Occupy Iowa held its first statewide general assembly (GA) in Cedar Rapids this afternoon. In attendance were delegations from Occupy Iowa groups in Des Moines, Iowa City, Grinnell, Waterloo-Cedar Falls, the Quad Cities and Dubuque. When the GA convened at 12:30 p.m. there were 28 people. By 1 p.m. there were 55. On the agenda was a discussion of the Occupy the Caucus action planned for Dec. 26 through Jan. 3 in Des Moines, a discussion of today’s direct action, brainstorming about potential future Iowa actions, an announcement by Frank Cordaro of an occupy the caucus action Dec. 16 in Des Moines, a series of announcements and then adjournment.
Today’s direct action involved occupying a building where AirCover Integrated Solutions Corp. of Redding, Calif. recently opened an office. The company is developing civilian applications for drone technology to use in emergency response and police applications. Because of the direct action, a number of peace groups from around the state were represented, including Dubuque Peace and Justice, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Workers for Peace Iowa, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Des Moines Catholic Worker, Progressive Action for the Common Good, PEACE Iowa and Veterans for Peace. For those of us working for peace, it was a chance to catch up with friends.
After the GA adjourned, I walked over to the Cherry Building where they were holding an event called a “Very Cherry Holiday.” The Cherry Building was reclaimed after the flood of 2008 when water reached a level of about eight feet inside the building. It has been converted into a studio space for artists and craftspeople and today was their annual open house and show. In the artist trades, the end of year holidays are a time for making a significant portion of the year’s sales. Unfortunately for the small business owners, AirCover Integrated Solutions had located an office here and it was the target of the Occupy Iowa direct action.
Michael Richards, a Cedar Rapids entrepreneur, has been working for years to develop the kind of facility represented by the Cherry Building. Today’s event was the kind where families go to see and hopefully buy artwork. The musicians playing in the hallway were very well dressed, and women were wearing new shoes redolent with the smell of Italian leather. The contrasts between the two parts of the 99 percent present at the direct action couldn’t have been more stark. It is ironic that Richards organized the use of the building for the Occupy Iowa GA.
Des Moines Catholic Worker Frank Cordaro led the leaderless movement through the direct action, engaging the owner of the Cherry Building. Since the owner came out, occupiers did not enter and used the human microphone to relay what was going on at the door. By the time you count the police, media, bloggers and occupiers there were about 100 people there.
The man who ran the stack at the GA engaged an artist who was extremely upset about the disruption of the once a year “Very Cherry Holiday” event. The artist had a sign in the window saying, “I am an artist – you are hurting my business!” Occupy Iowa felt they weren’t disrupting, but the leather clad feet of the patrons began leaving the building halfway through the event when the occupation started.
There is a lot to digest from today’s events. It is not clear who, if anyone, was successful. Only that the illusion that people can enjoy a Saturday of escape from the work-a-day world for a visit to art galleries intersected with the military industrial complex and Occupy Wall Street wanted none of that.
~ Paul Deaton is a regular contributor to Blog for Iowa.