Politics Rochester

Occupy Rochester: rules were made to be broken

According to @rachbarhart via her Twitter account, 31 people were arrested in Rochester’s Manhattan Square Park for being there after 11pm. The City code states that being in the park after 11 is a violation for which you can be arrested, as any skater kid in town knows well.

Lets applaud both the cops and the protesters for handling the situation with dignity and what appears to be a bit of respect. Compared to the ugliness in other cities, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for in Rochester.

Nevertheless, that the code even needed to be enforced is silly. To state the obvious, in a democracy we are all responsible for the rules by which we live. We vote for leaders and take responsibility for abiding by the rules – laws or ordinances – that those leaders put in place. Thats why if I decided to ignore the city ordinance against being in the park past 11, I would expect to be asked to leave by police, possibly even arrested.

But if we’re all responsible for the laws that govern us, then surely in cases of peaceful protests – especially ones that are in conjunction with an entire national movement – we can as surely let those rules slide a bit. Not nullify laws or strike down ordinances permanently, not advocate chaos and anarchy, just let things be in this one case. That is especially true in the case of a city ordinance, which after all, is not even a law.

Rochester is certainly a small-c conservative town. We like our rules and we like our orderly existence, so maybe its not so strange that what happened last night happened. Hell, we can’t even get food trucks downtown. But I think also some blame can probably be assigned to the general inertia of our sad City government these days, as this does strike the same leaden, tone-deaf chord as City reactions to Kodak and PAETEC.

Occupy Rochester Protestors Arrested – Rochester, News, Weather, Sports, and Events –

Journalism Politics Technology

Horizontal vs. vertical structure: MSN talks Occupy Wall Street and human groups

Just wanted to flag an interesting article on a dreary, damp Saturday evening. MSNBC has an interesting discussion on the Occupy Wall Street protests happening all across the country – and in New York, apparently demonstrating in Times Square at the moment – and how they’re able to get things done in a seemingly leaderless organization.

The question is correctly framed as not a question of leaderless vs. well-organized structures, but as between horizontal, collaborative structures and vertical, hierarchical structures. Then it kind of veers off, in my opinion.

The article comes hearbreakingly close to discussing the collaborative process that happens everywhere in the computing world that I think also bears on the discussion. Open Source software developers will always claim this as our high ground: that we cooperate on something that costs nothing. We like to tell you its because we have a moral imperative to maintain the free flow of information, but really, its mostly because most of us were fucking broke when we started out.

ASP developers, Java developers and professionals of all kinds cooperate online all day long, even if their chosen specialties cost money. Not to mention things like Quora, where you can get all manner of arcane questions answered for free. And where you can also have the pleasure of being complimented for a solution you gave. You can also just shout your question out over Twitter, Google or Facebook and find a ready answer in someone you already know. This free flow of information – from the mundane to the hyper-specific – freely and regularly is changing the way we expect things to come together.

Alas, the article does not ever get into any of that. Instead, it gets pretty pointedly back to the central theme of most journalism on this issue: that if the protesters do not organize better and more centrally, they are doomed to existing solely as angry mobs.

The article in some ways proves its own point about the differences between horizontal and vertical organization. Or rather, it displays some of the same blind spots that many of us seem to have for the benefits of a decentralized model. Instead of digging any deeper, the article just sort of heaves to a tired end on a trope that could have come from any five minute segment of CNN you’ve ever watched.

Vitals – How does a group like Occupy Wall Street get anything done?.