Since Occupy Wall Street began, a lot of people I know have expressed interest in my involvement. I’ve been making suggestions about how people can get involved on their own terms, and I thought it seemed time for a public overview.
This list includes actions large and small that just about anyone, anywhere, can do to support the movement.
I consider this list to be alive, and wide open and available for edits, additions and suggestions. So comment below, on Facebook, mention @Averse2Ennui on Twitter, or get in touch if you have ideas for the list.
1. Understand the Movement
Chances are, you’ll find yourself in a conversation about Occupy-something sometime soon. One of the most important things you can do, short of sleeping in a park, is be able to intelligently defend and support the movement in conversation.
To begin, make some time to do a bit of preliminary reading. Here are some articles and videos I recommend in the short term to get yourself hip to the overal messages. Bookmark it, if you like. I’ll be adding to the list over time. As the holidays approach, you may want to check out these 8 ways to Defend the Occupy Movement to Your Conservative Family Over the Holidays.
Above all, don’t parrot the mainstream media’s take on Occupy Wall Street. They mostly get it wrong.
I know people who absolutely support the ideology of OWS, but who remain silent as church mice on the topic. I also know people who kinda like the idea, but aren’t really sure they want to align themselves just yet.
Here’s a little tough love for you: If you’re not helping, you’re hindering. That’s the truth of it. We all have our lives, our work, the pressing needs of our unique realities to deal with. But out there are hundreds of people taking a break from their own demanding realities to sleep on the ground, in the rain, making themselves vulnerable to police aggression and whatever other intrusions come with sleeping night after night in a public place under scrutiny.
If you like the idea of OWS, and feel excited about the sorts of changes we might begin to see in our society, say so. Out loud. To friends, family and partners. On the internet. In line at the grocery store. Talk to people. Talk about the movement. Apathy’s not cool any more.
This is a short for-starters list. Start liking and following these folks and you’ll probably be inspired (by posts and retweets) to follow others. Don’t forget to retweet and repost messages that move you.
- Occupy Wall St.
- Occupy Together
- I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists
- @ExiledSurfer <– I don’t really know who this guy is, but his tweets are informative
4. Move Your Money
One of the central concerns of the Occupy movement is the banking system. Even if you never repost a single OWS article, or visit a single encampment, moving your money is an action you can take that will align you with the principles of the movement. It’s something you can do privately, and quietly, on your own.
Read my related posts:
From the Move Your Money site:
“The Move Your Money project is a nonprofit campaign that encourages individuals and institutions to divest from the nation’s largest Wall Street banks and move to local financial institutions. Little has changed to prevent another financial crisis or to end ‘Too Big To Fail,’ and with Congress unwilling to act, we are encouraging individuals to take power into their own hands by voting with their dollars and no longer contributing to a financial system that has led our country astray. We are a campaign that gives people real, concrete actions they can take to create a more sane, stable and localized banking system.”
5. Send Some Grub
Find out where your local occupiers are and do a google search for nearby restaurants who deliver. Send pizza, chinese food, snacks and baked goods. Ask your local diner to send burgers and fries. Liberato’s Pizza in downtown Manhattan even has an OccuPie Pizza special for demonstrators. Pay a visit to Restaurant Depot or another wholesaler and bring boxes of fruit, extra large loaves of bread, jars of peanut butter, bins of veggies. Whatever you can afford is great. It’s true that one pizza won’t feed everyone, but let the demonstrators sort that out. One pizza can go a long way in a democratic resistance movement that opposes greed.
6. Make a Collection & Donate
Put a flyer up in your building asking other tenants to donate any of the items on the list below. If you live in a private home, consider posting a flyer on the community message board at your local library, coffee shop or grocery. Ask people to leave donations on your porch, or in front of your house, and put a bin or box out to collect the donations. Coordinate with your PTA or another community group to support your local occupiers through donations.
