G.A. Meeting Minutes 12/04/11

General Assembly
Location: Glenwood Coffee & Books
Date: 4 December 2011
Start time: 4:00PM
End time: 6:00PM-ish

Facilitator: Trish
Stack keeper: Mo
Time keeper: unknown
Note taker: Andrew Saulters: saulters@gmail.com

Number of participants: 30 & not recorded

Working Groups Represented

Agenda:

  1. Welcome / Ground Rules
  2. Announcements
  3. Proposals
  4. Discussion
  5. Reflection

Announcements:

JAMES called for those in attendance to add their names and contact information to the Rapid Communication Email list, which is a large email group that will allow instant communication within Occupy Greensboro. He called for help in putting together the list and soliciting information from people outside the General Assembly. To contact him about joining the list, write to artteacher33@yahoo.com

JULIE announced a meeting of the Anti-Death Penalty Working Group: 4:00 PM on Saturday, 10 December, at Glenwood Coffee & Books.

DAVE announced that the NCAE boycott of Art Pope’s discount businesses, with which the General Assembly consented to stand in solidarity (see notes, Friday, 2 December), began in March 2011 and is ongoing.

TODD announced a call-in to AG Roy Cooper aimed at pressuring him to declare a moratorium on foreclosures in NC and to reject a settlement currently underway with big banks. The meeting will be on Tuesday, 3:00-5:00, at Glenwood Coffee & Books. It is part of a national day of action for Occupy Homes. After and during the call-in, there will be a robot-suit-making session in preparation for a robo-signing demonstration at AG Cooper’s office.

VAL announced that a video is in the works for people to voice their dissent with the Duke Energy rate hikes.

ED announced an AFL-CIO protest at Howard Coble’s office (2102 N. Elm Street Suite B) in support of continuing unemployment compensation. 11:30AM, Thursday, 8 December.

JANE announced a prayer meeting to take place at Government Plaza on 11 December, from 1:00PM to 1:15. The group will pray for a stay on foreclosures and reflect on the moral effect of foreclosing on families during the holiday season.

BEN announced an upcoming step in the effort to protest tuition increases: a conference call at 9PM on Tuesday, 6 December, to discuss organization. The UNC system will vote on proposed tuition increases on 10 February 2012. Contact Ben at benjaminlassiter@yahoo.com for more information.

ANDREW announced the Employment March coming up on Saturday, 10 December. It will leave the downtown library at 11:30AM and end at Government Plaza, where a rally will follow.

JAMES announced that west coast occupations have chosen 12 December to stage a complete closure of all west coast ports and said an action in solidarity was in the works in Greensboro.

MO called for writers and artists to submit to the Democrazine with work about the movement or the people in it. She announced that writers in Carbondale, IL had responded to a call for submissions on the Occupy Poetry website and were preparing work for the zine.

VAL announced the next Anti-Oppression Working Group meeting: Wednesday, 7 December, at 7:00PM in Glenwood Coffee & Books. She noted that the first meeting, at which participants got to knew one another and started discussion on oppression, had occurred before Friday’s GA.

ISABEL announced the next Education and Enrichment Working Group meeting: 12:30PM, Tuesday, 6 December, at Glenwood Coffee & Books. The group is preparing a number of teach-ins for January 2012.

DAVE announced the first General Assembly Process Discussion had occurred just before the meeting. The conversation will continue at 5:30 on Tuesday, 6 December.

AL noted that we have six different meetings scheduled for Tuesday, but ever since the tents came down, the press has been saying there’s no Occupy Greensboro. Go figure, he says.

Proposals:

The only proposal was a demonstration in cooperation with the AFL-CIO at Howard Coble’s office.

A ten-minute time limit for discussion was set by consensus before discussion of the proposal.

ED proposed officially supporting the AFL-CIO’s protest at Howard Coble’s office in favor of extending unemployment benefits. The demonstration will happen at 11:30AM at Coble’s office (2102 N. Elm Street). Coble is the 6th district representative with many working-class constituents. ED said that although he frequently votes with the Republican party, there’s some chance a show of public concern could change his vote. The AFL-CIO doesn’t have many protests, so this action is a step forward for them.

MARSH voiced his support for the proposal. LYNN asked if anyone was organizing the protest within Occupy Greensboro. ED clarified that he was asking for an official statement of support from Occupy Greensboro for the AFL-CIO’s demonstration. MICHAEL expressed his support for endorsing the protest, as it would start the process of getting connected with the community on unemployment-related actions. TODD put the Coble protest in context with the NCAE boycott, noting it looked like a sea change was underway. JAMES noted that ED seemed to be asking for “boots on the ground” at the protest and pointed out that the rapid communication list would be helpful in making this protest a success if it were more built up. AL suggested that a carpool from the bookstore or some other location could help get people there.

TRISH asked for a clarification of what Ed meant by “formal support” in his proposal. ED clarified that formal support could take the form of a letter in support to the labor union. ISABEL suggested that the protest could easily be advertised on Facebook and asked to add that action to the motion as a friendly amendment. MARK asked if the AFL-CIO was an enabler of the Democratic Party in the same way Move-On.org is. ED answered that it is not.

TRISH asked for consensus on the proposal to express formal support of the march, encourage attendance, and set up a carpool to assist people in getting there. The general assembly unanimously consented to the proposal.

Proposals that reached consensus:

The General Assembly consented to formally support the AFL-CIO’s demonstration, to encourage participation in it within Occupy Greensboro, and to set up a carpool to facilitate travel to Howard Coble’s office.

Notes/Miscellaneous:

EVERYONE SHOULD SPEAK ONCE BEFORE ANYONE SPEAKS TWICE.
After TRISH reviewed the ground rules of the meeting, ED mentioned that at a previous meeting it was proposed that before anyone can talk twice in a meeting, everyone ought to have talked once. This idea was brought to the general assembly for application in the meeting. It was approved by consensus.

DISCUSSION POINTS.
Much of the meeting was given to discussion of two items: the un(der)employment march on Saturday, 10 December, and the National Defense Appropriation bill presently under consideration in Congress.

TRISH asked to set aside twenty minutes for discussion of the un(der)employment march, forty minutes for discussion of the defense bill, and the rest of the meeting following that for reflection on the meeting itself.

EMPLOYMENT MARCH.
MARIKAY asked if there could be a clarification of what will be going on to make the march happen and suggested modeling it on the first march in October, including providing for marshalls to direct the march. JOHN said there will be a carpool group set up to get people to the launch point for the march. Permission to use Government Plaza has been granted. There is a plan for a rally upon arriving at the Plaza. ED noted that notifying the police department is not necessary, though they have been notified. The march will go from the library to Friendly Avenue, from Friendly Avenue to Greene Street, down Greene Street to the Plaza. Speakers will include people from the AFL-CIO, and a young man from Smith Homes who will speak on how to build community-concerned businesses. There will be Open Space discussions. TODD suggested that anyone who wants to launch an Open Space discussion on Saturday should prepare for leading a discussion that day in order to facillitate progress on it.

MICHAEL asked what kind of publicity is being done for the march. AMANDA said she is working with Sanctuary House and a couple of radio stations. There is also a Facebook notification for the event. The open space discussions at the event will be set up to lead to discussions after the event, later in the week within the community. There will also be a brief information flyer on unemployment distributed at the march. MARK said he could bring a flyer to WQFS. ED said people frequently talk about the gloom-and-doom of unemployment, but the speakers at the rally are being asked to talk about ways the community can be proactive in building new businesses to help people and the community.

ALEX asked for clarification on the day of the Coble action. ED said it was Thursday. ALEX asked if we could march to Coble’s office on Saturday. ED clarified that the Occupy Greensboro march was planned before the Coble protest, and he wasn’t sure how to integrate them further. MARSH asked if Occupy Greensboro could request support from the AFL-CIO. AMANDA clarified that the march will focus on a vision for the future; it is not so much about unemployment or underemployment. She noted that sign-language and Spanish translators will be at the event. ISABEL asked if the march had been announced on Facebook.

TRISH asked for more discussion in the remaining five minutes of the discussion time. JAMES asked for clarification about where the two different Facebook pages are. ALEX said there is a Facebook discussion group, a Facebook page, and a Facebook community group. DAVE said it would probably be better to search for them on Facebook than seek post the actual addresses of the pages.

