop fluoridating, after it conducted a 2 day tribunal:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/5783079/Beginning-of-the-end-for-fluoridation

New Zealand is one of the few countries which still allows water fluoridation. The fluoride compounds added to drinking water are byproducts from industry, not the same compounds which occur naturally in mineral water. The only people who still support fluoridation take the word of dentists - oral panelbeaters who have no training in medicine, chemistry, or toxicology - who are expected to support it in order to be accepted by their peers, and their professional associations. The same associations that attempt to justify continuing to install mercury - a toxic heavy metal - in people's mouths in the form of "dental amalgam".

Even if fluoridation was safe (it isn't) and effective (it isn't), it goes against people's human right not to be mass medicated without informed consent. It's an issue that affects a large proportion of the 99% in this country, and it's totally relevant to be taking it into account at Occupy Wellington.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)

Re: water fluoridation

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I really don't want this post to become about the fluoride debate - fluoride is not what the Occupy movement is about and while I'm happy to consider those who don't wish to ingest fluoride in any provision of water, I don't want my involvement (or my blog) to be usurped by discussion of flouride. It is a side issue and the personal agenda of a few only.

I do have one point to make though: in New Zealand, dentists have to have completed a five-year degree in order to practice, which does in fact contain the topics you list above.
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From:neoterik
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)

Thanks

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Thanks for writing this up.

Strypey was writing up a blog of each GA on the co-activate site but he has passed on communications to someone else who may not have been able to do it. Do you mind if I quote / cross post the relvant parts to the co-activate blog?
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From:tatjna
Date:October 19th, 2011 01:02 am (UTC)

Re: Thanks

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Please do - I'm all for boosting the signal! Cheers.
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From:38
Date:October 19th, 2011 02:05 am (UTC)
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There was an Occupy event here in Bonn this past Saturday but sadly I couldn't participate :(
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From:helianthas
Date:October 19th, 2011 05:27 am (UTC)
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The photos give me warm fuzzies. Yay!

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From:whatifitworks
Date:October 19th, 2011 05:32 am (UTC)
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That tent photo is good.
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From:kylecassidy
Date:November 8th, 2011 03:19 am (UTC)
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nice photography. it really seems to capture the park.
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