To Occupy or not to Occupy... a personal journal.
Over the course of the last few months I have been engaged and participating in the Occupy movement (
BDB!). It began for me when, driving by a street corner here in Sedona, I saw a small gathering of folks on the corner waving at people and holding up signs. I honked, gave a thumbs-up and continued on my way. Until I got home, that is. My conscience was nagging at me. Driving by? Honking? Not good enough, not at all. I knew some of the people on that corner. I got ahold of them the next day and asked What? Why? How? as to their being there. Little did I know that that very sequence of investigation would seal my fate into action. I listened. I considered. I contemplated. Oh, sure, I had been seeing the Zuccotti/Liberty Park goings on in NYC. I had had my interest piqued, to say the least, in hearing a collective voice that aligned with my own many-times-expressed thoughts on such matters. The next Wednesday (the assigned/chosen day of protest) I was out on a corner, in front of the Chase bank, a different corner than the rest of the sign-wavers. Oh, I don't know, I am just that kind of guy. I was waving and holding up a sign saying: WANT TO KNOW OUR GOALS? READ THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE! In the first hour that I stood there we increased in numbers by 300%! Yep, there were 3 of us standing on that corner, waving to cars and holding up signs. I was in. My blood was stirred. The next Wednesday I was on the corner with the rest of the folks, adding my body to their larger numbers on the 'common' corner.
Soon enough I was off on one of my many jaunts, this time to Melbourne, Florida. Immediately upon my arrival I asked around for the local Occupy get together place (I was sure there must be one!). I was at first directed to Occupy Tampa. Too far for me, as I was in Melbourne to work, and had a pretty full schedule. Then, at a Sunday spiritual group one of the folks there mentioned, when community announcements were being made, that there was to be an organizational meeting the next night in Melbourne, in an effort to bring some focus to the burgeoning gathering of sign-wavers who had taken to protesting on a corner outside the BofA. I spoke of my own footsteps of involvement with some friends (and a couple of strangers I happened to meet on the boardwalk). We all agreed to go to this meeting.
Upon arrival at the coffee house where the meeting was to be held were some 40 people. Most it seems, had been out in front of the BofA at one time or another, carrying signs. We settled in, hot coffees in hand (supporting the local businesses who are supporting us). Then a young woman stood up and thanked everyone for coming and... my whole world exploded! She spoke of the reason for that night's meeting: to form a General Assembly for the Occupy Melbourne Fl. group. Oh, I had heard of the General Assembly before, even seen a bit of one from NYC, on You Tube. What unfolded was a thing of beauty. The guidelines for utilizing the structures of consensus – that had been adopted by other Occupy groups, from NYC to Hoboken to Los Angeles and Chicago... all across this great country – were presented. The first thing, beyond functional structure, was how a proposal was brought forth. Any person of the General Assembly could offer up a proposal. It had to meet only three requirements. The proposal's proponent must address 1) What?
was being proposed. 2) Why?
was this proposal being made. 3) How?
is it to be implemented. In near disbelief I heard a methodology that was the same as my own line of questioning, spoken of earlier, being utilized. I 'got it', immediately. We discussed, amended, then, using those very same methods, came to a consensual agreement to adopt the General Assembly and its procedures. Logistic and tactical issues were then proposed and handled in the same manner. This conglomeration of individuals, myself included, were coalescing, organizing our random cell-like selves into an organism with a voice. We were building a movement! When the evening's meeting was done I was fired up. I had participated in my first General Assembly. But I did not live in Melbourne. That was fine, I was told... "You were here, you are one of us". I knew, then, that I had to carry the spark of this fire back to my own community.
