The Peoples' Assembly
What is Occupy's message? Simple... There are things in this world which need to get better and we are willing to work hard at making it happen! There are problems in society which need to be solved and we are willing to work hard at solving them! There is too much injustice in the world and we are willing to work hard to improve the situation! Quite simply, things are wrong and we are willing to work very hard, make sacrifices, take risks, and cause a scene in the process so it's not ignored, because we feel it's important to make things right!
So what is the General Assembly? That's the formal gathering where official decisions of the local Occupy movement are made by the people on behalf of the people. In theory, that should include anyone who wants to be included in the process, since the decisions can effect them in the long run, but in practice that has not exactly been the case. This has become one of the things which has gone wrong and which Occupiers are willing to work hard to make right. Some people find difficulty getting things done in the formal setting of the General Assembly, or the large crowd, or the often tobacco filled air. Some are held back from making valuable contributions because of the need to put things on paper, or the need to lay out proposals in a specific format, or the expectation that communication should be in English, or the need to know what the difference is between such things as a point of concern and a question of clarification. I could go on and on about all the things that are holding many people back from being able to contribute to their full potential but... lengthy paragraphs give some people trouble too.
Here's where the Peoples' Assembly comes in. Many of us have been experimenting over time with the Peoples' Assembly and have found that it is very conducive to containing other gatherings within itself due to the fact that the only rule of the Peoples' Assembly is that it must not exclude anyone who wants to help make things better. Groups can exist within the Peoples' Assembly and those groups can have their own set of rules, wich for example is how we recently managed to hold a facilitation meeting in the Peoples' Assembly. Even the location of the Peoples' Assembly is not fixed. It can happen in more than one place at a time or at different times. Scheduling it is simply so that people can find it. So, at the Peoples' Assembly on the evening of the 5th of January, 2011, a bunch of us decided to start a new ritual to revitalize our movement. Starting every day about 5pm or shortly after, people should try to start showing up at steps on the corner of 1st and Spring, near the big Police Department building, and try to bring signs if possible. Attempt to stay visible and if you have a sign of an article of clothing with "99%" on it, or something that says "OCCUPY" or an orange braid or what ever else you think may tell people you're there to occupy... try to keep it visible to encourage other Occupy supporters to join you. When you have a few people, don't just stand there... march. If you are alone and don't want to march alone, or if you want to stay in one place and let people come to you, try to stay where you can be seen from the West steps of City Hall and where you can be seen by cars and pedestrians passing on Spring and on 1st street. Try to get some chants going. Entertain the onlookers and encourage them to join in. Be a spectacle. Make what you're doing more interesting for people to see than the news they get on TV, and be sure to make a statement in the process whether anyone pays attention or not. Set the example. Set the level of energy you want to see in others. Remember that your excitement can get people motivated to make a positive difference and your commitment may be an inspiration to someone who sees how dedicated you are.
When 7:30pm comes along, if you feel like jining the General Assembly, do so... but don't feel obligated. The General Assembly is "currently" the official meeting at which official decisions are made, but as I was stating earlier many people have noticed that this has been causing exclusion, so bring your meetings, affinity groups, pep rallies, and so on, into the Peoples' Assembly. Make use of the space at and near the corner of Spring and 1st, and as that space fills up feel free to spread out into smaller groups, meetings, and so on. This includes the General Assembly happening on the City Hall steps North of there, until such time as it is officially relocated, and it also includes any meetings which happen anywhere on the Police Department block or ANYWHERE THE PEOPLE CHOOSE TO OCCUPY! That's why we call it the PEOPLES' ASSEMBLY!
So, in time hopefully we can get several official assembly meetings which will be recognized as equally valid places to make official decisions on behalf of the movement. Any such assembly should attempt to be inclusive and should not intentionally exclude people, but there are reasons why it is important that we have different assemblies with different rules and different formats. The fact is, not everyone is comfortable with the same communication styles, and besides if we have different formats each evolving independently of the others but able to each learn from people who have attended others, then we never have to worry about stagnation or regression because people will be able to see what works best in each one and what the strong and week points of each are.
Names for such assemblies are important mainly so that they can be found, scheduled, discussed, compared, and so on. Some suggested assembly names would be Passions Assembly (for passionate discussion), Zen Assembly (for those who like to meditate and wait for ideas to come to them), Brainstorm Assembly (for those who want to throw random ideas out there and see where they lead), Philosophical Assembly (perhaps for those who wish to discuss things in a sort of debate format or using logic as a guide) and so on. We should probably try to avoid names which make an assembly specifically sound exclusive, just to avoid people getting the impression that they may not be welcome, but in case a name ends up in use which turns out to be regularly understood as meaning that certain people are not welcome, we should make an effort to let people know that none of the assemblies of the 99% are meant to exclude members of the 99%. In fact, the 1% should be welcome too... as long as they don't assume themselves to be in charge or anything like that. We need to be as inclusive as reasonably possibly if we wish to learn how to make society better for everyone. If someone doesn't fit into a particular assembly, we may encourage that person to check out an assembly which we think they may like more, but we should attempt to avoid making the person feel unwelcome in the process. We also really need to make a point of teaching society that this really is all about making things better for everyone and that means doing our best to give everyone in society the chance to be productive and to contribute in positive ways. We can't rightly call ourselves the 99% if we keep leaving people walk away feeling like they so want to help but just can't find the right time or the right way due to rules set in place by those who have somehow ended up seen as "in charge" of what is supposed to be A MOVEMENT OF LEADERS!
When there's only one problem left in the world to be solved, finding the solution to it will be our cause. Until then we shall remain diverse in our message and our gaols.
So, lets hold our General Assembly and our Educators' Assembly and our Heros' Assembly, and our Problem Solvers' Assembly and our Rowdy Mob Assembly and whatever else it takes to give everyone a context to feel good about, all as part of the Peoples' Assembly, and all attempting to tolerate those who don't fit in but for whatever reason wish to try... For AT LEAST the following three familiar reasons...
"1. WE ARE THE PEOPLE!"
"2. WE ARE UNITED!"
"3. THE OCCUPATION IS NOT LEAVING!"
Donald Arthur Kronos, Ph.D. - Actor & Activist