After Year of Floundering, Occupy St. Louis Talks Resurgence

Categories: Occupy STL

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Leah Greenbaum
Zach Chasnoff, in black, speaks to a group gathered to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Occupy STL.
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.

Leah Greenbaum
Witthaus, in grey sweater, "takes stack" as people make suggestions on the future of Occupy STL.
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.

According to the group's Facebook page, they will demonstrate against...the system (?) on October 13.

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:

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Seriously? "bitch sessions"? Why occupy never took hold in St. Louis? Try asking why occupy never took hold just about everywhere and why the occupy movement wasn't just one huge, deluded, misguided bitch session. In all of the coverage and all the people I met that supported the movement I never saw a single example of coherent, structured, understandable position or methodology for moving forward when one was found. It probably had to do with using a "human mic" or that doing something might be considered too hegemonic and oppressive. I never saw anything to suggest to me that occupy was/is anything more than a get together by under-class and upper-class apologist shit-disturbers (you know...the same ones that trash cities in the name of anti-globalism). The occupy movement will go down in history as a hugely overblown modern clicktivist joke undertaken by people that owe their current position in life to the same motivation that causes them to speak and feel things first and do them later (or better yet have someone do it for them). It’s no wonder they can’t figure out why people lost interest. Bitching, crying, whining post-adolescent children.


Far too often protests turn into self-indulgent back-patting costume parties, and the main points are lost in the crowd. If good initiatives came out of it, great. But that kind of planning could happen at a coffee house or someone's living room just as easily...They just might not have the chance to become a viral meme.

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