April 11th there was an amazing event at the University Club in St Paul, Minnesota. Occupy Minnesota sat down at a table and had a discussion with the Minnesota Tea Party.
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Before we go into how it went, an explanation on how it transpired is in order. Members of the Minnesota Tea Party were looking to get hold of the Occupy Minnesota Movement. However, since we had been booted out of the “People’s Plaza” outside of Minneapolis City Hall in December by the “liberal” “progressive” Minneapolis City Council, we had become difficult to find. It must be noted here that this “progressive” City Council had passed Resolutions in support of Occupy, right before they initiated their crackdown on us.
The Tea Party folks had tried to locate a number of individuals but were having no luck locating them. Since I had been quite public in organizing the Street Medics, including having my phone # in public they then tried calling me with a proposal.
A debate between Occupy and The Tea Party of the role of government. I quickly contacted my Occupy contacts and we came up with a list of three people ready, willing and able to participate.
Coleen Rowley, former FBI Whistle blower and Times 2002 Person of the Year, Scott Hargarten who had organized the anti-ALEC Rally at the State Capitol and myself. We all agreed that we would all take the standard statement that depicts any true Occupy event. None of us spoke for Occupy but instead we all were individuals who worked within the Occupy Movement. After all there had been no GA to solidify our position, no GA to give us “authority” to speak on behalf of the Occupy Movement. We all made this statement before we started to speak.
As a side note the Tea Party folks had initially advertised my participation as being a US Senate candidate. I contacted them and told them to stop it. I explained that I refused to speak at any Occupy events as a Senate candidate, as a matter of principle. That electoral politics should be kept separate from the Occupy Movement as a matter of policy. I told them that their continuation of this advertising was a deal breaker for my participation. They agreed and changed their fliers and face book site.
We arrived at the University Club in St Paul. Very nice and very elegant it must be noted. The debate had been sponsored by the Caux Round Table, a business group allaigned with The Tea Party Movement.
We met our “opponents” who were Marianne Stebbins the Minnesota Ron Paul coordinator, Walter Hudson of North Star Tea Party Patriots and another gentleman whose name I cannot remember who was a Republican party official.
We started off the discussion. We all agreed to have a Tea Party person speak, then an Occupy and then so on and so on. Marianne, the Ron Paul person started first and gave a very eloquent speech.
I was chosen to be next. As is my style, I gave a very passionate speech about Occupy and the complete bi-partisan betrayal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I noted that elected officials from both parties were colluding in this, all while pretending to hate each other. I mentioned the NDAA passage and all that this meant. I also pointed out how both political parties were run by elites who marginalized and demonized voices of dissent from within their ranks. I also noted that all kinds of preconceived notions about each other were being shred asunder by this meeting. I laughed and stated that “See, we Occupy are not just a bunch of dirty, smelly hippies smelling of patcholi oil and not wanting to work and we see that the Tea Party people here are not a bunch of crazy people.” I noted the media attempts to marginalize us all. I also pointed out the idea of what can be called the “false left-right ideals that are in place to keep us separated and divided. In a classic case of divide and conquer. I talked about being a left wing supporter of the Ron Paul Campaign For Liberty. I also noted that the Tea Party had been co-opted by the Republican Party establishment and that Occupy was fighting to make sure that we were not similarly co-opted. As I talked I noticed many many heads nodding in agreement. In fact the only one that was not was the Republican.
After I finished, I was hit with a plethora of questions and comments. Marianne, the Ron Paul person looked at me with astonishment and stated “Oh my God, I never hear of ‘liberals’ speak about the Constitution and I agree with everything you just said.” I pointed out to her that my views are in fact very common but people who think like myself are never given space on the “progressive” media like MSNBC, which are filed with nothing but people talking Democratic Party talking points.
The next person speaking was Walter Hudson of the North Star Tea Party Patriots. He talked of the Tea Party, how it came about and confirmed how the Tea Party was indeed co-opted. He voiced his frustration at that.
Scott Hargarten spoke next and he talked of the complete corruption going on in the government and how it was his opinion that the Occupy Movement sprang in response to that corruption and the complete unresponsiveness of the government to the People.
The Republican Party operative spoke next. It was actually kind of funny. He tried to talk Republican Party talking points, went on about how “You have to make a choice, there comes a time for that” and other variations on this theme. It was obvious that they were falling on deaf ears.
Coleen Rowley spoke last and she talked of her experiences as an FBI Agent and Whistle Blower. Then she talked of just how much the government was indeed dismantling the very basic premise of the Constitution and Bill of Rights along with the looting of our Treasury and its ties to the continued wars. She also pointed out the bi-partisan complicity in all of this.
After this there was a time for questions. They came fast and furious. The questions were thought provoking and profound. We all sat around and discussed where we were in the USA today. I remember clearly one point where the Republican guy was trying to make a point. Marianne leapt to a response. She stated “Oh hell no. I am done with this lesser evil nonsense, I am so done with that.”
The entire event can be encapsulated by that event right there.
The poor old Republican was simply outgunned. It was a beautiful and fascinating event. We knew that there were things that we all disagreed on. That was implicit and understood. We all also realized that there were a lot of basic principles that bound us together.
The divide and conquer has just begun. Now to the meat of the matter. If we had have gone in there with a “lesser evil” and “we have to support Obama and the Dems” framing, this entire conversation would have ended up like a Fox News or MSNBC shout fest. Instead it turned into quite something else. The whole time I thought of Chris Hedges and his book “Death Of The Liberal Class.”
It was a thing of beauty.