Final Nail In Occupy Columbus Coffin
Earlier this year, I wrote on Columbus Indymedia encouraging anarchists to attend Occupy Columbus General Assemblies (1 | 2). Even if many of the proposals don't reflect anarchist principles or revolutionary goals themselves, the presence of anarchists and anti-authoritarians would have helped to keep the assembly directly democratic, ensure it was a safe space that was free of sexist, racist, classist, heterosexist, and other oppressions, and connect newcomers to other groups who may have been participating in actions that are more direct.
For the past five months or so, the active participants of Occupy Columbus have been maintaining the structure on High Street in front of the Statehouse. I've attended many of the General Assemblies. Behind the scenes, however, they've also been moving Occupy Columbus away from the basic roots that started the Occupy movement.
The movement away from Occupy's roots started with the subtle but important difference between actually occupying the space in front of the Statehouse versus asking for permission via permits. Then, Occupy Columbus moved further away by ignoring and weakening the Good Neighbor Policy or only referring to it when the moment suited certain people's arguments and agendas. This laid the foundation for the Statehouse site and General Assemblies to become an unsafe space and toxic for those of us who are not white, not male, and not heterosexual. And now, the final nail, is the Treasurer's blatant usurpation of the directly democractic process.
Jan Everett, Treasurer of Occupy Columbus, writes:
"I will not relinquish my fiduciary responsibility under the guise of any illegitimate vote based on a group that can pack the GA and abscond with what little we have left ... I’m not going to fold the tent and hand over the money just yet." (3)
In response to someone stating that the Treasurer's role is as a servant of the Occupy Columbus General Assembly, Jan Everett writes:
"I am not a servant… do I sound like one. The treasurer is a “protector” and has a responsibility to prevent runs on the treasury and I have several times." (4)
This is in response to an overwhelming majority vote that took place on July 21, 2012 (5) approving $800 to be disbursed to those arrested during the Bank Tour in November 2011 (6). This proposal was later amended (7). The money has yet to be disbursed.
When the Treasurer of a directly democratic assembly threatens to refuse to follow the directives of that assembly, AND that assembly allows that Treasurer to remain in that position, that assembly ceases to be directly democratic and is now under the control and authority of that Treasurer.
But, it's not just Jan Everett. Troy Pheil, who has not attended one GA but is an admin of the occupycolumbus.org website, writes, "Good for you [Jan]. It would seem you are entirely within your rights." (8) There are a few other folks who attend GAs that also seem to be complicit and supportive of the Treasurer making this unilateral decision.
It's not surprising that there is support for this type of thing from people living in the U.S., because that's the corporate capitalist way, the status quo. It is surprising, however, to see support for this type of thing in Occupy Columbus, which claims to be against rampant corporate power.
The remaining folks in Occupy Columbus are focusing on issues that tend to benefit white, male, heterosexual people first and foremost. The attempt to steer Occupy Columbus against the Columbus City Council's Chapter 906 (9) is an excellent example. $30 or $1000, most folks aren't going to pay for a permit to set up an information table on a sidewalk. Only a select group of nonprofit organizations and individuals will be concerned about something like this.
Yes, it's important to watch this legislation and make sure it doesn't over-reach its purpose and over-tax people who want to set up information tables. But, is this really something Occupy Columbus should focus on? More importantly, is this something Occupy Columbus should be spending money on instead of supporting people who were arrested for directly confronting the corporate power Occupy Columbus is fighting against?
It is for these reasons that I urge anarchists and anti-authoritarians to focus their energy elsewhere.
It's time to move on. It's time to focus on building directly democratic assemblies of people who come together in order to solve the problems impacting our lives. It's time to focus on the fight against oppression, exploitation, and domination. It's time for all of us to go beyond the corporate capitalist model Occupy Columbus currently seems to be upholding.