The General Assembly and Grassroots Democracy   28 comments

While the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA movements have a great potential to bring about social change, some of us who participated in the encampment of City Hall and the Saturday and Sunday General Assemblies have become increasingly frustrated with the leadership of Occupy LA, especially concerning their collaboration with police, lack of respect for consensus process and the voices of non-straight white middle class males, and deliberate deception to solidify their power within this so-called “leaderless” movement.

One of the more inspiring aspects of these protests has been that the vast majority of participants have never protested before, and the traditional vanguardists, despite their best efforts, have been largely unable to control the direction of the movement.  However, power is continuing to be concentrated into few, albeit unexperienced, hands.

As anti-authoritarians, we have little interest in controlling the movement.  But we do have decades of experience.  We have organized in summit protests, participated in direct actions, gone to jail, seen our friends beaten by police, organized in our communities and workplaces, studied social movements in school, and generally seen a wide variety of things that have worked very well, and things that have not worked.  When we make criticisms of the General Assembly (GA), it is not because we want to instigate violence or derail the movement, it is because we have immense faith in the people to decide things collectively, by consensus, that we cannot tolerate affronts to collective process, domination of the space by the most privileged participants, the silencing of viewpoints differing from those of the “leaders,” and collaboration with the State apparatus, the very thing we are trying to change.  If anyone is violent, it is those who continually silence and repress.  Unlike others who speak in hypotheticals and speculation, we are careful to speak only from experience.  Curiously, the processes that are being used (or rather mis-used), such as consensus, people’s mic, hand signals during the GA, decentralized leadership, etc. are all things that anarchists and anti-authoritarians (some of the very people criticizing the GA, even!) developed over the past two decades specifically around the anti-globalization movement and the 2000 Democratic National Convention here in Los Angeles, although many of these processes have existed in some form or another dating back to the anarchist combatants in the Spanish Civil War and earlier.  Thus, to see our own processes valorized and then corrupted, and then to be attacked for trying to follow these same processes, is heartbreaking.

This critique of Occupy LA and the General Assembly is formed in large part from the conversations I’ve had with a variety of people the past few days and from Victor’s post on DisOccupy and comments made on his original Facebook post.  But ultimately I can only say that it represents my thoughts, not those of my comrades or anyone else at the occupation, though they may agree in part or in entirety with what I write here.

Each of the issues presented here deserve a lengthier discussion than I can provide here, but I will give each individual attention.

