Skip to content

Category: Journalism

Mic Checking Arne Duncan

Posted in Austin, Occupy Wall Street, and SXSW

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at ACC, moments before being mic checked.

Today I participated in a ‘MIC CHECK’ confrontation with Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, at a town hall meeting at Austin Community College. Duncan is criticized for many reasons, but he came under fire from Occupy Austin for his support of charter schools and privatization which puts teachers out of work, puts taxpayer money and our students in the hands of 1% corporations with little accountability.

Occupy AISD (a.k.a. Occupy Education) is one of our most effective working groups. They’ve engaged in amazing outreach to schools, teachers, parents, and activists. They led a successful rally earlier this month, bringing many non-occupiers on the march. They’ve also had a real effect on our schools, supporting the efforts to oppose IDEA Charter that resulted in only 5 students asking to attend the controversial east side charter school.

I felt honored to support their efforts today with the help of four other occupiers who attended the town hall meeting. Here’s what our mic check sounded like:

Because we did not know how many we had present to support us, we read it more as a speech than a traditional call & response, but near the end you could hear students & others joining in. The crowd applauded and many came up after to ask us questions or thank us. As for Duncan himself, he’s obviously used to being mic checked and responded calmly with a stock answer about the importance of the “public-private partnership.” The campus police lined up but when we sat down again left us alone.

Later, during the question & answer session, the last question was a pointed one from another occupier:

After the meeting, we had a pleasant & positive chat with Brette Lea, a member of ACC’s Public Information & College Networking department. We talked about how the occupation supports efforts by colleges like ACC to educate the disadvantaged, but opposes the 1% infiltration of education. We also heard from Timothy John Tuten, Director of Special Projects for the US Department of Education. He thanked us for being nonviolent and urged us to contact him to share our concerns. But not everyone reacted calmly, as James explained in a brief interview:

Participating in such a successful action thrilled me — and then I got another thrill to see my video on the Washington Post.

If you’re coming to Austin for South by SouthWest, (SXSW) be sure to check out Occupy Austin’s

The full text of our mic check, written by Amanda Michelle of Occupy AISD, is below.

Originally published on Approximately 8,000 Words.

United Streamers Roundtable 2-19

Posted in Archive, and Occupy Wall Street

One topic of discussion was WillyFoReal, a citizen journalist who just traveled to Syria. Photo by mpeake.

For the past few weeks I’ve participated in an online discussion for citizen journalists and livestreamers working within the Occupy movement. It’s been an enlightening experience — the topics are almost always interesting, dealing with everything from how to stay safe during police violence to the ever tricky balance between the need for transparency and the need for personal privacy.

Just as Occupy itself highlights how our problems are global, conversations like these show the common ground we all share as citizen journalists. All groups are struggling with the pull between transparency as a core value & the rising call for “security culture” and hiding our actions from the police & government agencies who monitor us. And everyone is looking toward Chicago this spring, and wondering what the state’s unconstitutional laws against recording public officials mean for us.

Below the cut you’ll find my tweets from the meeting, which form a sort of minutes. You can also download a recording of the roundtable.


Last week, Crumbelina from the Tyranny of Beauty online radio show interviewed me about Occupy Austin. Tune in to the program today, which starts at 1pm, to hear my interview.

New Gardens

Posted in Austin, Life, and Occupy Wall Street

I haven’t posted since Occupy Austin got evicted from City Hall suddenly on the night of February 3, after a full day of action and marching. The next day involved still more encounters with the police state during a march against homelessness. There are a lot of words to share about what happened, and maybe sometime I’ll share them here on my blog.

A pathway in the new Occupy Austin community garden in East Austin. Cilantro in cinderblocks was transplanted from wild plants growing at avocasa.

But a lot has been happening since. I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed with my life right now — engaged in an ongoing legal issue, struggling with money, and dealing with some considerable stress in my personal life. It’s been hard to make my muse come out of hiding. Paradoxically, that doesn’t alleviate my need to write — I still get the added anxiety that I naturally feel when the words aren’t flowing, even when they simultaneously feel blocked.

As I coax my words back out I am encouraging myself to write smaller if I have too. Not everything needs to be a 750 word blog post. Instead, I remind myself that I can throw up a few photos, a storify post about my recent activities, or a youtube video of an interview with a little added commentary. So hopefully look for more of that kind of post in coming days.

Spring has arrived in Texas. The nights are still cool, but the days frequently warm up into the 60s and 70s. A new community garden has appeared on the East Side, my part of Austin — it’s actually on the same city block as my house, around the corner and down an alley. It’s part of Occupy Austin’s efforts at community outreach after eviction. Kristen, my housemate, and I have also started working to reclaim our garden beds at Avocasa, which filled up over the winter with grass and, more happily, wild onions, cilantro and mint.

I feel like I am fighting off depression caused by many factors. The last few days, I’ve felt like the two things keeping me sane are the company of my fellow activists from time to time, and the feeling of using my hands — transplanting, or pulling weeds, or painting our new compost bin bright pink. Just those simple, physical acts, simple physical pleasures, are enough right now.