James Maher is a photographer in New York City, and lately he’s been posting some lovely images of the people of Occupy Wall Street on his blog. Surf the electron ocean over to his blog for a helping of his work.
Most of my contact has been with the folks involved in Area 99, Occupy Las Vegas. So far I’ve had little contact with the splitter group Occupy LV. As I understand it (mostly from an article I read on line from the Las Vegas Review Journal), the group split over several issues. Individual members of Occupy LV have stated publicly that they felt like their voices weren’t being heard or honored, and concerns were expressed over the summary expulsion of “fringe” members, and a lack of transparency over such expulsions.
On my first visit to Area 99, I noted a hand-written letter taped to the wall of an adjacent building by the assembly area. A picture of the note is available here: “Hi Vegas!” I had the chance to exchange tweets with Vincent Vibbert, a Community Outreach member from Occupy Wall Street about his views of Occupy Las Vegas, and Area 99. He holds some very strong opinions, and isn’t shy about sharing them.
I asked him if I could ask him some questions, and he provided me with his email address. Here is our exchange, published here with his permission.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to me on Twitter earlier today. As I said, I saw your note when I visited Area 99 on Friday morning, and I decided to follow you on Twitter. I would like to have met with you, but this method also has its good points. You said in your direct message that you’d be able to direct any questions I have to NYC, but to be frank I would like *your* answers.
Before I begin with the list of questions, it’s important that you know that I will be including your responses in my write-up on Occupy Las Vegas on my blog. It will be up to you to present yourself as you wish to be presented. How you will be perceived by my readers is not something I can control.
When I visited on Friday am, I met with a few of the people in the camp, and got the impression that most of them were homeless, and I was told that most of the tents were empty. Can you confirm that?
Did you speak there on the 8th? How were you received?
You mentioned in your tweet that Area 99 is leased, and that because it has lease holders, and evicts fringe people, it is not a horizontal democracy. Would you expand what you mean by providing examples of instances you witnessed or were related to you by the people involved?
An article in the Las Vegas Review Journal published on Saturday states that the group has splintered: http://www.lvrj.com/news/infighting-threatens-occupy-las-vegas-movement-133663458.html
Kristal made a point to state in the GA that the group should not sabotage Occupy LV. That if asked, they should say that they are using different methods toward the same end. What’s your response?
Here is Vincent’s reply, edited only for spelling.
You can quote me on anything you want to, however, I speak for myself
and not for the NYC GA. I do outreach to other occupations and try to
help them avoid our mistakes and let them know about some of the
things we did that worked well. I usually stay away from big-picture /
philosophical discussion as much as possible. I focus my discussions/
teach-ins on organizational issues, mainly best-practices type of
stuff with working groups. that said I was personally disgusted of
what I saw from 90% of OLV.
For the two days I was there, I never saw more than about 8 people,
with the exception of the one meeting they referred to as a “general
assembly.” I use quotes as that meeting had very little in common with
any other general assembly I’ve seen, especially New York. Of those 8
people the majority were homeless. There was minimal discussions or
activities. None really. While I was there I did outreach/welcome desk
duties to those who passed by and did have several good conversations
with people about the occupation movement. When random people drove
by, many from other states, to check out the OLV, I welcomed them and
spoke with them and thanked them for coming and explained what the
occupation movement is about and my personal reasons for being there.
So yes I could confirm your account that nearly always only a few
homeless people were there and a bunch of empty tents.
I did speak and have my discussion/teach-in to the only people that
showed up. Six – Seven people attended. Five were homeless. Four had
mental/addiction disabilities that prevented effective comprehension
or participation in said discussion. Two people appreciated it a lot
and thanked me.
When questions at the GA were raised about major decisions being made
and major changes being made without input and approval from the GA,
Krystal and her group were irate, belligerent, dismissive… They
affirmed their right as lease holders to make unilateral decisions
about the occupation. “For your own good and safety.” was a
justification Krystal personally used. She was belligerent and
confrontational. I don’t know her. I don’t know her motives. I don’t
I was briefly introduced to her and she started out on a persecution
complex about how everyone was out to get her. She then said that
“We’re about to change some things, but I can’t talk about it.” I
asked her what that meant, as this was a transparent and leaderless
movement and she flipped out and walked away.
Even if her motives are pure, which from meeting her I doubt
sincerely, it’s irrelevant. This movement is by definition horizontal.
If one word could be used to describe this movement that would be it.
Her and the other lease holders and bank account holders. (the one’s
with money who had placed themselves at risk re the occupation)
believe since they have more to risk they should have more say than
others. This is the system we’re fighting, one in which those with the
most money and most “risks” make the decisions (supposedly in
everyone’s best interests). The lease holders and those at OLV who have
financial risk for it have final say and veto power over anything they
consider “threatening” or “too fringe” (their words not mine).
As such they have nothing to do with this movement. They have co-opted
a movement and started a traditional non-profit type group which they
claim will be fighting the 1% with. That’s fine. I might even stand in
solidarity with them. However as long as they claim to be an
“occupation” I am disgusted that all the hard work I’ve seen put in
all over this country is associated with a group that spits upon the
main virtue of the occupation movement, ie horizontal, leaderless
organization. Not to mention the fact that they aren’t occupying
anything. They’re leasing a parking lot and letting some homeless
people hang out. They also spend absolutely no time at the occupation
except for GA’s from what I saw. Not everyone can be there all the
time, but I find it less than coincidental that those trying to co-opt
and establish/maintain a position of authority are not the ones down
there welcoming people or feeding people or cleaning. They just show
up at meeting to tell people what to do. Some of these meetings are
held on an “emergency basis” where by laws and general assembly
processes were changed. Also a spit in the face to transparency,
another prime virtue of the occupation movement.
