Citizen Action Monitor

We’ll camp out in DC and disrupt things until we see change in political policy says

No 265 Posted by fw, August 28, 2011

We’re going to go to Freedom Plaza in Washington DC . . . and we’re going to occupy it beginning October 6. And we’re going to remain. And we’re going to non-violently interfere and shut down the offices of our government until we begin to get some improvements. . . . So we’re going to be there until we begin to take back control of our government. —David Swanson

In an Aug 28 Real News Network interview, Activists Plan Oct 6 Occupation in DC, US author, blogger, and activist, David Swanson explains how the October2011 non-violent, direct action campaign will differ from conventional rallies, speech-fests, protests, and theatrics. Watch the 13:28-minute video here. My abridged transcript with sub-headings follows —

TRANSCRIPT (abridged)

Activists Plan Oct 6th Occupation in DC (August 28, 2011)

Paul Jay – Unemployment is high and is getting higher. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya continue. And people have been asking: “Where is the united American Tahrir square? We saw hints of it in Wisconsin but there’s yet to be something at the national level that challenges current public policy. There are many attempts in the works but one of them is planning an event – more than an event – they’re planning to occupy a square called Freedom Square (sic) in Washington DC in October. Now joining us to discuss this is one of the organizers, David Swanson. David is with (sic), but you’re also with – tell us your other various websites.

David and I work for and I blog at and many others.

Paul Jay – Tell us what’s planned for October.

We’ll shut down the offices of government until we get some improvements

David Swanson – We’re planning to model our behaviour on the actions that happened earlier this year in Tahrir square, Cairo, Egypt, [and] in Tunisia, and the actions you see in Spain and Greece and countries around the world when countries get even a fraction as bad as ours has gotten. We’re going to go to Freedom Plaza in Washington DC – whose name is quite similar to Tahrir square, translated – and we’re going to occupy it beginning October 6. And we’re going to remain. And we’re going to non-violently interfere and shut down the offices of our government until we begin to get some improvements. You know, the actions in Egypt are very much an ongoing struggle and they’re very much trying to get back that momentum they had in Tahrir square. But they have some momentum and that came from that activity. So we’re going to be there until we begin to take back control of our government.

Paul Jay – What are some of the specific demands?

Our demands reflect the majority opinion, but our tactics will be different

David Swanson – If you go to you’ll see a list of demands at the top, at least of general themes, and there will be more specific demands made, including getting out of Afghanistan. We’re, of course, timing this for the end of the first decade of the war in Afghanistan, as well as for the beginning of next year’s austerity budgets coming out of Washington. But the general themes are the same that everybody comes up with — that the majority opinion in this country is demanding — and that our government won’t answer to. The same demands that other more partisan and less principled movements are making – that is: to tax the rich; to end the wars and cut the military; to protect social security and give us Medicare for all; to protect workers’ rights to organize and to strike in solidarity; to protect our environment; to build our environment; to create infrastructure and green energy. It’s the same agenda that everybody has. What is different is the tactics we mean to employ.

Paul Jay – So what exactly do you mean by “stop the business of government”?

Participating citizen activists pledge non-violent direct action to “stop business as usual” in Washington

David Swanson – I mean shutting down buildings and offices and hallways and streets, strictly non-violently. We have a non-violence pledge. People are going to October2011 and pledging to be there and to be non-violent. We have training sessions. But we intend not just to rally or speechify or protest or engage in theatrical operations or to misdirect all of the anger and frustration at one political party or the other. But to actually take the demands of the people as a whole to the government as a whole and stop business as usual.

Paul Jay – So you’re talking about what – Sit-ins at offices? Obstructing traffic on streets? Things like this?

People’s bodies will shut down operations in Washington

David Swanson – All of the above. Yes. Absolutely. Obviously we’re not going to go into details here publicly beforehand. But beginning October 6 and continuing until we’re satisfied that things are moving in the right direction, there will be operations being shut down by the imposition of people’s bodies in Washington DC

Paul Jay – You’re going to have kind of a permanent base there? Are you setting up tents? If people want to come find you, where are you going to be?