TRISH asked for further discussion. Discussion on the un(der)employment march was concluded.

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL.
TRISH asked for CHRISTINE to give an introduction to the NDA bill. CHRISTINE said there has been a media blackout on the discussion and passage of the bill, which abolishes due process on the pretext of any form of threat of terrorism. She pointed out that the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, and few among the general population were aware of its passage. JOHN said that, like CHRISTINE, he had received a form letter from Kay Hagan explaining her support for the bill; he had received no response from Richard Burr. He said so many people, when notified of stunning challenges to their civil liberties, just express apathy. He is glad for a place where people are opposed to it actively.

TRISH abdicated her role as facilitator to MO in order to speak on the NDA bill, which will be a concern in the civil rights working group she was in the process of forming. She said it is important for Burr and Hagan to be able to go nowhere without getting micchecked or picketed; they need to always know there are people opposed to it. MARK said we need to find a way to challenge the law, asking if anyone had contacts in the ACLU or any other organization that could do this.

MICHAEL said the National Defense Bill was a fascist outgrowth of an empire with only one option left to maintain power: militarization. He argued that Occupy actions anywhere could eventually be policed under this law and called for a discussion on this topic. ED outlined three next steps in response to the bill: we must dig deeply into the bill and its process of formation; we must develop an information campaign to tell people about it; and we must do something about the bill. He argued that the climate on the streets has a big influence on whether legal challenges to the bill will be effective, and public knowledge of the bill is necessary to influence the public. CHRISTINE said the ACLU is working against the bill. She argued it is important to remember that the loyalties of known parties are to the parties themselves, not to the people they purport to serve. Highlighting the need to channel the power of the people, she proposed the creation of a party out of the Occupy movement. JAMES voiced support for MICHAEL’s comment on the bill and pointed out that the Occupy Marines Facebook was where he first found information on the bill. He praised the Occupy Marines Facebook page for the timeliness and accuracy of its information. JANE said she has always thought that to operate in Greensboro is to operate in a vaccuum; when she found out about the NDA, she couldn’t believe it, and checked with other sources. She cited Glen Greenwald’s acticles on Salon.com as a useful resource on starting to read about the NDA. She asked for input on who was aware of the NDA before the General Assembly. Most people at the meeting raised their hands. ANDREW said that he has seen people who are professedly apathetic get indignant at this bill and encouraged those present to encourage their friends’ anger when they show it. MARIKAY said that Hagan cited the creeping influence of al Qaeda as her reason for supporting the bill. She said the bill will not just affect different ethnic groups, but all of us. JULIE said the bill is an effort to silence dissent and
cited the mayoral collaboration to crackdown on Occupy encampments as a precursor to it. She pointed out that every time the Powers That Be have acted against the Occupy movement, it has grown the movement. ISABEL said there is a feeling in the air that we really can do something, when usually there is a feeling that stuff just sucks. She noted that the only way things have ever gotten better historically is when people get together to make change. She highlighted the Declaration of the Occupation of DC as mentioning that we have all experienced oppression, even though those types of oppression have not been the same for everyone. MO urged everyone to keep in communication with one another and have each other’s backs. She does not think the emergence of this NDA is a coincidence following the emergence of Occupy. She mentioned Occupy Congress, an effort to get people to Washington, DC on 17 January.

AL pointed out that the General Assembly took consensus on waiting to speak a second time before others who had not spoken spoke. MO said she hadn’t been taking people off the stack; she had taken it as an internal suggestion for all present. ED said he suggested it so that people who hadn’t spoken could be moved to the front of the stack.