  • Mic check or “People’s Mic” — This was developed during street actions for situations in which amplified sound was not an option, but a large number of people needed to be apprised of the situation.  It typically follows a call and response model, where the crowd repeats what the speaker says so that everyone can hear.  It was used effectively in Pershing Square before the march for announcements from the legal team, but during the General Assembly–as one activist noted–it felt like an exercise in fascist group think.  It was often used unnecessarily, and had the effect of enforcing opinions as fact through repetition.
  • Police Liaisons — It is at this point clear that the designated police liaisons are more on the side of the police than the movement.  Typically, police liaisons put pressure on the police and leverage the power of the movement to negotiate with police to keep people safe and get what we want.  Instead, they are taking what LAPD tells them as infallible and then try to impose and enforce these police directives on the movement.  To our knowledge, they have never tried to push back.  Additionally, in several cases, these directives have been brought to the attention of the GA, but as a finalized decision, not something to be decided on much less concensed upon.  For example, we were informed Sunday night that the entire encampment would be moved to the North lawn of City Hall Park due to a police order; there was no opportunity to decide at the GA whether we would comply with the order, and points of order raised on this question were squashed undemocratically.  Further, because these police liaisons have never been involved in organizing before, they don’t realize that police lie, and that police can be negotiated with.  We can see a clear example of what cooperation with police results in with the recent arrest of 700  protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge; despite promises from NYPD that they could cross the bridge, they were still arrested.  This collaboration has the ultimate effect of letting the police lead the movement.
  • Permits — Similarly, the “leaders” have the mentality that everything must be permitted, and anything that’s unpermitted must be prevented from happening.  The insistence on sleeping on the cement sidewalk rather than on the grass is rooted in this logic.  And just as the police liaisons view the police as an infallible authority, the Logistics Committee is insistent on getting permission from the very government we are trying to change.  How are we going to win anything by asking our enemy permission to fight them, and under their rules?  With all the talk of revolution at the GA, one has to wonder if they realize that Obama will never grant us a permit to revolt.
  • Leaderlessness — Ultimately, the two preceding issues are related to the illusion of leaderlessness.  While the movement as a whole, and Occupy LA in particular, claim to not have leaders, in reality power is concentrated in a few hands and decisions are largely made by them before the GA.  These same “leaders” are the same people taking orders from the police and the city and imposing those orders on the movement.  It may be natural for people to take on leadership roles in movements, but here it is completely opaque as to who is deciding and what their interests are.  Transparency wouldn’t allow such a level of unilaterality.  All of this is done under the banner of leaderlessness.  When decisions-already-made were presented to the GA, we repeatedly asked, “Who made this decision?”  It wasn’t consensed on at the GA, and no one could say who made the decision or how it was made.  At least the RCP is up front about who their leader is.  The following issues are directly tied to the desire of these “leaders” to maintain their firm grip on decision-making.
  • Individualism — The “leaders” feel ownership over the movement and will do anything they can to prevent others, no matter how much experience or knowledge they have, from “ruining” all their “hard work.”  It’s all about them as individuals, not the movement.
  • White Privilege and Tokenism — We have thus far not seen any indication that the mostly white male leadership cadre recognizes or even challenges their own privilege beyond their recruitment of tokens to make announcements of police directives for them or take on public roles with strict direction from them.  They are oppressed people as a human shield, a curtain to hide who is really calling the shots.  Meanwhile, the direction of the movement continues to privilege white, male, straight, able-bodied, and middle class participants.
  • Deliberate Lies — Following the “lawn vs. grass” debacle, leaders told us that their scouts saw police moving paddywagons a few blocks away and that they heard on police scanners that the police were going to sweep the park at 10:30pm and arrest anyone who hadn’t moved to the sidewalk.  Our own scouts didn’t see any police activity anywhere near the park, and we now know that police had no interest in arresting anyone in the park that night.  We can only conclude that the “leaders” purposely lied to us and deceived other participants in order to enforce their will through fear-mongering and misinformation.  Such behavior is absolutely unacceptable.
  • More Lies — The “leaders” also lied to the participants of the GA about the consequences of sleeping on the grass, for the same reason: to enforce their decisions through fear.  Participating in actions for the first time can be scary, but we believe that they should be given correct information in order to allow them to make an informed decision, not further enhance their fear of action.
  • Process — Repeatedly throughout the Saturday and Sunday GAs, hard blocks and points of order have been ignored or steamrolled, proposals haven’t been properly dealt with, opposition has been cut short, comments have been made out of order haven’t been stopped (e.g. announcements made during proposal time), and unilateral changes were made to the agenda to prevent individual proposals.  The consensus process is designed to give voice to everyone, but this process has been perverted and abused to deny radicals and underrepresented voices to shape the direction of the movement and keep power concentrated.
  • Unity — Throughout the GA there has been an insistence on “unity,” i.e. that everyone be bound by the decisions of the collective.  This would be fine if the decisions were actually made by the collective rather than the “leaders” and LAPD, and if the decisions were made by genuine consensus.  This conception of “unity” is also meant to stifle individual and autonomous actions that may be separated from the rest of the movement by time or space.
  • Place and Terminology — In addition to not recognizing their own privilege, the “leaders” also don’t recognize the demographics or concerns of the majority of Angelenos.  They also don’t understand why the use of the term “occupation” (which I admit to using throughout this writing) is problematic when the encampment is taking place on colonized land (see http://joaquincienfuegos.blogspot.com/2011/10/decolonize-wall-street.html).
  • “We are the 99%” — This is an interesting rhetorical device which has seen a lot of traction in mobilizing people.  However, this 99% is by no means a homogeneous group, and to flatten this collectivity tends to reaffirm the existing class, race, and gender dynamics of the broader society.  In reality, to say that the millionaires at the top of the 99% have the same interests as undocumented women is to deny the broader social structures that lead to stratification in the first place.  To emphasize the plight of the 99% keeps white straight able-bodied men in power and displaces and denies the oppression of everyone else.  This rhetoric doesn’t account that those in the 99% often are in the top X% when it comes to things other than tax bracket.

