Several weeks ago, I ran into a long-time activist comrade at the Lakeview School sit-in in Oakland. Lakeview is one of five schools slated to be closed due to budget cuts, so parents, teachers and community members staged an occupation of the grounds. The day began with a march from Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland and ended with a rally at the school. Hanging out at the rally, my friend introduced me to Naomi Pitcairn who in turn told me about the project her group, Fresh Juice Party, does: Chalkupy.

I’d seen some of the images that had been chalked on the Plaza via online photographs, but wasn’t aware that it was a regular project. Turns out they’ve been doing it every Friday at the Plaza for months. The concept is brilliant in both its simplicity and replicability. A design is produced digitally and then overlaid with a grid scaled to the actual pattern of the pavers in the Plaza. Once on site, the grid is laid out on the ground, allowing a perfect reproduction of even large, detailed designs. A .pdf explaining the entire process is on Fresh Juice Party’s site.

Chalkupations are participatory, political and ephemeral. Like the planned, ritual destruction of Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas, the weekly power-washing of the Plaza by City workers destroys the work, but creates a new blank canvas in its place. Unlike certain *cough* *Banksy* *cough* street artists whose work has become so valuable that walls are dismantled by wealthy art collectors wanting it for their galleries, Chalkupy’s work is unlikely to ever be fetishized. If people want some of it, they are free to create it themselves to their heart’s content.

When I showed up about 2:30 pm Friday, the pattern had been mostly laid out and the first areas were being chalked in. I immediately jumped in, stopping occasionally to livetweet photos and comments. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

(PS, it’s come to my attention that not everyone automatically makes the connection between Chalkupy and the Occupy movement, hence mispronouncing it “Chalk-UPPY” and not “CHALK-u-pie”. The former kinda works, but it’s the latter that is correct.)

“Participant reporter”

Another topic that came up at Sunday’s Commie J-School, mostly as people introduced themselves, was that of the roles and labels we choose for ourselves. “Advocacy journalist,” “citizen journalist” and “citizen reporter” are some of those used. A major network reporter once derisively called us “iPhone journalists,” a term I find quite apt and endearing.

For the first time ever, the tools to report facts, opinions and analysis using print, video, photography and graphic art, both recorded and live, are in the hands of virtually anyone with a modest income. This is revolutionary and is an integral part of both the open, transparent character of Occupy and a harbinger of the emerging hyper-networked democratic society. The means prefigure the ends.

Read more, this one is shorter than the previous, really

Commie J-School in Oakland

Last Sunday, I was one of 11 people who attended what got nicknamed “Commie J-School” in Mosswood Park in Oakland. Initiated by two of Occupy Oakland’s most active reporters, journalist and cartoonist Susie Cagle and journalist and journalism teacher Justin Beck ( @susie_c and @pixplz respectively on Twitter), it was billed on the Facebook page as

A workshop on journalism law, ethics, best practices, tips & tricks. We’ll cover livestreaming, tweeting, blogging, photographing, interviewing, investigating, and the tools needed/best used for all.

That, of course, sounds like a couple years’ worth of journalism school curriculum, not a two-hour workshop. Nevertheless, quite a bit of ground did get covered as it applies to amateur, citizen and freelance journalists covering topics like, but not limited to, Occupy Oakland.

Read the rest of this fabulous post

Occupy (almost) Everywhere.

Everyone not living in a cave has heard about Occupy Wall Street and most are probably aware of Occupy Oakland. If you live in Seattle, L.A., Chicago, Denver and other big U.S. cities, you’ve probably at least heard passing mention of Occupy encampments or actions in your town. But, until now, who knew about Occupy Vacaville (California) or Occupy Bemidji (Minnesota) or the hundreds of other Occupy locations around North America and the world?

If you’re looking for the nearest Occupy center, now it’s easy to find out with this user-generated Occupy map.

Read more

The internet will be my “Downfall”

First I got a Facebook page, then a blog, then a Twitter account. Then I started setting up blogs for organizations I’m part of. Then I started another blog of my own and two more Twitter accounts and a Google+ page and a Yelp profile and an online dating profile. I’ve got some other profiles on sites where I can’t remember the username or password. But, doesn’t everyone have all that and more these days?