“We’ll maintain a large occupation of Freedom Plaza night and day”

David SwansonFreedom Plaza. It’s right along Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s conveniently between the Congress and the White House. You can go to, you’ll find a link to a map. If you don’t know where it is, sign up and get information on rides and how to get there and who can help you and where you can stay and so forth. But we will be above all maintaining a large occupation in that plaza night and day.

Paul Jay – You’ve previously – I assume you still are involved with Progressive Democrats of America, which is about trying to change the policies of the Democratic Party. The policies that you’re going in October trying to change are policies of a government that’s controlled by the Democratic Party. How does this campaign relate to — what’s the relationship with the Democratic Party?

People like Gore, Olbermann and others TALK about a Tahrir square for America but don’t DO it

David Swanson – My loyalty – I can’t speak for everyone else – but my loyalty is to the set of demands that we went through – taxing the rich, ending the wars, cutting the military, protecting our social safety nets, creating prosperity in this country. My loyalty is not to a political party. And that ought to be the case for everyone across the political spectrum. Sadly, it’s not. And so you have people like Al Gore and Keith Olbermann demanding a Tahrir square but not building the one that’s actually being planned. You have organizations demanding that there be protests, that there be resistance and putting forth agendas that are almost identical to October2011 and yet directing all their protest energy exclusively at Republicans. You have progressive groups now thrilled to be talking about Republican presidential candidates rather than about what our government now is doing. There’s not any conflict for those of us who want to impose the will of the public and this progressive agenda on our government. We’re the people, they’re the government. I don’t care what party they’re from, you saw this disastrous budget deal they put through. Now President Obama’s talking about more cuts beyond that to make it even worse. This not something that we should be standing for, for a minute, regardless of party.

Paul Jay – It seems like the election campaign has already begun if you look at the last week of media coverage. What stance will you take towards the election campaign? I mean there will be as this gets a little closer to the actual election and you guys in theory are still going to be camping out over those months – what will be your attitudes towards Obama and the election?

“This is actually going to be an occupation to resist the ongoing behaviour of our government”

David Swanson – He’s the President. We are the sovereigns of this nation. We are the people in whose name the constitution is drafted and he is not representing us, in the least, not on any of these points. And neither is the Congress. It may be representing him but it’s not representing us. If he wants to get re-elected he is going to have to change. This is not going to become a PR stunt as part of an election campaign as far too many protests and marches and rallies are. This is actually going to be an occupation to resist the ongoing behaviour of our government regardless of the fact that, yes, in another year and a half there will be another election. We can’t shut down business as usual. We can’t shut down governance in between elections because, lo and behold, there’s another election coming in a year and a half. This is one of the defects in our political system. We’re going to say, “Wait a minute. There’s a lot of damage going to be done in the next year and a half if we do not resist it.”

MY COMMENT – I really want to see the October2011 “occupation” succeed. But I’m apprehensive. First, I doubt that DC security is just going to stand by and allow activists to disrupt federal and city government operations. Second, what should one make of the October2011 organizing body seemingly backing away from its bold “50,000 names” promise made in its initial announcement but is missing from its revised website

“Nothing is strictly guaranteed. But here’s the deal: sign up and commit to be there but only if at least 50,000 other people do the same. With that number of dedicated people, we will be able to kick start a process of nonviolent change the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country in many years. Sign up and we’ll let you know how many others are with you.”

As well, the list of names of the first to sign up is no longer posted on the revised website. Moreover, a counter that was supposed to be added to the website’s home page to track the running total of activists committed to participate is not there.

One might be excused for inferring that recruitment to the noble cause is not meeting expectations.


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This entry was posted on August 28, 2011 by in grassroots planning, leadership, political action, social movements and tagged , , .
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