I got sent to London on Monday for two weeks of screenwriting. I'm not even go into details of what media mogul I'm now working for, but suffice to say, if you guys find out, you won't wanna be my friend anymore.
Forlorn without Occupy LA, I dropped in at Finsbury Square and St Pauls, the two sites which are part of Occupy The London Stock Exchange - an occupation which was only fifteen days old when I joined it. I took some classes at the People's University, went on Livestream, befriended the Media Tent, joined their Process (Facilitation) group and helped out with their General Assembly.
Well, kids - the good news is they have exactly the same problems as Occupy LA! The homeless and the troubled are also drawn to their Occupations, which in turn brings problems of theft and violence. However, unlike LA, which seems to deal with the problem by having tautological internal discussion which achieves fuck all and only promotes more divisions, London immediately dealt with the issues head on by issuing an extremely well-worded press release, ditching their tea tent, and turning it into a welfare tent staffed by volunteers who work in drug and alcohol counselling, and with the homeless.
And that's pretty much a good indication of how on the ball my home city is. Their General Assembly often struggles like ours does - working on Process / Facilitation is, let's be honest, a sucky job. You have a lot to learn, you have a bunch of people screaming at you constantly, and the hours are really long. Despite this, London has modified the process of their GA so that you truly do see collective decision making taking place on the floor of the GA, involving the whole assembly. LA is so caught up in this boring, repetitive structure of reading out proposals, and debating them. Yes, we work on consensus, but the decisions and proposals we consent on are not authored by the assembly. They already arrive in some kind of shape. In London they use the Assembly to generate ideas, debate, discussion and proposal. It inspired me a lot - and fed the fire of a few long-lingering resentments I have against LA Facilitation, who decided to cancel four GA's this week when Occupy LA is having some of the biggest actions and teach-ins of its existence.
I'm not sure why the person who proposed this did so, when I know a lot of my fellow Facilitation members hardblocked it in the meeting - and this has contributed a lot to my foul temper with LA this week. My bad mood even got me kicked off the LA Facilitation mailing list for 24 hours yesterday, which I thought was pretty remarkable. All those who have agonized over how to get rid of the "bad elements" drawn to City Hall need look no further. I have trailblazed a solution. Just call someone a c**t on email, and you're gone.
So the Occupy movement grows stronger over here everyday, joined by the indignados of 15 May, a large Egyptian contingent, and growing support from religious groups shocked by the Church's attempt to evict protestors, in direct contradiction to its self-proclaimed "sanctuary" status. A large nationwide walkout is planned for later this month, and a day of student action. Near-eviction was avoided when the City of London and St Pauls Cathedral dropped legal action - and this was all debated calmly and effectively in GA. I know we Europeans have a long history of protesting, but obviously America has it together too - Occupy Wall Street and Oakland are forging ahead right now. So why can't Los Angeles find unity and solidarity?
I've said this before and I'll keep saying it - opposing force, police brutality - is unifying. Occupy LA needs to push the boat out on peaceful civil disobedience, and do this before we attempt anything like a General Strike. We have it easy in City Hall - four days of sitting on a freezing cold pavement in London and wearing about fifty layers moderating a GA in the rain - is evidence of that. Our ease and comfort has resulted in a lot of pent up anger and emotion with no immediate outlet. There are brilliant, dedicated people at City Hall working 24/7, but they need back up, they need more volunteers, they need less trouble from those who are here to party. Los Angeles is in the peculiar position of being an incredibly self-serving bubble of rich narcissism surrounded by extreme poverty and social problems, which makes mobilizing the lazy fucks of the film industry, who have everything, to protect the poor, the homeless and the less glamorous elements of society, incredibly difficult. These problems are unique to LA, and the solutions must be unique as well, but it certainly helps to travel to other occupations and see what works for them.
It's clear to me that our GA needs work, and that the team we have left is either brilliant - but exhausted and broken from devoting so much time to it and in desperate need of a break - or just not intelligent enough to make the change that's needed. I know that makes me sound like a bitch, but I'm OK with being a bitch, so you may as well get used to it. My opinion of LA Facilitators has really gone down since they turned down an opportunity to get training from a bunch of amazing mediators who work in major war zones, saying "they didn't see the point", and then cancelling the next four GA's. Is it unifying to criticize those you work alongside? Probably not. But it's equally as stupid to tolerate people's shit attitudes and avoid being honest because you're afraid of rocking the boat.
We need some major actions happening. We need to get teargassed. Sod the fact I'll get thrown out of the country if I'm arrested. We need something to happen.
And with that I'm off to another GA at St Pauls. If anyone wants to get in touch with working groups or people working on Occupy London, let me know and perhaps we can hook up a livestream chat or something.