But you’re just not a real person online until you’re named in an internet meme.

Apparently, I’ve arrived.
Click here to see what I mean by that

Regarding the question of violence or nonviolence in Occupy. A short statement.

I haven’t had time in the last week to read any of the screeds and counter-screeds revolving around the question of violence or nonviolence with regard to the Occupy movement. Being involved in Occupy Oakland, where this has been a front-and-center issue since at least late October, it is something I’ve spent a lot to time on. There is only so much you can say on Twitter, but I simply haven’t had the time to devote to catching up this week and writing a detailed response. Even if I do, it will not be so much about debunking most of the “violentist” claims and hollow arguments, but more on looking at the big picture, which I sum up something like this:

Society evolves and has been evolving, however fitfully, toward equality and democracy and liberty. This is because people who want equality, democracy and liberty have worked really, really hard for hundreds of years and have been more successful at organizing and changing people’s attitudes than those who want to maintain prejudice, inequality and control. It didn’t magically “happen” that, for example, women got the vote and segregation ended.

Those who want a more egalitarian society don’t spend their time and energy pointing to hundreds of years of patriarchy, quoting dead guys and saying that gender equality is impossible. They don’t point to hundreds—or thousands—of years of racism, quote dead people whose work they’ve never really studied and then claim that racism is necessary, inevitable and that an egalitarian society could never work.

What would it say about someone if they talked like that? Who would want to be around someone with such a cold, hard heart and constrained imagination who claims to want a better world but says it cannot work?

In the same vein, what should we now think about the people who spend their time and energy pointing to history and quoting dead people and making justifications for the need for social change through violence?

People who want a more free, nonviolent society put their energy and imagination into working toward that in new and effective ways. They don’t put it into explaining all the reasons it can’t work.

A better world is possible, but not if you have your feet and mind so deeply stuck in the mire of the old empire that you can’t imagine anything better.

“Twitter Jail”—Oregon style

In order to defeat spammers and to save their servers from being overloaded, Twitter sometimes temporarily suspends an account from further posting for a short period of time—usually under a couple hours. To get thrown in this “Twitter Jail,” as it’s known, you have to send over 100 tweets/hour or 1,000/day.

Recently the Oregon State legislature introduced—and, for now, killed—Senate Bill 1534, a bill that would have put most of us in actual jail for sending ONE tweet if the content involved soliciting “two or more persons to commit a specific crime at a specific time and location.” The crime you would be charged with under this law is “aggravated solicitation.”
Read More…and weep

Mic check!?

This morning I was out in the big tent at Library Theater, in the ticket line for ETHEL, the documentary on Ethel Kennedy. The crowd liaison was having to yell to try to get the talkative herd’s attention before beginning the process of letting us into the theater. A similar thing happened a bit later in the theater when a manager tried to begin the introduction of the director.

Both times, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if they’d yelled “Mic check!” Certainly some people there have been involved in Occupy or have seen the mic-check practice online and would respond. If enough people echoed the call and others became silent, it would be a measure of how deeply (or not) the Occupy Wall Street memes had penetrated mainstream society.

I’m just dying to try it to find out.

So you want to get a fake scab job?

[UPDATE: Strikers have settled! But these suggestions below can come in handy next time, especially with more pre-planning and lead time. Heh heh heh]

Here are some background and tips if you want to be a scab/spy or “salt” as it’s also known. I’ll start with a bit of my history with this.

Back in ’98, I got a job as a “replacement worker”—aka “scab”—at two different Kaiser Aluminum plants struck by the United Steelworkers. They were on strike against Kaiser Aluminum’s new corporate owner, junk bond and S&L scandal criminal Charles Hurwitz, owner of Maxxam Corporation. Here in Norcal, we’d been fighting Maxxam since ’85 after they’d taken over Pacific Lumber and begun liquidating old growth redwood forests. When we in Humboldt heard about the Steelworkers striking in Washington State against the same company, we immediately jumped at the opportunity to form alliances.
Click for more story and tips