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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
Participants were asked about attempts at co-optation by law enforcement, individuals or organizations affiliated with the Democratic Party and about suspected infiltration by right-wing groups. Eight of the 15 occupations (41 percent of respondents) reported Democratic groups attempted to co-opt them, using the demonstrations to push or prevent a legislative agenda or using their social media to change the times of protests or meetings. Far fewer reported suspicion or evidence of right-wing infiltration (12 percent of respondents in four occupations), most stating that the corporate media provided poor or misleading coverage. The most common form of infiltration was by law enforcement agencies (49 percent of respondents, 11 of 15 occupations). Some respondents reported having video evidence; some reported law enforcement officers having more information than they had been given—such as police using names of Occupiers when names had never been provided; and some suspected police infiltration but had no proof.
Of course, there is a lot of suspicion, but people are rarely able to prove infiltration. These incidents could be the work of people with real political disagreement within the Occupy, or the work of people who are emotionally disturbed or mentally ill or who bring other personal challenges with them. Or, the incidents could be the result of infiltrators manipulating such people, playing on their fears and prejudices. This is not a simple issue, as we will discuss in Part II. It is best to judge people by their actions and not label them as infiltrators without direct proof.
Some may wonder why Democrats or groups closely affiliated with the Democrats, such as MoveOn.org, Campaign for America’s Future, Rebuild the Dream or unions like the SEIU, would want to infiltrate the Occupy. (Note: Individuals who are Democrats or members of a union, MoveOn or other groups are not the same as the leadership.) Essentially, leaders of these groups see Occupy as the Democrats’ potential answer to the tea party. Occupiers do not see themselves that way, but these groups want the movement to adopt their strategy of working within the Democratic Party. In one example, Eric Lotke, a senior policy analyst for SEIU who has been involved in Occupy D.C., appeared on a radio show with two other Occupiers from the Washington, D.C., and Oakland demonstrations. Lotke said he was speaking as an Occupier from D.C. and talked about “taking back Congress in 2012” and the need for an electoral strategy and gave the usual Democratic rhetoric about President Obama needing more time. The two other guests said Lotke was completely out of step with most Occupiers, who say we should not focus on electoral politics but instead should build an independent movement to challenge the corrupt system. We doubt the Occupy D.C. General Assembly members agreed with Lotke’s pro-Democratic Party, pro-Obama views, but he had positioned himself to speak for them. Van Jones of Rebuild the Dream similarly was appearing in the media as if he were an Occupy spokesperson, claiming there will be 2,000 “99 percent candidates” in 2012, again trying to push Occupy into Democratic electoral politics. These are just two examples of many Democratic Party operatives trying to drag Occupy into their politics despite the movement consistently describing itself as independent and non-electoral.
We have seen some Occupiers attacking the National Occupation of Washington, DC, scheduled to begin March 30, while other Occupiers have shown enthusiasm for it. Solidarity with NOW DC has been shown by 19 General Assemblies of occupations around the country. InterOccupy classifies it as a national event. The attackers have been criticizing NOW DC by finding fault with the authors of this article. This criticism is occurring at the same time that Democratic Party-aligned groups have announced their own project—“99%’s Spring”—that will take place at the same time as NOW DC. Thus far the dividers have succeeded in preventing solidarity between the two D.C. occupations and the rest of the Occupy movement. Is the timing a coincidence?
No doubt the information in this article is incomplete. We have been able to survey and talk with people at only about 20 Occupies. We would very much like to hear from others about experiences at their occupation, as understanding these tactics is the first step in confronting and addressing them. (Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
In Part II of this series, we will focus on the history of government infiltration and the destruction of political movements and political leaders. We will also examine steps that can be taken to minimize the damage from these tactics. One thing evident from the history: Infiltration has been common in political movements for centuries, as have divisive methods, attacks on leaders, escalation of tactics, fights over money and misinformation disseminated to the public.
Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese were among the original organizers of Occupy Washington, DC, and are now helping with the National Occupation of Washington, DC.
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