Occupy Boston's Idle Douchebag Safety Issue

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John Ford of the Occupy Boston library tent raises the issue of drug use and idleness at an impromptu emergency meeting last Saturday afternoon

 As was expertly identified in veteran activist Sara Robinson's recent indictment of Occupy's asshole epidemic, the problem with horizontal democracy is that a lot of folks are lazy alcoholic douchebags. As a result; while most people in the movement have collectively made an honorable attempt to ensure that all voices count, their egalitarian aspirations remain a far-flung fantasy. You simply can't rely on everyone.

In reality, occupations have so far flourished on the strength of micro-management. Media teams blog without consulting the General Assembly for every post; food workers keep bellies filled without taking votes on how to chop the veggies; medics don't ask the whole camp for advice on how to wrap ankles. It would be ridiculous if such decisions needed crowd-sourcing.

Yet while a lot of working groups are running rather smoothly – finance, legal, media, logistics, food, and direct action seem to be especially coordinated – there's a Filene's-sized hole in the overall Occupy Boston operation. After more than a month in Dewey Square, there's still no official safety force – no designated team to deal with the disarray and riffraff that compromise the occupation daily.

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Concerned safety volunteers raise their own money for Maglites

Occupy Boston librarian John Ford slammed this issue on the table last Saturday afternoon. As about 80 visitors and occupiers listened in, Ford stood on a ladder and belted: “We are deeply, deeply mired in substance abuse and idling.” This was news to almost no one; some coverage – of crimes committed at Dewey Square – ignores larger systematic challenges, but the problem is still for real.

What Ford also said, however – that was a bit more stunning – pertained to the weakening state of the camp's already disorganized safety force. Since the beginning, the GA has been reluctant to approve official security guards – the idea is far too fascist for the group. As a result they've wound up with just four or five volunteers who regularly guard the camp, and a mess of unflattering tabloid headlines.

Safety has never had a formal meeting. Though they're a designated working group, they also have no real presence on the Occupy Boston Wiki – no working contacts, no member names, no meet-up times, no needs or expenditures. The only significant content is a note from a self-described “safety team member” who claims: “Our camp . . . continues to darken as the incidents grow more out of hand.”

It's the same story offline and on the ground. So far those who watch over Dewey have no budget for basic things like flash lights and walkie talkies, and as a result Ford and two other concerned occupiers collected just over $200 from the crowd at Saturday's impromptu emergency meeting to buy Maglites for the weekend.

Many of the original safety volunteers are gone – or rather they were asked to leave on account of drinking, drugging, and protecting those who were doing the same. Now Occupy Boston is left with a de-facto crew of busy vols who mostly handle other duties around Dewey – Ford from the library, direct action guys who often help curb craziness, camp cook and fan favorite Frank from the food tent.

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“I think things are getting a little better,” says Frank, who closed the food tent today until the dishes were done. “But it's not just a safety issue – it's an issue as to why we need safety people in the first place. We have a problem with people who just want to sit around being lazy and doing nothing. They have enough energy to be mean all the time, but not enough energy to do any work. I just don't get it.”


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