Flash Mobs and Mutual Aid. Interview with Erick Valle, Occupy Eugene Communication Committee. By Willi Paul, PlanetShifter.com Magazine. 11/29/11
Around 7 PM Monday evening, I walk to Washington Jefferson Park in the expecting to see people huddled for warmth around fires similar to those at Millrace Park (the previous location of Occupy Eugene). I arrive only to see that the newest location for the Eugene collective is not only much larger than expected, but sheltered, in a very convenient way, by two overpasses that lead outside of Downtown Eugene to Interstate-5. Under these highly trafficked zones, in full view of daily passers-by, are hundreds of Eugene and surrounding area citizens occupying; they are there to stay. I hadn't been to the camp since it moved a couple of weeks ago. To come back to this was quite a surprise.
As I later found out at the General Assembly meeting that night, the base camp for Occupy Eugene is to be considered for possible relocation again on Dec. 15. The past few weeks at Washington Jefferson Park have been nothing but fruitful for the morale of occupiers and sympathizers alike. OE is set on making sure more permanent and progressive ideals/innovations begin to root themselves in Eugene, Oregon- as a direct critique of the socioeconomic system that precipitated the debacle on Wallstreet and beyond.
Is Eugene building a new economy?
The short answer is yes. Though not based in a new currency specifically, certain ideals and frameworks of "dealing with things" are being established. What the Eugene occupation provides for all camped-out for embodied protest is food, water, and shelter- this is to say ALL persons whom are there (homeless included) receive at the very least basic standards of subsistence. This coincides with one of the overarching ideals behind OE- Mutual Aid. With this notion operative at camp, all of the most basic needs of occupiers are met based on the contributions of those involved as well as others from throughout the community.
For example- OE has two Doctors at its disposal whom provide health care to OE at NO COST. Fully equipped with supplies for a variety of situations, these doctors take care of the health of those whom have chosen to bear the elements of Oregon's on-setting Winter. The rain, wind and cold have been tough on the occupiers and illness has been an issue. Sustainable building practices are also a way of subverting the current economic sway of active production. Constantly searching for materials to use against the weather, Eugene occupiers have made good use of their surroundings and tent shelters to provide wind cover and communal, dry spaces where meetings can happen comfortably. Utilizing ANY AND ALL materials from the nearby community for the Winter, recycling usable things as much as possible, has lead to the erection of a large tee pee, a large tarp covered dome and various tent structures.
Are there heroes at OE?
Yes, many whom must be regarded. The 17 whom got arrested on Nov. 17th would have to be the first. A group of demonstrating occupiers (including fellow University of Oregon classmates of mine) were arrested in direct visible and vocal critique of banking forces on the very steps of Bank of America and Chase Banks in downtown Eugene. The general Occupy critique is a systemic one, and as bastions of the inequity that has become more and more visible in recent times, confrontation with banks in general is one way of drawing out the true locus our economic discussion- the possibility for individual prosperity under our current economic and political understandings.
Heroes inside the camp whom must be addressed include the 30 people or so whom compose the Core Organizers of OE- their selfless commitment to making things happen on the day-to-day for the group is crucial to the success of the movement as a whole in the city.
Despite all of the difficulties with in climate weather Oregon is prone to, occupiers remain steadfast in their determination to be seen and heard in these trying times. In this regard, the most obvious heroes are the occupiers themselves. They choose to live in the conditions that they do now for ideals greater than themselves. Through sickness and in health Eugene occupiers have trudged through many a cold/wet/rainy day for this cause and continue to established an ever growing presence in the middle of the city.
How much of OE is driven by Permaculture values?
The answer is entirely. Though 'specific' values are wanting, the practical goals set forth by the encampment are geared toward sustainable and pragmatic methods. The long term vision being toyed with by the OE Engineering Committee (based on the ruminations of the Vision Committee at OE and the camp as a whole) is to essentially to establish a large permaculture/sustainable living/functional teach-in site in the heart of Eugene. In talking with Derek S., a member of the Engineering Committee, the structural vision for the future of the OE camp is exciting. The night Derek and I talked he was just finishing up making an announcement to the General Assembly- semi-permanent construction of meeting spaces in the camp was to commence. Not only meeting spaces, but shelters also, are to be erected for the comfort of the occupiers and as a symbol of the entrenchment of this occupation within Eugene.
