Effective Protests–The Man in The Tree

‘Way back when I was pushing for squatter’s rights I supported a man in a tree.

Yeah, you read that right. A man who lived in a tree. Been so long I’ve forgotten his name or the park in the USA where he lived in the tree but really, the details don’t matter.

He was homeless. So, he moved into a big tree in a public park.

He placed a little sign at the bottom of the tree. “Support Public Housing.”

People passing by noticed The Man in The Tree. One of them was part of the squatter’s rights movement and that’s how people from all over the world started talking about The Man In The Tree.

No media covered him. He wasn’t important. He was just some crazy guy living in a tree. All he wanted was a place to live and at least it wasn’t on the wet ground below and he had a bit of protection from the rain.

Soon the people who frequented the park started bringing him food and clothes and carrying buckets to do his business in. An outreach worker that knew about our squatting email tree sent around update bulletins.

The City Council got wind of it and paid $25,000 to put a fence  up to stop people from supporting the Man in The Tree. The cops took away his sign.

People who lived near the park then climbed the fence and fed him, brought water bottles and handed off his slop buckets.

Within a month the City council ordered a 24/7, $25+per hour police guard while they passed anti-camping legislation. Since police protocol stated there must be two policeman together at all times, two police watched him. Nobody narked out how he got food after that point but I suspect the police were quietly handing it up.

58 days later they arrested the Man in The Tree. Add up the math. How many people could have been housed while the City Council harassed The Man in The Tree?

60 days after that the city council agreed to build 50 housing units because a few dozen squatter’s movement people were debating with them and sending the word around.

Whether The Man In The Tree moved into one unit or not, I couldn’t say.

The Man in the Tree wasn’t an activist. He had no organization. He had no money, no resources, no friends, no computer, no video camera, no media contacts and no hope that sleeping in a tree would change anything. He had no history of activism or experience.

Whenever I look at some “movement” or other and whether or not I want to put my energy into it, I ask myself, “Is this The Man In The Tree? Would I do this even if I was alone with no support because it is the right thing to do, just because it is, and not because of group pressure or popularity?

Do I believe in it enough to sacrifice for an untold amount of time and have everyone believe me to be crazy just because someone has to do the right thing? Am I really willing to throw my body on the machine for this?”

And before you ask me to ‘join your movement’–you’d best be able to answer those questions, yourself. If you can convince me of your sincerity and passion–then you are well on your way to convincing anyone else you meet whether or not they agree to join you.

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