Ann Arbor: Part of the 99%

Ann Arbor: Part of the 99%

Note: The views expressed in this article are the opinions of individuals, and not of the Occupy Ann Arbor or Occupy Wall Street movements as a whole.

A revolution is beginning. In New York, people gather by the thousands in Zucotti Park, enduring police, weather, and abuse. The same thing is happening all across the world, as various cities create their own solidarity movements. And Ann Arbor isn’t going to keep out of the fray.

Fauster Kitchens, a senior at Community High School, is a frequent visitor to Occupy Ann Arbor, located in Liberty Plaza on the corner of Division and Liberty. To him, the movement is a revolution against the capitalist system that has dominated the world for so many centuries.

“Occupy Wall Street and the occupation movements are a representation of a struggle that’s been going on for a long time,” said Kitchens. “It’s just that right now it has a specific name. And I don’t think this struggle is necessarily going to stop, in now or any time. It may take on different names, it may morph into itself, but the struggle is going to continue.”

Kitchens is regular facilitator for the General Assemblies, or GAs, taking place in Liberty Plaza. At General Assemblies, the people gathered for Occupy Ann Arbor can all share their ideas, information, and opinions.As the movement has no official leaders, the GAs are instrumental in using the will of the people to determine courses of action, and can be considered the governing body of Occupy Wall Street in both individual towns and in the greater movement.

Although the movement was originally begun as an organization to gather resources for sister movements Occupy Detroit and Occupy Lansing, they now have their own occupation in Liberty Plaza. “They kind of sprouted up,” said Kitchens. “For various reasons, they never had the approval of the General Assembly.”

Currently, tensions are somewhat strained between the General Assembly and the Occupation, and it is unclear at press time whether they will continue to work together through allegations on both sides of racism, theft and obstruction of justice. However, Kitchens still encourages supporters of the movement to attend events and consider donating supplies to the occupation, particularly blankets, sleeping bags and warm food.

According to Kitchens, the GAs are an ideal form of community organizing for movements like Occupy Wall Street and its subsidiaries. “[They’re] governed completely horizontally, using census process, which is one of the most radical forms of governing an organization can have,” he said. “It usually encourages important conversation, and I think it functions better than using Robert’s Rules or using a more hierarchal system. I don’t think executive decisions in any way can really benefit the collective.”

However, he also acknowledges that the process is still a bit messy, with nitpicking and pointless debate dominating certain conversations. As General Assemblies attempt to allow every member of the 99% a chance to share their opinions, they can also quickly spiral out of control.  “The census process can be incredibly tedious and not help things sometimes,” Kitchens admitted. “I’ve seen it work really well, but sometimes there definitely are people who just block and put a lot of it off when they don’t really need to.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement and its subsidiaries have garnered a lot of criticism, especially from right wing politicians and media.  For example, Hermain Cain, presidential candidate, has publicly stated that the Wall Street porotesters need to “go home and get a job and a life,” adding that “if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich” you should “blame yourself.”

According to Kitchens, however, most of the occupiers and protesters are not unemployed at all. Most of the people he met in Occupy Detroit had jobs, and were “going between their jobs to sleep the night in the park.”

“And there certainly are people who are unemployed involved in the movement,” said Kitchens, “But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” He argued that a mix of lower and middle class “allows for a classwide movement which has the potential to be incredibly powerful.”

Occupy Ann Arbor has General Assemblies every Sunday at 1:00 pm, a 24-7 occupation, and workshops almost every afternoon at Liberty Plaza. For more information, visit their website, OccupyA2.org, or their Facebook group, Occupy Ann Arbor