My intent here isn’t to be a cynic.  There are a lot of amazing things happening in the Occupy LA organizing space, and as stated above I believe it has the potential to explode into something historic, if it isn’t already.  However, there are a lot of problems which are already turning people off and preventing us to move forward and be everything that we can be.  This critique is meant to identify these problems.  Where I refer to “leaders,” I truly do not refer to individuals, but to the very concept of leadership as it is existing in effect.  I believe that if all of the current leaders were replaced with new people without changing the structures in place, there would be no noticeable changes.  Criticism is necessary for movements, and this criticism is meant to be constructive.  I know that not everyone will respond productively or take these issues seriously, but ignoring serious concerns or responding with personal attacks will hurt the movement rather than defend it.

Some proposed changes have been made before the GA, and were met with inexplicable opposition, and the proposal to institute a spokescouncil was met with heckling and the ironic chant of “we are peaceful” meant to prevent the proposal from being heard.  These proposals and others will be discussed below, again not nearly to the extent that they merit.  I believe that these changes would open up many of the roadblocks we are currently experiencing and would facilitate the expansion of the movement.

  • Formation of a Spokescouncil — The spokescouncil could be created to replace the GA or exist alongside it.  Rather than having a large body try to consense individually in such an environment with stacks cut off, points of order and blocks ignored, and lack of information about the proposals, the spokescouncil would be representative of the various interests and affinity groups that already exist and may emerge.  Each affinity group (AG) can have representatives attend and participate in each of the committees, representing the groups’ interests in each, but also report back to the AG on the decisions made.  This way, everyone has much more say and much more knowledge regarding what is happening.  The spokescouncil would also move the decision-making structure more toward real actions and limit pontification and groupthink.
  • Immediate dissolution of the Security Committee and recall of the current Police Liaisons, creation of Copwatch/Neighborhood Watch team, and the appointment of accountable, transparent, and pro-activist police liaisons — This is related to points above.  The police liaisons currently are acting in the interests of the police rather than the movement and are not acting transparently.  The Security Committee (SC), which is problematic even just in name alone, has also consistently acted inappropriately.  In repeated cases they have lied to activists about police activities (for example, about imminent arrest if people stay on the grass) and in one instance went into the tents of comrades who intended to defy police and SC orders to move to the sidewalk, without their consent, and may have taken or destroyed personal belongings if they weren’t immediately confronted.  Such a Security Committee that exists primarily to police the movement rather than protect activists from the police should not be allowed to continue.  Instead, a separate body should be formed to observe the police, scout, and take action to protect activists from police brutality and arrest.
  • Child- and family-friendly spaces — These currently do not exist, and would enable much greater participation from the community.
  • Restrooms and other facilities that are accessible to all people, not just able-bodied individuals — Currently, the only restrooms on the City Hall grounds are accessible only by stairs, which prevents many activists from our community from participating.  It is an arrogant display of privilege not to have wheelchair-accessible restrooms.
  • Workshops on the following topics: Know Your Rights, Legal Support, Cop Watching, First Aid, Direct Action, Unarresting, Workplace Organizing — These will give participants the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about potential actions and the legal and medical risks involved.

I hope that many of these proposals can be implemented without opposition, but some of these proposals will necessarily be implemented autonomously if they cannot be consensed on at the GA.

Posted October 3, 2011 by unpermittedla in Uncategorized

28 responses to “The General Assembly and Grassroots Democracy

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  1. a few good points but i feel some unwarranted criticisms and at least one blatant mistake. not going to critique this as it’s after 1am and i only have a few hours sleep before work. just note that “promises from NYPD that they could cross the bridge” is completely false. the NYPD did appear to allow us and even seem to escort us across the bridge and then proceeded to kettle and arrest us. there definitelyy was no ‘promise.’ this is extremely misleading especially when we are still trying to flush out what exactly happened. it is also true that police are known to do this across the globe in order to break up numbers and solidarity. as experienced activists this is a no-brainer. btw, there is no police liason in OWS, however, that does not mean that some folks on their own speak to them. many do – just not as liasons or representatives of OWS.

  2. “I hope that many of these proposals can be implemented without opposition.” THAT would be fascist. This isn’t a situation like Syria or Libya in terms of police abuse. The LAPD is being helpful and cooperative, and I implore you not to encourage moves that will very obviously lead to unnecessary violence. Peaceful protests can work, and it is our right to do so in whatever peaceful way we can. There are many.

    You made an entire list of things you want, and called everyone else fascist.

