How JP helped launch Occupy Boston

February 17, 2012
By

(Courtesy Photo) Robin Jacks (right) at Occupy Boston last October.

Robin Jacks, whose rallying cry for an Occupy Boston launched the local protest movement, lives and works in Jamaica Plain—an experience that has informed her activism.

Jacks is one of several prominent Occupy Boston leaders who call JP home.

“There are a lot of us here,” she told the Gazette in a recent interview. “That’s to be expected. This is JP.”

But Jacks is something of a first among equals. Via her “obsessive” Twitter account (@caulkthewagon), she launched the idea of forming a local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement. And after organizing with three compatriots, she sent the famous Tweet that attracted hundreds of people to the first Occupy Boston “General Assembly” on Boston Common last September.

Jacks is a Mississippi native and was active on many fronts there: the labor movment, anti-war activism, even a feminist cheerleading squad that drew the attention of the New York Times several years ago.

“The thing about being an activist in the South is, you don’t get to be active on just one thing” due to the overall lack of progressive institutions, she said, calling it good experience for Occupy’s broad-ranging approach.

She moved to JP’s McBride Street in recent years and now works as a babysitter and at Hatched, the baby clothing store on Green Street—work that “really informed Occupy Boston,” she said.

“Hatched is a fantastic, ethical small business,” Jacks said, explaining that it taught her, “Yes, businesses can work that way,” as opposed to some of the giant corporations the Occupy movement criticizes.

Police swept the Occupy Boston camp out of Dewey Square in December, but it has remained active on a bevy of protests and projects, including with JP’s City Life/Vida Urbana housing organization. Jacks has remained involved, including hosting an online Occupy Boston radio show. (See occupyboston.org.)

There are enough local Occupy activists, including some working on collaboration between various Occupy groups, that they end up having impromptu meetings at such local watering holes as James’s Gate, she said.

When an Occupy JP group formed last year, Jacks said, she did not know anyone involved and was skeptical. “I guess I get it now. I think it’s interesting,” she said, referring to the idea of “focusing on neighborhood strengthening.”

Occupy Boston has its challenges also, she said, questioning how well its consensus-rule model will work over time. Occupy Boston’s General Assembly ran into controversy over how to handle registered sex offenders, and getting agreement to do anything can be tough, Jack said.

But one thing is certain, she said. “If Mitt Romney wins the [Republican presidential] nomination, we’ll have a lot of work to do,” because of his stint as Massachusetts’ governor. “He’s everything Occupy is against.” That’s not an endorsement of President Obama, who has many supporters feeling “let down,” she added.

Meanwhile, Occupy Boston continues to branch out.

“A lot of people involved in Occupy never saw themselves as activists,” she said. “The activism aspect of what we’re doing has blossomed.”