“All that stuff you’ve got on the wall, that’s abstraction, ‘Stop The Greed” and ‘Eat The Rich’. We’ll see what you do because talking is the easiest part.” – Amiri Baraka, (father, poet, activist and more)
“People aren’t going to sit out here with no demands. They want to know why they’re here. After the romanticism goes away and it has to be protracted in the long haul, people are going to want to know, ‘Why am I doing this?” Ras Baraka (son and current Newark Councilman) – Newark Patch
With occupation sites being restrained or closed nation-wide (Zuccotti Park lasted 59 days) it is about time for a new paradigm. In NJ we have two sites that Blue Jersey has been following: Newark (since November 18) and Trenton (almost two months.) The difficulties of attracting sufficient people to be on-site for a prolonged period are becoming increasingly apparent. Other past movements typically involve periodic meetings and brief spurts of intense activity. These two groups demonstrate tremendous resilience but dissipate a lot of energy on the routine effort of operating outdoor sites on an ongoing basis. With colder weather and snow it becomes even more of a challenge.
There is a lot of energy, determination, and planning taking place in Occupy Newark (ON) where the goal was not for a full 24/7 presence, but even closing down and reopening a site requires effort, coordination and transportation. This site, more than most, is focussing not on national or state issues, but Newark ones and is formulating plans to create change. It’s a diverse group with passionate advocates for reforming education, housing, City Hall, job services and more. Angela, for example, obtained from Mayor Booker the large binder of the City Budget. She noted the high salary increases for top city officials while other city employees are being let go. She also pointed out that the budget includes amounts set aside for specific projects that might bear investigation.
In the meantime the group has been maintaining a presence most days, sparring with police officers who have generally enforced a 9:00 PM curfew, sometimes sneaking back into the site later, providing periodic live streaming, holding GA’s, and welcoming visitors.The curfew issue remains unresolved, but numerous council members are supportive and are preparing a resolution for a permit to be voted on December 9. On Sunday night occupiers were evicted by police who arrived in eight cars (overkill maybe?), but some spent the evening at the PSE&G amphitheater next door. On Monday Councilwoman (and former President) Mildred Crump visited. At 7:30 PM Newark Councilman Ras Baraka arrived with a sleeping bag and Coleman tent, making good good on a promise to stay overnight in support of the movement. Later at night “Officers came to evict occupants but left after they found a City Councilman camping.”
On Monday afternoon in Trenton at the WWII memorial Edward and Dell were working out plans for improvements to the livestream system. There was a spirited discussion among six people on next steps: activities to carry out, how to address national and local issues, and the need for more outreach. A few blocks away their Tent City was unattended with a scarecrow-like figure placed outside to resemble a person. They currently lack sufficient volunteers for 24/7 presence at two sites, and some question the need for both venues. As with many organizations and particularly those that work through consensus there have been disagreements, people who do not carry out what they commit to, and others who get frustrated by the system or a sense of inaction. One core member looks forward to the national occupy meeting in June in Philadelphia to set out a clearer action plan, but he realizes that the meeting may not produce the boost he seeks. In the meantime Occupy Trenton can be proud of its longevity (soon to eclipse that of Zucotti Park), a successful court case, tech-savvy streaming, public education on key issues, and a dedicated core of participants.
In the next occupy diary there will be more on a new paradigm and the need to reduce the labor-consuming effort of occupying space. As Amiri Baraka said, “Talking is easy,” and as Ras Baraka said,”People are going to want to know, ‘Why am I doing this?'” On to Plan B.