What You Miss Makes You Stronger

by Steed Dropout
Apr. 3, 2014

Berkeley, Ca


On assignment for the Berkeley Daily Planet, two years ago, I missed Micah M. White, the co-founder of the international Occupy movement, as he tried to lead Berkeley’s Occupy franchise on its inaugural Berkeley take-over.

White happened to be living in Berkeley with his Phd wife who had an appointment In U.C. Berkeley’s Rhetoric Department. I didn’t pick up his trail until a few nights later when I tried to photograph his wife, and later, Micah.

My editor wanted me to interview White, when we learned that a founder of the international Occupy movement moved among us. Online White now refers to himself as a “boutique activist,” conducting workshops on protesting.

I tried to get his wife’s permission to photograph her, saying our readers would be interested; White’s wife said she couldn’t understand that.

I said, “you’re a rhetorician, you should [understand].” She seemed worked up over this and appealed to her husband to deal with me, which he did forthwith.You can say what you like about White–social media activist–but you can’t fault his chivalry.

Micah M. White, center in white shirt, a founder of Occupy Wall Street movement, and a new Berkeley resident. Photo by Ted Friedman.

He’d read my early pieces which charged he’d stolen the demo out from under our local organizer.

As a crowd gathered around us, he said, stepping back, way back from me, like I had just vomited, “of all the pieces on Occupy I’ve read, yours are the worst,” he began. “Where did you study journalism?” Adding, “How long have you been doing this? It’s crap.”

My copy in those days was a little ragged. This was before the founding of Berkeley Reporter and its mellifluous prose.

I identified my journ school. Let them share the shame, I thought. Scalded at first, I wasted no time promoting in the Planet–White’s testimonial, “voracious reader picks Planet Writer.” Two U.C. student occupy leaders rushed over to support me. “He doesn’t speak for us,” they said.

Two days too late, I had got my man, and he loathed me.

I missed–by a good hour and a half–White’s, reportedly failed attempt to lead (he wanted to storm [heh-heh] the Cal campus). I would have missed a big bust, if anyone had taken him seriously. White was soon rarely heard from and stopped attending meetings.

Micah, if you’re reading this, you were right. Storming the campus would have put Occupy Berkeley on the map, instead of in the waste-bin of history.

Early information had placed the demo uptown (not downtown), under the leadership of the founder of People’s Park and Berkeley’s leading rad, Michael Delacour. I frantically paced the announced demo site at Telegraph Avenue Bank of America for an hour; until I was tipped to downtown.

I learned later that Delacour had been co-opted by Occupy at a meeting with the new leaders a day before the demo. He realized his mistake too late and soon denounced Occupy’s format. He too would drop out, except for a few good-will drop-ins. Everyone dropped out but a few die-hards, like me, who became addicted to a course of talk (and talk more) over action.

I confided to my editor that Occupy was killing me.

Now I know that missing White made me stronger.

Kudos to my web designer and producer, whom I met when he put me on White’s trail. Michael M., Occupy would have been unbearable without our friendship.

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