Archive for Saturday, October 22, 2011

Follow the leader? Occupy Lawrence may not have one

October 22, 2011


Ask around for the leaders at an Occupy Lawrence protest, and you’re likely to get an answer that sounds something like this:

“What makes (the movement) so attractive to so many people is that it’s leaderless,” said Cody Alley, 25, standing near a group of tents in South Park last week.

A Kansas University political science professor who studies protests and repression, though, says it’s impossible to have a protest without leaders.

“There had to be someone who said, ‘Let’s go to Wall Street, and let’s occupy,’” said Ron Francisco, who organizes data on protests around the world. “There’s a leader somewhere, but we don’t know who it is.”

Locally, the Occupy Lawrence movement has all sorts of “point people” who organize all sorts of matters for the group — everything from collecting donations to acting as a liaison with city government. But those “point people” don’t consider themselves “leaders.”

Jason Phoenix, 32, of Lawrence, said he’s the point person for talking to the media, among other duties. He said he considered himself more of an adviser than a leader.

All major decisions are made by consensus at 6 p.m. daily assembly meetings, as group members raise two arms to indicate agreement and put two arms down to indicate they disagree.

The people who set the agenda for the meetings rotate around, Phoenix said, and, even though he’s a “point person,” that doesn’t mean what he says goes.

“I can advocate for something as much as I want to, but the group makes its own decisions,” he said.

When asked who organized Occupy Lawrence in the first place, Phoenix said he didn’t know. He said he found out about it through other means.

“I saw a flier,” he said.

It still took someone to set up the website and Facebook page to begin the movement. In this case, that was Steve Robinson, 56, a self-employed chess teacher who lives on Pennsylvania Street in Lawrence, and his wife, Lori Learned Robinson.

He said he was inspired to try to get a local movement going after watching a YouTube video about the Occupy Wall Street movement in late September. So he and his wife went to the Web and to Facebook to try to drum up support for an Oct. 8 rally on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence.

Robinson said he asked friends of his on Facebook to indicate they were attending the rally even if they had no plans to, in the hopes of generating more interest in the rally. He also recruited a few others to help him organize events.

“To me, the movement is leaderless because people have become disillusioned with leadership,” he said.

Interviewed on Wednesday, Robinson said his involvement had since scaled back. He was at home on Wednesday, and hadn’t been to the daily organizational meetings for at least the last few days, he said. And he doesn’t call himself a leader, either. He plays a “gadfly” role these days, he said.

“If I’m a leader, we’re in more trouble than we thought,” Robinson said.

Leaders of major protest movements are usually of a higher social class and economic status than most of the followers, said Francisco, the KU political scientist. Whether that will hold true for the national Occupy effort has yet to be seen.

“The leader of this movement obviously doesn’t want to be known,” Francisco said.


waynelsworld 6 years, 7 months ago

I believe most "movements" started with an idea and generally were very disorganized at the begining . As time goes by they begin to take shape and become more cohesive as more and more people join and bring with them new ideas and directions. This is no different, it is still in many respects in its infancy. As time goes by leaders and potential future leaders will emerge. They will either develop out of the natural course of events or will be summoned by the group as respected members asked to take a leadership role.

They will be by consensus or simply by popularity within the group brought to the forefront of the movement and will be designated as the leader or leaders of what now has become an organization. From there, an effective leader will remember that he or she is but an extention of the will of the organization and works only at the favor of those who placed their trust in them.

This in my view, is how it will take shape and become more than an idea with no apparent cohesive message. Give them some time in the political evolution of the group and leaders will emerge.

kansanjayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

Capitalism and free enterprise and private property rights are the foundation of our free Republic. Any movement that undermines these values is not positive for the future of liberty and freedom.

voevoda 6 years, 7 months ago

My civics courses taught me that the foundation of our Republic are our Constitution and its guarantees of citizens' rights and participation in government decision-making. The Constitution doesn't say a word about capitalism or free enterprise. it protects private property, to a certain extent, but it doesn't place it front and center, as you do, kansasjayhawk. Indeed, the authors of the Declaration of Independence deliberately altered Locke's formula of "life, liberty, and property" to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Property isn't central to happiness, and the pursuit of property too often means limiting the liberty of others.

uncleandyt 6 years, 7 months ago

I also heard that Adbusters started this. Then I turned off my radio and sought additional information. My second source assured me that , yep, this is an Adbusters deal. So I turned off the TV and started lookin' online. It turns out that ACORN and Goldstein are also huge funders of this perplexing wonder. Go Chiefs !

topflight 6 years, 7 months ago

I am thinking Huzzah or Wakarusa Festival when I see the pictures.

uncleandyt 6 years, 7 months ago


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 7 months ago

autie, I've been told that a lot of the protesters are there for the social aspects of a grouping of other people, very much like the hippy movement of the 1960s.

And I was also told that a lot of the motivation for the gathering is the one on one encounters of some sort, but I didn't understand at all what he was talking about.

KCHunter 6 years, 7 months ago

Some background information about this movement:

Sept 13 there was a call on "Occupy Wall Street" from a Canadian Anti-consumerism organization named "AdBusters". Some People started to discuss that in the blog, a few suggested a date of Oct 6 to synchronize with the Occupy Washington rally (October2011), but some people picked Sept 17 and they started a web site AdBusters probably does not play a part in this OS. October2011 and OWS seem to have some common agendas and in many aspects, perhaps October2011 is a better organized (joint by many civil groups, include OWS) rally group, since OWS started on Sept, media spot light has been mostly on this group. There was an October 15 "Global Revolution" as well, this more likely the second phase of the "May Spanish Revolution". Both OWS and October2011 and many city around the world joint this rally.

To my observation, these have been a global movement in demand for social equality, and social justice. The main targets are greedy business for their misconducts (lack of social responsibilities for example) and their influences on politics and policy making. Personally, I feel the driving force is due to this economic crisis, people lost jobs, lost home, not be able to make a decent living, and yet, the gap in wealth distribution has been increased to a point that is unacceptable by a lot of people. It does not need a major effort to bring the crow into such a movement.

As far as leader of the movement is concern, I don't think this has a leader, but participants include social group and individuals, and I would define this movement as a civil movement. Civil movement, in contrast to political movement, has a trait of lack of leader, ideology and or specific agendas. IMO, these aspects can work against the purpose of a civil movement. For example, the banner calls for 99%, but we never know what is in the mind of 99% other than yourself. A civil movement provide a setting where general concerns, ideas, agendas can be discuss, by people of different ideologies and believes. So far, all consensus made in these different groups are by a mean of General Assembly (GA).

As this civil movement develops, I don't think a leader is needed, down the road at some point in time, I expect these protesting groups may seek a joint national convention, where solutions to the problems will be discussed at the legislation level.

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