You can't arrest an idea whose time has come, and the gathering of about 150 occupiers from all over the state of Maine last Saturday in Augusta was brimming with ideas. People of all ages came together as the 99%, and the youngster on the left wanted people to think about an economy that is based on value rather than on cash. She joined the Alternative Economies breakout session and explained her idea; she also listened to the ideas of people who have experienced those kinds of arrangements. The next day she told me, "I want to do more stuff like that. Stuff that changes things and make it better."
Introductions during which people identified where they Occupy ... Portland, Augusta, Bangor, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Blue Hill, MDI (Mt. Desert Island), Waldo County, Mt. Washington Valley/Conway, Boston, Wall St., cultural mythology, the food supply, independent media.
Portland, Maine was identified as the longest continuous occupy encampment in the country -- established October 1 and still going strong despite punishing cold, and an eviction notice from the city hanging over their heads since December 15. They have vigorously pursued relief in the courts, and are awaiting news on a permanent injunction to halt eviction.
Occupy Augusta pulled up stakes rather than apply for a permit, removing their Capitol Park teepee with dignity and self-respect, continuing to hold General Assemblies each Saturday at 5pm indoors.
After an amazing rapid whole group share of examples of occupation that covered centuries, we moved into small groups with people we didn't know to address two prompts:
1) Why did you join the Occupy movement? 2) What's special about the Occupy movement?
This was ably modeled by Curtis (above, left) who responded:
- To gain experience. Our world's falling apart and many people don't seem to care. But those who do care need to get together, share knowledge, and form a movement.
- It signifies nations all across the world rising up and demanding an end to the common ills we all share – war, poverty, unemployment. Shows the governmentts that we, the workers, will not be silent. We will fight back, and take what's ours.
This is a strong strand for Maine and there are years of intelligent collaborative effort to build on. A murmur of delight went through the crowd when I mentioned a Wall St. tweet I'd seen that the OWS kitchen had quickly organized to feed the largest number of folks ever, daily, in NYC. No wonder they were perceived by authorities as such a threat!
Further news of the 99%: While we were meeting, Occupy Oakland in California was being tear gassed, beaten, shot with rubber bullets and flash bang grenades, and arrested in droves (especially reporters). Their crime: trying to occupy a years vacant building to establish a community center. Solidarity events broke out everywhere on Sunday. Here's an inspiring video from Occupy Boston: