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Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Misdirect Is Widespread in Occupy
Posted on Feb 24, 2012
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
Recently we toured occupations on the West Coast, where we spoke to many participants, and have attended General Assemblies at Occupy Wall Street and Philadelphia. We heard stories in Arizona of someone with website administrative privileges deleting the live-stream archive that included video that was to be used in defense of some who were arrested. In Lancaster, Pa., someone took control of the email list, making it an announce-only list, and when the police threatened to close the camp, that person put out a statement that the Lancaster Occupiers had decided to go without any conflict. In fact, no such decision had been made and 30 Occupiers had planned to risk arrest when the police tried to remove them. The false email resulted in no resistance.
Our West Coast trip ended at the Occupy Olympia Solidarity Social Forum. We were able to survey 41 people representing 15 occupations primarily on the West Coast but including Missoula, Mont., and New Orleans. Participants were questioned about 10 behaviors. The most common behaviors, seen in roughly two-thirds of those surveyed and covering 12 of the 15 occupations, were:
2. Individuals who took over the website and/or social media and then removed them or hacked them and took control. As noted above, these networks have been used in personal attacks, as well as to send inaccurate messages to the media and other Occupiers. One mistake is to allow a large number of people to have administrative privileges on the website. Being an administrator allows that person to erase crucial information, as occurred in Phoenix. In Washington, D.C., we have been removed as administrators of a Facebook page we created because we allowed people who turned out to be untrustworthy to have administrative privileges. People can blog or post to Facebook or websites without being administrators.
Square, Site wide
Division over how money was being spent was an issue reported by 50 percent of respondents, and in 12 out of 15 occupations individuals persistently raised questions about transparency and the use of funds. In General Assemblies in New York and Philadelphia, we saw disruption by people who complained about money issues. In New York, an argument about access to free MetroCards resulted in a 30-minute argument. In Philadelphia, there was a vague complaint centering on the question “Where is the money?” We saw something similar at a 99 percent’s meeting in San Francisco where one of the questioners complained about supposedly missing money. And we have seen still more situations of this kind in Washington, D.C. Sometimes these disrupters seem like homeless or emotionally disturbed individuals. They could be acting out their concerns or they could be encouraged by police to attend meetings to cause disruption and may be paid a small amount to do so. Whether paid or not, the impact is the same—it takes the Occupy off its political agenda and turns people off to participating in the movement.
Finally, the issue of escalation of tactics to include property damage and conflict with police was brought up. The euphemism for this is “diversity of tactics.” In fact, there is great diversity within nonviolent tactics. A strong debate exists between those who favor strategic nonviolence and those who favor property destruction and police conflict. In 11 of 15 occupations, there were reports of verbal attacks on police and/or escalation of tactics from nonviolence to property destruction or violence. In one occupation, an individual took over the direct action working group and escalated the tactics used beyond what the group had agreed upon. In another Occupy, the General Assembly approved putting up a structure but agreed that if the police wanted it taken down the protesters would promptly do so to prove that it was temporary. After the structure was put up, a handful of people refused to take it down, causing a 10-hour police conflict and undermining public support for the Occupy. In another occupation, because a minority of the demonstrators refused to adopt nonviolent strategies, a protest with the teachers union was canceled, preventing a major opportunity to expand the movement. When it comes to the issue of violence versus property damage, it is particularly hard to tell whether the differences are political or instigated by infiltrators.
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