While morale seemed to be at a low last week, the threat of imminent implosion appears to be minimal now. Monday evening’s meeting involved around 40 people altogether, most of whom had not been involved just a few days ago. Among those speaking out: a man wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” hat, another in a button-down, collared shirt, and a local postal worker, who informed activists that those he delivers mail to, in one of Hartford’s poorest neighborhoods, “don’t know you’re here.”
The theme of outreach emerged throughout the meeting. There was agreement that very little was going on at the Occupy Hartford site to engage “new blood.” The information bulletin board was not near the sidewalk where pedestrians would see it, but almost hidden from view toward the back of the encampment. Depending on the day, a passerby can receive immediate and accurate information from someone acting as a greeter, or, receive a mumbled “hello” only after the pedestrian has initiated contact. Another concern voiced during the meeting was that there are not enough picketers on the street. Combine this with people signing up for the possibly dozens of committees, who then bail themselves out of following through on any initiatives.
The idea of a benefit concert to entice new participants was thrown around and met with resistance from one participant who said, “we are not here to party. We are here to occupy Hartford.” He seemed alone in this belief. Even still, misinformation about local ordinances was dispensed by those who believe that Hartford’s rules about noise are connected to time of day. One local tried to correct this misinformation, adding that the Occupiers “do not live here,” but those in the nearby buildings do, and would likely not appreciate a drum circle if they are trying to sleep after working the second shift. While all this discussion about music was going on, a local woman arrived with her guitar so she could get set up for the hootenanny that followed the meeting.
An activist going by the name “Bernardo,” told the group, “we should think big and be ambitious.” His way to get more people motivated and checking out the group: stage a general strike. Others suggested this idea be put on hold, saying that lots of planning must go into this kind of action, otherwise, it would be nothing more than a “big flop.” Others thought that the general strike is inevitable, but that Occupy Hartford should wait until it begins happening around the nation. Someone else suggested that the idea might have the opposite effect than intended, and actually scare some people off from visiting “Turning Point Park.”
A number of other action ideas were bandied about. Someone planning to take part in Bank Transfer Day suggested handing out leaflets to those entering local branches of Bank of America. This seemed to get support, with the advice that the “switch to a credit union” kit include several local banks so that it did not seem like the movement was being co-opted. Another suggestion made to get people involved was to “leaflet at the unemployment office and places where people are getting food.” One activist urged the group to use simple, easy-to-understand language on any flyers or leaflets so that the average person could understand the message.
An Occupy Willimantic group has recently popped up; there was some discussion over whether there would be support for an Occupy Middletown, or if people from Middletown should be coming to Hartford to support what is happening here.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.