Occupy and Direct Action

#OWS A recent article in the Guardian indicated that all is not well in the happy domains of protest. Occupy Wall Street has tried to allow many voices to be heard in the protest movement.  The objective has been to avoid becoming so fixed in their attitudes, that they would turn off other partners in this movement.

However, as the Guardian article notes, this causes strains between the non-violent (Gandhi/Martin Luther King approaches) and direct action (possibly violent) approaches.  These more violent actions may result in direct clashes with authorities, and may also lose the support of the larger public.

Interestingly, the SAME problems arose when students took over one of the floors of the New School, as reported by the New School’s Free Press. In this case, there was a larger non-violent part of the movement, which was allowed to remain in the buildings by the New School administration.  This student oriented group had the potential to help organize for a larger movement of colleges.  But these students, unfortunately, were overshadowed by a group of direct action, more violent, outsiders – who by their actions caused the New School occupation to come to an end.

These events cause us to reflect on how one can create a “big tent” which can allow various approaches to help the Occupy movement to transform society positively. Can this movement continue without some internal control?

As Lisa Fithian, a long-time organizer of direct action protests, notes in the Guardian article, “It’s important for people to understand that these struggles around violence and nonviolence are historic and every movement that’s building its power faces them … We now have a new generation coming in that has to relearn, or learn on their own, a way to be in relationship to people that are different than themselves.”

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