Occupy Ann Arbor October 6 Assembly

A brief firsthand account
Occupy Ann Arbor Crowd, October 6, 2011

By about 6:30, there were already over 200 people in attendance.

[Minor correction: See comments for omission of groups who voiced their presence] The first “Occupy” group in Ann Arbor to be organized enough to actually assemble did so this evening on the University of Michigan “Diag”, the park-like area on central campus that is crisscrossed with sidewalks that connect the various university buildings surrounding it. The turnout was respectable, considering the fact that the group that mobilized things is essentially Facebook-based, and only formed about a week ago. We confidently estimate there were over 250 people in attendance, and that the crowd was diverse in age, political stance, and social class. No police were present, and the press seemed to be represented by a News4 duo and a few print or web reporters. Organizer Whitney Jasmine Miller did a nice job at the outset of explaining the human microphone concept, and laying some simple ground rules for what was meant to be an exploratory gathering, i.e.: don’t bandstand your narrow ideology, keep it under three minutes, and don’t express yourself in a rude or offensive fashion. Frankly, things any kindergarten group should be able to understand. In spite of that, a few individuals did in fact use it as an opportunity to spew their personal agenda, including one fellow who even announced – with apparent seriousness – his senate run as a socialist candidate. The crowd was remarkably level-headed, and expressed their displeasure courteously in these instances, and otherwise, various speakers expressed themselves with varying degrees of clarity, mostly sticking to the rules. I personally took to the makeshift platform myself for a moment, to inform the crowd that this site exists, and to clarify that it is meant to be an information conduit that is supportive of the movement, but not aligned at this point with any specific group. I also attempted to ask the crowd if they were comfortable with a show of hands to identify their basic ideological leanings. This initially got me booed off the platform, but the crowd quickly turned around and expressed it was okay to simply ask a question, so I did. The question was something like “If you feel comfortable self-identifying your basic ideological stance, please raise your hand after I name a few”. I named socialist, communist, and capitalist, which all received a more or less equal – if rather subdued – show of hands. However, when I said “Other”, there was considerably more animation, with people shouting a variety of things. The ones I could hear best were “humanist”, “fair”, “equality”, “new” and “anti-corporate personhood”. By mingling a bit and having a few friendly dialogues, one thing became clear; most people present were less interested in driving their specific political stance, and VERY interested in expressing anger or frustration with the negative corporate influence on government and society in general. The words that kept popping up were “injustice”, “fairness”, “humanity”, and “corruption”. Words that I think explain why this movement is incomprehensible to the more mainstream media. They’re HUMAN words, not shaped by the simplistic talking points so carefully crafted by the last 25 years of political playbooks and corporate media-speak. A News4 reporter asked to speak to me and I had to become angry with myself for seeming so inarticulate and soundbite-less. How do you explain to someone who lives in a country with a “real” unemployment rate over 15%, where millions barely manage basic living expenses, never mind health care and other basic human needs – how do you explain to someone like this, who is educated enough to get a job in communications – what the problem is? Is it really that hard to see? We’ll definitely be following up with more information after we talk to group organizers, but for now we welcome input from anyone in attendance at the event, including photos or video if it has been made web-ready via YouTube or other embeddable streaming sources.


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4 Responses to Occupy Ann Arbor October 6 Assembly

  1. Gaia Kile says:

    When you asked the crowd for other ideological identifications I heard a number of people saying “social democrat” which surprised me ( not that there were so many social democrats, but that so many identified as such) What I didn’t hear ( I held my tongue) was anarchism, and yet it strikes me as though the mode of organizing and nature of this event and other “occupy” events are by nature anarchist, Leaderless organizations, direct participation, direct action and spontaneity are all aligned with anarchist principals.
    None of us know yet what way these “occupy” events will go terms like “humanist”, “fair”, “equality”, are wide enough to be embraced by socialist ,either the communist or non-communist variety, anarchists, and even some who claim they believe in capitalism. But for the moment the process is anarchist and it seems to be working.

    • Admin says:

      Thanks Gaia. When I was rushing this together, I KNEW I was forgetting one of the more common responses, and “social democrat” was it.

      And while I think your assessment of this all being reasonably defined as “anarchist” is academically accurate, the word is so misunderstood in common usage – for most people evoking images of intentional chaos and disorder – that I don’t find the word of positive use in this context. The media loves buzzwords that remove nuance in the average person’s mind, and I think “anarchy” may be one of those words.

  2. Mr. Raven says:

    Yes I was going to mention, left anarchist being left out myself. You also left out “Libertarian,” while I personally disagree with their face in the market I think they have some good ideas about why state capitalism like a Federal Reserve central bank is a bad idea. Please keep us posted, I will bring down food on other needed supplies when ya’ll get set up.

  3. Admin says:

    Thanks Mr Raven. I actually didn’t hear “anarchist” or “Libertarian”, but there was that moment after I said “Other” when there was a bit of a clamor. Thanks for filling in one of the omissions. Regarding your gracious offer of support, I encourage you to contact the organizers directly via http://www.facebook.com/occupyannarbor , as we are simply an information conduit, not actually aligned with a group yet.