In the spring, and in cohort with the City of Eugene, permanent structures for public use- built by the Occupiers themselves- hope to usher in the installation of more permanent housing/facilities for the use of Occupiers. With these designated, stable areas erected for the use of OE, the possibility for gardens and functioning intentional groups comes to the fore. In the name of sustainable values in all regards, the building of infrastructure at OE is coupled with various committees dedicated to providing ALL basic human need including food, water, shelter, bathroom and energy. The creation of and maintaining of a community garden and the erection of permanent adobe buildings for Occupy use, highlight only a fraction of the practical endeavors OE is implementing to make their permanent stay possible.
The use of donated and borrow technologies at OE is crucial…
…toward the health and comfort of all there. With the use of batteries, solar panels, generators and even bike power, OE is able to cook and support anyone and everyone whom comes to camp, even the homeless. This openness to anyone who would like to become involved in OE, and the ability to accommodate them, is fundamental to the unified feeling that OE breeds. In the midst of Winter, occupiers will gather in a big dome every day at 7 AM and 7PM (per usual) for their General Assembly, at which the various committees at work for OE (Communications Committee, Actions Committee, Public Relations Committee, Vision Committee, etc,etc.) present the progress of their group. As dedicated individuals continue to fight the good fight of our time, the sharing of progress and successes is important for not just for organization the whole of OE, but for the moral support of occupiers. As Winter's darkness ensues earlier and earlier each day in Oregon, the need for political and emotional solidarity becomes more and more crucial.
How are we working to bridge the many social injustices present in our world?
Through actions around Eugene, teach-ins with students and the community, and demonstrations, the various ideals and intentions behind the OE have been spread. These actions have served to further elucidate the general message of OE- that the systemic inequality underlying the debacle with Wallstreet is fundamentally suspect and must be held to public scrutiny- scrutiny that favors and actual precipitates change for the 99%. From arguing on the basis of global/transnational manipulation of all peoples, to addressing the exorbitant costs of a college education and medical expenses, it is the prerogative of OE to continue to spread the message against the hegemony of the 1% in public spaces- most notably (as of late) with demonstrations at Valley River Center Mall in North Eugene. At the VRC, a "flash mob" has been organized for Thursday evenings where protesters establish a quick and unexpected Occupation presence in the heart of this commercial area. By engaging interested citizens in conversation, or by simply shaking up the run of the mill trek through the mall for most citizens whom walk by, Occupiers effectively protest the 1% in the mall itself. How fitting.
This kind of action depends on effective communication techniques. In terms of the "work" of the communication committee at OE, their task is to be involved in the implementation of techniques at action events that serve to bring Occupy philosophies to the general public- whether by actual engagement/conversation with people at locations of protest, or, through informed public speaking against particular injustices, the need for our dedicated involvement in these matters is stressed. OE persons have specifically been involved in promoting a Permanent Homeless Ban that seeks to provide institutional structures so that all people may receive, as a right, the basics of living. This operative idea of Constant Action is the basis upon which the "flash mob" of the VRC, walks on B of A and Chase banks, petitions for a Permanent Homeless Ban and the like. The constant flow of such events has two ways of keeping the momentum of OE up. Their frequency provides something for people to rally around every few days to keep the morale of protest up and at the same time, despite their seeming efficacy, continue to spread the broader socio-economic-political questions that are at the root of the Occupy Movement.
It goes without saying that the full extent of the activities that are happening at Occupy Eugene cannot be summed up by me alone. The energy, intentions and actions of the occupiers ripple far beyond themselves and are accomplishments that in I can say breed the spirit of activism, fundamental critique and solidarity in Eugene. The work being done at OE is an inspiration for the possibility of reform in the United States, and beyond, in ways innovated and monitored by the people themselves- not corporate or political structures that increasingly become more and more distanced from the lived reality of most Americans.
I leave the OE home base thrilled and excited to write this response. The solidarity, provisions and shelter provided for everyone involved is amazing for a guerrilla style encampment . In so far as Occupy Eugene is a subversion of traditional modes of being within a fledgling and unfulfilled "American Dream" society, it is worthy to be recognized as a true attempt to reformulate what it means to be a citizen. The notion of "value," being what it is, changes depending on who you're talking to. By providing an example of what it means to live according to sustainable, egalitarian ideals- that serve to at least provide for the basic needs of all peoples- Occupy Eugene is a step in the direction of actually living in a progressive future, with new values that can meet the variety of conditions American citizens face today.
Occupy Eugene Communication Committee
University of Oregon
Philosophy/Physics Dbl. Major
valle.erick at gmail.com