US Occupiers Turn To History, Art and Solidarity

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BY NICO COLOMBANT – Participants getting classes in political activism from how to deal with police to learning tactics from recent upheavals in North Africa

Participants in the multi-city Occupy movement in the United States are now getting classes in political activism, from how to deal with police to learning tactics from recent upheavals in North Africa.


Protesters with the progressive Occupy movement, now in its second month, such as here in downtown Washington, are still holding occasional street rallies to get their messages across. They also try to block intersections.

Now, they are also holding informal classes, such as this one about non-violence.  They have regular meetings to share best practices on dealing with police.

They even teach each other how to play the guitar or paint.

Paul Adler, a PhD candidate in history at a Washington university, is holding a talk about past U.S. social movements. “So the late 19th century, early 20th century, was this period of great foment. There was industrialization, the emergence of modern consumer capitalism and with that came great resistance, great social movements,” he said.

A union organizer who has joined the movement, Anthony Sluder, says everyone is learning to sharpen their arguments to make more of an impact. “We are having the conversations and we are developing what we need to develop so that we can change what needs to be changed,” he said.

Sluder would like to see much more government help on job creation.

A sidewalk people’s library has also been set up, with free books and Occupy movement newsletters and newspapers to read.

One of those enjoying the education is John Graysquirrel. “Books should be free, literature should be free and it should be available to anybody who wants them,” he said.

There have also been scheduled talks on learning from recent upheavals in North Africa.

The most peaceful movement unfolded earlier this year in Tunisia.

Abdennaceur Chamakh, a Tunisian cab driver, now celebrating new elections in his home country, says he has been impressed with the U.S. occupy movement. “The good thing is it started with the young people like back home. But it should be supported by everybody. The American people should not leave them alone. They should support them,” he said.

The Occupy movement prides itself in having no leaders, and has sprung up spontaneously among a combination of friends, activists and unemployed in outdoor parks and squares in major cities across the United States.

Goals of the protests have been varied, ranging from an end to U.S. foreign military action, raising taxes on the wealthy, more emphasis on government social spending and learning how to live in a donation-based outdoor community.

Protesters said they hoped the movement would last until at least the next U.S. presidential and Congressional elections in November 2012.