Dec 072011

Creatives demand Commerce Lexington banner

By Northrupp Center

Last week, news emerged from the JP Morgan Chase Bank Plaza that Occupy Lexington is now the longest continuously running occupation in North America. Formally started on the night of September 29, the Lexington occupation was the third to organize and take up space. When it came time to publicly and collectively stand up, be counted and say, No more. Not in our name!, the order went like this: New York. Chicago. Lexington. The rest of the continent.

Two weeks ago, the citizens of Zucotti Park were forcibly evicted in the middle of the night by New York City police officers (with no journalists allowed access), ending their formal occupation of Wall Street. With Chicago having stopped its continuous occupation many weeks earlier, this left the Lexington encampment as the oldest in North America. Beginning in December, Lexingtonians and area activists will have been present at the corporate home of our Commonwealth’s state bank, JP Morgan Chase, for over two months.

When the news of Lexington’s distinction was announced by Austin Long last Monday at General Assembly, occupiers responded with a vigorous wiggling of fingers. Four occupiers snapped their fingers in rapid succession, while one participant, overcome with emotion, let out two distinct barbaric yawps that threatened to sweep over the roof of the JP Bank building.

Creatives occupy

To Danny Mayer, assistant professor of Humanities at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, the distinction was a welcome bit of news.

“It says something about people in a small city like this. It says that as strangers from different rural, exurban, suburban and urban communities, we are quick to mobilize and join together. Our becoming the longest running occupation says that we have power, staying power. It also says something about our civil dialogue.

It says something that we have no reported incidents of unnecessary police force, that our police force has not acted out violently like those in New York, Oakland, Berkeley, Cal-Davis, and other cities. It says something that our mayor has allowed our political presence, that thus far he has not chosen the path of failed leaders like New York Mayor Michael Bloomburg or UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.”

Mayer, who will be teaching a community media class at BCTC in the spring semester, realized that this feel-good story of small-city Lexington residents trumping the big bad cities needed to be told.

“The over-riding stories of Occupy Wall Street, and the other Occupy movements that have spread throughout the world, are of student participation, citizen engagement, and creative problem solving. At Zucotti Park, tenured academics spent their sabbaticals staffing a several-thousand volume People’s Library. Elite students from elite universities throughout the northeast staged teach-ins, cooked and cleaned at camp, and planned and implemented marches to shame financial thieves. In Zucotti, creative people began to test and implement feeding, composting, sheltering, governing and other systems from scratch, mostly under difficult conditions without electricity. Global music icons traded music sets with homegrown Zucotti talent. Politicians, movie stars, authors, poets, artists—they all went to Zucotti for the good action.

“Elite students and professors, artists, and engaged ‘creative’ problem solvers who are super-invested in their community? Isn’t that what this city has called the creative class? These Occupiers are exactly the people that our city leaders claim to want. Our city should be promoting the fact that we have such a community here already, that endurance wise we are number one. If I were Jim Gray, I’d be sending it out on the wire: Creative occupiers are welcome here!”

Mayer got together with some of his fellow highly educated, civically active urban dwellers and brainstormed for ways the city could beneficially promote the Occupation here.

“The banners were an obvious solution,” Mayer says, referring to the gigantic banners Commerce Lexington places in the windows of its downtown office building.  Main Street is a central Lexington corridor for out-of-towners.  Drivers see the banners swooshing through town and can immediately sense what makes this city special. There’s a banner for being #2 best city for education (Parenting Magazine); one for being #6 best city to start a small business (CNN Money); and one for being #9 best city for business and careers (Forbes).

“Our goal was simple. We decided to demand a banner for being #1. There’s certainly room on the building.”

Creatives debate and petition government

Mayer and his creative class friends decided to act on their principals. So they went straight ahead and set up a Facebook page calling on Mayor Jim Gray to hang a banner proclaiming Lexington a Top 10 City for Wall Street Occupations.

“It was difficult,” says Martin Mudd, a creative class high school teacher who holds a Masters degree in Physics. “We debated quite a bit. Should the banner read, Lexington: Top 10 Occupied City? Or what about, Lexington: Top 10 City for Occupations. The former seemed to imply that Lexington was a top city that just happened to have an occupation in it. The other suggested that Lexington was merely a good city to hold forth an occupation—a place where one could assemble without getting your head bashed in by cops or evicted by an overzealous mayor.”

“We also tried Solidarity for longest-running Occupation,” said fellow Creative Patrick Bigger, a doctoral student in UK’s nationally ranked Department of Human Geography. “But the slogan came off as too wordy and, syntactically speaking, not in harmonious scale with the environment of banners that would surround it.”

The group ultimately decided on a banner that read “#1: Best Cities to hold a prolonged Wall Street Occupation.”

If you believe our city should demonstrate their support for the coveted demographic of urban, educated, cultured, creative and/or civically active people, please sign on. We are asking that our city Mayor request Commerce Lexington to include the unique Lexington distinction of having the longest running North American Occupy encampment. We are likewise asking that he demonstrate his own support of the initiative by offering to pay the costs to purchase and hang the banner. We want our city leader to support what is undoubtedly a rare opportunity to promote this city. We want Jim to smile and say, “Come to Lexington, all you Creative Occupiers!”

Online petition can be found through the Creatives for Common Sense facebook page.

Editor’s Note: The designation of “longest running occupation” does not included the ongoing 500 year general occupation of North America by European gringos, nor to our specific 225 year occupation of the Fayette Crescent, formerly a vast commonland punctuated by the Kentucky River that was shared by Indian tribes traveling in from the north, south, west and east; otherwise known as the fabled canelands.

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