By their own admission, Occupy St. Louis burned out quickly in a fit of in-bitching and "over-legislating." But on Monday a group gathered to commemorate the one-year anniversary of their first rally at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis, and to talk about why Occupy never really found its wings in the Gateway City.
"We need to stop turning general assemblies into bitch sessions," said Michelle Witthaus, who was facilitating a discussion on the future of Occupy STL. "We just have to move on and get something going."
Occupy STL has always been more sedate than its sister groups in other cities, where protesters fought evictions from public spaces and continued to hold headline-grabbing protests against corporate greed and police brutality long into the winter months. After 27 people were arrested for camping in Kiener Plaza in November, Occupy STL largely shrank away from public view.
"My biggest complaint about Occupy STL is that I feel like we were trying to tackle every issue at once," said Zach Chasnoff, a community organizer with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, a homeowner advocacy group. Chasnoff said Occupy spent too much time "over-legislating" itself with extensive discussions, or "general assemblies," about process and procedure, and not enough time planning direct action. They became bogged down by their own bylaws and bureaucracy.
Chasnoff's sentiments were well-received by the ragtag group of progressive activists and laymen assembled at Kiener. While many acknowledged that the inaction of the group was disappointing, they said they were proud of the conversations Occupy STL started and credited the group with generating more effective spinoff organizations around town.
One such group is Reclaim St. Louis, which Chasnoff is a part of. Reclaim has successfully organized to help homeowners around St. Louis challenge "wrongful foreclosure" and eviction.
A number of "guerilla gardeners" -- that is, people who garden on land they do not have any legal claim to -- also trace their roots back to Occupy STL. Keep your eyes peeled for unmarked community gardens around St. Louis...they're kind of everywhere right now, and the basil is yours for the plucking.
Nevertheless, Witthaus said it'd be nice to regroup as Occupy and merge various social-justice causes under one umbrella.
The (former?) occupiers hung around Kiener until curfew the other night, kicking around a soccer ball, chatting about various pet projects and eating free hot food from the "People's Kitchen." There were no party hats, but there were some plans for future gatherings.
The invite reads:
99% of St.L,
The System is a scam... Who's ready to make some NOISE?
Well, maybe that specificity will come later. In the meantime, some notes on the excesses of progressivism from our brothers and sistas in Portlandia: