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Occupy Raleigh, NC: Mic Check!

Occupy Raleigh continues to set up at the NC Occupy Resource Center. The kitchen tent was walled in with tarps and to my surprise survived a high winds rainy night without any issue. There is already a porta-pottie on site along with a little over 15 tents. We have been able to prepare simple things that require the heating of water such as coffee, tea, and instant soups. This Sunday human needs is having a work day to try to better get things set up and organized. We also have a musician from OWS coming to play on Sunday who is touring occupations so it promises to be a fun and productive day.

Since I have a tent now set up at the camp, this week was the first time I had spent two nights in a row at the occupation without leaving. The first night was windy, cold, and rainy. The second night was colder but at least no rain. Overall the tent stood up to the elements well and I stayed much drier than I had expected would be the case. I’ve been pleasantly surprised a lot lately. One unpleasant, though honestly not all that surprising, realization was that I am not as young as I used to be. I was a little sore when I got home from the two days at the camp. I think I need a little more padding in the tent.

This brings me to something I have been a little disappointed about in regards to the participation in the Occupy Movement. I expected more college students to be involved by now. I realize that many at Liberty park were recent graduates or students who could no longer continue their education, but I still expected that more young people presently in school would have been eager to get involved. The reality is the younger you are the more important the success of the Occupy Movement becomes. My life is about half over. I feel like those who are twenty years younger than me have a lot more to gain or lose depending on how things play out. When I was 19 I could sleep for several days camping outside in a tent with just a sleeping bag without issue. Now apparently, not so much.

I do have to remind myself though that the MSM is not interested in showing the stories about the occupation movement growing. So there could very well be more action happening on campuses across the country that just gets no media exposure. I hope that’s the case or at the very least that things are on the upswing. We certainly have had some positive developments around NC State, the largest university in Raleigh. [cont’d.]

From the start of Occupy Raleigh there have been students from NC State involved. The ones I have met are fantastic, bright, and dedicated people with seemingly never-ending energy. Most of Occupy NC State stay on their campus and have not spent time at the occupation. The NC State students do not have an occupation site but none the less meet and plan direct actions as able. They have already had teach-ins where they recruited professors friendly to the movement to have teach-ins at NS State before marching to the State Capitol grounds and continuing more teach-ins there. It was an excellent event that allowed for more interaction and solidarity between the Occupy NC State students and the Raleigh Occupation. Yesterday was an excellent second step in that process.

For some time we have known that the CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf, was scheduled to come speak at NC State on “Leadership”. While I do believe he could speak with expertise on how you lead a country into a recession, or how you lead criminal organizations based on mortgage fraud, or how to lead a companies efforts to bribe politicians to secure bailouts and other types of subsidizes like interest free loans from the Fed, somehow I doubt those were the topics of leadership he would speak on. We have known from the beginning we wanted to do some sort of direct action, but it was only after seeing some of the videos of politicians and others being mic checked across the country that the style of the direct action seemed pretty clear.

As this was on their campus, the NC State students took the lead and provided most of the bodies involved. Occupy Raleigh added some people both inside Nelson Hall as well as bolstering the picketing presence outside the building. Before the CEO’s talk started while I was holding a sign on the sidewalk outside, we watched two RPD paddy wagons drive by and pull in behind Nelson Hall. There were around 10-15 officers stationed both inside and outside the building and the CEO’s personal security were also around, though all inside the hall from what I could tell. They knew we were coming but that deterred almost no one from carrying out the mic check inside.

As the students and our people filed into the hall most were able to get in before the hall filled up. For the most part they stopped letting people enter only after the hall was full. There was one instance one of the most prominent Occupy NC State students, Ryan, told me of where as he tried to enter he was specifically not allowed in. Ryan told me the official who denied him entry pointed to a women nearby and then pointed at him saying, “She’s ok, he cannot enter.” Ryan said he asked why he was not allowed to enter but got no response.

The CEO took the stage and began his talk. Shortly there after one person stood and yelled, “Mic Check!” and so the direct action began. The security inside would then approach the person speaking as well as others still seated but participating in the mic check and ask them to leave. From what I could see from the video’s taken most of the protesters seemed to delay leaving but never fully refused. When I saw the paddy wagons I had been worried they would just flat out arrest people without giving the opportunity to leave. That turned out to not be the case (another pleasant surprise) and there were no arrests throughout the whole action. As one person would start to leave another would stand up and continue the mic check. The protesters managed to get through the whole mic check before they were finally all removed.

A third or so into the prepared mic check speech, the Wells Fargo employees in the front rows started clapping in an attempt to drown out the protesters. Like good little drones, many of the NC State students there to listen to the lecture on leadership joined in the clapping, but you can see from the video that not all did. I wonder how some of those students will look back on that moment if when they graduate they cannot find a job that allows them to begin paying off their college loans? Will they even make the connection between their struggles post-graduation and their choice to not resist by instead choosing to believe in the fairly tales sold by the MSM? The MSM will offer targets like illegal immigrants, the poor, other countries, and terrorists for them to blame to deflect attention away from the real culprits in the 1%. I wonder how many will continue to take the bait.

After everyone was escorted out everyone gathered outside the hall and began chants aimed at Wells Fargo and Wallstreet. We serenaded the students that left though of course the CEO left out the back. As soon as the mic check had started he left the stage until it was over and then left quietly out the backdoor. Quality leadership on display.

I see a lot of value in these sorts of direct actions. They draw significant publicity. You can see from the CEO’s expression from the second the mic check started how annoyed they are by it. They behave like pariahs in regards to the common good of our society so its far past time we make them feel like ones. It shows people at these events who are not protesting what personal strength and courage looks like. It lets people know that people just like them are choosing to dissent publicly. It leads by example. While we were outside chanting after all had been removed I looked up into one of the windows of the building and saw what I think was an older teacher watching with a huge smile on her face. Even at that distance the smile struck me as hopeful. It felt like she was just basking in the moment of being able to believe that people had finally started to wake up and do something. These sorts of direct actions instill hope in others that things can be changed for the better.

The 1% are being told that we will no longer stand meekly and quietly providing them services while they treat us as rabble to be commodified and exploited. My hope is they will come to dread their public appearances. Because to show the contempt they feel for the Occupy protester’s mic checks is to reveal their contempt for the rights afforded to us by the constitution. By action the 1% have made clear they feel they deserve to be in power. They feel it is their right to profit from and maintain control over all our futures at our expense. When we mic check them we remind them we still have a voice and to silence us will require removing the masks they wear, revealing themselves to everyone as the tyrants they are.

Mic Check! Mic Check!

John Stumpf. We won’t take your home but we will take a minute of your time.

Your “leadership” has led to the death of the American Dream.

Wells Fargo is guilty of widespread predatory lending and holds over 5.7 billion in student debt.

Wells Fargo targets people of color and the poor for high-interest loans, urging loan officers to misreport income and forge documents.

Wells Fargo foreclosed on hundreds of homes last year, many of them illegally.

Wells Fargo has been fined 85 million dollars for its crimes, you have issued no admission of guilt or apology.

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