TODD noted that Republican strategists had begun lamenting the effect of the Occupy movement on how people view capitalism. He observed that social networking allowed many people to get around the media blockout, but he cautioned everyone not to rely on Facebook and Twitter. He asked if there was a way to be more creative and effective in spreading word about news like this. DAVE wondered if anyone on the incoming city counsel could get Greensboro to opt out of participation in the bill. BEN called on people to support groups vulnerable to oppression already, and he said the bill reminded him of the past repression of progressive movements. He called on us to rise to this occasion. CHRISTINE announced that the UN has determined the freedom of speech rights of Occupiers are being abused. She said that just as there are other oppressed groups we could support, we should look to express solidarity internationally, because businesses have “Occupied the world” and hastened its ruin. She called for a big general strike over the NDA. ED called for a near-term action: an investigation of who voted for it and who brought it forward. He echoed the need to look at the act in terms of historical efforts of oppression and stressed the need to distribute information about it. TRISH noted that this is the concern of the civil rights working group, which would meet after the General Assembly. MICHAEL noted that the movement started out of anger with the 1%. While the 1% certainly has everyone else “by the necks,” the more successful the movement becomes, the more power it has. He said that a different system would involve just toppling the 1%; it would require getting those who apathetically follow the 1% to stop supporting them. He called on those assembled to think about how to reach out to people who are not part of the 1% in order to work against apathetic support for the 1%. He connected doing this to keeping the General Assembly effective. ALEX asked for input on creating pirate radio stations, small ones that play short recorded messages. He asked if robo-dialers are illegal for political speech. TRISH clarified that they are not illegal for political calls. ALEX suggested robo-dialers as a method of getting the message out.

TRISH asked if people wanted to continue discussion with the remaining five minutes of discussion time for the topic. MO asked for people who hadn’t spoken about the topic to speak. AL identified that some of the greatest obstacles to change are attachment to one’s own privileges and perogatives. He called on all assembled to compare our sacrifices to those made in the Arab Spring and ask ourselves how we stand.

NEGO expressed gratitude for a change in the meeting time to 4:00. She spoke about all of the money dropped into Miami in the late nineties to militarize it in opposition to protests against free-market capitalism.

TRISH suggested the group begin reflection on the meeting. Discussion on the NDA was concluded.

REFLECTION ON MEETING.
MICHAEL praised the General Assembly meeting and the General Assembly-oriented meeting before it and called for more discussion on how to improve the GA process so it could be better integrated into the community. DAVE echoed MICHAEL’s praise for the meeting and noted that this was the second meeting in a row in which only one proposal had been raised. He said that a process seemed to be developing by which proposals are fleshed-out before they arrive at the General Assembly and highlighted the number of things in the works for the coming months. MARIKAY praised the time change of the meeting. LYNN voiced appreciation for being able to discuss the NDA and was glad to see the small number of proposals on the agenda. ALEX highlighted two positive developments in the GA: discussion in the GA and reflection on the meetings. He praised the way the meeting process seems poised to change itself as needed. ISABEL said she has been uplifted by attending a person-to-person, decision-making meeting; she observed that many people expressing frustration on the Facebook page are people who cannot come or have opted not to come. She called on those assembled to develop ways to get those people who comment on the internet but don’t come to come. ANDREW praised the way the process does not have a directing force, or a “god,” and urged everyone to strike down such a thing if they ever saw it developing within the process. JAMES said the information he has can help get people on Facebook to the General Assembly. AL called for reflection on why we feel good about the meeting; he suggested that the democratic process itself could be what promotes the healthy feeling after a good meeting. MARK said there was a great need to do more than talk and called on those assembled to take action. ED said people had been questioning whether Occupy Greensboro was doing what it needed to do, but he can’t remember any period in which there have been more direct actions at work in the city. He says he would say he loves us all, but he decided to restrain himself. MO thanked CHRISTINE for bringing something new to the group on her first visit and said she appreciated everyone at the GA for proving yet again that Occupy Greensboro is not directed by an exclusive group within Occupy Greensboro but by OGSO itself.

FINAL ANNOUNCEMENTS.
EMILY made an announcement, suggesting people send an email to Ed Finley (finley@ncuc.net) opposing the Duke Energy rate hike. She asked for people who would like to make a statement against the Duke Energy rate hike to meet with her after the meeting. DAVE asked for people to get in touch with Valerie if they are interested in getting involved with non-violent direct action discussion and training. MAX announced the benefit show for Occupy Greensboro on 7 December at The Blind Tiger at 7:30 PM. DAVE announced that the General Assembly raised $37, which ED will deposit with the Beloved Community Center.

Next Meeting:

Todd volunteered to facilitate Tuesday’s meeting. Dave volunteered for stack, and Ian to take notes. Amanda volunteered to keep time.