3 NOV UPDATE — Two and a half hours today, but that last hour might have pushed me over the edge back into non-participation. In honor of the Greek situation I brought a hand-made REFERENDUM sign, which stimulated some good conversations with occupiers and passers-by alike. When I arrived there were maybe 8 of us, but at 5:15 it was down to me and one other person. I thought it would be solidarity-ish of me to stick around until 6, when the “GA” (general assembly — is it really necessary to adopt these off-putting abbreviations?) would convene for a planning session. The other occupier was an organizer who had taken on the task of writing an all-purpose “vision statement” (not to be confused with a “mission statement” which, I was told, comes after vision and before objectives). This person’s vision revolved around non-corrupt government; I said I thought it was a fine statement but that the idea of Occupy had to do more with Wall Street than with Washington. “We’re occupying Washington too,” I was informed. I was told that the Occupiers were working with the city to get a 24/7 occupation permit, allowing them to camp overnight. “But we don’t call it camping (which is illegal on Boulder city property); we call it occupying.” Don’t you think it would be good to support the homeless, who are not allowed to sleep out on city property? “We’ll set a precedent for them; they can call themselves Occupiers.” But only right here, at the Occupation location, right, and not in the rest of town? “The police are not the enemy; we don’t want to get arrested; we have to avoid the conflicts with ‘those people’ (i.e., the homeless) that’s happening in Occupy Denver. Plus we’re not going to sleep out until spring when it’s warmer.” If it’s still going by then. “Some of us are idealists, not skeptics.” And blah blah blah. When 6 o’clock rolled around and others started arriving for the GA I split.
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1 NOV UPDATE — I went back to Occupy Boulder this afternoon. I spent maybe an hour and a half, and it was actually pretty much fun. I even held a sign that somebody handed me: “Break Up the Big Banks,” or something to that effect. Maybe ten people were occupying this time. I engaged in a few good conversations addressing economic concerns with a variety of other occupiers, including a high school student, a university grad student, a woman who brought pastries, and a homeless guy. Most Occupiers seemed to be disaffected liberals, not particularly radical. My favorite passing horn-honker was a woman driving a car with a “Palin for President” sticker on the rear windshield.
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Ten minutes — that’s what I accomplished this afternoon. Late last week the Occupy Boulder people decided to ramp up from once-a-week demonstration to a daily presence, beginning today. Counting Anne and me there were five occupiers. One guy asked if we wanted to hold a sign; another asked if he could interview us for a website featuring people’s opinions of the Occupy intervention. We declined both offers. We talked about yesterday’s encounter in Denver between occupiers and the police — apparently a bicycled policeman ran over an occupier’s foot, who reacted by pushing the bike, at which point the cops amped it up with pepper spray, paintball rifles, and 20 arrests. A passer-by stopped briefly to recount the tale of a confrontation in Rome where the occupiers arrested the police. Quite a few autos tooted their horns in support of the occupation.
I said that I would return later in the week, and I will, but I have to confess that the experience seemed more desultory than inspiring. The movement is occupying the same city park where I’ve previously participated in protests against occupations — of Iraq, of Afghanistan, of Gaza. As far as I could discern the impact of those protests had been nil, except for their negative effect on my own enthusiasm for that sort of political action. To me the Occupy Boulder seemed like the same old thing, except with even fewer participants than the usual meager turnout. Frankly, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Maybe Occupy Boulder will grow as people begin to notice the daily presence, but I suspect that this university town of 100 thousand people isn’t big enough to be Occupied for more than an hour or two per week.