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General Assembly | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "general assembly"

First Night in Liberty Plaza


When I arrived at Liberty Plaza last night, a little lost, trying to find my way around the Occupy Wall Street camp, the first thing I did was find the line for dinner. I was hungry. I had worked 13 hours that day, and needed to eat. I had heard that brilliant local chefs have volunteered to cook these fantastic meals for the protesters at the communal kitchen, so I lined up behind a guy who looked almost exactly like me: lost, a backback loaded up, a peaceful, accepting look on his face. And as we turned the corner, edging forward, we got our paper plates loaded with rice and lentils, soup bowls loaded up with a brilliant spicy stew, bread pudding, and apple sauce. All donated by supporters.

Our supporters.

Eating, sitting on a curb in the park, I got to talking with the guy next to me; “Its my first night here. Where do you throw trash?” “You sleeping here?” “Yes,” I said, admitting I hadn’t brought a sleeping bag, not knowing how things were.

“Welcome brother.” A handshake. We kept eating. Everyone’s eyes said the same thing, “welcome brother,” not in a creepy cultish way but in that way people who have gathered together to change things say it with their eyes. Walking around the camp, my next step was to see if they had at least a pillow for me to use; at a distribution center for donated clothes and blankets, they handed me a fleece, rolled it up, and said, “This could make a good pillow, don’t you think?” It did, and it would.

I walked around, I joined in the people’s assembly discussions about representation; I browsed in the provisional library, set up in plastic bins–in which The Beat Reader and Noam Chomsky were marked as REFERENCE. Reference indeed–next to Whitman, as well. In a spontaneously gathered group on the steps, I sang Bob Dylan in a crowd with a famous singer who showed up to help out; more folk music flowed from his guitar. Everybody, it seems, had a guitar.

I found a shining granite bench to sleep on; I was getting tired, and almost all the ground-space was taken up by people camped in tents or under tarps. The wind was blowing. It was getting colder, but I needed sleep; so I set up my “pillow,” put on an extra layer under my jacket, put my gloves on, put my hood up, and curled up on the bench.

Nearly asleep, back turned on the “path” between other sleepers and protesters, I suddenly felt a blanket being placed over me. I looked up, gave a thumbs up and thanks, and she said, “Keep warm dude.” That thick donated blanket would keep me warm through the windy, 45 degree night. I’d awake in the morning to donated bagels, a cup of coffee, friendly directions to the subway, so I could get to work on time.

My night at the protest glows in my memory, sustains me; we were all cooperating; we were all, remarkably. generously supported by each other, and by all the unseen anonymous supporters who gave us food, blankets, books, time. A thousand strings of support seemed to stretch out from every moment I occupied the park. I think of my fellow protesters down there tonight, as it gets colder–as “family night” goes forward (kids are invited tonight to the camp).

As the sign says: no protest, this occupation is an affirmation of all that we can do for each other, an affirmation of the way things can be. You see somebody sleeping without a blanket; you find them one. You put it on them. You keep them warm. That’s how you occupy privatized public space, take it back.

When I return to do another night there, I’ll bring books, food, and some pillows for the next person who needs one.

– Spurgeon Thompson

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“Emergency Resolution” Against Occupy Chattanooga


CHATTANOOGA, TN – At the very end of today’s County Commission meeting, County Commissioner Larry Henry, with no public notice, brought forward an “emergency resolution” that empowers him to seek legal actions against Occupy Chattanooga in the supposed interests of “health” and “safety”. No public discussion took place on this matter prior to today and the resolution itself was not included on the publicly available agenda prior to the vote.

A reporter interviewing Occupy Chattanooga members on the lawn of the Courthouse said that the County Commission was planning to waste tax-payer money by pursuing
legal action in Chancery Court. Occupy Chattanooga has been peacefully and very
respectfully (even deferentially) demonstrating since moving to the courthouse in
November.

The County Commission had previously met in secret, violating the Open Meetings Act
or “Sunshine Law”, to discuss taking legal action against Occupy. Since then, County
Commissioners Warren Mackey and Tim Boyd have both publicly stated their opposition
to the current “Sunshine Law” which demands greater government transparency in favor
of a new law which would allow for private, closed-door deliberations.

