Occupy Movement converges on Olympia – Numbers unknown.

54 Occupy Seattle participants stepped off of a bus and onto Olympia soil Monday morning.  I was not one of them.  I had arrived the night before in order to help prepare for the state wide call to action.  Many others drove, came early, came late or took public transportation.

Around 11:30 occupiers gathered in at least 4 different locations.  I began the march along with several hundred others at Heritage Park.  The street was immediately taken by marchers enthusiastically chanting the all too familiar slogans, with a few new twists.  “Who’s state?  Our state!”

The first tributary occurred as we converged on Sylvester Park, where we were greeted with speakers who of course wanted us to join their cause.  It was not a bad cause but I decided to stick with fighting greed and corruption.  They were willing to join us however so our ranks, now nearly doubled in size, continued on to the World War II Memorial. Here we joined as many as a thousand others, including a four story helium suspension sign indicating, of course, that we are getting screwed.  Our reception was gracious, full of smiling faces and cameras.  We were definitely at our rowdiest, I think they liked that.

By the time we made it to the Senate we were thousands strong.  There was a group of teachers and students who had been busy in the meantime. A Garfield High School teacher had been arrested for attempting a citizens’ arrest on the legislature.  Occupy never even got a chance to get kicked out–the students and teachers had already shut down proceedings.  We were however able to get some action when they attempted to reconvene the special session in a different building.  We discovered this with four minutes to spare.  Four minutes was enough.  Around half of the group marched to the Cherberg building.  Only around 400 people would fit inside of the marble hallway however.  I am uncertain of what the folks outside did.  Inside, forceful chanting and hand drumming of doors and marble walls created an impressive racket.  Legislators made their way out through the crowd like dripping water, one by one, some quiet and some chanting with the crowd.  Before long the State Patrol locked the outside doors to incoming protesters.  Having successfully headed off the budget cuts for the day protesters slowly made their way out to join in their choice of several other actions.

The first action I encountered was rather hysterical.  A large group of several hundred had decided to simply march around the capitol dome chanting and walking at a quick pace, some even jumping and hopping forward in excitement.  When I asked a building worker what they were doing he gave me a funny look and replied “I don’t know, just going around in circles!”

I chose to enter the capitol building.  Another several hundred had been taken in a lengthy (several hours) discussion on the steps interior of the Senate.  I took this opportunity to explore the three stories of pure marble walls, floors, columns and ceilings of our capitol.  Truly amazing, I suggest you all go down to see for yourself.  One of my favorites was a bust of Martin Luther King inscribed with moving statements, encouraging the occupy movement to continue its actions.  Ironically one of the several evil donors listed was in fact the late great Washington Mutual.  Oops.  Mother Theresa also adorned either side of the foyer, beaming down at the occupation from her 14 feet of robes and supporting words.  As was with Mr. King, inscriptions adorned the walls, encouraging the Occupy, teacher and union movements to accelerate protests.

Inspired by the beauty and common sense I had found indoors, I left the discussion to the crowd for the WWII memorial.  I made my way down the steps, through another protest of some 500 people listening to inspirational reggae.  At the WWII memorial I wandered around reading the various plaques and inscriptions.  Of course, though I cannot be sure I found every one–there were so many–every one I did read seemed to me a call to action.  Every single one, from a personal request from a fallen soldier and a salute to the MIA, to our governments call to arms was a passionate call for me, for you and for everybody to Occupy Everything.

In other reports a friend of mine, a great man and a great protester, was shot with a tazer 7 times that evening, at least once for lying down in front of a state commandeered bus.  I wasn’t there though.  To this fact I would like to add how amazingly cool the State Patrol was during the daylight protest.  Truly a remarkable force.  I had some great interactions with them on several occasions.  As for what happened in the evening, well I believe lessons were learned on both sides.

“When my country called, I answered… When my country asked, I gave… Reach out now, across the years, and through the tears… Remember me.” – A WWII Veteran.

