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    Occupy Tim's Avatar
    Occupy Tim

    History and Legacy of Occupy Sebastopol

    Occupy Sebastopol Lives on
    in Unique “Peacetown” Seating Circle

    Nation's Longest Lasting Occupy Encampment
    Evolves into Permanent Civic Discourse Bench

    Tim Ryan
    November 27, 2019

    Occupy Sebastopol, which operated from the small town square in a city of fewer than 8,000 people, has created an enduring legacy that is unique among the more than 600 Occupy encampments that activated millions of Americans in 2011 and 2012.

    One year after local volunteers unveiled the nation’s only known dedicated civic discourse bench to the public, Occupy Sebastopol serves as a model of what a radical protest movement can accomplish in a town with a progressive city council.

    Sebastopol, which the city council has officially nicknamed “Peacetown, USA,” had the longest running physical occupation in the country. It was also the only one city to negotiate a peaceful end to an Occupy encampment that empowered the only permanent installation bearing Occupy’s name in the country, modeling, for other cities, a cooperative, non-violent, response to protest occupations and events.
    Occupy Sebastopol maintained an information tent in the small town’s downtown plaza for a year and a half, longer than any other Occupy group in the nation. In 2018, more than five years after Occupy Sebastopol’s last tent was taken down in 2013, the City of Sebastopol dedicated a circular bench to the Occupy movement.

    Not only did Occupy Sebastopol have the longest lasting physical presence of any encampment in the United States, it was also the only Occupy group that negotiated an end to its initial encampment in return for an indefinite presence at the protest camp’s site. The circular bench that eventually replaced the information tent is also the only one of its kind in the country. While the Occupy movement has ended, it lives on in this space for civic discourse. The agreement that led to this outcome came to be known as the Peacetown Agreement.

    The Peacetown Agreement took shape, from the occupiers’ perspective, as a way to continue the work of Occupy. For the city council members –who voiced support for the tenets and values of the movement– it was a way to remove the encampment from the plaza without violence.

    Protestors in Sebastopol and the country over were consistent in stating that what they were doing was not camping, but first amendment sanctioned symbolic free speech. The camps were a symbol and a tactic; they brought proof of economic inequality to places where it could not be ignored, places like city halls, or Zuccotti Park on Wall Street.

    Besides a clear symbol of the days’ problems, Occupy encampments sought to showcase solutions and incubate ideas. The movement argued that the problems our society faces can be solved without a hierarchical top down approach and that in many cases horizontal decision making is both more effective and more efficient. Decisions were made at general assemblies through consensus instead of by majority voting. The movement described itself as leaderless. Activists took the lead on issues that were important to them and others joined. Problems facing any site of semi-permanent habitation, such as managing sanitation, food, shelter, and medical care, were resolved through the knowledge and experience of those involved.

    One of the first occupiers in Sebastopol, Linus Lancaster, said, “As we watched it spreading, it seemed like some form of revolution was actually going to be viable. I remember thinking: if this shows up in Laramie, Wyoming, I’m convinced. Sure enough a couple of weeks later six people turned out on a street corner there.”

    Occupier Justin Diehl recalled, “For a lot of people it was a place of community. It felt like anything was possible. I don’t think people of my generation had ever seen that before — people getting together like that to work on the issues collectively.” A common saying amongst occupiers is that there was a tangible, electric feeling in the camps. “There was a lighthearted, almost cosmic creativity in the air,” Diehl said.

    Occupy Sebastopol’s first tents were erected in the downtown plaza on the fifth of November, 2011. Lancaster recalled, “Rather than attending the next Santa Rosa GA (General Assembly Meeting) I went to the Sebastopol Plaza with the idea to start one and found that six or seven other people were already there.” A handful of people were staying in the park overnight, while a growing number came to the camp daily. In addition to the tents that individuals were sleeping in, the encampment grew to include an information tent, a food service space, and a communications/medical tent. An early protest march through town against banks’ lending practices and involvement in the 2008 financial crisis drew more than 60 people.

    Continues here

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    EmeraldMatra's Avatar

    Re: History and Legacy of Occupy Sebastopol

    The Occupy Movement continues in many locations throughout the US including two active Occupy groups here in Sonoma County. When the tents came down many Occupy groups moved indoors and became active in local social justice issues. Occupy Wall Street folks are organizing a winter coat drive in NYC right now. Occupy Petaluma, formed in September 2011 around foreclosure issues, still meets every week and focuses primarily on homeless issues. Occupy Sonoma County is focused on social justice issues with an emphasis on climate change. We organize six events and two major campaigns every year for the past 7 years. To get involved contact If you wish to contact Occupy Petaluma we will forward your message to them.

    Congratulations to Occupy Sebastopol for your outstanding success and for the beautiful circular bench!

    Indeed, the Occupy Movement has changed the conversation of the 99% forever.

    Occupy Sonoma County

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    Last edited by Barry; 12-09-2019 at 12:39 PM.
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