    • Ashley, it’s not “fascist,” it’s about autonomy to take the action that we feel is necessary to liberate ourselves. And it’s not things we want, it’s both things we are creating ourselves, and suggestions for improvement. Peaceful protests historically have never created the social change they are popularly credited with. Gandhi’s ideas cannot be properly understood without also taking into account the Indian guerrilla movement and the Palestinian struggle against British colonialism. Similarly, MLK cannot be understood without realizing the impact of the Black Panther Party, BLA, and other groups. Though in reality, both have said and written things that suggest they recognize the necessity of violence in some situations. I’m not going to explicitly promote violence, but I think nonviolence needs to be seen as a tool or tactic that can and should be strategically implemented.

      • Plus, it’s simply false to assume, as one person – who has decided to provide “legal advice” to those involved in Occupy LA despite clearly not having any experience with demonstrations and not providing any actual useful legal advice (how to protect your personal information, what to do when arrested, jail solidarity, posting bail, etc. etc. etc.) – has done, that the police will be peaceful as long as the movement is peaceful. That sort of thinking – particularly when dealing with a police force as notorious for wanton violence as the LAPD – is dangerously naive, and presents a much greater risk of getting people hurt than an approach that understands that the cops are not there to help you, and they will arrest you or beat you up if that’s what their orders are, no matter how well-mannered the demonstration is.

    • “Without opposition” doesn’t mean “forced through opposition.” It means “with consensus.” Hence the hope that they will be consensed upon by the GA.

  3. Excellent critique. Best of luck getting Occupy LA back on track. I just read that the “leaders” agreed to leave at the end of December. WTF? Why give the opposition the ball? And why seek permits at this stage? Thx

  4. I ran into issues when I tried to offer suggestions based on many years of experience as well as being an activist in my youth. I was told that “if I didn’t like the way it was done maybe I’d be happier in another group.” The macing of the women at Occupy Wall Street was terrible but it galvanized the movement as did the arrests on the Brooklyn bridge. Occupy LA is running out of steam and not getting more peoples involved. Who’s talking to unions in joining the protest? Anyone looking at ride sharing or carpooling or just picking people up to participate? For many, downtown LA is a spooky scary place they avoid!

    I don’t feel I can ask any of these questions because of the “we know what we are doing” attitude of the self appointed leaders. I remember “don’t question me!” Oh yeah.. it came from my parents when they wanted me to follow blindly.

  5. I sympathize and am inclined towards almost all proposals made here with the exception of some word choices and perhaps some friendly amendments. What does concern me is the last line indicating an alternative to the consensus process that could be pressed upon the collective based upon us all being located in the same geographical location. (the existence of cop-scouts specifically) However I am perhaps inclined to support a rough concensus process like that of NYC where we require a 9/10 majority or no more than 5 blocks. However, I do like the consensus process as it stands. i would suggest something more like community watch (via internal and external) because we should not just be about fighting police brutality but about police repression (which includes brutality, lies/misinformation, harassment and agent provacateurs). I do not see the need to brand our groups in a pointedly anti-message. If we are to view the police as outsiders, which they are when wearing the badge, we should approach them in a critical but constructive manner. I do not see the benefit in antagonizing for the point of antagonizing whether or not this action is based upon past oppression. Moving forward our actions must indeed be tactical, we must anticipate challenges and be prepared but not ever instigate those challenges. This may not be what you are asserting at all, I just feel the need to clarify from my perspective where people are hesitant in taking what is perceived as an anti-police stance. We should have no relationship with the police, and that includes no relationship in a negative way. We cannot be naive and hope that the relationship won’t become negative and we should be prepared for when it does.. but this is the beginning. And that day does not have to be tomorrow, figuratively speaking.

