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Archive for October, 2011

The Occupy movement in most towns has already achieved their primary goal:  draw media attention to showcase their power of numbers and the might of their convictions.

But these occupations have huge potential to do even more, and they’ve got the organizational structure and protest signs to manifest this. What if they added the Socratic method to their messaging, presenting stats and evidence to support their assertions? Rather than present a stationary, amorphous mob, what if they were to station small groups on consecutive street corners along ALL different outbound commute arteries? Now they wouldn’t be relying on media to get their point across, they’d be delivering it in well-defined terms directly to motorists bogged down in traffic leading to every freeway or bridge onramp.

Occupiers, this is how the concept of miniprotesting can drastically expand the scope of your causes, and add the power to convince to your messaging arsenal. Here’s how miniprotesting works in a nutshell:

Miniprotests are made up of three small groups of four spread out over three consecutive street corners. Each group within this protest string has someone in its center holding a 30″ x 40″ main sign at waist level. The three folks around the central miniprotester hold traditional signs overhead. That way the focus of passing motorists will be on the three main signs at eye level which provide a running message like the old Berma Shave rural roadside ads. This format allows a few seconds (or minutes if traffic is really bad) for folks to digest each part of the message before they see the next.

See more details at:

http://miniprotests.com

So here is a miniprotesting main sign inscription set that could give many factions of the Occupy movement a voice on the streets. It also unifies all causes under the umbrella of the Fair America Platform. It would look like this:

The main sign for corner #1:

Occupiers Support the Fair America Platform

Tax Fairness:  Restore Fair Taxation of Millionaires

End Tax Free Offshore Loopholes for B of A, Exxon/Mobil

Job Fairness:  Restore Unions, Eliminate Tax Breaks for Offshoring

The folks behind the person holding this central sign could have overhead signs saying things like, “Support ‘1000 Families’ Top Tax Tier” and “GOP Union Busting Stomping On Middle Class” and “GOP Betrayed American Workers With Offshoring Surge.” Of course, there are likely to be many signs on topic made up by Occupiers already. But since 120 can produce ten completely separate protest strings leading to commute bottlenecks all over town, those folks will have choices as to where they want to go. All miniprotests can have the same main signs, or you can have each with a different topic. And with the latter you can rotate messages by location and save printing costs.

Another couple of signs can be shown anywhere, regardless of topic:  “A Fair America. What’s Un-American About That?” and “The 99% Just Want a Fair America.”

The main sign for corner #2:

Occupiers Support the Fair America Platform

Fair Elections:  Paper Ballots Hand Counted, Public Campaign Funding Only

Fair Representation: Overturn Citizen’s United, Curb Lobbying Excesses

Fair Business Practices:  Restore Oversight Over Industry and Wall St.

There should be no problem rustling up signs to complement these themes.

Corner #3:

What’s Un-American About

Asking for a Fair America?

Those That Fight a Fair America

Are Pandering to Corporate Titans, Billionaires

Now bear in mind that these signs take a few seconds to read, so the choices for protest string locations should culminate right at onramps. They can also have spurs where duplicates of the first and second signs can be along both north and south approaches, with sign #3 being the hub for both on one corner. And in rural towns, miniprotests should be spread across corners with three consecutive stop signs.

Another thing about using miniprotests in tandem with Occupy events is that it lowers the threshold for people who want to participate but can’t spare the time or are not wild about sleeping outdoors. And because each group is just four people, no permits are required and police have no legal justification for interfering.

Occupy groups can temporarily expand their numbers in this manner by promoting the miniprotest locations while being specific about the causes at each corner along each protest string.

See more about the Fair America Platform, and make suggestions to modify it if you like, at:

https://progtodd.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/create-the-fair-america-party-as-a-place-where-democrats-and-disgruntled-republicans-can-share-common-ground/

Please note that the URL reflects the Fair America Party that I originally proposed. I’ve backed off that stance, looking to instead promote a Fair America Platform that Democrats and logical Republicans can stand behind.

Let’s say that you’re an Occupier and you think this idea has merit. Where do you take it from here? Well the first step is to propose this idea to the Occupy event’s on-site assembly (often happening several nights a week) and ask that a committee be formed on site to handle the logistics. When the Miniprotesting Committee meets, either volunteer to be its spokesperson or aid the person who is voted into that role.

Any miniprotest can be put together in about an hour. This way if Rush or Boehner or Cain throws out a blatant lie, you can disprove it that afternoon with main sign inscription sets showing stats to shred their fabrications and throw light on WHY and for whom they lied.