The Billboard, Occupy Seattle, Article 1


Mister Tim Leu,

I understand you are looking for a few paragraphs from an attendee at the Occupy Seattle camp in Westlake.  I hope the following lines will suit your purpose.

I was sitting at the General Assembly one late evening when a voice called out from the back.  “Speaking of religion!” exclaimed the voice “They are trying to arrest a man for praying!”

A newcomer had shown up to join.  A quiet man, much like myself.  An old Native American, perhaps 60 years old, had come to offer a prayer of protection for the movement.  He had kneeled on a blanket in supplication to his gods.  Unfortunately for both him and the police, this has recently been deemed illegal by our good mayor, Mike McGinn.

The police encircled him, using their bikes as an impromptu barricade against the inevitable surge of protesters.  The evenings’ facilitators called for a break in the general assembly and the crowd of 250 mobilized to encircle the police.  Shouts went out “That man has a right to freedom of religion!” and “you can’t arrest a man for praying!”  Sure enough after some time we all centered on our most recent fall back.  “Cite the Code!” in short order the heaving Poseidon that was 250 angry citizens shouted at the circle of police, with the man still praying in the middle.  “Cite the Code! Cite the Code!”  Soon enough the police thought better of it and filed out in their typical form, one by one mounting their bicycles and riding off as the former officer was deemed safe.  And for a little extra perspective: this is one of the smaller crowds.

The energy you find at Westlake today is of a different brand.  For the courageous core campers who stay night after night and day after day this energy has become their food.  Nothing more than a few hours of catnaps is enough for these people to subsist on for almost a month now.  Volunteers bring hot food and coffee for those that are standing through the frigid nights and cigarettes are rolled from huge bags of tobacco, passed out freely to those that have sacrificed their workdays in the name of humanity.

Since the beginning, Occupy Seattle, in solidarity with Occupy Wall StreetFeedback has held to one ideal:  Corporate money and corruption must stay out of politics.  We want our government back.  The draw this simple message has instilled in the hearts of Washington State is astounding.  Week after week thousands of people flood the commercial district of Seattle to march in solidarity with a global movement towards an accountable government.

Regardless of hard times the core message we have for our country and our world remain.  The General Assembly, which is the decision making body of the movement, meets every night.  Anyone can vote, there are no leaders, and all are welcome.

Some examples of the things our working groups submit are the Occupy Seattle Adopt-a-Street program, Friday marches on the foreclosure auctions, Saturday marches on ‘too big to fail’ banks and tent raising ceremonies. Remember our brothers and sisters in Oakland.  Come on down, it’ll be a gas!

Arif Michael Vega


The Billboard

A month or so ago a small town paper asked me to write about my experiences with Occupy Seattle. It is published once a month- Twice this month for a Thanksgiving special. I have written two articles thus far, each one well received. Just now I came to the realization… well, maybe I should post it here!

Anyways without further adieu…

Ah, since I last wrote what all has been going on? Parents for Occupy Seattle has established a learning tent, donations of toys and volunteer staffing are in place. We have marched, met, and reached out. The sanitation working group is having problems with people not recycling. Every night a group of 6-10 people volunteer to sort through the trash and salvage what recyclables and compost can be salvaged. Food is still free, though now you are required to bring your own bowl and silverware at the food tent. Food Not Bombs and other organizations and individuals are still bringing dishes and flatware however. Several hundred tents have stood unmolested since the move to SCCC. Many intend to retake Westlake Center soon.

Occupy Seattle was invited to a town hall meeting Saturday night. Not to be confused with the City Hall. It is a beautiful building and we packed it with some four or five hundred people. There was a bit of a hump to get over with a huge influx of new supporters. Feelings were briefly hurt, then shelved in the name of solidarity. In the end everyone was smiling and great discussions were had. Councilman Licata moderated and a panel of three occupiers and three politicians answered a barrage of questions each in turn and individuals from the crowd asserted their points in turn.

