Lessons from OWS

By Hena Ashraf

What I’ve learned in the last few weeks at Occupy Wall Street:

I now know how to locate friends in a crowd of thousands of people.
I now know how communication can be amplified without any equipment, via the human microphone.
I now know that we truly do not need mainstream media in order for us to get attention.
I now know how hard it is to find crucial information about the next mobilization, in a movement that is mostly leaderless.
I now know that a significant strength of a leaderless movement is that there are no immediate easy targets.
I now know to be wary of disrupters and those who cause distractions in the space.
I now know how hard it is to fight oppressions such as racism and sexism in a space that’s supposedly anti-oppressive.
I now know how solidarity with critique is at times desperately needed.
I now know how two-faced our mayor truly is.
I now know that once our movement started to connect the struggles, the authorities attempted to shut us down.
I now know what its like to leave my home in the middle of the night to join a mass mobilization.
I now know what it feels like to be in a crowd of thousands during the early hours of the day, waiting for action.
I now know the euphoric feeling of what people power feels like.
I now know that these experiences have already changed me and will stay with me.
I now know what its like to experience a little bit of the immense challenges the protesters in the Arab uprisings have been enduring for months.

I now know how mass arrests and violence at the hands of the state can directly increase numbers in a movement.
I now know how to write and share about my experiences and how crucial it is that I and my friends do so.
I now know that sharing these experiences can help protesters in other cities improve their attempts at making their own protest spaces anti-oppressive.
I now know how to speak up. Its still hard and intimidating, but I know how to do it.

I know how crucial it is that this movement continues to grow, has sustainability, and improves in order for the participation and inclusion of everyone.

Photo via the Guardian

4 Comments to “Lessons from OWS”

  1. But does OWS really claim to be anti-oppressive? Is that stated anywhere or explicitly implied (does that even work?) anywhere? I never got that message from them.

    • sort of. these are the principles of solidarity that were recently adopted (and printed in the OWS journal).
      Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
      Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
      Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
      Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
      Redefining how labor is valued;
      The sanctity of individual privacy;
      The belief that education is human right; and
      Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.

      i’m sure they’re up on the NYCGA site somewhere but google took me here first: http://anonops.blogspot.com/2011/09/occupywallstreet-principles-of.html

  2. “anti-oppressive” means that you don’t like the fact that there are so many white people who are not “anti-racist” enough for your petty standards.

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