The medium of a fully participatory, live video stream is a fairly new technique, enabled by the advent of smart phones and has been both a blessing and a curse to Occupy. In the early days of the Occupy movement, it was a welcomed since the Mainstream Media (MSM) was largely silent on Occupy.
Many curious people, myself included, watched as first wave streamers such as PunkBoyInSF, OakFoSho, Iskander, and Tim Pool brought the underreported events to light. It is a marvelous thing to not only observe the news, but to participate in the news!
I, as a second wave streamer, began covering OccupyLA when the media team packed up in anticipation of the eviction from the lawn around City Hall, often called “Solidarity Park” by Occupiers. This vacancy left a vacuum in information which many of the Internet observers wanted to be filled. I said to them, “I have the equipment, do you want me to go down there?” Their answer was an overwhelming, “Yes!” This is where I met long time Occupier and, at the time, new streamer known as Freedom. The day we met we were literally tethered together, since I had a battery big enough for two to share. But aside from this new partner, I was met with suspicion by Occupiers, who thought that any new face was a potential 'infiltrator' or 'agent-provocateur'. While I had come down to share what was happening with the Interwebz, who was largely uninformed about events in LA, I was an outsider and a potential informant to the authorities.
This infiltration was real, as Occupiers found out the night of the “Real Eviction” on November 29/30 as 12 'Occupiers' gave high-fives to some of the 1400 police officers that stormed the park. But it is the fear of this infiltration along with the fear of co-option by unions and political parties, and fear of evidential video by Streamers, which has planted a destructive seed.
With the sundering of the camp, OccupyLA was granted the so-called 'Free Speech Zone' of the west steps of City Hall. What had at times been a group of thousands participating at the General Assembly began to dwindle to a few hundred, then sub-hundred, to where it is now: floating between ten to fifty active participants. This is when I had been most active, in the post-eviction period. I spent many nights down at the General Assembly watching ridiculous fights over things such as whether orange was the right color for solidarity bracelets and whether previous proposals actually passed.
With more arguing occurring, the language of oppressiveness and dominance continued. While other actions were happening, the bulk became a stagnating series of marches against or for different things that meandered between City Hall and Pershing Square. A schism then appeared in the non-violence arena, often referred to 'Diversity of Tactics'. Along this same fault-line a difference in opinion regarding how much of the current government system could be reformed emerged. One group claiming it can be 'fixed', the other group claiming that it has to be 'smashed'.
This rift led to an effective alienation of the so-called Liberal-reformists, very few of whom still exist with OccupyLA. And most of the ones still there have been convinced of the more Anarchist-syndicalist view by a series of brutal responses by authorities.
And then began the attacks on the Streamers – the very group of people who first made Occupy visible, began being attacked. There are several instances of this, but the two most well know are the theft of Freedom's camera during the Move-In Day March in Oakland, and an assault on Tim Pool in New York. I, myself, have been threatened in Oakland and Los Angeles on several occasions, and most particularly, on February 29th at the Walmart action. By threatened, I mean a combination of threats of physical violence and implied threats of physical violence. Other Streamers have received similar threats if they do not provide purely propagandist footage of Occupy. The same people advocating for an Open, Transparent, Non-Violent approach to change are becoming more and more Closed, Opaque, and Violent.
As more Streamers become threatened by both authorities and Occupiers, and as more become fiscally and physically fatigued, many experienced Streamers are ceasing coverage.
When the last Streamer has left, will Occupy be relevant anymore? If they are, will anyone know anything they are doing?
Bio: CrossXBones is an Independent Journalist and Hacktivist who has been covering OccupyLA as well as other Occupies since the end of November.
Top photo by Erik Fisher, Occupy Los Angeles.