The QueQue: Occupied
Published: October 12, 2011
The somewhat lazy critique lobbed at the fledgling movement hinges on the lack of a clear, concise message. The truth is much more involved. As the goals grow more concrete, they become more complex, impossible to distill in a concise soundbite and turn into a rallying cry (how many San Antonians can you really rile up with the phrase “reinstate Glass-Steagal”?). That’s why, rightly or wrongly, occupiers here, as elsewhere, are obsessed with their portrayal in the media. One common refrain at occupy powwows: “The media wants to make us look like idiots.” As one local occupier, 27-year-old Glenn Hotvet, put it, “I really think this is an education for a lot of us.” While many locals turned up at the beginning of the occupation because they were flat-out angry (and for a variety of reasons), Hotbed said traffic has slowed since it’s grown difficult to process, as a group, why they are in the street and in the park. “For a lot of us, it’s forced us to start going back and really understand how we got to this point,” he said. Another organizer, Chuck Robinson, remarked, “Our demands are hard to boil down into one thing, so people need to be patient. … The list of abuses catalogued here is decades in the making.”
How, or even if, Occupy can be localized and draw more San Antonians into the movement, is a question that’s nagged at organizers since their first general assembly at Southwest Workers Union headquarters two weeks back. (MoveOn’s decision to hold their rally this weekend up the road rather than join Occupy downtown seems disingenuous.) At Occupy Austin, local media reported the movement drawing as many as 1,000 protesters during the Thursday statewide Occupy rally. For the most part, City Hall has remained the Austin group’s target. Our local group made notably smaller splash Thursday, though it did reach roughly 200 deep at one point.
Unlike New York, where Occupy protesters have been chased, pepper sprayed, beaten, arrested, you’d be hard-pressed to find any cop keeping tabs on the San Antonio movement — the relationship between the City and Occupy has been remarkably amiable. Austin media reported their own occupy protest brought out a massive, yet restrained police presence, complete with SWAT team officers perched on rooftops and lines of squad cars keeping an eye on protesters. Many here feel District 1 Councilman (and former activist) Diego Bernal has been their man on the inside making sure those in City Hall and SAPD keep things civil. By phone last week Bernal was a little more cautious, saying he didn’t “necessarily support the movement,” but wanted to make sure police, protesters, and city officials don’t clash. “The last thing I wanted was a situation or some sort of confrontation between them and the police department. … I’m proud of the way everything went down.”