OCCUPY GREENSBORO GENERAL ASSEMBLY MINUTES: 15 NOVEMBER, 2011
The background of Occupy Greensboro’s G. A. 11/15 Tuesday evening, 6:30-to-8:30 p.m. at Glenwood Coffee & Books was 24 hours of police riots from New York to California, in which Occupy camp sites were attacked and overwhelmed by thousands of armed and armor-geared policepeople. The night before, Occupy Oakland had been stomped out temporarily, front page news in the NYT. In addition, Occupy Greensboro had seen a week of aggravating discussion, much of it on Facebook, that came up, during the G.A., as “intergroup conflict.” Duke Power’s arrogant putsch for greater profits was another part of the economic background fueling our assembly, which Dave facilitated by permission of the group, which also allowed me, Al, to take minutes. Jenny Kimmel’s cousin, Julia, had pointed out that only young women seemed to be taking minutes, and so an old white man, with diminishing hearing and vision, volunteered tonight. This is the result, which could well lead us back to the young women again.
Two long, fruitful discussions highlighted the evening. One, as mentioned above, came when Todd asked Intergroup Conflict to be placed on the agenda: a discussion of Intergroup Conflict and how we deal with it.
Todd, Sky and Justice’s father. mentioned that proactive communication should replace the conflict to which he referred. Sky and Justice were entertaining Occupy’s cat, Glenwood, while this discussion was going on. Their father said that discussion, talking with each other, might replace the Facebook criticism about our consensus process; he recommended more and better ways in which we could communicate with each other, reminding this note-taker of Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion that if you want your garden lettuce to grow you don’t scold it or yell at it or criticize it if it gets dirty in a rainstorm or is a little slow developing a nice, round head.
John pointed out that the internet is not known as the best vehicle for discovering truth and resolving conflict.
Val shared the Hope she found in our interactions, and she wisely counseled that Hope was a precious, rare, priceless ingredient, which she had failed to find before the Occupy Movement. Furthermore, Val reminded us, we are in a huge struggle surrounded by emotional challenges, and at such a time people are known to turn on those closest to them, especially when we’re overwhelmed.
Steve suggested that a key ingredient adding to stress was expectations. We would find it helpful, he added, if we let go of expectations. We people, working together, have arrived at a process that is self-correcting!
Ed pointed out we are not alone; we work together. We recognize group wisdom. Do we real;ize how much we can do, how much accomplish? “We can change the world!” he exclaimed. “We need to have faith we can change stuff. We can make a difference. We are the cutting edge of rapid change.”
Andrew, lamenting he was in the stack right after Ed’s evocative speech, warned us people aren’t resources, and that “crusaders have to talk about their convictions.” (I didn’t understand all this either.)
Connor pointed out the consequences of building relationships and the need to remain light-hearted, referring to a suggestion made earlier by yours truly to loosen-up, although perhaps these minutes are too loose?
Todd spoke again, and referred to our natural reluctance to correct a comrade when gossip was being slushed around while the targeted person wasn’t present. But, he said, we need to develop the maturity and strength to not allow such toxic behavior to continue, that we must correct anyone who badmouths others while talking to us. “We must treat each other well!” I’d like to highlight these remarks of Todd’s, because I believe using internet to make personal comments and the refusal to prevent the kind of triangulation Todd referred to, is the death of any group.
Mike said exactly that, using the internet will never resolve differences. “We’re all on the same side,” he pleaded.
John cleverly added that not every problem has to be solved. And someone added to that few probems had to be solved at once, immediately. Experienced movement people have learned that remaining calm and not allowing small matters to overwhelm us reduces the stress that might lead to intergroup bickering.
Mo shared that she doesn’t ask for help easily, suggesting we might all be the same. She urged us all to feel free to ask for help continuously. (Us men, Mo, don’t like to ask for help, but, yes, that’s good advice; excuse the cross-talk, please.) Mo urged us to recognize everybody’s worth. Mo was stack-keeper tonight and politely placed herself last on the stack, thus ending the fruitful conversation initiated by Todd. Although I have discussed this first, in my old man’s minutes, this event actually terminated the G.A.
The other, earlier, lengthy discussion at this 11/15 G.A. was initiated by Fahym.
Fahym claims the Working Groups, invented at the very beginning of our movement, are outdated. “Working Groups aren’t working anymore,” he said, and he suggested alternatives and asked the group to debate this proposal.
Fahym proposed “task groups,” proposed breaking the working groups down into smaller more specific groups, if I understood him correctly. He said that as actions and proposals came up, at General Assemblies, we would create task groups at that time and for specific purposes.
John wondered how this would solve the burn-out that he sees taking place as people join too many groups and undertake to do too much?
Andrew liked the idea of G. A. becoming the hub for organizing task groups.
Lamar asked, wisely, why we couldn’t just keep it the way it is, but add Fahym’s Task Groups, as needed?
Val pointed out that before we can get consensus for this new idea, we needed to evaluate the prior Working Group concept. How has it worked out? Successfully? Any difficulties? Why not get more information from the contemporary working groups? She added the challenge of communication between working groups! “It’s hard for people to get involved within the current structure,” she admitted. Val thinks there has to be a set time for working groups to convene, and she suggested the time should center around the G. A. itself. “That way people coming to G. A, could connect to working groups that appeal to them.”
Connor wants more visibility for the working groups. He feels that what we name them or call them isn’t important.
Rebecca, introducing herself as “new here,” and speaking in G.A. for the first time, agreed with Connor; she wants to know more about working group availability.
