For All in Tents and Purposes

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Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, I reconnected this year with one of the smartest kids from high school (now of course in middle age.)  He’s been following my occasional posts there about the Occupy movement, including the good news this week about Occupy Irvine.  He generally has a centrist viewpoint — and he had a question:

Can you speak to the political effectiveness of camping: actual overnight occupation and pre-emption of public space?

"Tents on Irvine Lawn"

The encampment before it got quite so big. Note: grass already dead. (Photo: Occupy Irvine)

Why sure I can … maybe … all right, actually I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try.  It’s interesting to note that since pretty much the 1970s this is not a question I’ve heard asked much, which is the first part of my answer to him, which I reprint below in a luxurious and appropriate forest green.  Your thoughts (with exceptions that will be cheerfully withstood) are encouraged.

The effectiveness of a continuous occupation of space (public or private) is partly just that it’s new — and so can’t be so easily shrugged off by the public.  Where the motive is to get people talking about stark and largely ignored issues like income equality and how to rein in abuses by the financial services industry, just being visible as a goad to discussion is useful.

In our case, we’re preempting a relatively small portion (though still enough for dozens of tents) of a very large front lawn. Still, it’s very visible and at a relatively busy intersection. In part, it forms a base camp from which we can go — peacefully but assertively — into the communities around us and both educate and stir up discussion.

I think that this is effective for us because people in Corona del Mar, Balboa Island, and such are (so far as I can tell) really not used to political protest “coming home” to them. Because we think that our message is one that should be appealing to a great swath of Americans who have mostly not shared in the skewed growth in incomes over the past 30 years, we expect an unusually good reception there.

Even the wealthiest 1%, I’ve found, generally admit the legitimacy of our grievances when you get them out of their defensive posture and into individual conversations. They know full well that the system is screwed up — and they know deep down that it is wrong, not only for individual Americans but for us as a society. We speak to the “better angels of their nature.”

I’m interested in how the violence in Oakland, the mass arrests in San Diego, the impending conflict in Los Angeles, and such will seem when juxtaposed to the placidity of Orange County’s occupation. We took this course intentionally because we thought that this was the way to reach the hearts of our local residents. So far, we’re not making big news — but the news of this alternative path for an suburban Occupation is very big. We’re “of Orange County,” though we’re not leaving Orange County untouched.

And then, I swear, my friend transformed into a donkey that resented paying taxes.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)