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Semiformalishmaybe

Occupy Philly

I went to my first protest in awhile today; Occupy Philadelphia.

I am pretty friendly to the goals of this protest. This protest was also pretty-well done; they used some tactics that I haven't seen done before. I took some photos; will post them later.

It started out at Gotham Hall (really, Philadelphia's city hall, which is creepytastic); a lot of people have pitched tents in one of the patios, set up booths, and basically had a little shantytown. I brought a bunch of cookies and snacks for anyone who was hungry (assuming hostile police and people being unwilling to leave for fear of eviction), but nobody was like that and there were no notable tensions with police during my time there (apart frm one or two idiots who shouted "fuck the police" a few times; I was happy to see people get grumbly at the idiots).

After a bit of milling about, people got gogether a bit away from the tents, and went over the rules for the march:

  • No property damage
  • No violence
  • No disrespecting the police
  • We will be loud
An effective element of this is that while she had a megaphone, she had the croud repeat every sentence after her. I liked this, because:
  • It made her words resonate further than the megaphone alone would
  • It made people internalise (even if accidentally or reluctantly) the rules
  • It meant that everyone was listening as well as talking, in alternating fashion rather than a mix of each
The rules themselves were good because it made the police know that we were not there to mess with them. I think this is an important thing for setting the tone of protests; there may be occasional times when one must engage in conflict with laws and/or police, but that should be a rarity and done only in precise circumstances.

The crowd itself was pretty varied; I saw christian socialists, a few fellow communists, quakers, wobblies, generic left-liberals, libertarians (generally recognisable by their "end the fed/elect ron paul" signs), and a fair number of people who just seemed to be members of the general public. Protest subcultures are usually visually and message-distinct. There were a few areas of tension between the groups; some of the christian socialists were anti-abortion and wanted to shout about that too, the deep-pacifists tried to make it a generically anti-war thing, and some people tried to make it partially anti-Israel too. There were also a few evangelistic muslims talking about the end of the world and/or the end of America. Some of us grumbled or argued with some of these expressions; I generally turn my back to speakers with whim I disagree, and a few other people did that too.

The march went pretty well; we were escorted with police on bikes, and streets were blocked to street traffic by police cars. Along the way, they pointed out businesses that were particularly problematic; we stopped and shamed at the Apple store, then Urban Outfitters, then some banks. This is a great tactic. In theory, it might shame the people working there (or give them second thoughts), but I don't expect many people would quit over this (unless the protests grow to be ridiculously strong). In theory, it might nudge those making decisions to be more careful, either to avoid bad PR or because the facts of their bad policies are thrust in their faces, but I don't expect this to be a strong effect. The effects I do expect are two: first, I believe it will make politicians see a benefit-in-spite-of-cost in breaking further from pleasing corporate donors (that is, it might be worth the cash lost in potential campaign donations for embracing the protests), and second, it will help galvanise and educate the protesters themselves against these entities. If we are to eventualy entirely ban corporate lobbying and political speech (which I see as a strong and positive goal), we need a large body of people who are unified in intent on the topic.

We eventually made it back to Gotham Hall (which is what I think I will call PHL's city hall from now on), but by then it was raining. I've since wandered over to Good Karma Cafe, where I had a nice discussion with a random political philosophy professor; he's working on a paper about political crativity originating from nonhuman sources (enabling technologies?) and talked about that a bit, and I talked a bit about Mozi and then about the Arab Spring. Not likely someone I'll get to know much more, but a nice conversation nontheless.

Currently I'm working my way through the excellent online Go tutorial and thinking about a small design issue for the Perl code sample for the company in NYC. I may have already blown it for dallying on getting a code sample back to them, but I don't really care; I like the project for its own merits. After this, and after I finish with the remaining project for my CMU-CS job (which is really practically done but needs final touches and polish but I haven't felt like working on it), I want to write something big in either Go or Perl6. Maybe I'll try doing some project in both at the same time; Go looks small and clean and concise, but Perl6 is still the big, wonderful language that Perl5 was (except with a more consistent syntax, a proper grammar, and a few other things that look nice but will take some getting-used-to).

Comments

" there may be occasional times when one must engage in conflict with laws and/or police, but that should be a rarity and done only in precise circumstances."

Right!
I was OK with the direct action that occurred in Seattle in 1999. But yes, it should always be carefully thought out and planned, never spontaneous.

PS: What was the Apple store being shamed for?

Edited at 2011-10-19 02:49 am (UTC)