The flow goes like this:

  1. Type your  main sign inscriptions into your computer, expanding your margins to the full width of the document in portrait mode. They should be in Arial, with lines spaced about 1.5 apart. The less text for each individual sign, the larger the font can be.
  2. Determine the best locations for your protest strings based on traffic patterns, proximity to mass transit, and number of participants
  3. Email your main signs as a single document to your local FedEx Kinko’s and have them print them out on their 36” roll paper. They should expand the original image to the largest size possible to fit the width of the paper, generally around 400% of the original.
  4. Go to Staples for the 30” x 40” foam core signboard conveniently sold in packs of three. Bring your pocket knife so you can cut two rectangular hand holds at the top of each.
  5. At Kinko’s trim your three signs on their wide cutters and affix the inscriptions using Scotch tape
  6. Meet up with your fellow miniprotesters at the location where the final signs are to be. Disperse main signs, getting someone’s phone number within each group. Also have somebody with a video camera across the street near the center of your protest string to capture any confrontations or happy motorists on the same page.

If your Occupy group is fairly small, you can enlist volunteers through tweets, emails, local message board posts, Meetups if you have an official one in your locale, or Occupytogether.org. The more locally based the better, though.

So now Occupiers have a new tool to expand their voices beyond a city block. More specific topics can be addressed on different days. The miniprotesting format can also be used for other focused actions in town, shaming a politician and his followers prior to a town hall meeting or standing along all inbound arteries to the home offices of a tax-dodging multinational corporation.

The Staples and FedEx Kinko’s costs can be added to your website’s calls for support along with food and toiletries. You’re already there. Now you can do more with your time, people, and passion.

And I will do everything I can to help the process. Please contact me, Todd, through the miniprotests.com website via the About Us tab. Also on miniprotests.com you’ll see a vast array of miniprotesting main sign inscription sets and how to concoct your own to support your own slogans.

The Occupy movements are all peaceful, and the miniprotesting theme mirrors that by avoiding abusive language. The miniprotesting motto is: On the Streets WE ARE HOPE. Please take your opportunity to embody that and feel the momentum as it grows day by day.

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For five years now I’ve been trying to get my miniprotesting idea off the ground. And this weekend, thanks to the kind folks at Democracy for America and Rebuild the Dream, it has to some degree. The concept earned me one of their 30 American Dream Scholarships, getting me into the Take Back the American Dream Conference in Washington, DC and paying some of my travel costs. And in a bit I’ll share my daily impressions of the experience as the American Dream movement was launched in earnest.

Miniprotesting is a simple concept. Spread out a dozen people in three groups of four along three consecutive street corners. In the center of each group is someone holding a 30” x 40” sign at waist level while the other miniprotesters hold their signs overhead in the tradition method. The three signs make a running message like the Berma Shave rural roadside ads of old, allowing for use of the Socratic method and setting up slogans that will stick. More message from less people I like to say.

It would look like this to motorists queuing up for freeway and bridge onramps during the evening commute:

Corner #1:  True Conservatives Should Be Appalled by Today’s CORPservative Agenda

Corner #2:  GOP Willing to Sacrifice Medicare to Preserve Oil Subsidies, Offshore Tax Havens

Corner #3:  Republicans, Take Back Your Party From the Pious With a Corporate Bias or Vote Democratic

You’ll note that in this instance I’m trying to change the playing field, putting conservatives on our side against the tea party zealots in charge on their side of the aisle.

Most of the scholarship winners received hundreds of votes to earn their spots, while others got their ticket through the merits of their ideas that were voted on. I clearly came from the latter category, being the only one to have precisely zero votes of support. I guess my personal networking came up a bit short. And in my defense I maintain that miniprotesting is kind of hard to grasp in a few lines. But somebody did, and my wondrous week is proof of that.

Once I got the news of my scholarship I dropped everything and made plans to fly east from the Bay Area.

And after three days of being within the eye of the progressive hurricane just now being unleashed, I come away emboldened with hope on both national and personal levels. I’ve been inspired by some of the most creative and impassioned minds in progressive politics. And I’ve finally gotten a sense of relief that my quest to advance the concept of miniprotesting may not be as Quixotic as I have always feared.

I made a z-fold brochure on miniprotesting and was able to hand it to some of the biggest players in shaping our future, and in most cases say a few sentences about the notion to hopefully spark enough interest to get them to read it when they weren’t as harried. I connected with Jim Dean and Arshad Hasan, chair and executive director respectively with Democracy for America; Tim Carpenter, national director of Progressive Democrats for America; Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee; Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steel Workers union; and progressive radio host Thom Hartmann. And although I didn’t speak to him personally, I was able to give a brochure to one of the handlers for the conference host Van Jones, creator of Rebuild the Dream, as she and Van scurried out to the Capitol Hill rally we were bused to after things wound down at the DC Hilton.

I’ve also made direct contact with the local decision makers in incredibly important locales:  Jerry Clark, chair of the DC chapter of DFA; and Jeff Kravat, chair of the MoveOn chapter in Madison, Wisc. With the former I hope to help create miniprotests that radiate out from the inbound arteries to Capitol Hill, showing evidence of their lies and hypocrisy to Republicans in power on their inbound commute. Just maybe they’ll get the sense that they’ll be, as the miniprotesting main signs will say, FTRs:  Final Term Republicans, if they don’t break from the GOP hard right party line.