Julia likes Fahym’s idea, and Fahym interjected that a large, broad focus inhibits tasks because everything appears to be handled.
Sam subtle point was that there are really two kinds of working groups, one being, really, skill groups.
John, challenged to add his experience of working groups, merely said that overall we simply had to improve communications.
Mo feels that isolation within the groups mustn’t happen. “I don’t like ownership appearing in the space constructed within a working group, which must remain as open and all-inclusive as possible.” Once again, Maureen, because she was our stack-keeper, modeled putting herself last to speak. And so ended discussion on Fahym’s proposal, a consensus vote tabled for a future time.
There were some proposals the facilitator, Dave, entitled “Internal Proposals,” contrasting them with the two proposals with which I began these minutes. One, from Al, apologized that Glenwood Coffee & Books had a prior commitment, from WUAG, the FM component of UNC-G, for our back room on Friday, 11/18, when G. A. was to meet next. The space would be rocking and rolling to four different (loud) bands! The group passed a consensus vote to move Friday’s G. A. to the bookshop portion of Coffee & Books (not the back room) and hold it a little earlier (5:30—7:30 p.m.), thus solving the problem.
Consensus was also achieved on Julia’s proposal for a Sunday Visioning assembly, “What is Occupy About?” This will be a three-hour block, like last Sunday’s, facilitated by Valerie Warren.
Julia wants us to discuss why we’re all here, similar to the process we developed a month ago, before we moved to the “Y” Camp. Julia pointed out our numbers have possibly diminished by we had a committed, core group. Julia gave her ideas for the agenda for such a visioning. She called for a Thursday, 6:30, in the bookshop, get-together to plan further. Julia sees us getting to know one another better, and she sees this as different than Val’s Sunday group last week.
A proposal that got tabled came from Mike, who pointed out that November 17th has been called out to be a nationwide day of solidarity for the Occupy Movement and all its been through recently. But the group decided a day’s notice was too little in which to create an Action. Mike said November 17 was selected, in part, because it was the two-month anniversary of the first OWS. Someone pointed out MoveOn.Org is planning a demonstration around crumbling bridges, which drew a laugh. But we have nothing planned.
Todd felt that bad as the police riots were, we didn’t have to fight the fights of other Occupiers, especially on such short notice. He told us that the 18 cities attacked were the result of a coordinated conspiracy on the part of those cities’ power structure!
Dave and John both said that the Connor-Mo idea of a video presentation could stand for our November 17 contribution. But what is this “video presentation,” which I have not previously mentioned?
Earlier, the Mo-Connor dyad offered to video individual’s responses to the atrocities going on, especially in New York and neighboring Chapel Hill. This proposal met the group’s acclaim, and, indeed, we all did this immediately after the meeting. Thank you, Mo and Connor, for the hard and creative work on this terrific experience!!! Val had piggy-backed on the Mo-Connor proposal that we must discuss police use of force in the near-future.
After the Connor-Mo Proposal was approved, Val asked for discussion and even a proposal on the November 28, 1 p.m., closed utility commission meeting in Raleigh, considering the outrageous Duke Power pay hike.
Val pointed out that whereas the public objections to Duke were in an open meeting, Duke’s “reasons” for asking for more money were private!
Perhaps, she suggested, they deserved a Mik Check? Since we are shut out of the process.
Val pointed out arrest was a strong possibility, so perhaps further investigation of her proposal was necessary?
Val wants discussion with others who are interested. Mo said this discussion was a good idea but NOT on Facebook!
Todd said that if we were not ready for a Mik Check, let’s at least do something.
No consensus vote was taken on this potential proposal.
The G. A. this evening began with the obligatory ground rules. Al proposed additional ground rules, such as maintaining a sense of humor and cutting each other some slack when we foul up, and, in general, lightening up. He sees nothing wrong with enjoying our work, even though it is obviously of utmost importance and very, very serious. There was a brief repartee around the words, “Step Up, Step Up.” Al suggested “Step Up, Step Down,” the original form. But Julia pointed out that the word “step” might be disrespectful of being who couldn’t “step” at all; perhaps “move” could be substituted for “step” on behalf of our sisters and brothers who have disabilities?
Finally, as usual, ANNOUNCEMENTS preceded everything mentioned herein so far. Todd’s Disclosure group gave an announcement. They are looking for a suitable home about to be foreclosed upon. (We could occupy their front yard, perhaps.) He announced the next twpo meetings of this group: Spring Garden Bakery, 8:30 a.m. Tuesday; Thursday 7:30 p.m. at Al’s. (Doesn’t Al get up by 8:30 a.m. in order to have meetings at his bookshop? I want to know.)
Further, under ANNOUNCEMENTS, Julia has contacted the Winston-Salem Occupation, in order to coordinate an action around the appearance, if you can call it that, of the CEO of (ugh) Wells Fargo at a $45 bruncheon. Winston doesn’t want a Mik Check, but is suggesting an outdoors protest, to which anyone could join. The group feeling, it semed to me, to be that such a tame response wasn’t worth the effort of deep discussion and planned coordination.
And so I bring to an end this laborious and labored minutes, which I sincerely and respectfully hope has entertained and amused you in the reading as it did me in the writing. I think we’re all wonderful. I think the millions who have suffered from U. S. brutality will appreciate the efforts we few are making, efforts our fellow citizens have shamefully thus far not joined, perhaps because North American oppression doesn’t bother them as it does us? Those avoiding Occupy participation seem quite comfortable with the suffering our System and our Nation has caused.
I am proud of those who are unwilling to put up with it. Who aren’t going to take it any more.