LIVEBLOG: Occupalooza in Traverse City, Michigan – 2/18/2012

Occupalooza, baby!

I arrived in Traverse City early this afternoon, happy to find some Michigan snow and a passel of amazing Occupy activists and organizers ready to Occupy the Pinky. [NOTE: all of these crappy photos are by me with my iPhone. Do NOT blame my wife for any of them.]

They have seats set up for at least 100 folks.

Here’s the schedule:

Occupalooza Schedule Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012
Inside Out Gallery 229 Garland St., Traverse City, MI

5:30-6:00 Opening music by Lena Wilson
6:00-6:20 Jeff Gibbs “Occupy and the Fate of Humanity“ producer for the films “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and “Bowling for Columbine”
6:25-6:40 Video by Sonic Bloom of the local TC Occupy movement
6:40-6:45 Valerie Stone Northwest Food Coalition
6:45-6:50 Eleni Healy video
6:55-7:00 Phil Houle Veterans for Peace
7:00- 7:45 Hursh
7:45-7:50 Foreclosure presentations
7:50-8:00 Chris Savage founder “Eclectablog” – Progressive News & Commentary
8:00-8:45 Ratone
8:45 Local Business panel
Amy Reynolds-Horizon Books Steve Nance-Oryana,
8:55-9:05 Derek Bailey- Tribal Chairman for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
9:05 Jimmy Says
9:50 The Saga of Larry Tunner (A movie about the occupy movement) – Andrew Tomlinson Jeff Morgan Prometheus Motion Pictures, live scene shoot
10:00-10:45 North Shore

I’m particularly excited about having the chance to hook with Andrew Tomlinson of Ypsilanti, the creator of the upcoming Occupy-themed movie The Saga of Larry Tunner. Andrew is about 35% of the way toward his fundraising goal to make this movie a reality and I encourage everyone to visit their fundraising website and consider dropping a couple of bucks on this very worth effort. Briefly, here’s a synopsis:

The Saga of Larry Tunner follows the classic hero tale, with a few exceptions. Instead of discovering a flaming sword our warrior discovers a huge check, and rather than questing against a great dragon that has plundered the countryside, our champion and his merry band struggle against an unchecked corporate power that has corrupted our daily existence.

Homeless drunkard has-been Larry Tunner has had a rough couple of years since the plant closed, but his luck is about to change! Along with some of his trusty friends, including an unemployed professor, a liquor store clerk, and a bag lady, Larry is about to turn the American political establishment upside down.

After hitting the jackpot and realizing that he really can do anything, Larry decides to run for President, giving voice to the real concerns of America’s ninety-nine percent. Unpolished, charismatic, and full of heart, Larry is on a mission to save America, or die trying.

Click image for a larger version of the promotional flyer

You can expect to see more about Andrew’s project at Eclectablog in the future.

Here are a couple of the organizers of Occupalooza:


Barb Smith and Cindy Tomlinson of Occupy Traverse City

The poster says: “Occupy: to engage the mind, energy and attention of…”

The even starts shortly. Follow me after the jump for the Full Monty.

Tables set up for a variety of progressive causes:

Repeal Public Act 4 – the Emergency Manager law – petition and Gov. Snyder recall volunteer sign-up table:

Move to Amend table staffed by an amazing organizer, Barb Schneider (middle)

Attendees beginning to stream in…

Opening music by Lena Wilson, a folk singer with a beautiful, compelling voice:

Film producer Jeff Gibbs:

“What’s going to save us isn’t getting the carbon out or stopping the Japanese whalers…what is it? Empathy.”

“Most of the people in the 99% couldn’t even afford to come here tonight. We are the hope.”

“Our ability to communicate and keep an eye on each other is a major factor in why we have been able to have successful, non-violent uprisings throughout the world.”

“What will happen if the system goes down? I’m here in Traverse City with my garden. But what about the people in Detroit? … We’ve got to have a plan for everyone.”

“I’m against fracking and deep water drilling. But what happens if it suddenly goes away? So moving forward requires a great organizational effort and EMPATHY.”

“There’s a parallel rule about survival: ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘Survival of those that cooperate’.

“We’ve had to dampen down our empathy to live as well as we do.”

“One of the difference between our culture and sustainable culture is our empathy for nature.”

“We have corporations that do our dirty work for us…rethinking this is going to be really complicated.”

“We’re in a culture war and I encourage you to focus on two things: economic justice and organized love and compassion.”

Now up: great video by Sonic Bloom of some very eloquent local Traverse City Occupy organizers talking about why they are involved in the #OWS movement. Best part: at the very end, Valerie Gibbs is on the phone with Bank of America and they won’t talk to her until she agrees not to record them. All she’s asking for is to talk to someone because she received the wrong packet. [Facepalm]

Now comes Betty Bushey from Move to Amend who has a very vigorous and active group working hard in northwestern Michigan. Their Move to Amend forum last month drew over 500 people. “A few people CAN make a difference.”