According to the Hamilton County Commission website, the next planned meeting of the
County Commission is an Agenda Setting Meeting on December 29th and then another
Regular County Commission Meeting is scheduled for January 4th. All meetings are
held at 9:30 AM.

County Commission Chairman Larry Henry can be reached at (423) 894-6269 & (423)209-7200

UPDATE:
News Channel 3 Eyewitness News has reported the following about the County
Commission’s actions today: The move was conducted as an “emergency resolution”, which allowed the resolution to be added to the agenda without notice. Chairman Henry tells Eyewitness News commissioners have been crafting the resolution for some time.

This obviously leads me to wonder, when exactly was the County Commission “crafting”
this resolution? They have not discussed the resolution prior to today. Was this
resolution the product of their previous closed-door meeting that violated the
Sunshine Law? It would seem that the County Commission has acted illegally by
deliberating/scheming in private about how to begin the process of evicting Occupy
Chattanooga.

-Chris Brooks-

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Occupy LA to DC: SEIU, Occupy, and a National General Assembly


Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Ryan Rice’s blog.

Washington, DC–The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be, “Did the SEIU try to co-opt the occupy movement?” We all knew the Democratic Machine would attempt this at some point, so was this the first attempt? I think they tried early in the week and got dealt a massive blowback by three hundred occupiers that defiantly marched out of the SEIU camp, held general assemblies to talk out strategy, and aired tons of grievances directly to the organizers.

Obviously I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. I assume something dastardly. But I know that the SEIU structure made a noticeable shift in power with our actions. They stopped enforcing wrist bands for food, allowing hungry but unaffiliated people to eat. They worked horizontally with some occupiers to open up two hours of us introducing the concept of a general assembly, consensus, the history of the movement, and all the spirit finger stuff.

We then posed a question to the audience of rank-and-file and participants. I recognized the three organizers in the audience that had been introduced from the meeting the previous day. So, everyone was in attendance, along with an estimated thirty occupiers in a crowd of about one hundred and fifty people. “What ways can the Occupy Movement and Labor further their similar goals?”

Excerpt:

  1. Beef up “direct” journalism
  2. Mass actions at the capitals of each state combining the spontaneous and organic nature of the Occupy movement with the resources and existing networks of the trade unions, especially the membership
  3. Overcome barriers to communication between the two movements; create direct and transparent lines of communication
  4. Labor and unions are top-down, bureaucratically-structured organizations while the Occupy movement is horizontal and “leaderless”
  5. National Labor Committee for National GA
  6. Further outreach to local community members through Local Labor Committees for local Occupy locations
  7. Get to know each other better, more dialogue, better planning

We lost a little bit of attendance and ended up taking the most interested parties (the three organizers were not among them) and moving to the international tent. We now had a split group of about fifteen occupiers and fifteen union members. I believe there was a writer for Truthout present and a Mother Jones writer who came in late. Either way, Gia shot video and recorded the discussion.

The conversation was really productive, in my opinion. These workers said the same types of things that people say on their first day visiting an occupation. Most of them were just as radical and excited about the “systemic change” needed. I said something about Occupy co-opting the unions and giving them their teeth back. I said I thought a great marriage would be using the direct and radical action that occupations have spearheaded and inspired with the numbers the unions can mobilize.

 

And Liz, who facilitated in OWS and helped us in our first days here in Occupy LA, made great points about questioning all of the privileges a capitalist society creates. Check that privilege! And stop policing our comrades that take the streets! I’m excited to see the media our people shot.

We exchanged contact info and agreed it would be helpful to continue organizing actions together in a transparent, local-level way. OccupyLA hopped into a ‘SEAL’ action [covert and risque] where we went to protest Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Christmas Party at the Chamber of Commerce. Great target, and it was a combination of clever renditions of Christmas caroling and angry boos when attendees arrived and had to walk around a “99% Carpet” with protesters prostrate underneath. It was a great photo-op, as union events tend to be.

I talked with a few occupiers about the week’s events, and no one could recall a protest against a Democrat. There was a “find your representative” action, but it was fairly neutral in messaging and more educational.

