#WeAreWI and #USuncut Saturday: Will the Left Show Some Muscle? [UPDATED]
BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, February 25 2011
American progressives are betting that tomorrow will be a red letter day for grassroots activism. In a matter of days and almost entirely without national attention or leadership by the traditional players, but with a lot of social media organizing, people are planning to rally in all fifty state capitols and about fifteen major cities to show their solidarity with the striking workers of Wisconsin. All the email networks are lit up, and MoveOn is planning to somehow stream live video from all the rallies onto one mass LiveStream page on MoveOn.org.
Big numbers are predicted, with some saying that as many as a million people will be marching. On MoveOn's site, you can see the advance sign-ups: More than 1800 for New York City, 1300 for Chicago, 1200 for Los Angeles, 200 for Springfield, 130 for Lincoln, Nebraska. It's possible this is an echo chamber effect--I've seen a lot of progressive media swarming around this story--but tomorrow will be a clear test of the American left's muscle.
At the same time, another grassroots effort aimed at highlighting the contradiction between government spending cuts and corporate tax avoidance is also planning to launch on Saturday. Called "USuncut" and modeled on the UKuncut movement, activists are planning to target Bank of America branches across the country. I've watched this page for the last week, and seen the number of demos grow from literally just two or three to well over fifty.
These rising efforts are being built and networked to a very notable degree by online formations, and not just MoveOn, but activists moving faster than organizations, inspired by the events unfolding in the Middle East. "US Uncut is a decentralized organization," says its website. "It is entirely up to you to plan your action and go forward with it."
Writing on the blog Naked Capitalism, netroots activist (and former aide to Rep. Alan Grayson) Matt Stoller says:
This kind of highly politicized hybrid political protest/strike walks like an Egyptian these days, which is why Egyptians were sending Wisconsinites pizza and Madison protesters were holding signs lauding teachers, workers, and the new Egyptian flag. In fact, Madison may represent a new kind of American labor model, the melding of old school unions, Howard Dean-style internet-based organizing, Anonymous-style serious pranking, and social media reporting on protests and policy. There’s an anti-bailout class-based fervor here as well, with a simmering anger at Wall Street as subtext. It’s headless and global, though there is leadership.
UPDATE: Daniel Mintz at MoveOn tells me that "Almost 40,000 people joined the live blog over the course of the day, and we were pretty consistently above 2000 viewers for hours." He also shares that the collection of all the live video was pulled "together in less than 24 hours, used no real video equipment, and had all volunteer videographers, I'm actually stunned at how well it worked."