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3 Reasons Burners Should Join Occupy Wall Street

Posted in Austin, Burning Man, Life, and Occupy Wall Street

In the early hours of this morning, the New York Police Department attacked the peaceful occupation at Zucotti Park known as Occupy Wall Street. In addition to beating and tear-gassing protesters, they grounded news helicopters, beat and arrested a city council member. Police cut down trees and destroyed 5000 books and thousands of dollars in property all because people dare to stand up and speak their mind. And yet protesters remain unbowed. They are marching through the streets of New York, and planning for a massive day of action on November 17.

Although our constitution guarantees our right to assemble and seek redress of grievances,  police have shut down city parks and declared them crime scenes, charging people with crimes for assembling there. In Austin, the city banned 38 political prisoners from our own city hall.

I’m tired of seeing the Burners, the kinksters, rennies, Rainbow Gathering fans, and the freaks of every stripe — my family and tribe in essence — be silent about this. Some of you have gotten involved already, and to you I am intensely grateful. But now is the time for all of us to get involved. I firmly believe this is a crucial moment in the history not just of the United States but also, now that the movement is global, for the world and for counterculture itself.

In the hopes that you’ll join me, here are 3 reasons Burners (and freaks of all kinds) should join Occupy Wall Street:

  1. We depend on the right to assemble. Though there are many concrete issues occupiers are passionate about, at its heart is our right to assemble. The core of Burning Man is a massive gathering in a publicly owned space. Rainbow Gathering does so without permits. Without our right to assemble peacefully — for both political and pleasurable reasons — in large groups — we are sunk.
  2. OWS is building a new way of living, just like we are. Occupy Wall Street is a do-ocracy. Already this movement is trying to build temporary communities built around decommodification and radical self-expression. They feed people — dozens or sometimes hundreds a day — and in some cases offer free medical care, veterinary care, Internet access and educational classes. Though efforts to improve are underway, one area that is lacking is in the amount of waste the occupations leave behind. Which brings me to my third reason…
  3. Occupy Wall Street needs our skills. Burners have more experience than almost anyone at building new forms of community. We build quick, portable, inexpensive structures. We know electronics, computers, social media, carpentry, and engineering. We know how to throw a party, get attention, raise money when we need it, and then clean up when we’re through. Our Earth Guardians can teach Leave No Trace and our Rangers mediate disputes among heated activists and tired occupiers. Every single one of us has something to give from our deep wells of creativity.
Without our right to assemble, what remains of Burning Man? Black Rock City, 2010. Photo by Trey Ratcliff.


This is class warfare. Not in an abstract sense debated in classrooms, but in the very real sense that all of us are under attack by the corporate powers. We won’t have room to survive, thrive, and play if we do not act now. You don’t need to sleep at an occupation to help — you can visit for a few hours, join a GA, give money, time, or supplies to many projects, march, write, create art, tell your friends. There are many ways to occupy.

Join us. Burners, Occupy Everywhere. )'(!

I’m very open to respectful debate and discussion about this topic. I am not open to trolls or outright flames. Please jump into the comments with your thoughts.

Update 11/15 4:46pm: Conflicting reports on Twitter suggest that the People’s Library may have been confiscated rather than destroyed.

Update 11/18: I am considering launching a network to organize globally for Burners to support the Occupation. Please contact me if interested.

Update 11/18: Up all night, so I made something new. Follow @OccupyBurners on Twitter!

Update 11/21: Welcome to

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  • Rose

    I’m curious about something… I haven’t done a lot of looking, but can you point me to a source that will tell me, for lack of a better term, what their platform is? What do they want, how do they want to get there? (The latter being as important to me as the former.)