I spent the next hour at a sandwich shop with Occupies Boston, LA, Portland, and travelling occupiers. Strategy, shared meals, and a breakout spoken word session. Reminded me of just how protective we must be of this movement. Of course we will not be co-opted, even though they try. We are all too beautiful and brave to allow that. We all clearly march to the beat of our own autonomous drums, and poetry by fiery revolutionaries reassures me of that.

We walked on over to the Washington Monument for the second ‘national general assembly’ of occupiers and whomever else wanted to attend. There were 19 occupations and 5 organizations (unions, businesses, etc.) It worked more like a giant working group, where facilitation posed 2 questions:

  1. What does Phase 2 look like?
  2. How do we increase solidarity and cooperation between the occupations?

We shared contact info, and just like how OccupyLA started, we took down emails for a google group. Funny how organic processes can repeat themselves. Nevertheless, just like the first general assembly, it was like a family reunion. We were more determined to talk strategy, and I think the notes show that.

Personally, I feel like the initial backlash to the situation at the National Mall was real, collective, and necessary. And with the events and awareness that happened throughout the rest of the week, I’ll submit that the Occupy Movement passed with flying colors. We were all transparent in our gripes with unions and yet were still open to talking issues and vision of whatever it was that brought each occupier to the streets.

-Ryan Rice-


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Times Square Observation; Peace not violence


NEW YORK – Police prepared for the worst. Protesters hoped for the best. As police gripped their batons, protesters gripped their cardboard signs. Police held the brakes on their motorcycles while protesters hammered down the triggers of their cameras. The frenzy of clicking shutters buzzed through the air like a swarm of angry bees. A mere 10 hours after protesters were sipping warm coffee in a small lower-Manhattan park, tensions rose to a boiling point in Times Square.

Zuccotti Park, renamed Liberty Square by protesters, is a base station for participants. People at the park sleep, eat, receive medical attention and exchange information. Some volunteers even offer prayer services and massage therapy.

In the center of the park sits the comfort station, which provides protesters with toothpaste, toothbrushes, warm clothing, blankets, tape, tampons and anything else they might need to stay and protest for as long as they’re inclined.

Every day a general assembly meeting is held to make announcements and discuss ideas, policies, procedures and events such as marches.

Because amplification devices are not allowed, messages are relayed to the large groups of people through a method referred to as the “people’s mic” — someone shouts their message, and everyone who hears the message repeats it. For larger crowds, the message is repeated three or four times to ensure that everyone can hear it.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, protesters left their home base to march with people rallying in Washington Square Park. The march covered more than 50 police-lined blocks, picking up people and gathering passion along the way.

The protesters ended their march by meeting with hundreds of people already demonstrating and stayed to hear speeches from organizers, and fellow protesters.

Set in a “progressive stack,” speakers were asked to come and offer words of encouragement and insight through the people’s mic. People of minority groups pushed to the front of the line in order to encourage voices that are usually deafened by our society, to be heard louder and clearer than ever.

An announcement was made that a march to occupy Times Square would begin at 3:30 p.m. It wasn’t long before the protesters reclaimed the sidewalks and left in pursuit of the “center of the world.”

By 6 p.m., Times Square had filled with thousands of protesters. Within minutes, a truck carrying dozens of police barricades stormed down 7th Avenue against traffic. A policeman heaved welded steel gates onto the pavement below while officers on the street lined them three deep in places to keep people from blocking off traffic completely.

A few minutes later two dozen officers mounted on half-ton horses arrived. By 7:15 p.m., a formation of riot police stood in tight formation on West 46th Street. What was supposed to be a peaceful protest began looking more and more like a war zone.

Meanwhile, back in Zuccotti Park, Plattsburgh State sophomore Katylynn Gimma found herself recruited to help make food for protesters. A man approached her, asking if she wanted to help feed the movement and she joined the effort.

“Everybody had this mentality that they were feeding the troops,” Gimma said.

She spent hours with other volunteers preparing 3,500 servings of food, including bean dip, soup, and stir fried rice and vegetables in a soup kitchen called Liberty Café, which the owners lent to protest organizers to use when not in business.