With Jeff in Wisconsin I hope to create miniprotesting main sign inscription sets that fan the flames in the quest to recall Governor Scott Walker. With revolving main sign sets exposing different aspects of Walker’s stomping of the middle class in his state, enough truth will become common knowledge to end that ALEC drone’s career next spring.

Again, I want to thank DFA and Rebuild the Dream for getting me here, and Kaili Lamb with DFA for her help with the scholarship winners and personally for helping me get a chance to speak before the DC DFA members last night. I hope, in the words of Bogie, that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the DC DFA folks. And many thanks to my fellow scholarship winners who added a large component of fun to my experience and opened my eyes to a lot of what they’re fighting for themselves.

And now, on with the show:

Day 1:  Van Jones delivered an inspiring keynote speech to get things rolling that made us think about the road ahead and how progressive momentum has led our country to the greatness it embodies. He helped us grasp the challenges ahead in facing the lockstep voices of the tea party puppet masters. He shared the idea that our movement has no heroic figure guiding us, that we make our path collectively. And to that end, he brought the heads of 25 organizations on stage that embrace the American Dream movement.

Robert Reich, former labor secretary under Clinton, captivated us with his passion and his humor. Lizz Winstead and Elon James White gave us a dose of funny in the afternoon and capped the evening with a hilarious Laughing Liberally performance. I went to one of the workshops about resurrecting US manufacturing hosted by United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard.

Day 2:  Bernie Sanders was speaking in a small conference room and I arrived late. Every eye was transfixed. Being tall, I easily wedged myself into a spot where I could see. He is one of our most valuable progressive heroes, a true independent with no party protocols to adhere to. You want truth, Bernie is not going to sidestep it.Ohio state senator Nina Turner rocked the hundreds in the International Ballroom with her impassioned oration on the fight to overturn Senate Bill 5 which chopped the collective bargaining rights of all state employees including police and firefighters. They collected 1.3 million signatures to get a referendum on the ballot this November (they only needed 250,000), and Ohio voters can take this law off the books by the power of the ballot box. I wish Wisconsin had similar laws. Turner closed with something her grandmother told her as a young girl.”You need three things in life: a wishbone, a jawbone, and a backbone,” she said to the delight of all. The jawbone was for asking questions and pressing for answers. She brought the house down.
I also had to have a little backbone on the day, facing one of my fears of being interviewed on camera. All the scholarship winners were asked a few questions and asked to give a shout out to the brave souls of Occupy Wall Street. It went far better than I had feared, and although I got off track a few times I never fumbled for words significantly.
That night 15 of the winners got together with a pair of our scholarship hosts intending to dine in the Dupont Circle area close to the Hilton. But instead we opted for getting to go food independently and then sitting on the steps of the fountain in the heart of Dupont Circle. We finally got to know each other, find out what we thought and where we were all from. Many were from locales where progressive voices are rare, and expressed true relief in being able to talk so candidly among so many people.
Day 3:  The finale.My day started with a media workshop featuring former Air America brethren Thom Hartmann and Sam Seder, as well as Randi Rhodes’ occasional guest host Nicole Sandler. They gave us a fantastic insider’s perspective on the nuts and bolts of programming, the obstacles to overcoming right wing domination on the airwaves, and how radio and web broadcasting feed off each other.
Keith Ellison and a host of others highlighted the closing ceremonies at the main ballroom leading up to Van Jones bringing down the curtain. Once again, Van found a way to give us fresh perspective on the job ahead. Then we were bused to the Capitol and had a Jobs Not Cuts rally on a lawn there. Intermittent sound problems made us wonder whether Karl Rove was on the mixing board. There were loads of dignitaries and average folks that took the podium. We experienced a grandmother’s tears, an SF rapper’s churning treatise, and a registered nurse’s sobering look at the health care system as it stands.
Lastly I went over to the office of my House representative Lynn Woolsey and left her a note before hitting both the House and Senate galleries in the Capitol. Although the House was almost empty, reps. Jan Schakowsky and Henry Waxman were talking about an amendment to a bill listing the dangerous findings of mercury in a particular type of factory output. They spoke of brain and cognitive damage to children exposed to these levels of mercury en vitro. The Republican sandwiched in between them said a bunch of watered down BS about all the steps the mercury has to go through: it goes from the air to the ground water to bugs and stuff to the fish that eat them, and only a few of them get caught and eaten by us. What’s the big deal? Let’s see his newlywed daughter eat some of that fish just to prove a point. Think that will happen?

So with the conference done, I’ll be joining the October 2011 organization’s occupation of Freedom Plaza in a protest to bring all soldiers and contractors back from Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ll be back with them tomorrow, too.

It’s been an incredible week so far, and I’ve still got two days to go. I hope to connect with the DC organizers of PDA and MoveOn, thanks to KeshLadduwahetty of the DC chapter of DFA. I’ve got more shouting and much, much more walking to do.
One thing I do know is that if we could turn all the passion I’m seeing into kilowatts, we’d overload the national grid.

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