I am a supporter of Occupy and my wife and I had actually agreed to redirect our monthly charity contribution to Occupy LA starting in December. We figured we'd buy winter supplies to help the campers through the winter. No longer. Not because we don't support this movement anymore...we do. But after participating in marches on both Days of Action (10/15 and 11/17), and having visited Occupy LA's encampment and spoken with people there, I realize that the Occupy movement, as with everything else in this world, needs to change in order to survive .
As countless posts have repeated (in vain), these changes involve isolating core demands (i.e. get money out of politics), establishing effective leadership and pooling resources with all organizations that share your core demands. The ultimate goal is to build an army, an army of supporters who will show up in force when called.
To that end, the camps need to go. If I thought the camps were helping pull people into the movement, I would be camping myself. They're not, in fact, they are severely damaging this movement's reputation. There are 600,000 unemployed people in LA County according to the EDD. Only 2,000 marchers showed up downtown on 10/15 and that dropped to a mere 500 (most of them employed union members and staff) on 11/17. There is obviously a huge disconnect here between Occupy and whom Occupy is trying to reach.
As many smart, driven people on this site have posted, how do we bridge this divide? How do we get more people to show up? 10/15 was a Saturday! It was a march, not breaking into a Bank of America! If you're unemployed, why wouldn't you come downtown and show your support for a few hours? But thousands stayed home. Why?
I am convinced part of the answer (although certainly not all of it) lies with the encampments. Many friends I've spoken to support the various issues raised by the Occupiers (and wish Occupy would be more focused) but these same people feel alienated by the Occupiers themselves. Yes, part of this is biased media coverage that talk only about anarchists, criminals and weirdos. But I must tell you: on 10/15, a friend and I stepped onto the grassy area outside City Hall to make way for a father and his baby in a stroller trying to get through the crowds, and we were immediately accosted by a guy in an army jacket from one of the tents, pointing at us and angrily ordering us off "his" camp spot on the grass, saying "we don't want you here." The truth is, there are anarchists, drug addicts and weirdos at Occupy camps who are ruining it for everyone else. Get rid of the camps and this won't be a problem anymore.
Let's be honest: camping outside City Hall and relying on handouts is not exactly mainstream. Nor is getting arrested and posting $5,000 bail as another friend of mine did on 11/17. And if the history of movements and revolutions has taught us anything, it's that you need the support of at least the majority of the mainstream (i.e. working class and middle class folks). For this to happen, the mainstream needs to identify with the protesters. The mainstream needs to get as angry as me, you and everyone marching. Let's focus on this, not protecting camps that most people don't want there anyway.
The camps were amazing symbols and have served their purpose. Symbolism now will rest on marches numbering in the thousands. If we can't do that, I guarantee you a camp of tents won't either.
PS I'll be there for the port shutdown on 12/12. Like I said, I'm a supporter, I'll show up, I may even get arrested. I don't yet have kids to worry about. WE. ARE. THE 99%!!!!!