Over the past few weeks activists with OWS have been reflecting on the last two years of struggle. Some are quick to call out others’ mistakes and lambast each others’ ideas as either too liberal or too crazy. Some people’s thoughts are more reflexive and highlight their own successes and failures. During a discussion over an email list, Justine Tunney, an admin of the Occupwallst.org (which also includes large followers on Twitter and Facebook), proposed diversifying the form for street protest by building an “Occupy Militia.” During the same week at the EcoSocialist Conference in LA, a similar discussion was held about “raising armies” stirred by former Occupy LA participants engaging a panel on electoral reform. Seeing these similar proposals spark conversation in NYC and LA suggests that there are others having analogous ideas in-between the coasts. Here, I explore how Americans perceive talk about militias and juxtapose it to the emergence of the White Overalls brigades in Italy, who managed to tactically innovate during heavy police repression.
In NYC, Tunney called for a “nonviolent militia” that would put their bodies between the protesters and police. The militia would be trained in protest tactics and outfitted with body armor. She estimated that it would take one million dollars to organize, equip, and compensate those willing to put it all on the line. The cash and the militia would crowd sourced. In LA, debate about the extent of the climate crisis prompted activists to discuss building communes to encourage sustainable living practices as well as form an ‘army’ organized with ‘a singular and unified mindset.’