One and done?
On the anniversary of Occupy Seattle, smaller, more focused groups take up the fight for fairness
On Oct. 15, 2011, Denise Henrikson hauled a large foam replica of Earth and a foam dollar sign onto the 21 bus in West Seattle.
She was headed to the Occupy Seattle protests at Westlake Park for the Global Day of Action. She displayed the foam globe and dollar sign and held another sign that read, “What do you value?”
The props drew a lot of attention, Henrikson said.
“I had so many conversations with people,” she said. “It really changed my life that day.”
Henrikson met Craig Salins, an activist working on public campaign financing, and joined him and others to form the Get Money Out of Politics working group.
On May 14, the group got its biggest win when the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance opposing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that established spending as protected speech.
One year after Occupy Seattle emerged from the national Occupy Wall Street movement, dozens of subgroups have sprouted up, supplanting the movement that gave them life.
Occupy Seattle is now more an ideology than an entity.
“Some people have said Occupy Seattle is just a Facebook page at this point,” said Aliana Bazara, one of the first people to take up residence at Westlake Park September of 2011.
The old Occupy Seattle hasn’t disappeared. After a period of low attendance and inactivity, leaderless General Assemblies will re-start this month to continue to discuss economic inequality.
But that’s mostly talk. The real action is with smaller groups with specific goals in mind, said Ian Finkenbinder, who has worked with Occupy Seattle’s media group, #MicCheckWallSt and earlier this spring formed the Grand Legion of Incendiary and Tenacious Unicorn Revolutionaries, or GLITUR, which advocates for LGBT issues.
Like many others, Finkenbinder has moved on from Occupy, even as he credits the movement for energizing people and like-minded activists.
In the 12 months since thousands marched the streets of Seattle during a nationwide month of protest, the energy did has not disappeared, he said, it just diffused. Finkenbeninder now talks about Occupy Seattle in the past tense.
“Occupy Seattle as an organization, in my mind, has met its purpose,” he said.
Here are a few groups spawned by Occupy Seattle.
Get Money Out of Politics
Members of Get Money Out of Politics (GMOP) are fighting the use of money as speech in elections and politics. The group formed soon after Occupy Seattle emerged. Early on, its weekly meetings at the Washington State Convention Center started drawing bigger crowds than Occupy Seattle’s dwindling General Assemblies. The group mobilized hundreds of protesters, who gathered outside local campaign fundraising dinners for President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
With the help of Craig Salins, who died suddenly late last month, the group pushed the Seattle City Council to unanimously pass a resolution opposing Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision which ruled that spending is protected speech.
Denise Henrikson said she joined GMOP because she was frustrated with the ever-growing sums of money amassed by political candidates. She noticed it wasn’t just Republicans with deep pockets for massive ad campaigns.
“The Democrats are playing the same damn game,” she said.
GMOP meets Sundays at 5 p.m. For more information visit facebook.com/pages/Get-Money-Out-of-Politics-Seattle/448721428474567
One of the earliest groups to spawn from Occupy Seattle, MicCheckWallSt has remained one of the most active and most visible.
On Valentine’s Day, and again on Independence Day, the group threw $5,000 in one-dollar bills out of a downtown building. The bills were each stamped with a message about the u.s. Supreme Court ruling that protected spending as free speech. The money drop made international headlines and proved more effective than handing out fliers.
Anyone who picked up the dollars at Pike Street and Seventh Avenue July 4
probably saw the stamp and eventually circulated the money, ensuring that many more people saw the message, too.
The group formed out of frustration with the slow process at Occupy Seattle’s General Assemblies and the ongoing debate over pacifism versus “diversity of tactics,” which could include violence or property damage during protests and action.
MicCheckWallSt is still active. On the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street Sept. 17, the group is holding a silent march in which participants will tape dollar bills over their mouths to protest the use of money as speech.
For more information, visit miccheckwallst.org
Student Debt Noise Brigade
A couple dozen people carried drums, pots, pans and vuvuzelas through Capitol Hill Sept. 5 to protest the more than $1 trillion of student debt owed in the United States.
The Student Debt Noise Brigade grew out of MicCheckWallSt and marches every Wednesday.
The group is calling for debt forgiveness to students who went to public colleges in Washington and eventually free college education for future students.
“Education should be free,” said Damien Conway, one of the marchers. “No one should be a debt slave to better yourself.”
For more information, see facebook.com/StudentDebtNoiseBrigade
Grand Legion of Incendiary and Tenacious Unicorn Revolutionaries
The Unicorn Revolutionaries
(GLITUR) emerged from Occupy Seattle to take LGBT activism beyond the debate over the military’s former policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the fight for marriage equality.
Citing a 2012 study that found 40 percent of homeless teens identify as LGBT, Finkenbinder said queer activists have bigger issues to tackle.
“We’d like to start addressing the basic safety and well-being for queer folks instead of pushing for gay marriage,” he said.
At the same time, the group insists on having fun, as evidenced by the bright pink and sparkling website at glitur.org.
The group held public protests during the PRIDE Parade and held a dance party called Drag Out Capitalism.
Due to Budget Cuts
In August, a group of friends and Occupy-associated activists were talking about what might get more people to become involved in their community.
They never gave themselves a name or held public meetings. It was just friends talking over dinner and drinks.
Two weeks later, calling themselves Due to Budget Cuts, they set up a People’s Library outside of the Douglass-Truth branch of the Seattle Public Library during the week-long furlough closure, a way to protest how city money is — and isn’t — spent.
“We weren’t really a group before the library,” said People’s Library organizer Yates Coley.
Coley said the group has no immediate plans, but Due to Budget Cuts will likely take more action in the future.
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