One Year Later – How About a Friendly Reportback, Occupy Ann Arbor?

Although there seems to be no actual group calling itself Occupy Ann Arbor, a lot of us are still quite active and networked. Were you there at the beginning? Care to share what you've been up to?

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.

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4 Responses to One Year Later – How About a Friendly Reportback, Occupy Ann Arbor?

  1. Clare says:

    I have found it interesting to see what directions former Occupiers have gone since OAA stopped meeting. A lot of folks have gone back to their regular jobs–an interesting assortment, teachers, business owners, lawyers, nurses, etc.. The Warming Centers folks have continued doing their wonderful work, including successfully obtaining an agreement with the Delonis Center and their own personal volunteer with Camp Take Notice and the local homeless population. The Free School people are still doing their thing, and have an upcoming Do It Yourself Festival which is going to include free workshops in Linux, yoga, living off the land, political process, bike repair, and much more.

    But that’s enough of reporting back for other people–I personally have been quite busy trying to live Occupy values in various ways. Mostly I’ve been coordinating clinical research at the U of M Hospital and developing my current “down time” project which is a study of comparative religious experience that’s ultimately intended to foster unity and cooperation between disparate religious groups.

    On that note…I’ve been pondering the possibility of bringing back the Unity Group as a weekly or every-other-weekly discussion/community building/networking thing. Anyone interested?

    • Joe says:

      Can’t say I’m all that interested in the Unity Group thing – but I am interested in the DIY festival, if ti has not already happened.

  2. David says:

    For myself, 2011 was an amazing time. First and foremost for all the interesting, vibrant and amazing people I got to meet and interact with. Second, for how the Occupy Movement pulled me out of my “armchair politics” and put me in the street shouting at banks, waving at people in their cars honking their support, and singing songs with other Occupiers. And, for how I was forced to re-evaluate my easy (from the armchair that is) political views and positions to consider how they would work in our complex world. And lastly, for how being involved in Occupy both opened my eyes to the wonderful possibilities of how we can chose to live together, and sharpened my vision for new and interesting ways we can build on what we started.

    Clare, I would be interested in a new meeting of the Unity Committee. Keep me posted.

    Thanks all,
    and hope your doing well,


  3. Joe says:

    “…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.”

    Perhaps true, but too charitable an assessment. Boiling it down – this town is just too 1%, or 1% wannabe.
    I’ll spare everyone the rant.

    As for myself, I have become the projectionist /tech-guru for Libby Hunter’s “Docu-Fest” (happening every Wednesday night). Have even found the odd film or two to screen. A small thing, to be sure, but after getting burned out – it’s what I can do.