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Wisconsin is Really Bad at Social War

This is a brief summary and commentary written by someone who participated in the occupy MKE events thus far. There is still an ongoing occupation in Milwaukee, but it’s laden with problems and at an extreme lowpoint in participation of actual occupation (outside of marches and General Assemblies). We’ll try to post further updates here when more develops.

I was excited when the occupation movement finally came to town. Almost a month after New York, Milwaukee would finally get a piece of the action. Nothing really exciting has really happened since the occupation at UW-Milwaukee, and I was excited to write the wrongs of the past.


When myself and several comrades arrived at the Zeidler Park for the kick-off march, the number of people already there was encouraging. The crowd was estimated between 2500 and 3000 people, much more than any other Milwaukee event in recent memory. What was not encouraging was the ominous proliferation of FRSO and WWP members and their respective newspapers. Even so, the presence of a first aid tent and people with masks kept me hopeful. According to a comrade who was at the planning meeting for the occupation, there would be marshals and the march would be permitted, but the peace police were limited to leading chants and directing the march leaving plenty of space for possible intervention.

Our interventions, though minor, were successful. As our black flags flapped in the wind we undermined the authority of marshals telling everyone to slow down by walking right past them, challenging them to “try and fucking stop us.” We also introduced a fun new chant of our own (Kill the rich, arm the poor; our one demand is civil war) much to the dismay of the pacifist organizers. When the march arrived at the Chase Bank there were several speakers. One of them tried to start chanting “thank you” to the police. He was countered by a “fuck you” chant and quickly gave up expressing his gratitude. While these minor interventions probably didn’t accomplish much, they were often appreciated by the other marchers who appeared to appreciate a break from the recycled liberal rhetoric they had been hearing since Madison.

After returning to Zeidler Park, the occupation acquired a festival atmosphere as it continued through the day. As expected, there was a potluck and pizza. At 7pm the GA started. The fail was soon to follow. The “General Assembly” that evening consisted of a small faction of the organizers talking at what remained of the occupiers (about 80 people). Anarchists intervened once more, calling out the organizers for engaging in negotiations with the police without the consent of the larger group. The discussion then shifted to whether or not people would risk arrest to continue the occupation in Zeidler Park. My comrades and I found ourselves on the same side as local SDS members, arguing that it’s not an occupation until it comes into conflict with the police. Unfortunately when the matter came to a straw poll of the crowd, we allowed the organizers to get away with phrasing the question as “Who wants to get arrested staying here?” Not calling that out was probably our biggest mistake. Naturally, the crowd of nervous occupiers erred strongly in favor of going home and coming back the next morning.

At 10pm there were four of us standing the the center of Zeidler Park squaring off against about 30 MPD officers. We decided that we’d rather spare ourselves the humiliation of being arrested on the local news and left after a couple warnings. It’s difficult to tell what would have happened if we stood our ground, but I have no regrets about not spending the night occupying a Milwaukee County Jail cell for a bunch of cowardly liberal organizers.

While we were being routed, another contingent of occupiers attempted to occupy a second location and, by the time we met up with them, were being told off by the police. The occupation spent the rest of the night roaming around downtown Milwaukee looking for a new encampment. This was the most enjoyable part of the evening as it evolved into a drunken game of cat-and-mouse with MPD in which the risk of arrest was extremely low. We went to a park, the cops showed up and stationed a few horse cops there, and then we moved to the next park. We finally found a privately owned park where we set up camp for the night.


In the morning, those of us who spent the night returned to Zeidler Park to be joined by occupiers who had left earlier. The general assembly which started at 1pm went on for five hours. During that assembly, the GA adopted a system of decision making which took the worst aspects of consensus decision-making and combined them with the worst aspects of Robert’s Rules of Order. This, combined with completely incompetent facilitators, resulted in an overly powerful GA which required a 75% majority vote to do anything and a hyper-bureaucratic system of committees.


With a GA that didn’t uses consensus and only two or three anarchists present at any given time, we were totally silenced at the second GA. None of us have returned to occupy Milwaukee as of this posting. Luckily for us, the occupation is already fizzling out due to disinterest and the comical incompetence of the organizers (for example: they don’t have control over their own website, so they can’t post updates on what’s happening or where they’ve moved.). Also, it’s getting really cold.

I think some of the lessons to be taken away from this are as follows:

1. Know the organizers – We were caught off guard by not immediately knowing who was in charge and found ourselves unable to intervene in time to prevent the manipulation of the first GA. Had we intervened more effectively, we might have been able to maintain control over Zeidler Park.

2. Assume the worst, hope for the best – I, for one, assumed that the GA would immediately adopt a consensus based decision-making model in which I would be able to block shitty proposals (like the formation of endless committees). This assumption proved costly as there weren’t enough of us present in the second GA to block the aforementioned proposals in a system where we needed +25% vote share to block.

3. Facilitation is key – Experienced anarchist facilitation of the first couple of GAs proved decisive in saving the UW-Milwaukee occupation from immediately becoming stupid (although it eventually succumbed to that fate) and inexperienced liberal facilitation ensured that occupy Milwaukee became a clusterfuck of fail.

-The Trollatariat


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