How To Sleep Somewhere Strategic… And Win

Homelessness, a struggling labor force, and cultural dissatisfaction at perceived injustices have a synergistic response that has been executed around the world. The tent city can be the burning man of mass protests when occupied by young idealists with revolutionary intent a la Occupy Wall Street and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. However, it has also come to be the last respite and home of people at odds with the capitalist market. It can be the home of families with no work or assistance to make rent. Presented below are some histories and images of this revolutionary structure. The real work in making this strategy successful, in my opinion, is to unify the political and the needy through the urban camping community.

Bonus Army tent city

D.C., Bonus Army Tent City, 1932

A tent city was erected in downtown Washington, D.C., for several weeks in the summer of 1932. It was occupied by around 43,000 people including 17,000 soldiers who had been unemployed since the beginning of the great depression and their families. They were given the moniker The Bonus Army, because they were demanding immediate payment on certificates the government had granted them that wouldn’t make funds available to them for more than a decade. The government refused to meet their demands and the sitting President, Herbert Hoover, ordered them driven from the tent city and their camp burned. He gave no concessions to the soldiers and received none from the public as Hoover’s residency in the White House was ended in 1933 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR didn’t make Hoover’s mistake and offered a sympathetic ear to the soldiers. When a revamp of The Bonus Army’s tent city came to the Capital in his first summer in the White House, FDR placated them by sending his wife to their camp to speak with them, and by negotiating a deal whereby the unemployed soldiers would be granted employment through the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Orange revolution tent city- Kiev

Kiev, Tent City, 2004

In November 2004, a tent city was set up in the main square of Kiev, Ukraine. The action followed a Ukranian election mired in scandals including voter intimidation and the non-fatal poisoning of an opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Local governments contested the election results announced by the current government and Yushchenko called for his supporters to come to Kiev to make sure the tent city wasn’t forcibly removed. Over 100,000  of his supporters came to the square, meetings were held between major labor organizations and the local governments and a mass strike was arranged. By the evening of the first day, November 22nd, Russian and America and Europe had taken sides. Vladimir Putin had congratulated the benefactor of the questionable elections, Viktor Yanukovich, and the EU and US  had made statements supporting the nullification of the election. The protesters remained in their camp at Independence Square through the next month as the Orange Revolution protests and general strike took place. They stayed despite the threat of a force of 10,000 security forces being ordered to remove them. The security force’s orders were countermanded by an intelligence official’s concerns about the potential for bloodshed. The campaign ended and the tent city dispersed after a re-vote proved the marginal popular support (52%) of Yushchenko.

The Bonus Army’s tent city attacked the Capital demanding rights for a struggling population. The Orange Revolution was a radical political strategy for a nation to win fair elections. The Bonus Army’s struggle is a convergence of what is happening today with what happened in Occupy Wall Street, today there are millions of homeless people in America and a lot of them have resorted to living in tent cities around the country, especially as a lot of cities are legislating homelessness. The problem is so extensive that tent cities are coming to be seen as permanent solutions to the poverty questions, instead of as temporary relief.

Part 2 of Sleep Somewhere Strategic will look discuss more recent tent cities. It will be published on Halloween.


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