By Brian Douglas
Since I’ve been invited to post here on an ongoing basis, I figured I’d introduce myself to the readership before I post my first official report on local Occupation events. I am not an impartial observer, as the Occupy Wall Street movement is very personal to me. I feel that it is important to tell the story of my journey within OWS so far, if for no other reason than to encourage other Occupiers to share their own.
I moved to Bushwick in January of 2011 with my pregnant girlfriend, Deb. We met at Lucky Jack’s open mic, enjoying the night lives of amateur singer/songwriters. We fell for each other pretty hard, pretty quick. Both of us are computer professionals, I do web design, she does video editing. At the end of February 2011, our son Dominic Oscar Douglas was born (named for my grandfather and the fact that he was born on Oscar night). As anyone will tell you, having a child changes the way you look at the world: it extends your view of the future. I was lucky to have concluded a big freelance gig just before his birth, which allowed me to stay at home for his first two months and just be with him and Deb fully. I loved it. It was the first break I’d given myself from following politics in quite a long time. I got by working from home until July, when I landed a full-time job animating banner ads for a major bank (oh, life).
I have always occupied my down time reading the news and blogs (especially Glenn Greenwald, whom I have been reading daily since 2005), but rarely engaged in any actual activism apart from trying to support the Howard Dean campaign in 2003.
We all remember how that panned out, right?
The issues that worried me during the Bush years have only gotten worse: corporate control of government oversight and legislation, the growing acceptance of the idea of a “unitary” executive branch that can act in secret with no judicial review, indefinite detention, and worst of all, the escalation of the wars on drugs and “terror”. I voted for Obama because he said all the right things regarding these issues during the 2008 campaign, but his actions have since nullified the power of his words for me. Having a child now, I have momentary bouts of depression about the world he’s likely to live in if these issues are not addressed. Suffice to say, I was pretty cynical and fatalistic about the political landscape before the Occupation began.
I first became aware of OWS when a comic I’m friends with posted a video of himself performing at Zuccotti on Facebook. It wasn’t long after that I recognized this movement’s significance in the way it “activated” so many friends who were typically apolitical or totally cynical. I saw them participating in early marches, most significantly the Brooklyn Bridge. The significance of that mass arrest in galvanizing these early supporters cannot be understated. After seeing all this play out on Facebook and Twitter for a week, I started to spend whatever time I could in Zuccotti after work and on weekends, knowing that it wouldn’t last for very long. Most of the time I would just hang out and watch, maybe have a quick conversation with the person by my side. Before long, I would go down on my lunch break and hold up this sign:
I was immediately captivated by the possibilities of consensus-focused democracy using the General Assembly process, and fell in love with the tools of the Occupation such as audience feedback, orderly discussions, and of course the human mic. About a week after being exposed to the last tool I realized it would be a beautiful way to propose to Deb (good mic checks read like poetry, btw). So I went to a flea market to up-cycle a ring from a local merchant, wrote out some words, and emailed some friends a time & place to meet. I told her we were gonna hang out and play music. Here’s what happened instead:
As I uploaded the video, I was certain that everyone we were friends with on facebook would love it and be happy for us. I didn’t expect to be on Gawker by 3pm the next day and at 100k views two weeks later. The experience galvanized our support for the movement, and reading through the YouTube comments as the video spread, I really internalized the uphill battle we face in terms of challenging the assumptions of people supporting OWS. We have since used every media inquiry into our story as an opportunity to articulate specifically why we are supporting this movement, a topic that would take up much more space than this introductory post should be.
Soon after the proposal Deb and I started working with Parents for Occupy Wall St., which we became aware through the family sleepover they organized (that same night, a lunatic decided to climb the big red thing). Through most of the winter, POWS was my primary focus. I formed a real bond with the original organizer and a core group of other parents around NYC that I’ve continued to kept in touch. We’ve organized some small events such as a Children’s GA and march against the “bullies” in the NYPD.
The second video faced a similar barrage of baseless attacks in the comments, which I addressed at the Yippie Museum Cafe‘s Wednesday open mic.
And that pretty much brings us up to date with my involvement in the Occupation up the first Occupy Bushwick General Assembly of 2012. Check back in the next day or two for my first report on the Bushwick General Assembly.
I believe this movement must make every effort to be as transparent as possible in order to juxtapose itself with the secrecy-obsessed government we are trying to reform. I support this movement without any shred anonymity, despite the risks it could pose to myself and my family. I could very well lose my job animating Flash advertisements for a major bank and the medical benefits that come with it if the wrong people at my company learn of my involvement in OWS. Many other supporters face the same dilemma, in much more precarious positions than mine.
Finally, it should be understood that the opinions and observations I am writing here are mine and in no way influenced by any collective agreement with the people I’m covering. Hopefully everyone who attends the events that I cover will read these articles and feel free to correct the record in the comments if they ever feel I have misrepresented them.