The Occupy Movement and the Potentialities of the Flash Mob

26 11 2011

by Nathan Revercomb

Flash mobs started in 2003, as a form of non-conformity activity organized via mobile phones and the internet. They usually were acts of collective, bizarre “street performances”; which included dancing, pillow fights, water gun fights, silent discos (where ear-phoned individuals danced to their personal CD or mp3 players). According to WIKIPEDIA, “A Flash Mob… is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse.”

Where they once were acts of performance art, they became acts of resistance in 2007 and 2009. The German trade union Verdi, with a membership of nearly 2.5 million workers in the retail and public sectors organized around one-hundred fifty mean and women to take part in an act of flash mob civil disobedience.

The Group visited a shopping center in Ascherleben in the state of Saxony-Anhalt and proceeded to load shopping carts with the many goods the stores had to offer. They then left the fully loaded carts standing in the aisels of the store and vacated the premises without paying for them.

The idea was that no prosecution could be made because there is no law obligating any ‘shopper’ from purchasing any items that have been placed in a cart. Nor is there any law requiring shoppers, to place items they decide not to purchase back on store shelves.

Instead of paying for the goods, the flash mob handed out cards with slogans like, “Fair Wages”, and ” Fair Means More” before departing. Business came to a stand still for about an hour and staff told reporters that it would take them an entire day to restock all the items displaced by the mob.

The protest had been organized as a result of a labor disagreement over wages and conditions between Verdi and retail bosses in the German states of Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony. Trade unions have rarely been anything but innovative but this flash mob strike was a new form of worker resistance. Doris Finke, a Verdi union secretary said, “With this new form of strike we wanted to draw attention to our problems. But we also wanted to let our colleagues in other sales areas know about our problems,” when interviewed by the newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

Though the event was largely peaceful, one person was arrested for a scuffle involving store security. Other arrests were made due to damaged goods when frozen food melted in abandoned shopping carts.

This action happened just two days after a ruling by Germany’s Federal Labor court which determined that falsh mobs were a legitimate form of industrial action. That ruling came after a case brought against Verdi for another flash mob action in 2007.

These tactics could easily be used by the Occupy Movement. Flash mobs can be organized to bring banks to a halt. For example, a sizeable group of protesters can gather at any of number of banks and each individual can stand in line to withdrawal a small amount of money from the teller’s booth, and then get back in line to do this again and again. Even the drive-thru lines can be easily jammed.

Wal-Marts and other 1 percent retail venues can be attacked using the same methods Verdi employed in 2007 and 2009.

When the police come to attack protests, stand-by protesters can flash mob in response as was seen in France not too many years ago.
Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that issued the first call to Occupy Wall Street back in July has called for Occupy Squads to do just this. The name ‘Occupy Squads’ was taken from the FLYING SQUAD PICKETS the Teamsters union employed in 1934.

Occupy Squads could be as Adbusters described them, “…groups of people willing and committed to responding to examples of injustice created by the system, wherever they should arise. If someone is screwed over by a bank, by an employer, by government red tape, they no longer have to face it all alone – now they have a group, a squad, a movement to back them up. ‘Occupy Squads’ are people on call, ready to respond in the local struggle at the site of injustice, occupying until there is some justice.

Such a move would flip the system on its head.

The system wants to keep us separate, to keep us apart because it knows that collective action produces results. So set up a local occupy squad and put out the word that no boardroom is safe, no corrupt bank deal will go unchecked, and no more will we deal with the attacks alone. We are together now, we have seen each other’s faces, we have slept and occupied together, and now we will respond collectively. And we will respond everywhere.”




One response

11 02 2012

It is way too infrequent that I see writing and ideas beyond the box, but I do see that you are one who has looked outside the box that our society has crafted for us and that far too many seem willing to live in. Thank you for your commitment to speak when so many are thunderously muted, your voice is appreciated. And you never know when an idea will find the wings to fly.

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