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"Mobocracy OKC?" - Kerr Park occupants crippled by infighting, cliquish behavior

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A member of AFGE Local 916 participates in an Occupy OKC protest march.
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*OKLAHOMA CITY – As we rapidly approach the month anniversary of the Occupy OKC movement moving into Kerr Park in downtown Oklahoma City, there is evidence that the small group of true believers are being split apart by egos and infighting.

In the past week, Red Dirt Report has stopped by Kerr Park, talking to Occupants and trying to get a sense of how things are going. It's still largely unclear, but one thing is for certain - it is not the strong and seemingly unified organization it was on the day it was launched and that has been confirmed by people we have spoken to in recent days.

Red Dirt Report sat down with an Oklahoma City man – we will call him “Dan” – who wanted to share his thoughts on Occupy OKC, the local offshoot of the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street organization that started in September in New York City.

Dan said that as a working-class man who considers himself a “libertarian/conservative,” he was interested and initially sympathetic to Occupy OKC after reading a story about it linked at the popular website.

“I was really curious at first,” admitted Dan. “I wanted to see if they would really accept everybody.”

And initially he sensed that. Just a working-class guy who wasn’t banging on bongo drums or sporting obvious tattoos, Dan was just happy that a real grassroots movement for change was forming, particularly in the waning months since the Tea Party peaked.

Dan said his views, that America can be great again and that true capitalism works, are shared by most people he knows. But in trying to talk to people involved with Occupy OKC he was soon struck by the fact that many of those gathered in Kerr Park were “living in a dream world.”

“They don’t live in reality,” Dan told Red Dirt Report. “They expect a utopian society.”

Dan explained the idea of Occupy OKC’s “direct democracy” approach of “consensus” when trying to vote on an issue. As he explained it, multiple votes are taken on an issue. If there is 60 percent of voters supporting something, another vote is called and it has to be 70 percent or better – and so forth, until the group reached 90 percent consensus.

“That way, no one is upset or left out,” he said. “When you see them holding signs saying ‘This is what democracy looks like,’ their idea of democracy is nothing what you and I believe democracy is – 51 percent or better.”

Asked if he thought the Occupy movement, and specifically the Oklahoma City contingent, were accepting of all comers, Dan shook his head.

“If you don’t conform to their view, they will ostracize you,” Dan said, suggesting that the movement was becoming borderline doctrinaire in their beliefs and approach.

And what of Occupy OKC’s message and dealings with the media?

It has been mixed, he said. He noted that several Occupiers have been suspicious of News 9, for instance, one person noting that the Oklahoma City TV station wasn’t to be trusted.

At the same time, Dan said he understood the frustration with the media and the public in that Occupy OKC has failed to offer a concise, coherent message several weeks into their occupation of Kerr Park. He noted that he offered to give them a “mission statement,” after reviewing mission statements from other Occupy groups around the U.S.

Dan said it was ignored and rejected.

“I think it was because it didn’t come from a moderator,” he said, noting that many of the “moderators” with Occupy OKC are on an ego trip.

At the same time, he agreed that the local media has done a poor job of relaying to readers and viewers what the real concerns are of many people supportive or active in the Occupy movements around the nation and the world.

“I don’t think they want it to get any bigger than it already is,” Dan said, regarding the local media coverage.  

And what of Occupy OKC dragging out the purpose of its formation?

Dan said taking their time is a “strategy to build support” and that’s fine, in his opinion, but knowing the public and the media, they will get tired of them, viewing them as a bunch of communist-leaning brats who refuse to work.

“Whether it’s deliberate or not, they’re keeping (Occupy OKC) small so the consensus is easier to control,” Dan said.

He points to the large group of local union members that first joined Occupy OKC after its inception. But, from what he gathered, the Occupy OKC “inner circle” felt threatened by the local union members with AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) Local 916 coming in.

“The union people were seen as too divisive,” Dan said. “They were afraid they would take over the movement.”

When it was clear the union folks weren’t wanted, he said, the numbers dwindled significantly after the first week.

Had the union folks been included, Dan said Occupy OKC “could have gotten a real sense of what Oklahoma City was really like.”

Dan then points to a more extreme example of what Occupy OKC has devolved into. Dan forwarded me a message from a man named Daniel who felt wronged by the Occupy OKC “leadership” and wrote that “You have invited many of us to a democratic process that has repeatedly been undemocratic and has descended into a mobocracy – a tyranny of a minority over a mob.” Added Daniel: “You have allowed the continual disregard of basic standards of civility in any democratic society.”

Dan shakes his head while we talk. It’s becoming clear, at the rate things are going, that Occupy OKC is doomed to failure. Other folks with more moderate beliefs and approaches have fled as personalities have clashed and certain ideas have been given more credence over others, regardless of ‘consensus.’

And back to the letter written by Daniel to the Occupy OKC leadership: “You have many good ideas. I agree with the aims of the movement as a whole. I support the cooler and more mature minds in your midst who have tried continually, selflessly, and without avail to assit and support you in a transition from a clique to a democratic movement.”

And that, it should be noted, reemphasizes Dan’s observations on Occupy OKC in its current form. He said the bickering is taking a toll. And then there is the issue of one Occupy OKC guy who runs the website who is said to work for Chesapeake Energy and how some in the movement have a problem with that. Dan even noted that the website is running off Chesapeake’s server. We have called Chesapeake to confirm if that is in fact the case and are awaiting a reply.

As for folks within the Occupy OKC organization, Red Dirt Report was unable, late Monday afternoon, to get a comment from them for this story.

Quoting former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, Dan said, “He put it very well. He said ‘What this is about is that three years ago, Wall Street, with the help of the federal government, crashed Wall Street and nobody paid for it. The big banks all got bailed out, while Main Street foots the bill.’ It’s a legitimate grievance.”

A interview with one of the leading Occupy Wall Street activists, Phil Arnone, revealed that the Occupy movement may not have a specific goal or soundbite for the media, that’s because “(W)e want to change the ways that our society is structured and run so that way, the vast majority of people – the 99% - have their interest accounted for, their voices heard, their needs represented. And that’s just simply not the way we feel our society works now. It’s a society run for and by the 1%.”

Dan agrees with a lot of that, although he adds that he is a “Ron Paul follower” and that the U.S. Constitution is the best thing going.

“We need to get back to those (constitutional) roots,” he said.

*(UPDATE: Oct. 24, 2011 7:16 p.m. - Michael Kehs with Chesapeake Energy informed Red Dirt Report this evening that the server in question was not connected to Chesapeake, rather it was based in Houston, Texas. As for the person alleged to be working for Chesapeake, Kehs suggested it could be a pseudonym.)

** (UPDATE: Oct. 26, 2011 6:27 p.m.)  At the request of one of the commenters, there is a "Petition for Redress of Community Grievances and Demand for Apology from: Occupy OKC"

Copyright 2011 West Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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