I-Team Report: The Occupiers

October 20, 2011 7:09:25 AM PDT
Usually when the I-Team looks into a business or an organization there is a paper trail, property records, perhaps court filings. But in the case of "The Occupiers" in New York, Chicago and other outposts, because it just started within the past month, there is almost no past to investigate and very little structure or hierarchy. So the I-Team went to the beginning of the explosive movement to see who lit the fuse.

Occupy Wall Street didn't begin on September 17, the date of the first protest. It didn't even begin on Wall Street in New York. The genesis of Occupy Wall Street wasn't in the United States. It was born in Vancouver, Canada, June 9, more than three months before the public heard of occupying anywhere.

Last June was when an Occupy Wall Street website address was registered by a 69-year-old Canadian magazine publisher, Kalle Lasn, an avid critic of consumerism.

"We're all hooked like rats in a Skinner box, locked onto this consumer treadmill," said Lasn.

Then in mid-July, Lasn's magazine "Adbusters" ran ads for Occupy Wall Street and a sit-in planned for September 17th. Kalle has denied lighting the fuse that started the protests which spread to Chicago a week later. He and Occupy Chicago demonstrators claim the movement has no leadership.

"We don't have a head. It's a bit hypocritical to have a head in this kind of movement," said Nevian Irvine, Chicago.

"Nobody is officially in charge, it's a leaderless movement," said Ben Schacht, Chicago.

Andrew Smith was one of the founders of Occupy Chicago, even though he is from Indiana and now lives in the suburbs. Smith is a student web designer and owns occupychi.org the official Internet site of the Chicago protest. The web address is registered under Smith's name in LaPorte, Ind., and he is one of three people who run the site.

Smith was among 175 people arrested Sunday morning when they refused Chicago police orders to leave Grant Park after closing.

"It was relaxing, if being arrested can be a relaxing moment," said Smith.

Anarchist Lisa Fithian has been arrested dozens of times and for more than 20 years has traveled the world training protesters. She was here in Chicago for a full week directing Occupy Chicago demonstrators on the finer points of civil disobedience. The I-Team interviewed fithian by Skype Wednesday from her home in Texas.

"There is no question that I walk in the proud tradition of Martin Luther King and, I think, the great tradition of this country of civil disobedience...people putting their bodies on the line, going to jail, has been a part of any successful movement," said Fithian.

There are now occupation protests under way in nearly 1,600 cities around the world, all of which are gathered under an umbrella website, Occupy Together , which brings us back to where we began. Occupy Together was registered on June 9th, months before any protests, and it was registered by Kalle Lasn, the Canadian man who says the movement has no leader.

The major occupied cities have also created fundraising arms. Chicago has collected almost $12,000through its website in the short time it has existed. Occupy Wall Street has several hundred thousand dollars.

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