    The only other point i would say is that the GA process definitely needs to be refined. Though i do think we should clarify via consensus what the role of the GA is- a decision making body or a community platform. I would propose taking individual proposals and commitee or affinity group proposals alternately in order to create a more horizontal space. The mis-communcation on sunday was found in that we had co-facilitators and the individual proposal was lost in between the space. We never even addressed all of the committee proposals and there were many many announcements being asserted by the crowd. Assumptions and accusations about unilateral leadership are just as hurtful to the movement as the feelings of marginalization by oppressed voice. But i can tell you that personally, i believe we are all here because we see that oppression and the way it differentiates among as as human beings. We Want to see past that, and though that may be ideallstic and impossible being that we are born from the structure that oppresses us, I beg that previous notions and perceptions of privilege not be held against the group as an assumption or an accusation as well. I say this not for just myself, but for a point of clarification. Expecting that people recognize their inherent privilege can never become marginilizing based upon that privilege. This will also reinforce the status quo and turn many away. Please review this document for what i mean: http://soaw.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=398

  6. I also do not mean to reduce any critiques on privilege and oppression, however the perception of leaders and the self appointment of leaders are both troublesome mentalities. It is only natural that because the official occupation or ‘encampment’ did not begin till Saturday. .significatnt structure had to be put in place to organize it’s existence.. OccupyLA had initial support beginning from last Friday. Committees were formed to handle strategic planning and the shortcoming was found in lack of transparency and lack of accessibility in regards to not knowing meeting times, locations and/or ways to get involved once the occ. began. (i.e. maps, hand outs, facilitator training, etc) By the beginning of day 2 there was immense frustration with a select group of individuals, perceived leaders and self appointed leaders, that has resulted in their own feelings of marginality and oppression. What we have now are mutual feelings of marginalization.. but what i would like to point out is that we cannot allow this to become just another divisive poltiical movement. There are very valid critiques of the world occupy and the 99% but to most this is a class based movement, which is what ‘unifies’ us. What we are missing here is intentions. I am absolutely not referring to the city liason committee because I feel that it does threaten the movement and undermines solidarity. The only thing that was every authorized by GA was the ATTEMPT to create a ‘working relationship’ with the pd. We never intended or concensed to any accomodations, cooperations or the like at all. However to hold previous volunteers who have dedicated much time and energy responsible in a discriminatory way for the actions of a select few who may be mal-intentioned or may be misguided in their perception of ways to establish safety, will directly undermine this movement and probably already has. To hold facilitators responsible for the shortcoming of the process does the same thing. We cannot assume each others intentions and I highly recommend speaking to these individuals directly and constructively rather than enabling or enforcing an us v. them mentality within the group. If you don’t like how a group or committee is enacting its responsibily join it and change it with the power of your voice. If we form opposing councils of the same nature, we are only dividing from withint. There is no trust when assumption and accusation are our forms of conflict resolution. I beg of all of us to look towards something more. This is too important of a project, our work too serious to allow it to be undermined by human faillibility. We must be patient, and all of us must realize that this movement is not about remaking the world in our own political image based upon our ego’s. It is about working with opposing view, varying degrees of experience and creating something new beyond the current state structure. Our approach alone will challenge all the institutions that are insufficient to rethink, reexamine and reform.

  7. I am saddened to hear this is going on in Occupy LA. I don’t consider myself politically versed or anything, all I know is there is so much pain and suffering in our communities and no one seems to care and finally it seemed like the community was mobilizing to say NO MORE! I myself have been on the fence about joining in and I agree with di is in los angeles, that downtown LA is a scary place and additionally it alienates families & children. Now I am not sure if I will join, I come from a very humble background, raised by a single parent…. I am part of marginalized women of color in this society. Who will represent our needs, our perspective, our values in this movement? Well I know for sure a White Male could not ever do that! I am disheartened.

    • Please see the article posted earlier today, following this one. Things have progressed remarkably, and I really hope you decide to participate! We’d love to have you and your voice here.

  8. Allow me to state a fact- (not speculation or theory of the author). Night 1 of the Occupation at City Hall several people said there were police lined up around the corner with paddy wagons- this was a gross understatement of the situation. As polite and civil as the LAPD have been thus far, they were more than prepared for ‘disruption or threat’ – with enough armament (parked about 4 blocks away, out of sight of Occupiers) to stop a few thousand people in their tracks. I question if the author of this article is not a provocateur intent upon undermining the movement. How do you dare call for equality but then also divide people down ‘so called lines of complexion’. What of people who have multiple backgrounds and heritage within their immediate families? Is one groups suffering more valid than another? If you the author wish to co-opt the Occupy LA movement for your own agenda, you will fail. Know this: THE PEOPLE includes Indigenous People, People from Ancestors of Slaves, People who came here because they were promised the American Dream. European People who were indentured Servants- We have all been afforded different privileges. I can’t argue that, but we have all been scammed by the system. This movement is not the white- middle class man’s movement (though some amongst us are white males)… and it is certainly not the reclamation of California by the Indigenous as a small faction suggest it will become. This movement is varied in meaning… but rest assured a theme that runs through out is that the American People are reclaiming their voice in government and establishing new methods to reach consensus. The old ways do not work and TOGETHER we will make new ones. Just for the record unless you take my blood from my veins and run a DNA test on it, you would have no idea my people’s migratory path. Please do not judge anyone by complexion. Get your act together and get involved in a committee or form one of the committees you propose and make it work through hard work and dedication. Thank you.