When you’ve amassed some items, bring the donations to your local occupiers. Just pull up and unload. Ask any occupier where your stuff should go, and someone will help.
If you live in NY, I’ll personally volunteer to come collect whatever you’re able to gather to deliver to Liberty Square (leave a note in the comments and we’ll set up the pickup). NYC is well stocked, and they’ve been sending surplus to other encampments around the country, so don’t worry about overdoing it.
- basic medical supplies: bandaids, gauze, over the counter medicines, antibacterial ointment, etc
- rain gear, umbrellas, tarps, tent covers
- clothing: men’s, women’s, especially warmer clothing and socks
- food: perishable and non-perishable
- added per reader CurlyHairGirl’s suggestion: blankets, subzero sleeping bags and other warm bedding
Have a look at my pictures to see how I’m handling the request in my building.
7. Donate Money
Visit your local Occupy hub and find yourself a donation box. There are several in Liberty Square. If you’re not close enough or don’t want to go, you can donate online.
You’re also welcome to send me money personally through PayPal, and I’ll drop it in a Liberty Square donation box for you. (Thanks, Xtine, for the awesome idear.)
8. Visit a Local Occupy Encampment & Say Thanks
I am not sleeping in any parks. No, sir. Not yet, anyway. To quote a friend, “I’m too old for this shit.” But I still consider myself an occupier! If there’s an encampment near you, head down before or after work one day. Go over on your lunch break. Bring your kids with you, if you’re visiting on a weekend.
Talk to people. Ask why they’re there. Thank them for their commitment to the movement, and let them know that OWS wouldn’t be much without them.
I can just about guarantee taking action on number 6 will inspire you with numbers 1, 2 and 3.
If you have time, stick around for General Assembly (GA), which occurs nightly, usually around 7p. There, the group discusses all sorts of issues like what the following day’s schedule will be, how to spend donations, pressing needs and upcoming actions.
Be sure to take photos while you’re there and post them to Facebook and Twitter to let your friends and family know you support the movement. Just be sure, when you’re visiting, not to be just a voyeur. Be a participant. Make a sign and bring it along. If you’re not into that, make a point to learn something while you’re there.
9. Show Up When You’re Needed
Sometimes, what’s really needed, are people. Lots and lots of people. Without the support of armchair occupiers who got up out of their armchairs at 4am, the flagship hub of our movement could have been ousted on October 14th for a bogus “cleaning”. Thousands of people showed up at Liberty Square to stand in solidarity, and our base persevered. So keep tabs on when the movement needs you most, and be there.
10. Taking a Roadtrip? Transport Supplies or Demonstrators.
If you’re going from one city to another anyway, offer to bring supplies. Better yet, offer someone a ride. Lots of protesters demonstrate on the weekends, or on their off days from work or school, but need to head home now and again. Helping demonstrators get back and forth is doing something huge for the movement.
If you’re leaving New York City (in a car) to head to another city with an Occupy presence, head down to your city’s Occupy center and find the information desk. Tell them where you’re headed, and what you’re offering, and they can help hook you up with the right people. Likewise, if you’re headed to New York, try to find people in your community who’d like to make the trip. You can also post to the occupy website forum or chat.
11. Allow People to Shower and/or Do Laundry in Your Home
Sleeping on the street is dirty business. In many cities, the 24/7 demonstrators only have fast food restaurant bathrooms to use for washing up. If you’re comfortable with the idea, and live near an encampment, offer your shower or laundering facilities. You can set your own limits. For example, you can say you’re open to inviting women only, two or three at a time, on a certain day during a certain time. Your requests will be respected.
Visit the General Assembly website’s comfort forum to offer your space.
*** Updated on 10.29.11 to add #s 12 & 13 ***
12. Mail Credit Card Offers Back!
Watch this 5 minute video for a terrific, easy, free, nonviolent way to not only piss off major creditors, but to make an impact on the way they inappropriately target consumers to buy into the credit/debt system.