  • Kit

    @Rose: This is a global movement which unifies MANY different, diverse issues about corporate personhood, the economy, and many other factors that affect our ability to survive. As I have said in this piece and elsewhere, for me the most important issue at hand right now is that our right to assemble and air our grievances had been taken away from us — the world as it stands now would rather beat us and cut down trees than just listen. To me that is enough to keep speaking up until it changes. However, here is a local platform which was agreed upon by Occupy Austin in General Assembly:

    How do we want to get there? Many ways — by building a model society from the ground up where we do things right. By continuing to assemble and demand redress of grievances until they begin to pay attention to us — which they are. Three of the mayor of Oakland’s closest advisors including her deputy mayor have resigned and come out in support of the Occupation, along with more and more people all around the world. This is part of a long tradition in the US, dating back almost to our founding days, of demanding redress for economic imbalance. At the same time, this is a very young movement — just over a month old, remember — and already growing to huge sizes with a large influence. Is there a concrete endgame in sight? What we’re asking for is big — essentially we are demanding that new ways of treating our populace be instituted, ones that prioritize our well being over corporate bottom lines. This is not going to be a simple fight — i.e., we ask to pass a single piece of legislation and fix everything. Essentially, I feel that we are making our demands known and it is up to the powers that be to listen, or to be deposed, and that’s our end game.

  • I think everyone who wants these huge recessions to stop happening, everyone who wants the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, everyone who wants to put a final end to predatory lending, and everyone who desires market regulation reform, campaign finance reform, and corporate personhood reversal should be on the side of the Occupiers. Burners are all about personal responsibility and radical inclusion, right? Why don’t we radically include the poor in our national dialog by taking away the ability of the rich to game the system? Why don’t we encourage personal responsibility in those who are responsible for the country? Burners should be on board with at least some of that.

    Also: is business as usual so great that they can’t see what these changes would cause? Inability to buy elections and a huge degree of government transparency would reform our entire world, depolarize our political process, and make better use of our nations resources, time, and attention. That benefits *everybody* who is not focused on trying to acquire , literally, more wealth than they know what to do with.

  • @Rose @Kit We seek an end to collusion of Congress and financial interests which causes so many of our current issues. A lot of people are starting to agitate for the STOCK Act (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) to make lawmakers guilty of insider trading for using upcoming legislations to game stock markets, for the re-instatement of Glass-Steagall and a much smaller role of the Federal Reserve.

    And, frankly, it is not our job to write the legislations that accomplish the goal of legislative accountability, nor is it possible for us to force equal prosecution and protection under the law. We’re just going to suffer where people can watch it, disobey civil authority nonviolently, and encourage others to join in the speaking up, writing letters, sending back junkmail with credit card offers, educating themselves, and credit union bank transfers.

    If you have suggestions for other forms of legal protest and civil disruption, please share.

  • Kevin

    To put it bluntly, any old fool can point out a problem. The people of America didn’t need OWS to let them know something is wrong- anyone with a pulse and an IQ above that of a cabbage can see that!
    What we need are solutions- Very *specific* solutions.
    When the people of Egypt rose up, they have very specific demands- with OWS we get a hodgepodge of everything from simple tuition reform all the way to extremist crackpot ideas like a guaranteed minimum income or the elimination of private property.- and for none of these “demands” do the offer a solution of how to impliment it (instead we are told “it’s not my job to write legislation”)
    (and now that I’ve pointed out the problem, here’s my solution- see how that works?)
    OWS need to narrow their focus down to their core message. Yes, legalizing pot or lowering college tuition would be nice, but that has nothing to do with Wall Street corruption. Save those for another day. The key thing is to focus on the problem- and only the problem- and then offer at list of demands that will fix the problem. For example: Holding the Wall Street executives accountable for their actions.(personally, I’m in favour of seeing some CEO’s heads on spikes, but alas, realistically I know thats not going to happen- so I’d have to settle for jail time and huge fines)

    • Kit

      @Kevin: I’m going to encourage you to delve a little deeper into Occupy than what the mass media is telling you, Kevin, because the message you are giving here is exactly the one being adopted as we speak as the current journalistic “narrative.” First the media told us that Occupy had no message and was just a bunch of angry people gathering for no reason. Now we’re being told they have ‘too much message?’ Or we’re angry about too many things? Should our anger get smaller and be satisfied by say, for example, a new President next election? When economic injustice has grown so large, it’s natural that many solutions will be needed.