Tom Mayer from Food & Water Watch is next. They are pushing for a Fair Farm bill that emphasizes sustainable farming with a focus on conservation and sound ecological stewardship.

What a Fair Farm Bill Means for You
  • Better choices: Breaking up the agribusiness monopolies will bring a more vibrant marketplace.
  • Stable prices: Restoring common-sense practices like agricultural reserves can prevent speculation from driving up food prices.
  • Increased access to healthy food: More families will have easy access to healthy foods they can afford.
  • Stronger local infrastructure: Reversing the consolidation in the food system would allow for more local businesses.

Val Stone from the Northwest Food Coalition is next. Their group is working to alleviate hunger in the northwest part of Michigan. “If you think the economy is improving, I’m not seeing it. We’re not seeing it in the Grand Traverse area.” Their group is looking for volunteers to staff their pantries. “Our pantries are making a difference.”

Phil Houle from Veterans for Peace, an co-partner with Occupy TC.

Veterans for peace was founded in 1985 to:
Increase the public awareness of the total costs of war
Restrain our government from intervening in the internal affairs of other nations
End the arms race
Reduce, and eventually eliminate, nuclear weapons
Seek justice for veterans and victims of war
Abolish war as an instrument of national policy

We attempt to accomplish our mission through public displays such as marching in parades, our cross displays on Veteran’s Day and Memor ial Day in the open area in Traverse City and speaking out against war in public places. We proudly wear our Chapter 50 T-shirts. We also attempt to be present at schools to show the true side of militarism when recruiters are present.

Veterans For Peace promotes a humane and democratic local, national, and global society, by educating the public as to the true social, ecological, and spiritual costs of war. Our membership includes veterans of all eras and duty stations and we actively work to prevent the spread of militarism as a form of foreign policy

Break time with music provided by Sonic Bloom’s band Hursh.

Meanwhile, in the gallery, a very active crowd checking out the silent auction, action tables and refreshments.

Music break over. Valerie Gibbs is up now. She’s giving a passionate and eloquent recitation of the things she’s angry about that have inspired to be involved in the Occupy movement.

Next up: me. I was brilliant (kidding ; )

Now, another musical break from Ratone. (And these guys ROCK!)

The event has been going on for three hours and there are still around 300 people here, half of them are talking, networking and organizing in the gallery and the other half are grooving to Ratone.

And, amazingly, they are on schedule! That never happens at events like this!

The next piece is a local business panel composed of Amy Reynolds from Horizon Books, Steve Nance of Oryana, and Scott Wilmott, the Chief Financial Officer of a local credit union, TBA Credit Union.

Horizon books hosts Occupy General Assemblies and meetings by Veterans for Peace. Amy talked about “the high cost of low prices”. Buying local, she explains, keeps money and tax revenues in the community where you live. “Local retailers are your friends and neighbors. Support them and they will support you.”

Oryana is a grocery co-op with 90 employees. They support local farmers and local food artisans (breadmakers, etc.) Steve said, “2012 is the year of the cooperative…The cooperative model is not just the maximization of profits, it’s a triple bottom line.”

Scott talked about how banks work to maximize profit. “At TBA, we realized we were making too much money. So we figured out how to give more back to the community.”

The next speaker is Derek Bailey who is running for Congress in the 1st Congressional District. He spoke tonight as the Tribal Chairman for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. He opened with an introduction in Ojibwa, the oldest spoken language in the region.

“We cannot lose sight of those that came before us.”

“Some will say our land and our water don’t have a voice. That’s not true. Our elders will tell you, ‘listen’.”

“I have never lost the mindset of the power of us working together.”

He finished with a challenge from his uncle John Bailey: “Ask yourself, what type of ancestor will you be? Tonight I charge all of us to ask, ‘what type of ancestor will we be?'”

I will be having brunch with Derek tomorrow and will have more to say about him and his candidacy in the future.

The speakers are finished for the evening. The second to last band is Jimmy Says.

Organizers are putting total attendance at 600. This has been an incredible event. In terms of coalition-building, I’ve not seen anything quite this successful in recent memory. A wide array of compassionate, caring, active activists and organizers working in concert to build a community and to have their message heard. Yes, there is anger in the Occupy movement. But Occupy TC have shown with this event that there is also empathy and concern for ALL of the members of their community. They are harnessing their anger in productive, sustainable ways to make Traverse City a better place to live and to effect change in our society. I am most impressed and truly hope they can export this elsewhere.

The night finishes with a live-shooting of a scene for Andrew Tomlinson’s movie The Saga of Larry Tunner. If this scene is any indication, this is going to be a fine, fine movie! Please throw a coupla bucks in their tip jar so they can make it happen.


Larry Tunner: If corporations are people, they are the vampires of our age.

The last band of the evening, North Shore, takes us out.

Good night.

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