Use the pre-paid business mailer envelopes, but don’t send back what they’re expecting (which would be a credit card application)!
- send it empty
- put other junk mail into the envelope, and send it back full
- print a note with a clear, rational message like: “hello bank clerk, join a union” or “occupy wall street!” so the banks know your junk-filled envelope wasn’t an accident, but a dialog.
- add something heavy like a wood shim (with a message on it) to add weight and cost
From the video: “The real effect of this is to force banks to react to us…Every hour banks spend reacting to us is an hour banks don’t spend lobbying congress on how to screw us, is an hour banks don’t spend foreclosing on our houses. Go to your mailbox, spend 5 seconds…If you can’t occupy Wall Street, you can at least keep Wall Street occupied.”
Great job, man! We love your idea.
13. Occupy Your Community. Occupy Everywhere.
Have a look at these videos to see what regular people are doing in their own communities to reclaim the people’s power in local democratic infrastructure.
Occupation of the Department of Education. In this video parents, teachers, staff and students got together to occupy the PEP, or Panel for Education Policy, which replaced the Board of Education in NYC when Bloomberg took office. Community members felt that while the forum claimed to be a place where people were invited to voice concerns, the PEP truly makes decisions about their children’s education autonomously, despite community concerns. So they peacefully assembled to stop the panel’s vote on educational policy until their concerns could really be heard.
The human mic might not be for you. Or, it may be too hard to convince your community to get on board. Here’s a gentler option:
Occupy Foreclosure Auctions. “Calling on the judicial system to institute an immediate moratorium on all foreclosures until a fair system of home loans is put into place, a group of New York City housing justice advocates disrupted the auction of several foreclosed Brooklyn properties in Civil Court on Thursday afternoon through music and song. The group, called Organizing for Occupation (O4O), was protesting what it views as a system designed to benefit financial lending institutions at the expense of homeowners and low-income communities.”
It should be noted that nine of the demonstrators in the video were arrested.
It’s not necessary to take actions that will necessarily get you arrested. The choices you make about your participation in a real democracy are your own. Let these two examples serve as a reminder of what’s possible for average, regular citizens. Sometimes all a community will need is a little push, or someone to make the suggestion, and you can be that person.
*** Updated on 10.30.11 to add #14 ***
14. Opt Out of Black Friday & Cyber Sunday, For Starters
Turn November 25th (the day after Thanksgiving), long known as Black Friday, into Buy Nothing Day. Promote Buy Nothing Day in your community by posting flyers wherever Black Friday sales are advertised, and include OWS-friendly messaging like “We are the 99%” or “The 99% is Boycotting Black Friday”. On those days, buy nothing at all.
Go a step further and make it a Buy Nothing Holiday Season! Encourage your extended family to join in. Instead of exchanging gifts, collect old toys and clothing and go together to donate to a shelter or church. If you want to give gifts, consider handmade toys, homemade salad dressings gifted in lovely glass bottles, baked goods in clever packaging, or one of these ideas. Think of how much money you’ll save!
If you feel you can’t go that far, gift from privately owned retailers. Patronize websites and shops who support handmade or vintage products like Etsy.com or these other handmade goods websites.
Worried about the kids’ disappointment? We know the kids want the new toys, the new gadgets, the knew kicks, whatever the current rage is. Think about what a valuable gift you’ll be giving if, instead of giving in, you encourage your kids to see the value in something handmade, or better yet, the value of doing without the stuff that’s really unnecessary.
Share the informative video The Story of Stuff with your children, and discuss it as a family. Together, brainstorm ways to be better to the world. Decide as a family to kick stores like WalMart, Kmart, Old Navy and other socially irresponsible, environment-hating, local-economy-destroying chains out of your lives for good.
Thanks to one reader for the suggestion!
- Why BoFA’s $5 fee renege is not a big win, for consumers or the movement | Illusion of Influence: Let’s Not Over Congratulate Ourselves