Sunday, November 6, 2011

Occupy Iowa City has Expensive Taste

Say what you will about Iowa City.  It definitely marches to its own drumbeat.  Occupy Wall Street has been protesting in New York City for weeks.  The Occupy movement has spilled out into dozens of cities, both nationally and internationally.  Protesters are being met all over the place with pepper spray, batons, taser shocks, rubber bullets, and arrests.  However, we are not seeing the unrest here in Iowa City that others are seeing elsewhere, including nearby Des Moines.  Instead, the city of Iowa City seems to be going out of its way to allow the Iowa City Occupiers to camp out in College Green Park and discuss the overall mission and movement for as long as it takes. 

Occupy Iowa City was initially allowed to spontaneously protest at the park.  More recently, the Iowa City city council granted them a four-month permit to remain at College Green Park.  Within a day of entering into the 4-month contract with the city, Occupy Iowa City violated the agreement by building a structure that they wanted to use as a kitchen and warming area.  The Iowa City city government and Occupy Iowa City got together within days of this and worked out an agreement for the Occupiers to build a movable structure.  Eventually, the Occupiers went to the Iowa City Council meeting this past week and, through the art of "jazz hands" and spontaneous bouts of applause, managed to amend their four-monthly permit to obtain heated, 10-person capacity arctic tents to help them survive the next four months of winter.  They also got the city council to agree to take legal responsibility for the park protesters.

Friday, KCJJ Radio posted an article about a recent appeal by Occupy Iowa City that was posted on their Facebook pages and subsequently removed following complaints about the pricey food requests:
The list was first posted to the Occupy Iowa City Facebook group on Thursday. It sought donations of food items to help keep protesters warm during the winter months. The list included avocado, French beans, chicory, endive, fennel, kohlrabi, herbal tea, salsify, ghee, kitchari, legumes and other high-end food items. When posters began commenting on the expensive nature of the list, Occupy Iowa City protester Lisa Bonar responded by noting that while the items were “a bit pricey”, it was only a “wish list”.
Now it's possible that there were other food requests, such as Ramen Noodles, Tang, coffee, and canned fruits and vegetables, but the article doesn't indicate that this is so.  I have no clue what half of these food items are and I think I've actually tried only 2 or 3 of them in my lifetime.  I truly believe that it was a "wish list" and that they would gladly receive other, less expensive items if asked, but it really detracts from your message of "We are the 99%" when you actively seek food items that most poor and middle class citizens have never seen, much less tasted.

Ultimately, I'm not sure what Occupy Iowa City seeks to accomplish during the coming months at College Green Park.  They recently published their Statement of Principles:
The Occupy Iowa City General Assembly approved the following statement of principles over the course of a two part discussion on Oct. 23 and 24, 2011.

In the fierce urgency of now:
1.We observe the destructive power of militarism throughout the globe, increasingly spurred on by national and corporate greed, fear, and desire for complete domination over people and resources.
2.We witness the greatest disparity in the distribution of wealth since the Great Depression.
3.We observe corporate and individual greed on an unprecedented scale, resulting in the upward flow of capital, the impoverishment of the working class, and the dismantling of the democratic process.
4. We witness the exploitation of the Earth and its natural resources, and its disastrous effects on climate, agriculture, food, waterways, and all living beings.
5.We witness concerted efforts to criminalize and oppress human beings on the basis of ability, age, class, gender identity, gender expression, sexual identity, religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.
6.We witness political repression and incarceration of dissenting voices and political ideologies.
7.We witness the degradation of public schools which do not provide the skills needed for creative and free thought, or for full participation in economic or political systems.
8. We witness the infiltration of the profit motive into all spheres of life.

Therefore, Occupy Iowa City, based on the material and social conditions of the world today, and aware of the particular responsibility we bear as people who reside in the United States, articulates the following principles:

1.We stand in solidarity with the brave people participating in Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy movements throughout the world.
2. We affirm inherent human rights and recognize the utility of the United Nation’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” as a model for the articulation of these rights, but additionally affirm the need for protection of diverse and indigenous cultures.
3.We affirm the need for safe and affordable housing for all human beings.
4.We affirm the right of human beings to choose where they live and work, and to engage in these activities free from intimidation or harassment from the state, employers, employees, financiers, or the community.
5.We affirm the need to protect the environment and believe that a just world requires all people and organizations to take full responsibility for the ecological implications of their actions.
6.We affirm the right of all people to have access to appropriate health care as well as clean and nourishing food and water.
7. We affirm our commitment to peace and the belief that entities, including nations, states, and private capital, should never pursue war or brutality of any kind.
8.We affirm transnational interdependence, which rejects colonization, military occupation, and economic and cultural imperialism.
9.We believe in the equitable and just distribution of all resources, opportunity, and wealth.
10.We affirm the necessity of affordable public education for all people, so that they may be fully informed, creative and curious participants in a just society.
11.We affirm our commitment to the process of democratic decision-making, and believe all people deserve an equal voice and vote.
12.We affirm the interconnectedness of these principles and seek new paradigms to bring about systemic change.

This is a living document and is not all-inclusive.
I know that Occupy Iowa City meets every evening to discuss those principles and I know that there are supposedly people out there all the time to chat with curious souls and to educate them about the Occupy movement.  And they occasionally march through downtown Iowa City.  Beyond that?  I'm not sure what tangible goal they hope to accomplish by camping out 24/7 at College Green Park.  But I'm open to learning more.  Please share the goals beyond the principles and I'll definitely publish those comments.

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