Responding to Police Violence and City Crack Downs with Strategic Thinking and Action: There's a Place and Role for Everyone in the Occupy Movement

Rob Wheeler has been a local to global political activist and community organizer for the past 40 years. He helped organize and participated in the permanent closure of the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant in the 1970's and was arrested during the Blockade of the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant in 1981. See:

He was one of the organizers of a Student Strike during the Vietnam War that took over campus and shut down his college for the rest of the year. And Rob has been actively involved in efforts to stop and then end both the US attacks on and the wars in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Rob Wheeler is also one of the organizers of Occupy Cafe. He is currently a UN NGO Representative for the Global Ecovillage Network, the Citizens Network for Sustainable Development, and Commons Action for the United Nations. He is on the Board of the CCC-UN and is the Chairperson of the World Alliance to Transform the United Nations.

Rob is also on the Core Team of the World Transforming Initiatives, which is seeking to fund and produce TV documentaries that will be broadcast to a global audience of hundreds of millions of people, the first of which will focus on the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit Conference. See: and

Rob's passion is to help create a world that is sustainable, just, and prosperous for one and all.


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Hi Karin,


Sorry I did not get back to you on this sooner. Yes, this is very important - connecting with the police, mainstream journalists, public employees, etc. We probably have allies in all sorts of unexpected places; and need their support/help to overcome any number of difficulties. Years back I was at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant blockade. They were bringing workers into the plant on buses. We were blocking the buses. a gal laid down on the roadway. The security guard waved the bus on as it stopped just before hitting her. The guard kept waving the bus forward. She would have been killed. thankfully he stopped and refused to go on. 


Another time it was 6 AM almost no one around. A patrol car pulled up two officers jumped out, one cocked his gun and started to point it at the protestors. Fortunately there were one or two TV cameramen standing on the bank looking down on us. We called out to the media and they had their TV cameras up and pointed in our direction in a flash. The officers put their rifles down and a scary moment was again averted. 


So, there are crazies on both sides along with those that want to help; and the more that we can reach out to everyone the more likely that we will be able to change the world for the better. 


My nephew in law is actually a Sergeant for the LA police. You couldn't have a nicer guy in the whole wide world. On the other hand I have been verbally and physically abused by the police several times. Once a guy pushed me down on the pavement and put my head on the ground and his knee on my head. I hate to think what could have happened if I had resisted his violent actions. 


One thing that I have noticed is that many cops do not like people to question them or their authority. And one thing that protestors and occupiers like to do is to question authority - thus a no-win confrontational situation. It would probably be worthwhile discussing such dynamics with the police. 


In any case Karin, if you are still interested in this, I think the best thing to do would be to start either a eForum discussion or a Group on Occupy Cafe that could focus on facilitating communication and respect for government employees and police. Maybe you could help to draft an Occupiers Code of Conduct on how we will treat the police, etc no matter whether they are provocative or not. 


I am pretty certain that you are right re a significant part of the reason for the violence and force is to scare people off from joining the protests and to try to shut down the encampments now when it is starting to get cold and before they get any more popular. 


However, I have often seen it rear its ugly head at other protests as well; and then the protestors usually get angry and confrontational in return and it can easily escalate on both sides. It would thus be great if you can help to stem the tide. Do you know about the National InterOccupy calls on Monday Nights? This would be a good place to bring up the matter and to invite people to join your conversation or group. 


Good luck, 


Rob Wheeler


THE WEEKLY SPARK - An idea to make space within the Occupy movement for all the things people want to focus on - and to engage supporters who can't attend an occupy site - and to support the Occupy movement's capacity to turn the conversation from police raids to the important public issues.

Every week the local Occupation "vision working group" - or whatever the local equivalent is - decides on one or more

*  proposed vision, mission, value or goal for people to think about and discuss
*  protest or demand for people to promote, lobby, or act on
*  provocative/evocative question* or fact for people to explore, individually and together
*  personal action that any person or group can do to make a difference or
*  other some other statement or challenge for people to explore or act on.

The vision working group takes their proposed Weekly Spark to their General Assembly for discussion and approval.  Once approved, the Occupation announces it to everyone involved with their site, to their networks, to other Occupy encampments, and to the general public.  It could be as simple as that:  Once a week some significant, coherent message would come from each site, inviting their supporters (and others) to engage in specific conversations, reflections and/or actions.  Some occupiers may want to take it further, creating online or face-to-face forums to help people act and interact on the Spark of the Week - or doing demonstrations, street theater pieces, and/or direct actions that promote it.  Some occupiers might even want to organize a Spark of the Week Network, where people participate in weekly groups to talk or act on their local Occupation Sparks.
I think of it as "the Weekly Spark" because a spark pops out of a fire and can itself start another fire.  A spark is also a single point of light among many, which fits the idea that Weekly Sparks would be created locally by many widespread Occupy sites.  OWS can then mean both "Occupy Wall Street" and "Occupy the Weekly Spark" - meaning get into it, get into the question, get into the vision, get into the action, get into the transformational fire with everyone else.  "OWS" becomes a burning invitation to all of us to participate, to contribute our heat to the spreading conflagration.

Tom: I love this idea! All the various Occupations each doing those four things each week. Those sparks could light one hell of a fire! AND I want us to do it here at OC too. We could start in about two weeks, I'd say. When I think of who we already have "in the room," I get very excited. Some serious collective intelligence ready to be ignited.


I re-read your note today and also think this is a really great idea. I was going to write and suggest that we could start with Occupy Cafe; so I am glad that Ben beat me to it. Actually, Ben and Tom, I think we could start doing it this week. Earlier this evening I made a list of upcoming Occupy events and activities (which I will send you by email). Among them you will see that on Nov 17 there is a National Day of Action focusing on shutting down wallstreet and restructuring our economy; and on Nov 15 a call for a Student Strike from UC Berkeley Occupy. Paul Bernstein is supposed to talk about a new human centered Economy on Monday's call and Aerin Dunsford about where the occupy movement might go from here. 

Both of these issues are right in line with the questions that Tom has raised and with the focus on these two events regarding restructuring the economy and students role in the occupy movement and where it could go from here. So, whether we formally focus on Tom's suggested question and the spark idea, I think we are already headed in this direction and can continue to embrace it moreso. 

If we all pay attention to what is happening within the movement and among the different occupy groups, we will probably be able to do a good job of selecting appropriate spark of the weeks. And then other groups can either follow up on and join in what we are suggesting, can choose their own sparks, or perhaps from time to time the national interoccupy group will be able to select Sparks that we can all unite around. 


I agree with the essence of your idea, my thinking is a little different though. I think the power of Occupy as a movement is to hold the "big frame" that binds work happening at the local level together (see Lakoff), and that the local "Occupy" plays an important role in keeping the "big frame" strong.  The four Sparks you suggest should be taken up by the many local organizing groups and organizations, so that they are tying their strategies and tactics to the "big frame".  There is a danger, I think, of the power of the movement being undermined if there is not a way of maintaining discipline on the "big frame", which i understand to be very straightforward - the 1% benefits at the expense of the 99%, and Corporate power is destroying democracy.

just my thoughts...



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