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First General Assembly | Occupied Stories

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First General Assembly

First General Assembly

BATON ROUGE, LA – Red, red, red, apathetic, red. And football-crazy. This was during one of the biggest games of the season. None of us knew what to expect. We are so far away from New York. We don’t have the social backdrop at all, obviously—it’s kind of the opposite—SUVs with Bobby Jindal stickers everywhere you look. Families with great gumbo and absolutely no knowledge about our economy other than that they don’t want to be taxed, and they don’t know if the Buffet rule would apply to them or not, even if they’re a family of five living on a salary of $40,000.

Usually a protest on the capitol steps is depressing because only ten people show up and the steps are so huge, so long, an enormous cavern. We have the only state capitol that’s also a skyscraper, I think. It’s intimidating just to stand under it. And Huey P. Long was assassinated there—if you look, you can find the bullet holes in the wall. But we showed up with our signs, and some cupcakes, and hoped for the best. The crowd grew on the capitol steps, to around 100 people. We began to speak. We heard stories, opinions. Among other moving stories, we heard from a man from India, who explained how he saw that America was moving toward caste systems. One politician began using it as her own personal speech-making venue…. She was encouraged to stop direct-replying to everyone who spoke after that. We continued–Ph.d students spoke, teachers, and the event’s organizers, LSU researchers.

The sun shone on our faces and it began to get a bit uncomfortable. Would our Occupy make it? The heat reminded us of some hardly successful Deepwater Horizon protests…that was of course in the summer but today was warm for October, even for down here.

An assembly of sign-carriers decided on a march through downtown, which is not all that large and can be covered quickly. The rest of us hung around, some of us went home to change clothes and retrieve some items, like our weekend work we were ignoring. We chatted with newcomers and got to know each other.

When the parade returned, our first general assembly began. We had an experienced moderator. Never having done this before, we listened intently, nearly in awe—he explained the signals so clearly, and was so level-headed about the conducting of the discussion. It was like he’d been flown down from Occupy Wall Street and knew exactly how to moderate. It still took a while to plan our next meeting—our spot in front of the capitol will be taken up next weekend by the Louisiana Book Festival—an important event some of us knew a lot about and others very little. At first it was seen as an event that was occupying our occupying spot. But after some explanation from some literature teachers, and the note that the festival had been canceled last year due to state funding, it was understood that this event was a form of livelihood for authors, who we should know are hanging in the world of acknowledgment by only a mere thread. So, it would not be appropriate for us to occupy the space they were already occupying—we do not want to inhibit or corrupt the livelihood of a group of people who may be our biggest sympathizers.

After it became clear through the discussion that our venue would not be available or an appropriate place to be next week, we found some other options. We had to switch moderators mid-discussion because our first had to depart. There was a moment of uncertainty—could we do it without him? There was a volunteer, one of the original organizers of our occupation. We could. After a little more discussion, we formed working groups and ended our first meeting successfully. As I drove home, I felt elated. It was though I’d just something many adults don’t get to do very often—something we ourselves created, and something in which we really believe and feel we can have influence over. It’s really happening. We’re occupying Baton Rouge. We all have stories of our hardships and those of people we love and care about. We’re going to be a part of it, changing our political world so that it works for the 99% rather than the 1%. OBR, OWS.



One Response to “First General Assembly”

  1. Yeah… how many Occupy Wall Street protestors that stay once it starts to snow? You think they’ll stay in their tents? :)


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