This page describes the General Assembly Process at Los Angeles City Hall. This page, and the process itself, are subject to change.
Let’s face it, this whole ‘direct democracy’, ‘participatory democracy’, ‘collective decision-making’ and ‘democratic consensus’ business can be a bit confusing when you start off, and at the core of the Occupy Movement’s Democratic Process is our General Assembly. Ask anyone how it works and you might be met with a shrug, or the answer, “Well, anyone can just get up and speak. That’s how it works”.
WTF? Who can speak? ANYONE? How does it start? How do you stop people talking forever? How do decisions get made? WHAT IS GOING ON?!!!
Every General Assembly in every occupied city is slightly different, and evolving all the time. But for right now, here at Occupy Los Angeles, we tend to stick to the following format:
General Assembles are held at 7.30pm outside City Hall on the North or South Lawn every evening. Anyone can attend, everyone in attendance participates, and everything is streamed live to viewers via the internet. A secretary also takes minutes, which are posted on our site: occupylosangeles.org
The person ‘chairing’ the meeting is the Moderator and their job is to talk into the mic and suffer abuse from Trade Unionists, Subversive Intelligence, and the occasional asshole. Aside from getting yelled at every so often, The Moderator composes the Order of the Day and makes sure that everyone gets a chance to speak. They are helped out by a Shadow Moderator.
Both the Moderator and the Shadow Moderator are chosen by, and from, members of the Facilitation Committee. Think you’d be a good Moderator? Then turn up for a meeting with the Facilitation Committee. Meetings are held daily at 5.30pm on The North or South Steps (by the fountain) of City Hall - check in with the Welcome Tent every day to get location changes.
The Facilitator changes for every single General Assembly, and the Committee tries not to have the same Facilitator in a row, and to mix it up to represent a diverse bunch of people. Occupy LA’s facilitators have been male, female, young, old, single, married, Hispanic, Asian, African-American, homeless and poor, affluent and employed....
1. The Facilitator starts every meeting with a short WELCOME speech, and then by reading out the Principles of Solidarity as outlined by Occupy Wall Street. This is a short document which outlines that our General Assemblies should embody “direct and participatory democracy” in order to offer a “new socio-political and economic alternative”.
This may be followed by a solidarity clap / unity clap.
After the principles, the Assembly is introduced to the hand gestures used for individuals to communicate with the facilitator. Hand gestures are used instead of voices because it doesn’t interrupt speech or produce a cacophony of disordered noise. It’s to keep the Assembly ordered, and allow speakers to be heard without being spoken over - and it works. The hand gestures are explained before proposal every meeting.
If someone cannot be heard, the crowd can yell out ‘MIC CHECK’ at any moment.
After the hand gestures have been explained, one representative from each Committee and Affinity group is called up to make any Announcements. Individuals can also stand up to make announcements. Announcements can be anything - unlike proposals, they are not decisions which should be voted on by the Assembly, usually because of their low priority, and because they do not directly affect the movement and the direction the movement and its followers should take.
A committee has been agreed on by the General Assembly - a committee can’t just “invent” itself. A committee which forms and has not been agreed on by the General Assembly is an Affinity Group.
4. After announcements, Proposals are heard by the General Assembly. Committees always go before individuals or affinity groups.
A schedule of Committee meetings are located at the Welcome Table. They are reported and updated daily to account for constant changes in time and location.
What’s a Proposal?
A proposal is an idea set before the General Assembly which, if implemented, will affect everyone in the movement. They are representative of the group, and are ideas which need the official endorsement of the Occupy movement. Proposals shouldn’t be vague, indistinct ideas, but properly fleshed out ideas, with a WHAT, a HOW a WHY and a WHEN. For example, when the ‘Keepin It Real’ affinity group proposed that Tent City have a properly organized structure, the General Assembly asked them to go away, draw up a city plan, and present that - simply ‘the idea’ of properly structuring Tent City into an organized layout was not enough for the Assembly to vote on.
Listening to proposals is an opportunity for the Assembly to make their feelings know via their hand gestures. If, as a member of the Assembly, you want to speak and ask a question, you should use a hand gesture and look out for a stackperson. In Los Angeles, they will be wearing orange vests. You wanna talk? Give your name to a stackperson. The stackperson will also make sure those who want to speak keep to order, to prevent people speaking out of turn, or “jumping stack”.
Proposals will not pass and become Resolutions unless they Assembly agrees, as one, that they will pass. If someone HARD BLOCKS a proposal, then the proposer has to answer questions and concerns until the Assembly can come to some kind of CONSENSUS. People may offer a counter-proposal, or friendly amendments. Sometimes the assembly will break into smaller groups for ten minutes to discuss a contentious proposal in greater detail. The proposer must listen to all questions and concerns, and can amend his/her proposal in front of the GA, before reaching consensus. Consensus is measured through temperature checks - where the assembly is asked to make their feelings known through hand gestures. In the event that no consensus is reached, the proposal is either dropped or TABLED for a later meeting, usually with the advice that the Proposal should be taken and workshopped through a committee, or those with concerns should work alongside the person making the proposal to find a solution which pleases everyone, before bringing it back to GA..
Individuals must contact a stackperson in order to put their name on a list to make a proposal in front of the General Assembly, and often they must wait in line for several days before they get the opportunity due to time constraints.
After proposals comes Individual Announcements, which is kind of like a soapbox. Anyone can get up and talk for two minutes, on a sudden urge or spur of the moment. Not recommended that you use this time to eulogize your dead cat - but it’s your time, so make the best of it.