I’ll probably never forget the summer of 2011. A few friends of mine in New York participated on the fringes of the diverse group of people that had organized Bloombergville, so when the original “September 17 – Bring Tent” image started making its rounds in August, I was pretty fired up. I had been expressing my angst about Wall St since 2008, and I might in fact have been a “Tea Partier”, if it hadn’t been for the rapid GOPoliticization of that energy in early 2009. Anyway, as the declared “Occupy Wall Street” date arrived, I was astounded to see that people really DID show up, and stuck around that weekend. I told friends that if people were there in numbers on the second weekend, I would have to pack my bag and join them. This was in fact logistically impossible for me; to be honest, I didn’t expect the Zucotti Park crowd to tough it out. So when the second weekend DID roll around, I thought to myself: “Well, what can we do HERE?” So I quickly registered this domain, since Russian domain scammers/brokers were scarfing up “occupy” themed domains like mad. I figured I would at least “protect” it until a group formed. Then I started poking around the web to see if anyone else locally was getting inspired.
Sure enough, a UM student named Whitney Jasmine Miller had started a Facebook group a day or two before, and a few hundred people had already joined. Within a week, nearly 300 people met on the UM Diag. The excitement was palpable. The first “official” GA of a group calling itself “Occupy Ann Arbor” was about a week later. Unfortunately, people never showed up in those numbers again, and in fact attendance and participation in anything called Occupy Ann Arbor dwindled steadily over a few months. I and a handful of others took a stab at re-energizing things in January, but after a couple months of slowly growing attendance, things abruptly came to a standstill again in April of this year. A lot of local participants have speculated about why an Occupy Ann Arbor failed to come together. The consensus seems to be (feel free to disagree or append in the comments) that it was a combination of things. One being that a lot of motivated local occupiers saw fit to focus energy elsewhere, especially Detroit. Other factors included a rift between those who chose to camp in Liberty Plaza, and those who didn’t, a tendency to fuss over process to to the detriment of progress, and perhaps a bit too much armchair activism driven by the fact that Ann Arbor is in fact often insulated from the worst of bad economic times.
Whatever the reasons, some positive things did in fact result. As well as some productive work by the Imagine Warming Centers community and groups like the Washtenaw Foreclosure Defense Team, some really powerful networking occurred. My personal focus once it was evident that “Occupy Ann Arbor” wasn’t going to manifest any time soon has shifted to working with a handful of people across the country who are focused on long term strategies and a more political approach, and working with an international group that is promoting the idea of “Social Credit”.
Although there doesn’t seem to be an actual “Occupy Ann Arbor”, I know a lot of us are here in spirit, and the world is a different place because of what people like us have been doing all around the world for the past year, in different ways and with varying intensity.
I have no position that entitles me to ask for a “reportback”, but as the person who manages this website, pays for hosting, and renews the domain, I felt it might be interesting to hear from locals about what they’re doing NOW, and what they have planned for the future. So thought I’d offer the opportunity.
Feel free to share in the comments, or if you were an early participant and would like to present a full article, contact me, andI’ll do my best to help you get it posted here on the site.