Seattle and Bellingham

So now I’m on the train from Bellingham to Portland, and they have WIRELESS. It’s the future motherfucker. I was just in B-ham for a day, but what a visit. Saw my old buds from Go Slowpoke, we played a super sweet house show together, finishing up with an all-star jam on “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors. And you missed it, for shame. This was a day after a really sweet show in Seattle, which makes three A+ shows in a row. So I have high hopes for tonight’s PDX show, which was my favorite stop last year.

Occupy Bellingham doesn’t start until the 28th, but I did get to spend a few days at the occupation in Seattle. I went down for the first time to Westlake on Wednesday morning. Approaching the small park from the north, at first all I saw was police cars and municipal workers. My impression was that the authorities had succeeded in dispersing all the protesters, and my heart sank. But as I wandered to the south of the triangle, I gathered that a small band–no more than two dozen–were trying to get their bearings, evidently after a sleepless night and a recent order to clean up their belongings. Mornings are pretty rough at all the occupations, I think, but the police repression, which includes restrictions on tents and sleeping bags, coupled with inclement weather is a real doozy in Seattle. As I’ve written, the biggest immediate challenge/goal for this movement (as I see it) is to survive the winter, and Seattle’s got it rough. I hope they’re able to find some creative solutions, and I hope those of us elsewhere are also thinking about how we might be able to help them.

Anyway, I spent half an hour or so wandering around, trying to meet folks and be of assistance, eventually helping to carry a tarp bundled around several packs and sundry personal items across to the other side of Westlake. Then I had a vague assignment to truck six blocks down to City Hall, where some other folks were occupying to see what they needed. I did, but pondered whilst I walked, why are they occupying two spaces when one of them is so sparsely populated that a newcomer couldn’t even tell there was anyone still there?

Before I remark any further, let me pause for a moment here and be clear: I don’t mean to be overly critical. Each occupation is facing its own unique challenges due to geography, local politics, demographics, etc. and I don’t purport to know the best solution. I’m only getting a snapshot of each city’s efforts, and despite having sat in on some GAs and working group meetings I haven’t been a full participant in the consensus process for any of them (nor should I). I’m certain to have a skewed perception due to my unfamiliarity with the finer dynamics between the local occupation and the authorities, and within the organization itself. But I have full faith that they’ll work any issues they have out, and all admiration and respect to them for hanging in.

I got down to City Hall, where there was another small group occupying, albeit with a little more infrastructure, owing apparently to a recent permit to occupy there from the Mayor. Some people seemed to feel that they had his support, but I felt skeptical after hearing about their harsh intolerance of camping. There had apparently also been some fracturing within the group, with the more anarchist crowd holding down Westlake and a more inclined-towards-compliance group opting to set up at City Hall.

My spirits rallied as the afternoon rolled around; people seemed to be getting themselves together and I shared my song with a few people who were very receptive. I took a break in the afternoon to have coffee, whiskey and indie musician shop-talk with my buddy Matt Hart from The Local Strangers, then headed back down for the General Assembly. One of the organizers who’d seen me perform my song earlier invited me to open up the GA with it, which was thrilling and gratifying. The GA was well-attended, probably 150-200 folks, and I was impressed by the organization and patience of the group, as well as their decision to use progressive stack. I stayed through the discussion of one proposal to move locations. Pros and cons were weighed, arguments and objections were made, and nothing passed, but I was heartened by the ability of the body to govern itself.

There are more reflections about the movement forthcoming, but I’ve almost arrived in PDX. Show tonight at Ella Street Social Club! See you there.

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