Groups Kick Off 99% Spring Training Sessions

Written by Eric Louie. Posted in Politics

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Published on April 14, 2012 with 5 Comments

Groups in far-flung suburbs including the City of Vallejo (pictured) are holding nationwide spring training sessions in preparation for a mass day of protest action on May 1. Photos by Eric Louie.

By Eric Louie

April 14, 2012

The directions said the meeting would be held in a spray-painted building next to the railroad tracks.

It sounded like an interesting location for a 99% Spring Training session, the nationwide effort going on this week to train 100,000 activists in preparation for actions on May 1 and beyond. The goal is to get more citizens talking about the issues and to encourage participation in what is expected to include mass, non-violent, direct action and civil disobedience. The trainings started this week, with most being held this weekend.

The training sessions have created much in the way of heated discussion within Occupy, with some openly calling into question the intentions of labor, MoveOn.org and the Democratic Party. It is feared these organizations are co-opting the Occupy movement for electioneering purposes and, by doing so, are propping up a failed political system in dire need of comprehensive reform.

Others believe Occupy is an all-encompassing movement and must include all voices (except the 1 percent and non-breathing corporations of course); that labor has the resources and the organizational expertise to achieve realistic goals.

The meeting I attended Wednesday evening was held at the Ozcat Culture Center in Vallejo. I figured a 40-minute drive North would provide an opportunity to meet others outside of the larger cities of Oakland and San Francisco. (In full disclosure, by the time I signed up online, most of the sessions, including those recommended by my union, were full and I didn’t feel like gate-crashing).

The roughly 40 people in attendance at the community center were in their 40s and above, including some retirees – but there were some younger people in attendance as well.

On padded office chairs and couches, we sat encircled around a laptop computer to watch a series of short videos interspersed with discussions and role-playing in between. Guillermo Herrera, 31, of Vallejo, also known as Dr. G on his Ozcat radio station show, led the video session segment.

A wide range of historical movements, including the movement to abolish slavery; the women’s suffrage movement; the civil rights movement; the farm workers labor movement; HIV/AIDS advocacy, as well as more present-day struggles including immigration policy, climate change, corporate personhood, campaign finance reform, globalization and the exploitation of cheap, outsourced labor, were discussed.

Non-violence and its ability to achieve goals, including generating positive public perception, were stressed. Suggestions included lowering one’s voice to calm down a heated situation and standing relaxed with hands to the side. There was also a demonstration on how to de-escalate a potential confrontation with an irate bank employee.

Though non-violent protest action is being stressed to reach common objectives, the irate bank employee scenario was the only type of confrontation discussed. One woman asked, “What’s the point if you don’t draw attention to yourself?” And though there was literature outlining the types of non-violent direct action that may be employed during protests, as well as information on how to deal with law enforcement and potential arrest, these issues were not discussed in much detail.

In attendance included a nurse at Napa State Hospital who is also an SEIU shop steward, a public school teacher who said it will be difficult for students to demonstrate May 1 because of end-of-term exams, and a plumber who lamented newly-constructed homes are being offered for sale at prices buyers can’t afford. Many in attendance are fighting foreclosure or have become foreclosure refugees.

During the meeting, Herrera collected emails he will use to help organize an Occupy group in Vallejo. He is planning a May 1 protest event at City Hall before caravans shuttle Vallejo demonstrators to join up with Occupy Oakland for planned mass-protest actions.

Julie Voice, 29, a Vallejo native, said she was inspired to see more grassroots activism occurring in her hometown. A single mom and proprietor of a coffee shop, Voice – who had to walk away from an underwater mortgage – said because of her busy schedule, she has been unable to attend as many Occupy protest events as she would have liked.

“I have been looking for a way in,” she said. “I don’t usually have time for this kind of stuff.”

For more information go to http://the99spring.com.

Eric Louie is covering the Occupy movements for The Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America Local 39521.

Eric Louie

Eric Louie

Eric Louie is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Greenbiz.com, Contra Costa Times, The Record ( (Stockton), Philippine News, Pacific News Service and the Sunset Beacon.

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  • Eric Brooks

    Decent article. But it doesn’t really get to the deep heart of the matter, which is that, behind the scenes, Move-On is secretly orchestrating this entire supposed ‘direct action training’ in an attempt to coopt the Occupy movement, and thousands of others inspired by it, into becoming a blindered mass army for the 2012 Obama presidential campaign; in the process steering them decidedly away from taking real radical action to challenge both the Democrats and Republicans, and the neo-liberal capitalist system itself.

    Move-On is nothing more than an astroturf front for the National Democratic Party, and routinely pulls nonsense like this, pretending to be a radical mass movement critical of the establishment, only to do a complete 180 at election time to launch a -hard- push to get people to vote for the Democrats. (Remember 2008?)

    Here are some links that will show you what’s really going on behind all of the deceptive new age revolution jargon of the ’99% Spring’. (The last of these – to Move-On’s own site – shows clearly that Move-On is indeed running the show, and that the thing is a carefully scripted, top down cooptation, that has nothing to do with consensus based organizing.)

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/16/99-percent-spring-the-latest-moveon-front-for-the-democratic-party/

    http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1126

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MoveOn.org

    http://civic.moveon.org/99training/index.html

  • http://www.anngarrison.com/ Ann Garrison

    Counterpunch, “Yes, the 99% Spring is a Fraud,” http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/13/yes-the-99-spring-is-a-fraud/

  • el Greco

    Bread and circuses.

  • marcos

    Nonviolent campaigns only work when violence, property destruction and attacks on living beings, is a viable alternative or when sufficient numbers are organized nonviolently to stop the economy. Moveon.org has no interest in stopping the economy or playing good nonviolent cop to “bad” “violent” cop. Nonviolence alone casts off real threats to power and surrenders before even taking the field.

    In all cases where nonviolence has shown some success, India and Civil Rights there have been non-non-violent alternatives waiting in the wings that have forced power to deal with the non-violent actors.

    For an incisive and challenging analysis of this topic, see Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology: Notes on an American Pseudopraxis:

    http://zinelibrary.info/files/pap_imposed.pdf

    I’m not advocating that Occupy become “violent,” rather that no tactic be conceded to power at the behest of power unless power offers a worthy exchange.

  • http://www.anngarrison.com/ Ann Garrison

    MoveOn.org, organizers of the “99% Spring” made this video about Iraq, on Barack Obama’s behalf, in 2008:

    http://youtu.be/suNqiAgE1kw

    I haven’t seen a MoveOn.org video this campaign year about Afghanistan, Somalia, or Uganda/Congo/CAR/South Sudan.