On Streets and Trains

One of our favorite approaches is to engage in Subway Storytelling. Check it out:


Who’s Train? Our Train!

The Brooklyn Paper article on N17 Subway Action

Occupying the Streets: A Guide
What is Occupying the Streets?—Occupying the streets consists of talking directly to people about what we are doing and how they can get involved. Having face-to-face conversations with real people is an incredibly powerful means of spreading legitimate information about our movement and getting other people involved. Personal interactions of this kind have been a key component of the success of movements and campaigns across the nation. We all know that mainstream media has done a pretty mediocre job of accurately representing our movement. When people who might not have heard about us or who may have been misinformed about the Occupy movement have a conversation with a passionate, intelligent person (such as yourself), it inspires them to join us. Passion is contagious!There are a few key differences between traditional canvassing (i.e., raising money for a campaign or getting someone to sign a petition) and occupying the streets.

1.  Reliance on a script – or, as it is often referred to in the canvassing world, a rap. Many traditional canvassing operations insist on strict adherence to a rap. We want to encourage people to be autonomous beings – to not only join existing Occupations, but to start their own in their own neighborhoods. We have included a few talking points that you can refer to when engaging people in a conversation about OWS; they should be used to help you get comfortable talking to strangers about what is going on in the world around us and how we can change it. However, we encourage self-education. Feel free to use the examples we have provided, while also looking at your own life and at the lives of those around you. Are you suffering from massive student loan debt with no prospect of a job in the immediate future? Has your family’s home been foreclosed on? Why did you decide to occupy? Use your own personal experience!

2.  Many traditional canvassing operations place an emphasis on talking to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Their goal is to get through the rap, get the person they are talking to on board, and move on to the next one. We want to have conversations, share ideas and work together to create a better future. Keeping that in mind, here is a very important tip on occupying the streets:

Listen: Let people tell you their story. Let them talk to you about having to work two jobs just to make ends meet; let them tell you about how their inability to buy health insurance has left them with a lifetime of insurmountable medical debt. The voices of the 99% have been ignored for far too long by those in power. When you commit to the simple act of listening, you are showing people  that we want their voices to be heard, and that we are working to create a society where their stories can and do matter.

*On an important note, don’t allow yourself to be verbally abused, and don’t waste your time on argumentative people who are obviously against the movement. This will lower your morale and keep you from spending your time and energy talking to more supportive people. Remember that most people support what we are doing. Trust yourself to know the difference between someone who is misinformed and simply has questions, and someone who just wants a fight.

3.  We are not trying to solicit money, impart political ideologies, or “convert” people to our line of thinking. We merely want to serve as sources of information and inspiration.

4.  Most traditional canvassing offices rely on a hierarchical structure with a clearly defined role for every member. OWS relies on a horizontal structure, where each member is encouraged to self-educate and share knowledge with every other member. There should be no Directors, Managers, or Bosses of any sort. Those with more knowledge of canvassing or organizing should share this knowledge with those who have less, and remember that, in teaching, one is always simultaneously learning.

Tips on Occupying the Streets:

1.  Smile! Say hi. Look people in the eye. Be your friendly, positive self.

2.  Have all the necessary materials on you. These can vary, depending on what your goals are. A list of materials could include:

-a general information pamphlet about an existing Occupation (should ideally include a schedule of General Assemblies and a website)

-flyers for any upcoming events, such as a protest or a march

-a pamphlet about legal rights or march guidelines (if you are canvassing an event)

-an FAQ

-sign-up sheet for any volunteer coordinating effort or email list you might be compiling

-a map of the area you are covering

-a list of contacts for the working groups in your area, if available

-relevant newspaper articles

-any petitions you may have

-a clipboard

-multiple pens

-stickers or buttons, if available

3.  Get people involved right away. Tell them about any upcoming events, and encourage them to attend the next General Assembly or Facilitation Training in their area. We want to give people the resources necessary to start their own General Assemblies and Occupations in their own neighborhoods, and to motivate their friends and neighbors to join them in fighting for social justice.

4.  Go everywhere. Think about marginalized populations that have historically been disenfranchised in our society. Think about ways in which you might reach out to these communities.

5. Bring your friends! Occupying the streets is always more fun with a friend or two.

Occupying the Streets on a micro and macro level:

1.  Occupying the streets can be done on a micro and macro level. We want to be doing outreach both within existing occupations, as well as in areas of potential occupations. Occupying the streets can be done on (at least) three different levels:

1.  Within an existing occupation. Reaching out to other working groups and spreading information within the current occupation is a great way to keep everyone informed about outreach efforts, as well as to glean information from other working groups. Attending working group meetings and trainings is an excellent way to share knowledge.

2.  In the immediate area around the occupation. In the case of OWS, this area includes the five boroughs, as well as other cities throughout the state. We should be giving people who may not have physical access to OWS the resources, tools, and knowledge necessary to start general assemblies and occupations of their own.

3.  In other states. To the extent that it is possible, it would be great if we were able to connect occupations in other states with OWS and, once again, to give them the resources, tools, and knowledge necessary to participate in direct democracy in their own communities. Try to get people visiting from other states to attend a training on Occupying the Streets, as well as a Facilitation (aka Intro to Direct Democracy) training.Keeping these different levels of outreach in mind, remember that there is no set time or place for occupying the streets. Talk to the barista, talk to the person sitting next to you on the bus, talk to the people standing in line with you at the post office. Chances are that they are the 99%, too. Let’s create a society where we aren’t afraid to share ideas and have conversations with each other!
A Few General Reminders:

Group Formulation: When forming any group, it is important to pay attention to of the group’s composition. Be aware of who is speaking the most and who is speaking the least. Ask yourself if you have traditionally been encouraged or discouraged to speak in a group setting. If you have been encouraged to speak, consider stepping back and letting someone else have his or her say.

Language: Be aware of the language that you use and the effect it has on those around you. Language is an incredibly powerful tool. As Albus Dumbledore so famously said, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

People are more likely to say that they support “aid to the poor” than they are to say that they support “welfare.” People are more likely to support the notion of “workers having more direct influence on their pay and working conditions” than they are to support the concept of “unions.” Nonspecific, general language should be used to garner the support of a wide variety of people.

Leave the dogma at the door: Many people are very passionate about very specific issues. Some people feel strongly that environmental policy is the most important issue, while others feel that political reform should be a priority. Let’s all work to put aside our personal doctrines and agendas for the benefit of the majority. In the future, focusing on specifics can help us to identify likeminded groups; but, in the process of gathering mass, let’s consider focusing on the common bonds that will serve to unite us.

Goals: Some things to think about as far as goals are concerned: Setting and meeting your goals is a simple, motivational, and morale-boosting action. In a movement such as OWS, we can think about goals in the following way:
First, we accumulate mass.

Then, we organize.

Finally, we succeed.

Think about a predatory bird, such as a hawk, entering the territory of a smaller bird, such as a swallow. One swallow cannot fight off a hawk. Several swallows, however, have been known to attack a hawk and chase it out of their territory. Mass, organization, success.

There are two main types of goals: Long-term and short-term.

Short-term goals: Short-term goals should be targeted toward the immediate future, challenging yet obtainable. Obtainable goals could include distributing 5,000 flyers within a borough or neighborhood prior to moving a family into a home they have been evicted from, or recruiting 15 new people to come to an Outreach meeting.

Long-term goals: Long-term goals can be spread out over a longer period of time. Long-term goals are dependent on the success of short-term goals, and should be re-evaluated and redefined over time. Long-term goals could include planning massive nationwide rallies, affecting policy and changing laws, or creating a coherent list of contacts for all occupations worldwide.

Occupying the Streets is easy, effective and fun. The Occupy Wall Street movement depends on our ability to communicate with each other regarding social, environmental, and economic issues that are of the utmost importance. Let’s work together to mobilize people to engage in direct action, occupy public and private spaces, and build a form of direct democracy that works for everyone!

Occupying the Streets Guide – Download