Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Occupation in Philly, Day 42-into-43 (November 16-into-17)

Imminent Possibilities

Earlier today in my blog, way back in day 42 before it started transitioning into day 43, I briefly wrote of the twists & turns of occupation, and it only got more zigzaggy as the day wore on, such as the signs posted all over Occupy Philly when I biked up this afternoon reading “vacate Dilworth Plaza and remove all of your personal belongings immediately.” Things went far downhill from there–as in feeling that “all is lost” in relation to this movement and what seems our “imminent” eviction based on those signs.

Then the most startling twist: the calmest, most serious, most unified GA took place, in the New England-type town hall of the Friends Center. Many of us made a special effort to mend fences or hug those we’ve had tiffs with. We listened closely, intently, but also seemed to dialogue in a way that felt more “natural” and organic than prior GAs. We honestly discussed the small group of folks calling themselves “reasonable solutions” who have tried to derail this movement, and how they have lied, gone behind our backs, used divide-and-conquer tactics against us, and tried to circumvent our direct democracy–and how we all have no patience for that, nor will we put up with it any longer. We felt the weight of this evening, the possible eviction, and all the potential ramifications on our shoulders of what it would mean not to have Occupy Philly, what it would mean not to be part of holding up the end of our “bargain” to be one star in the constellation of social transformation sweeping the world.

This was followed by the loveliest of “candelight vigils,” back on our plaza. It was meant to affirm nonviolent resistance and dialogue at OP, but it turned into an informal continuation of the GA, where we started a people’s mic that diverged into an eloquent yet stumbling direct democracy, including me opening space to regain our momentum as an occupation by calling an emergency GA tomorrow, but then rushing the process by proposing it happen at noon, and then after one person admonished me for this and another said she thought it wasn’t intentional, I openly said how sorry I was in front of the many folks at our impromptu GA with “I’ve wanted this moment most of my life, to be part of an actual direct democracy, and I inadvertently just messed that up. I apologize. We’re all bad at this. So how about this friendly amendment instead?…” After my new proposal, people hugged, cheered, & kissed in a way we never have, by the light of our own candles, and then another person said, “I’ve been here since the beginning; but this is the first time we’ve really done direct democracy in a way that worked, that brought us together, that was real,” followed by happy teary eyes all around. I think it was because we all seem to know that this is a make-or-break moment, and so again we all rose to the gravity: because we still want to change the world. More than ever. Things went far uphill–as in feeling that “we’re winning.”

We settled on 2 emergency GAs tomorrow to reclaim the moral high ground and set our own terms by deliberately, if folks end up liking this proposal, “self-evicting” our encampment sans permission, self-relocating our occupation nearby sans permit (while also putting us on land that we can claim more easily on free speech grounds), and self-refocusing on the economic, social, ecological, and political concerns along with the desire for and practice of wholly new alternatives that brought us here, to also thus better build a larger “occupy everything” movement, while gaining allies such as labor, which is now offering to lend us a hand in this move.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? But as I sat in a bar later, as rainy day 42 turned into soft drizzly day 43, with about a dozen amazing folks–all of whom I’ve come to know, admire, and even love over the twists & turns–it struck me that this worst of all occupation days (the heightened attack on me as “anarchist enemy” of occupation as a way to smash this most miraculous of movements), this most tense & scary of all occupations days (with crushing eviction in the air) was, in the end, for now at least, the most wonderful of all our occupation days. Adversity, absurdity, and anti-anarchism finally brought us together in a way we’ve never been together before–where suddenly we all looked around, saw each other fully, recognizing all our mutual dedication as well as worth. We’ve been through hell together. “Heaven” too. Across the wide swath of political differences, political experiences (including none), political naivete, good and bad decisions on all our parts, mutual suspicions, misunderstandings, we have indeed created a space for new selves in this space of a glimpse at a new society, and we know that this could not have happened without each and everyone one of us. I looked across the table, and someone said, “I’ve wanted this moment most of my life, to be part of this kind of movement, and this morning I cried, because I thought we’d lost it all. But we haven’t!” We’ve already won. Now onward, to win much much more.

After day of exhaustion, weeks of exhaustion, weeks of exhilaration too, we laughed about all the many moments–five long weeks ago–at the start of this journey, which leads us around so many hidden curves and corners every day that none of us have time for going home, cleaning house, paid work, paying bills, or anything in that “old, false” life of ours. This world of ours is now the real one.

Solidarity n.17 in NYC. Love, more love than I’ve ever felt before, for occupations everywhere.


One comment on “Occupation in Philly, Day 42-into-43 (November 16-into-17)

  1. sbsf2011
    November 17, 2011

    Cindy, it’s me Sam. I’ve been reading your posts and very inspired by the documentation of the organizing process in Philly. In Oakland, a proposal was ratified to start convening neighborhood assemblies. I don’t know precisely how it will manifest but I think there is something to be said about bringing initiative back into the neighborhoods where the opportunity exists for more participation from people living outside the encampments (that have now been evicted). I hope this new direction revitalizes the movement.

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This entry was posted on November 17, 2011 by in Dispatches from Occupy Philly.
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