I could go on, but these are the main philosophical things that turned
Another pivotal point I hope you’ll mention if you’re gonna print all
my neigh-saying about OLV is that I recognize that each occupation is
different, have different communities, different values. Thats fine.
If you want to do something completely different than NYC or every
other occupation that isn’t contrary to the very minimal values that
this movement universally strives towards (horizontal, leaderless,
transparent, peaceful)…. thats great. If it works you should keep on
doing whatever you’re doing. However, when you have on average 4
homeless persons at your camp and people are getting the cops called
on them for trespassing for questioning the authority of the “leader”
of a leaderless movement. You’re doing something wrong. If OLV were
functioning my criticisms would be irrelevant, but its arlready split
into two and will most likely fizzle soon. Therefore I think that my
criticisms are valid.
It’s important to note that another Community Outreach representative has been to Area 99, a man by the name of Nick. He spoke at the GA on Saturday.
Once again, I am presenting this outsider’s view of the situation at Area 99. It is by no means the only opinion, nor is it my opinion. This has been presented as an alternate view.
Edited to add: Here is a statement page URL from OccupyLV.org on their reasons for the split: Occupy Las Vegas Splits Over NPO “Co-Optation” [Updated Nov 12]
Occupy Las Vegas and Occupy LV set aside differences long enough to jointly occupy the University Gas Station on Maryland Parkway and Flamingo Road in Las Vegas last night. From the OccupyLV website, here is the story of the foreclosure of the small business:
Ali and his family have been operating an independently owned gas station at that corner for 21 years. They get their gas from Sinclair, hence the name, but they’re not part of a chain. About two years ago, when the economy really started to tank, their business began to fall off, and they couldn’t meet all of their bills.
All of their creditors have been working with them and taking monthly payments to allow Ali & Katja to pay down their debt. All of them, that is, except Bank of Nevada.
Ali & Katja have tried to work with the bank and have offered to make monthly payments over their regular payments. First they offered $200 per month; then, $250. The bank declined their offer and has consistently refused to negotiate. They have 48 hours left.
There are already 3 constables there, and another officer of some sort stands behind the counter with Ali, overseeing all sales because all of the money they’re taking in right now goes to the bank. Still, instead of walking away, they’re open for business and handing the money over. Ali wasn’t certain about exactly when the lockout would take place. But it will be sometime in the next 48 hours.
So, Ali sent out an SOS to Occupy Las Vegas–all of Occupy Las Vegas–to make their plight more visible.
(Source: OccupyLV.org, written by Gina Sully of OccupyLV)
This is a growing set on Flickr of images taken at Occupy Las Vegas Area 99. Enjoy.
I’ve visited Area 99 in Las Vegas twice now. The first time was at about 7 am, when bleary-eyed occupiers were just rising from their tents. I met about 5 or 6 of them briefly, spoke with them about who they were, how long they’d been in the camp. I learned that not all of the tents has a person sleeping in them, but I did not learn why.
My first impression was, and remains, that homeless folks are providing the camp with overnight occupiers–which could be construed as exploitation at first blush. But realistically, I’d say if that is the case, it may be a good situation for both Occupy Las Vegas and for the homeless who shelter in Area 99. I’m assuming that there are rules that must be followed while in the camp, or they risk being asked to leave. The camp is legal, clean, well stocked, and has a security team. The people I spoke to felt confident enough to express opinions that were not completely in line with what I understand OWS to be about, but at least they were able to express them openly. I’d say that is a good thing.
I learned today that due to differences of opinion the initial group has split; Area 99 is the home of Occupy Las Vegas, and Occupy LV is now a separate entity. Tonight at the General Assembly, I noted that Crystal Glass (AKA @mizztazz) stressed being civil about the split, emphasized that OLV and Occupy Las Vegas were two separate groups with the same end in mind but different means.
Also at the GA tonight I saw a wider range of people; Mostly Caucasian (which is about as helpful as the term “Semitic” when describing a wide swath of human genotypes), what appeared to me some Latino/Hispanic, a few African Americans. Also in attendance tonight was a man who told me he was running for $POLITICAL_OFFICE, and he began enlisting my help by asking me to help him find a person with a “trust fund” to either run or fund his campaign. I told him that my blog was about what was happening at the various Occupy movements, and that I didn’t feel comfortable using it as a platform for candidates. “But don’t you realize the power of this movement?” Yes, and that’s why I don’t want it co-opted by politics. At that point he exclaimed “Fine!” and he stormed off.
During the meeting, a mini van pulled up with a donation of a futon mattress. The donor was a woman who lives in Las Vegas, but asked for anonymity because she works in the public sector and has to maintain a low profile. She listed a long family history of political activism, and said she’d been waiting 50 years for people to stand up and say “no more!”. She got a list of the needs of the camp, and said she’d try to bring some of them.
Next post: The split, and information received from a community outreach representative.
Welcome to Unoccupy Yosemite. This is the website to follow for reports and images of my visits to various Occupy Wall Street protests in the midwest for the winter of 2011-12. First up, Occupy Las Vegas.