Whatever else I feel about #occupyworcester…

The following is not the best journalism I’ve read this week:

“I hope to help change the way things are,” the Worcester Technical High School freshman, who wears braces, said yesterday at Occupy Worcester’s campsite in Lake Park.

[emphasis added]

The Telegram previously used a picture of a much-tattooed young woman as the ‘face’ of OW.  I  thought Steve Foskett’s coverage was more balanced (that is, placed less emphasis on folks’ appearances and more on their reasons for protesting).

And now we’re back to judging folks on their appearances rather than their actions or beliefs.

This kid could have some really intelligent things to say about his activism, and you’ve just pegged him as a kid who wears braces.

I’ve hesitated writing about OW at much length because I still don’t understand what the point is and because I’m quite fond of some of the participants.  I also feel that this is the kind of movement in which I’m not a part, and I don’t know how effective criticism is coming from the outside.

I did attend a GA last Tuesday, the better to see what the mechanics of OW is.  I also attended briefly on Friday, right before the GA got started.

Some of my observations, in no particular order:

Occupy the park vs. Occupy Worcester

It seemed to me (at that point a week ago) that the occupation of Lake Park was different than Occupy Worcester.  There seemed to be a lot of uncertainty about the mechanics of governing the campground versus OW as a whole.

For someone on the outside, it’s still difficult to understand what the point of occupying a state park is.

Are these just the same protesters we always see?

I saw a lot of folks at the GA on Tuesday who seemed genuinely dedicated to a protest against corporatism and especially to focusing on encouraging folks to switch to local banks on November 5.

But many of those people are already involved in at least one form of activism in the Worcester area.  I didn’t see a lot of folks who one wouldn’t otherwise see protesting the Tea Party or Ringling Brothers, or doing a sit-in on behalf of Clark cafeteria workers.

Now, one could argue that any major protest in Worcester is going to involve a contingent of old guard protesters.

And, to the T&G’s credit, they seem to be trying to profile folks who are not the same old Worcester activists.

Appearances

I briefly spoke with a woman on Friday evening who came because she’d heard about the protest on WCUW.  She wanted to see what she could do and she seemed enthusiastic.  She was thinking of going to Occupy Boston for the weekend.

Now, she may have started speaking to me because I was a woman above thirty, or because I was dressed in a certain way, or because I looked friendly, or just because I was right in front of her.

I left before the GA, so I don’t know what her impressions of OW were when she left for the night, but I can tell you mine.

I felt uncomfortable.

Folks like me (that is, snobs) can be induced to protest against big banks, to encourage their neighbors to use credit unions, and to lobby their elected officials for changes to laws.

But I (and snobs like me) most likely can’t be induced if the only people we see are dressed in neo-hippie-wear and there are people chain-smoking legal and illegal substances all around us.

I don’t think the media’s coverage should be based on appearances.  But the average Worcesterite isn’t going to be induced to be sympathetic to Occupy Worcester (which I think is distinct from Occupy Wall Street) unless there’s an effort to make anyone who wouldn’t otherwise be an activist feel welcome.

Recommendation

I wish Occupy Worcester had someone (or more than one person) greet folks as they approach.  If one of the goals is to get a broader base of support, you need to make sure that folks feel welcome.

I’d also recommend having a coherent message and finding a way to get that message out to the community at large.  Because the daily newspaper isn’t helping (much), and there are folks like the lady I spoke with who do not access to the internet.

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5 thoughts on “Whatever else I feel about #occupyworcester…

  1. I wandered in on Saturday. You’re right; they could really use something like a reception table. I walked up and they were about their business, and I felt like an outsider walking into someone’s campsite.

  2. What bothers me about the OW movement is that they moved to Lake Park. That’s MA. state property. It’s not City owned property liked the area behind city hall or Elm Park or Green Hill.

    This “movement” has become more like a sleepover at Johnny’s house than some kind of radical protest with balls.

    Perhaps the thought is that the protesters actually put themselves behind CIty Hall then theCity Council might have to take a stand on this thing. So they convinced the OW kids to go over to Lake Park lest it hurts their reelection chances.

    I was walking my dogs yesterday afternoon and rested behind City Hall on a steel park bench, and I thought how a REAL protester would have chained himself or herself to the thing. But not our protesters, they’re being obedient. What’s the fun in that?

  3. Julie says:

    Does it want to form alliances with other local activist groups?

  4. Julie says:

    Answered my own question. See: Occupy Clark Facebook.

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