Our greatest recent victory was November 14, 2011. The City Council passed a resolution to actively seek sustainable banking procedures for city investments. This means both investing with local banks and also indicates a move towards a state owned banking system like that in North Dakota. In addition to this they voted in unanimous support of the Occupy Movement. Most every council member stood before the 200 core occupiers that showed in support and made personal requests that the Occupy movement find the strength to continue its action at least until elections in 2012, if not longer. You can watch the video on the City Hall website. Votes and counsel statements start at 72:00. Statements before that are from protesters. I highly encourage you find the Full Council video from November 14, 2011.

They say very plainly that in order for them to make effective change they will need our voices in the streets. I never thought I would become any sort of press gang but the facts are simple. There are some very evil things going on in our government and it is not only up to the Occupy movement but also up to you to fix them. Uncle Sam once again needs your help. The city council has personally and officially asked you to hit the streets, to indefinitely occupy public spaces. So if you can spare some time come downtown and join in on any number of activities, march, write, talk and donate, we need your help. The City of Seattle needs your help. We are now international leaders, the governments of the world and the USA are looking up to Seattle as the cutting edge of legislation. Email me for more info or ask any occupier, easily found at forums.occupyseattle.org.

So what is coming next? Many people will be heading south to Olympia where on the 28th of this month 2 billion dollars of public services will be cut, on top of already devastating recent cuts. As for my own work with the outreach group it is my belief that the Washington budget reduction alternatives list provides us not with a dismal future but with a road map. Where the document cuts childcare I will propose the empty office be occupied by volunteer child care providers. Where free medical clinics are shut down I will be recruiting volunteer physicians to occupy the void.

The Evolution of an Anarchist: A Letter to Me

Well Kellie Elmore strikes again!  Free Write Friday, write a letter to yourself at thirteen.  Hindsight is 20/20  http://magicinthebackyard.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/free-write-friday-hindsight-is-2020/  Thanks again Kellie!  Always an inspiration!

Dear Arif:

Nineteen years have passed since that fated day.  The day of reckoning, when that small town finally caught up to you.  They really did tell you to go away, didnt they?  The teachers, the police, then even the judges and lawyers.  Aye, I know what you are going through.  I was once there myself.

Would you like to know more about you?  You are still an anarchist, still a sorcerer, hold the robes.  Things have coalesced however.  Anarchy has become an ideal.  Your work is gentler now and it is performed not for you, nor even often the people around you.  Instead it is done for the next generation and the generation after.

It is good that you do not listen- already you know better than most.  Even today they still consider you a radical.  Your existence, punctuated by explosions and flying debris will evolve  and give in to personal power.  The fires you create will temper you.  The harshest climates you will seek, the places no others will go is where you can live in your utopia, alone.

It is this loneliness, along with biting cold and searing heat that will make up your inner strength.  And when you stand fast and the wall of steel batons and soulless plastic shields advance on your line, aye, there will be others like you, too.  The tempered, the soft, the loud and the quiet.  They have been there all along, all waiting to come out of their hermitage to stand fast with you, even as the clouds of pepper billow in the wind, bringing the teary eyes and mucous choking  unto you all.  You will need your training there, for a better world.

Now, how to pass wisdom along in such a belated horoscope?  Is there some benefit to be gleaned from this ink I lay?  Maybe not but I will tell you anyways to soldier on.  I know, as you assume, your studies will gain you no popularity.  What they will do however is give you the vocabulary to describe your work.  You do, in the end, become a magician, though it is in no way you could have imagined.

And one last thing.  I am glad you stayed on the good side of the field.  There are evil people that are watching you.  Do not work for them.  You are the perfect demographic for evil works and your flagrant display of explosives and incendiaries will draw them, not like flies, but like a herd of elephants or harem of seductive women.  Stay true, do not give in to the hate.  Follow your fathers wisdom as I know you will and everything will turn out great.