      As I have said elsewhere, while the myriad demands are valid I think freedom of assembly is becoming the biggest one for me. When hate groups gather, or when the Tea Party “rally,” they are given police protection. The rest of us are given ‘free speech zones’ and forcibly attacked by police when we step out of them. One very specific solution is for the government to begin respecting certain existing laws like the First Amendment.

      It’s not our job to write legislation, it’s our Congress’ job, but as you can see if you read Heidi’s comment above some pretty specific legislative solutions are being encouraged by the occupiers. In addition, we’ve successfully encouraged about half a million Americans to move their money out of large banks, which is a very specific action that has proved extremely effective. On the ground level, Occupiers are feeding and clothing the hungry, giving homeless people a place to sleep, creating guerilla gardening projects to make our own food from public lands, holding educational classes, and organizing around the idea of reclaiming foreclosed, bank owned property. That seems pretty concrete and effective for a massive, leaderless movement that is just under 2 months old.

      It’s weird to me that you mention pot, because no Occupation I am aware of has made pot smoking a key issue for activism. To me, college tuition is perfectly in line with the overall message of this movement — rising tuition rates are making it harder and harder for anyone to get an education, especially when those degrees are no longer any kind of guarantee of a good job. Instead they result in massive debt, which plays right into the needs of the corporate culture. It’s yet another way the rich are profiting over the toil of the poor.

      Kevin, the reason I encouraged you to look a little deeper into Occupy — whether nationally or your local Occupation — is it sounds to me like the Occupiers are speaking very much for you and your needs, but you haven’t looked closely enough to realize that.

  • macelius

    I just wanted to thank Kit for very eloquently expressing to Kevin what I’ve been trying to get through to those of my friends also brainwashed by the mass media.

    Holding the Wall Street executives accountable for their actions is one of the core issues for OWS. That’s part of why they’re at Wall st. That’s why when UW Shool of Business brought Jamie Dimon to town to shower some award on him Oct 2nd, two thousand Seattelites surrounded the hotel, in the cold and the rain. Gray grannies stood the line with young men and women, with many kids on their parents shoulders in the crowd. We were shouting “they got bailed out, we got sold out” and “bring him out, put him in jail” etc. so the whole city block trembled with the rage of the people…what did we get? We got shoved around without verbal warning, nevermind asking us to move. We got profiled and only people in business suits with airport bags got to cross the street at times arbitrarily. Until the crowd thinned enough they sprayed and arrested some at the rear of the building so they could get him out the fire exit like the rat he is.

    Please go down to Your local occupy, don’t be scared, they don’t bite. Talk to them, see what they’re really about. At least get the raw first person unedited and un-spun perspective from our many livestreamers, who cover not only the actions that get thousands and thousands of viewers to witness, which is imperative, but also the General Assemblies etc.


  • Dr Carny

    All issues are connected, you cant address one without addressing all of them. If you want to confront Big Pharm, pot legalization is a perfect front. And Big Pharm also brings up health care reform. And health care brings up insurance. and so forth, and so on.

    But i digress. I’ll let Reverend Billy tell you why we as Burners should Occupy.

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Asking what Occupy is about is pretty much the same as asking what Burning Man is about. Of course there’s no definitive answer, there are a chorus of answers, but after you’ve been there and participated for a while it starts to take shape.

    At Burning Man people are empowered to pick up tools, find people and build a bar, a huge interactive sculpture or live performance in the middle of the desert, not for profit but for the betterment of a larger community. I think that Occupy can (and is) do(ing) much the same, except at Occupy people are learning about direct democracy, sanitation, arbitration, debating law and economics. Where Burning Man is an experimental laboratory for art and expression Occupy is an experimental laboratory for running society differently.

    Finally, like Burning Man Occupy is what you make of it. You can sit on the sidelines and critique peoples’ art cars, or you could get off your ass and MAKE and art car. Nobody will stop you from contributing.

    Changes will not happen overnight. I find it crazy to expect Occupy to have all the answers after only a couple of months time. Look at the federal government. What have they done in the past two years?

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