Upon my return to Sedona I spoke of the General Assembly (GA, henceforth) to the others on the corner waving signs. Positive responses were garnered, and it was left at that. Again, my travels carried me around the country. I found myself in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Meeting with a buddy and his friend for breakfast, we shared our thoughts-in-common regarding the Occupy movement. As all three of us were youths in the late 60's – and very Movement engaged activists of that era – we each likened as to how we had not been so enthused by any social movement since that time as we were by what we were witnessing building with the Occupy movement. I confessed to them that I was actively engaged, albeit at a small town level, in the Occupy surge. My buddy smiled and told how he had been bringing firewood and propane to the Sant Fe Occupy Encampment. We looked at each other and all three of us got up in the same instant and said "Let's go!". So off to the Santa Fe Occupy camp we went. My buddy and his friend checked on the wood and propane supply. We spoke with a couple of the long-term Occupy'ers on site. My buddy had to leave to go do some food shopping for the upcoming Thanksgiving Day. Me, I stayed the rest of the day, conversing and learning how this group was doing it. Ha! The Mayor of Santa Fe was fully in support of the First Amendment rights of the Occupy'ers to be doing what they were doing. He had ordered the Santa Fe Police Dept. to cooperate with the Occupy'ers. The SF Occupy folks agreed to cooperate with the City. Understandings were come to. Fire permits (as winter was setting in) were granted. Hell, the City even provided Porta-Potties in the park where the Occupy'ers were camped! How about that
for a response to any potential health-hazard? The SF Occupy members and the SF Police agreed that, given as how there would be the inevitable magnetizing of the homeless and society's outcasts to the encampment, that as long as these folks were actively engaged in the learning events, participating, and following the agreed upon safety guidelines, that they would neither be ostracized by the Occupy'ers, nor would they be harassed by the police. Where there was drunken or offensive behavior occurring, the offenders would be asked to leave the camp. If there was violence of any sort, the police would be called and they would handle those individuals just like they would in any other situation. Amazing what some cooperation between people expressing their Rights, and a governing body that is not inimical to the people expressing those Rights, can accomplish, eh?
Returning to Sedona we on the corner discussed again the possibility of forming a GA. As would be inevitable, a fellow activist said it seemed to be up to me to get it going, seeing as how I kept bringing it up. Yeah. True, that. So we (not 'I', not 'me') set up a time to get together, sent out a message on the Occupy Sedona Az Facebook page. We met in a local coffee house (the place that bears forth revolutions more than any other establishment, I am certain of it!) and discussed the procedures of how a GA is conducted. We considered whether such a thing was viable for our little group of a dozen folks. We discussed whether Sedona was ready for this in her midst! Someone then said, "I nominate Jade as the Moderator." Wait! What? I had thought only to discuss the possibility of a GA! And here the community of Occupy Sedona was pushing it forward, right now. And so it went. We agreed, by consensus – and that funny wiggling of fingers in the air that has become the signature gesture of Occupy GA's everywhere – that we were now the Verde Valley General Assembly
. In order to embrace the other Occupy groups gathering in the Verde Valley (the name of our northern Arizona region), to be inclusive of us all, and to hopefully gather our voices together into a stronger Voice, we agreed to not be Sedona-centric, but to be the GA for and of the communities of Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Camp Verde and surrounding towns. A Facebook page: VerdeValley GeneralAssembly (those lack of spaces are correct!) has been established. As a matter of personal joy, my daughter and one of her best friends, both 19, participated and are involved in the VV GA and its activities. Wow!
Today we had our second VV GA meeting. Our numbers had gone from six to a dozen, even without some of the staunch participants being able to make the meeting. Yeah, there was some confusion at first, as we sought to clarify the rules of order that our GA had adopted (the same rules of order, essentially, of GA's all over the country and world). That done, we set about listening to proposals, discussing them, then forming a consensus, or not, as was the case as well. We agreed to meet at a different time and day of the week than we had so far. And we chose to meet for our protest at a new site. Instead of the established corner where the Sedona Occupy had been gathering, we will now be meeting to wave at drivers and wag signs outside the BofA, as that particular financial institution has been, in our Verde Valley region, particularly representative of foreclosure mismanagement. A working group was also formed to meet with a lawyer who specializes in foreclosures. This lawyer has come forth and indicated that he is willing to work as an Advocate for people wrongfully, or soon-to-be, displaced. This working group, the members being from Cottonwood and Clarkdale, will then bring a proposal of action to an upcoming VV GA.
Through the formation of the General Assembly we have already, in a matter of one week, gone from a rag-tag cluster of individuals in the Verde Valley to a functioning cohesive unit. Our cells have become a self-directing organism! We are Many, we are One. We are the 99%. It is time.