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Leaderless protesting in US Uncut

This is great stuff. The Nation:

This weekend, US Uncut chapters in Georgia, New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and California staged actions (a much larger nationwide protest is planned for March 26. Thus far, thirty cities have signed up [1]). I spoke with Kevin Shields, the founder of US Uncut Philadelphia about the protest and also his wish to close the divides between three groups: members of the lower classes, US Uncut’s predominately white movement and minority communities and also domestic efforts and the anti-austerity resistances in other countries.

A senior in high school, Shields decided to start his own US Uncut chapter simply because the need to protest is in his DNA. “For me, protesting and getting involved in activism is just something you do. If you don’t do it, you’re really missing out, and you’re participating in your own exploitation. So when I saw this, I thought, okay, I’ll do that.”

He tells me what happened at Saturday’s protest. It’s a familiar story for the newer branches of US Uncut: a small, peaceful protest during which the activists staged a “teach-in.” [#50; [#173]]

As usual, the staff of the bank was not amused. “The security guy was kind of stressing out,’” says Shields. But then a funny thing happened. Security called the police, and when an officer arrived to the scene, he didn’t seem to know what to do. The protest was peaceful, and the activists clearly weren’t looking for a fight. Shields said the officer lingered in the bank for fifteen minutes before approaching him. “Finally, he walked up to me and was like, ‘They really want you to leave. I don’t want to tell you to leave, but they really want you to leave.’ It was really weird to have a cop at a protest be so polite to me,” he says. [#33]

“We explained [to customers] that if you take half of the money the IRS paid [Bank of America] in 2009 you’d be able to pay for every single cut Governor Corbett is proposing…. We just educated everyone there about what’s going on.”

Now, this must be stressed (namely because he emphatically emphasized it): Shields is by no means calling the shots. [#174] Unlike an astroturfing campaign like FreedomWorks, US Uncut is a 100 percent genuine grassroots movement. As such, it’s completely democratic. The members decide where the agenda goes. That being said, Shields does have some good ideas he wanted to convey to me.

He wants to capitalize on the overwhelmingly positive response he’s gotten from the protests thus far. Tax dodging, unlike abortion or gay marriage, isn’t really a super-divisive issue. For the most part, people agree that rich corporations should pay their fair in taxes, namely because citizens have to pay taxes, so why should the lavishly wealthy get to avoid them?

“It’s amazing because we’re actually getting a positive reaction from everyone that walks by. The only people who don’t like it are the bank managers.”

No doubt.

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