You'd expect me to be a firebrand supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but, truth be told, I'm not. I believe in Occupy's mission, philosophy, and goals. I believe they have the potential to usher in real change, and I'm hopeful they'll make that happen. But while many of my fellow Liberals are heading off to join the rapidly-growing movement that's sweeping the nation across the board, and while I do hope they'll accomplish everything all of us 99%-ers are aiming for, I feel there are massive gaps in how the movement is coming along. Gaps that need to be addressed before Occupy will be capable of saving this nation from her perils.
I am a 99%... but I only 99% support the occupy movement. That missing percentile is lost in concern. Concern that the movement will not be able to accomplish everything we need it to accomplish. Concern that Occupy might fall victim to the same special interest astroturfing that the Tea Party fell prey to. Concern that sleazy businessmen and politicians might manage to wait the efforts out.
We need to be realistic. We need to look critically at our own movement, lest we be no better than the Tea Party after it was hijacked by the radical right. We need to cautiously audit the rank and file, and denounce those who move astray from the principals. And we need rock-solid principals for that to happen. I could go on like this for ages, but instead, I'll present a wishlist of seven ideas that I personally feel would better the Occupy movement by leaps and bounds.
Establish leadership. Do you know why the Tea Party was as successful as they were? I'll give you a hint: It starts with "L," and ends with "eadership." Getting a hundred thousand people to show up in the same place is the relatively easy part. Organizing a hundred thousand people? That's the real challenge. We've seen sparks of leadership, but you can't really put a set of faces on the movement, not easily anyway. Without clearly-defined leadership, the Occupy movement isn't going to survive. Kid yourself to the contrary not at your own peril, but at the nation's.
Define the message. Find almost any still image taken from any of the Occupy protests around the nation, and read the signs in that still. You'll most likely see a majority of signs supporting the overall message, but then, you'll see countless other signs that spiral off into other avenues of thought. The recent storming of the Air & Space museum was not only ignorant and childish, but it was misguided and took away from the overall message. Protesters need to get focused on a succinct set of principals, and focus the emphasis of the movement on one broad subject, rather than all subjects. You can't build the second story of a home until the first floor is standing.
Establish law and order. I've been to enough protests in my time to know one thing with absolute certainty: the police aren't always the bad guys. Sometimes they most certainly are... usually, however, they aren't, and by "usually," I do mean a good 90% of the time. Police aren't fighting with protesters because they have abundances of free time and pepperspray. It's a popular protest meme to chant "---- the police," but in reality, the police are there to protect you from unruly provocateurs, and to protect people and property from being hurt/ damaged. Some people show up at protests and say "yeah, anarchy! Break that window! Crap on that lawn! Let's cut off the Brooklyn Bridge!" But that helps no one. It makes the movement look bad, it gives people who would otherwise be supporters a reason to stay home, and arrests mean there are fewer people on the streets protesting with civility, and even more people who are afraid to show up at the gatherings. For every one protester who goes to jail, you lose ten protesters who could be doing something positive.
Work out proper logistics. You can't have tens of thousands of protesters showing up in local businesses to use restrooms, nor can you have people going #2 in jars. People need food, water, bathrooms, first-aid, and sanitation. Get some of those celebrity endorsers to pay for portable bathroom facilities to be brought on-site. I'm sure Susan Sarandon or Michael Moore can bloody well afford that! Ask people to bring food and drinks from home, especially if they plan on staying for long stretches of time. Ask for donations to help the movement logistically, and the movement can last ten times longer, while also being ten times safer for participants. Otherwise, it won't survive the winter.
Clean up the message. One of my close friends happens to be a professional photographer in New York City. He posted to Facebook a disturbing protest sign depicting a banker with his pants down, his... ahem... at full mast, with another gentlemen bent over nearby, his pants also removed. I'm sure the maker of that sign couldn't stop giggling with pride at his creation (I say "his," because let's face it, most women aren't that immature). The Occupy movement is slowly but surely getting more and more press coverage. It helps everyone if the signs on TV aren't offensive. It also helps encourage people to join if they aren't personally offended by nasty signs in the crowd. One dirty protest sign can send a dozen people home. Don't underestimate, or under-appreciate, how offended a person might be by a sign. Your single voice isn't magically more important than all of theirs. Speaking of being clean...
Pick up your trash! Protesters have been making a proper mess in numerous cities, particularly in New York City and Washington DC. I actually saw a photo from a friend on Facebook of a sign demanding environmental protections... it was muddied, broken, and lying on the ground next to empty bags of chips and a smashed and gnarled Coke bottle. If you're going to the protest long-term, bring a plastic grocery bag with you and pick up your trash. If you're a smoker, don't leave butts everywhere. If you're making a mess on the streets while protesting Wall Street making a mess of our economy, well, I'll let you make up the punchline to that one.
Support local businesses. The small businesses surrounding the protest sites need your help. They're struggling in the face of what many analysts are predicting could bloom into a double-dip recession, and the protests are driving away regular business on top of that. Small business owners and operators are NOT the enemy here. In fact, many more of them support the Occupy movement than you may realize. Stop in and buy something. Patronize those businesses, or you're no better than the banks that are refusing to dish out loans.