When the cooking was done, they took a break from their hard work to each try a little of what they had just prepared, and reflect on the importance of their role as support for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The man who organized the volunteers gave a small speech in which he expressed his appreciation for their help and how proud he was with the way the group of strangers had come together.

“None of the groups that had come to help him had gotten so close over such a short span of time,” Gimma said. “He said he had never seen a group of kids work so hard for something.”

To Gimma, time spent working the small Brooklyn soup kitchen was her way of helping, without the glory of cameras and the publicity that the protesters on Wall Street were gaining. To her, they were equally important parts of one central movement.

“These people had all come together to work really, really hard so the front lines could stay strong,” Gimma said. “They understood that not everybody could be there, or should be there.”

Meanwhile, back in Times Square, the scene grew hungry for conflict. Steam poured out of two tall construction tubes and played tricks on cameras’ auto focusing. The hot, humid air added an eerie tone as the scene transpired. Thousands watched from the street below, millions watched on television.

Chants in unison rung between glass and concrete buildings, while officers looked on.

“Let us cross,” the crowd began chanting. Protesters demanded the right to cross 7th Avenue and Broadway on West 46th Street. “It’s our right,” a woman yells. Police remained unconvinced.

The crowd began to surge and the horses were brought to the front lines. One officer kicked his heels into the side of his dark brown vehicle, sending it charging at the mass of people. A woman screamed and fell back into the crowd.

A few minutes later, a man yelled out at a line of officers, a steel barricade jerked up from the ground and into the air like a ship’s hull tearing through a stormy sea. Waves of people pushed and pulled before batons were finally raised. The sound of truncheons could be heard hitting metal, then metal, then flesh.

A man holding an American flag with a peace sign jumped in amidst the chaos. Without saying a word, he stood calmly between the masses. Those with uniforms and those without took deep breaths in unison. A few protesters were pulled away and arrested.

An officer asked through a loudspeaker six times for protesters to move back, trying to restrain his impatience. Protesters followed with their own demands.

“You move back,” the crowd roared.

To the protesters’ surprise, the police obliged this request, electrifying the crowd with raucous energy that spewed out in deafening cheers.

“We love you, we love you,” the protesters cheered.

“Police are the 99 percent,” another chant added.

After three hours of police bullhorn, and protesters using the people’s mic, the negotiations saw progress. After police asked protesters to stay on the sidewalk while they attempt to open lanes for traffic, protesters increased their demands to cross the street.

“If the streets are open, we deserve to cross,” a man yelled to police.

For all their patience, after hours of waiting, the protesters heard good news. They were told they could cross 46th Avenue and Broadway. The crowd erupted with joy.

“Thank you, thank you,” a final chant declared.

Once the protesters were allowed to cross the street, they willingly left Times Square for subway cars, taxi cabs and departed by foot. Some went back to Washington Square Park to celebrate their day, others back to Zuccotti Park to enjoy what was left of Gimma’s rations.

By the end of the showdown in Times Square, Gimma was already surrounded by thousands of other protesters. After finding she had left herself without a voice, she was given a drum and mallets to help lead the crowd.

“This one guy pulled me up onto the podium to have me do the chants, but by then my voice was completely gone, so I just wasn’t making any noise,” Gimma said. “The guy next to me put his hand on my shoulder to stop me, and then he took a drum off of his neck and put the strap around my neck.”

She said the fun time spent in Washington Square Park following the rally was important because it was a celebration of the day’s victories.

“The news said how dozens of people had been arrested, but they didn’t really mention as much the other thousands of people who tried their best to keep this a peaceful protest.” Gimma said. “People just felt accomplished. They’re trying to instill a whole new way of living. They kept it peaceful, and they were celebrating the fact that they were able to do that across thousands of people.”

She said she hopes that eventually through protests both well organized and peaceful, the rest of the world will see that the movement has a real purpose.

“It will, in the long run, have people take us more seriously,” she said. “Instead of just having it be a bunch of kids who are trying to be like, ‘f**k the man.'”

 

(()videos from the day)))

http://player.vimeo.com/video/30940139?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

http://vimeo.com/30940139“>Occupy Wall Street: As seen through the eyes of CP’s EIC, Kristofer Fiore

 

 

-Kristofer Fiore-

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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.

-Anonymous-

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