Over 300 activists gathered at the gazebo on Boston Common Tuesday night for a consensus-based planning meeting for an Occupy Wall Street style demonstration in Boston that will take place later this week. The police presence at this event was minimal, unlike the New York event where officers were running wild providing us with more reasons why it should be legal to tape cops. The two bike cops who appeared briefly were vastly outnumbered by mostly white representatives from every facet of the Boston left: liberals, socialists, union members, Democrats, peace activists, anti-death penalty folks, organic foodies, anti-capitalists, communists, Greens, and more. Some had flags, some had buttons, and some were passing out flyers advertising future protests. Why were they there? Well, that was hard to discern at first.
The "leaderless" Occupy Boston crowd took a page from their New York comrades and hosted an event that frequently seemed like an open mic night at the circus. Much of the event was spent talking about how they were going to make decisions. At times people would take the stage appearing more interested in plugging their pet causes and stroking their activist egos than in moving the event along. Eventually, after some guy rambled about growing food in backyards, the crowd broke off into smaller groups that assembled around themes like outreach, and medical, legal, and tactical issues.
Later they reassembled to share ideas and decide on where they now plan to hold their demonstration: Dewey Square, one of the busiest pedestrian spots in town. Dewey Square is framed by the imposing Federal Reserve Building and One Financial Center tower.
The Occupy movement is upset about many things but unlike the Tea Party their message doesn't seem to have a single unifying theme. The Tea Party has branches that are unhappy about illegal immigration or voter ID laws but their unifying theme is government spending and the national debt. Occupy is unhappy about "money in politics" and "the banks" but you're just as likely to see somebody at this movement complain about the wars or the Federal Reserve. Eric Bickford of West Roxbury, a Ron Paul supporter, came to the event in an "End The Fed" shirt because he thought it would resonate with some protesters. "We can bond on certain issues but not everything. I think some of these people don't understand the difference between capitalism and corporatism, it's really corporatism that is the problem," he said.
Another attendee who gave his name as C.V. said that he thought the event was disjointed but that it had promise. "I initially came here to investigate but actually now I feel like there is a lot of organization and there is a lot of good that [can] come from this action," said C.V., a philosophy student at Boston College.
Whatever comes of the Occupy movement in Boston, it first has to develop a clearer message and a solid set of goals other than taking over public space with a litany of scatter-shot demands. They already have the hook down with the 99% vs 1% thing but it wouldn’t hurt if the group developed some actual public leaders. Talking until everybody agrees on everything is great in theory but it isn’t realistic and it takes forever in large groups. Still, while the Occupy movement may be in its infancy, it definitely has a chance to become a leftist answer to the Tea Party.
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