Who’s In Charge Of Occupy Ann Arbor?

The local media struggles to figure it out

Who are the people behind Occupy Ann Arbor? People like the out-of-town business woman that donated this tent after one visit.

One of the problems of a leaderless movement is that the media tends to need heroes, villains, and ways to manufacture blamestorming and candidates for potential vilification later. Good luck with that in Ann Arbor! Although the local movement is in fact getting more organized and more mobilized – remember, it’s only about two weeks old – the public face of what is taking shape is probably rather confusing to most. The site you’re on right now, for instance, is not “officially” connected with the local group (as is often inaccurately reported), it’s maintained by one supportive person. If you actually want to get involved, the group’s site is at OccupyA2.org. And if you watch the video in this piece on AnnArbor.com, you might easily get the impression that the gentleman speaking is an “official spokesman”. And while he is in fact one of the more devoted occupiers, it was AnnArbor.com that made him appear to be speaking in an official capacity, certainly not the committees of the group that has been assembling once or more a week at Liberty Plaza, or even himself. He was just speaking with heart about his part in things, and how he’d like to see others get on board. This Michigan Daily piece is probably a little more balanced in presenting some “facts” about what has been going on most recently; it correctly identifies a member of the press committee (Clare Levijoki) and the woman that created the early Facebook group that had the most traction, and actually first pulled people together on October 6 (Whitney Miller). But the interesting thing is that at the assembly referenced in that Daily article, Miller was maintaining a very low-key role, and others were “leading” the assembly. I put the word “leading” in scare quotes because by its very nature, a typical OWS assembly can be completely redirected by any individual in the group who cares to express enough objections. And to add to the confusing public face of this growing local group, the most visible face – the occupiers at Liberty Plaza – are operating in cooperation with – but essentially independently of – the committees that have been meeting between the weekly assemblies. Ultimately, YOU are a leader, if you bother to show up. Probably the most influential “leader” this evening was a woman who preferred to remain anonymous for the moment. She’s a former business owner who recently moved to Michigan from Florida. What made her a “leader” tonight? Two nights ago she passed through Ann Arbor and was inspired by the few brave souls that have been toughing it out in the recent cold weather. She went home that night, and as she put it: “I literally couldn’t sleep, knowing how cold these people were, and how little I felt I was really doing to support this cause I believe in so strongly”. So tonight she brought a 12′x12′ foot tent and donated it to the camp. To total strangers. Maybe this little piece of remodeling will inspire some other soul to show some support, and we can get the occupation “looking pretty enough” to inspire yet others who have remained so judgmental about the people they think are behind the movement. Not that it’s only the uninvolved who are judgmental, while I was talking with the woman who had donated the tent, she said something I wholeheartedly agreed with, which is “we really need to embrace tea partiers and bring them into the fold”. This drew a pronounced cringe from two local occupiers we were chatting and agreeing with just moments before. After some polite dialog though, they got the point. Which is good, because one of the very first tea partiers – who bailed when the movement got co-opted by the GOP – just publicly stated his support for Occupy Wall Street. So who are the leaders of the OWS movement? You and I are, if we show up and show support. See you Thursday?

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