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As many organizations and politicians begin to back the Occupy Wall Street movement, the protesters are concerned about being gobbled up by an outdated political system. Much like the Tea Party was hijacked by the Republican Party, some Democrats, unions and other groups seek to capitalize on the organized protest.
Despite the fear, protesters are pleased to some some supporters. “We’re very excited to have our union brothers and sisters march on the heart of greed,” Spokesman Patrick Bruner told the Huffington Post on Wednesday before the march. “We don’t necessarily think that the way they’re structured is the best,” Bruner said, referring to unions’ top-down organizational style, “But we believe the 99% needs a voice, and they’re one of the few remaining.”
Others are a little more skeptical of the growing support, especially from politicians. “Obviously we welcome support from anyone,” David Graeber, an anarchist anthropologist, who has been involved in the protests since the beginning in mid-September. “But yes, [being co-opted is] a serious concern because a huge part of our message is our own internal democracy.
The moment you even have a funding base it seriously limits what people feel they can say and do. And a top-down organization will always try to co-opt you. So we have to be very careful and insist people come on our terms or not at all,” Graeber said. Occupy Wall Street operates differently than what Democrats or unions may be comfortable with.
Unions rely on elections, shop stewards, and rigid grievance procedures to correct problems. The General Assemblies in New York’s Zuccotti Park use a consensus model, with decisions emerging from a “progressive stack” speaking order that seeks to ensure “women and traditionally marginalized groups speak before men, especially white men.”
However, unions are excited to back the cause. TWU Local 100 President, John Samuelsen, whose union made headlines after it was forced to bus protesters from the Brooklyn Bridge to prison, said he was happy to lend his union’s support.”Wall Street got bailed out after the recession. American working families didn’t get bailed out,” Samuelsen said at the Wednesday rally.
Samuelsen has been extremely critical of the NYPD’s orders to bus drivers to transport the prisoners. Still, he continued, “these aren’t rallies about police brutality. These are peaceful rallies with working families coming out here to say enough’s enough, we need jobs, we needs jobs for us and for our kids.”
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