    • You’ve really packed in a lot of accusations and assumptions here.
      1) Our own scouts saw no police in that area. Did you personally see them? In any case, assuming these police were there, the implication is that any protest that steps outside of the metaphorical free speech cage they have allowed us at City Hall will be violently repressed.
      2) If you’re going to accuse people of being provocateurs, you better damn well have evidence. To label people as this who have differing views is bullshit. I’ve given the better part of 10 years to the social justice movement, I’m a union activist, I’ve never thrown rocks at cops or smashed windows. When shit hits the fan–and it will as the movement grows, regardless of what I do–I/we are the ones who will be taking action to protect everyone.
      3) How dare I divide people down lines of complexion? All I hear is white people throughout the past 3 days complaining about “reverse racism,” i.e. complaining when they’re not allowed to dominate spaces and silence people of color as they’re typically used to doing. Everyone should have a voice, including white people, put they shouldn’t have more voice than anyone else, and they need to check their privilege.
      4) I have been at committee meetings, my friends that share my critiques are involved in committees too, and I’m looking to become more involved–I missed the pre-Saturday GAs as I had to work, and I have to work now and can’t attend many of the committee meetings. Taking off isn’t an option for me. I’m also involved in other activist projects that I can’t easily walk away from now. But I’m trying to do what I can.

  9. I just want to clarify a few things about the first general assembly as I was the last person to speak at it. Firstly, about the permits, you do not need a permit to camp on the sidewalk in LA so long as you do not block driveways or the entire sidewalk with your sleeping arrangements. This was an accord the city worked out in 2007 with representatives of the homeless. Now, we should not assume that our actions will not have effects on this accord that affects mostly the homeless and almost no one who is occupyingLA, who are using their way of life as a means of protest. Again, no permit needed to sleep on the sidewalk, but testing this agreement could lead to the police breaking their accord with the homeless earlier than their agreed upon 5 year plan. We must remain mindful of that our actions could have bad consequences for those most impoverished.

    Secondly, like I said at the GA, we need to talk more about reasons and not rules. People jumped the stack at the GA unfairly. I was waiting patiently until the stack holder threw up his arms and said “this is crazy I don’t know who to signal to get you to speak.” At that point, I borrowed a bullhorn from someone and waited for a person to finish before I implored people to think about us ALL and the risks we face by being there. I want everyone to be able to participate in every action and by blatantly breaking the law in order to show our might, we are not sharing the risks equally, especially when we have people with precarious immigration situations. I did not agree that we should then begin chanting “sidewalk” in order to end the discussion. I wanted debate to continue, but in a way where we weren’t threatening each other with possible arrest. That situation was lame and it still bothers me.

    Moving forward, we will grow through listening and speaking with each other. The general assembly is a place to discuss and vote, but not the only place for that. Most of the action happens in the smaller working groups and your participation is necessary in those forums.

    • Thank you for your comment. I think many of us still have strong feelings about what happened, and strong opinions about the issue raised there. I agree there should have been more debate. What we saw was a total breakdown in process. Some of us are very familiar comfortable with this process (though some of the hand signals are different from what we’re used to) but I recognize that it’s new for many people, they’re frustrated that it sometimes takes a long time, but this process has gotten us through Seattle WTO and countless DNCs, RNCs, IMFs, G8s, and other actions, whether in the form of GAs or spokescouncils. As we keep going everyone will get more familiar with the process and I think we’ll all benefit from it, even if we do disagree. One Zapatista phrase has been used, that we walk at the pace of the slowest person, but there’s another great saying, caminando preguntando, we ask questions as we walk and we walk as we ask questions, and I’m really glad that I think we’re doing both.

  10. If you see me as accusatory and assumptive then we are on equal ground.
    1) Yes, I saw with my own eyes enough Police force to as you say “violently repress” a large crowd.
    2) Provocative 1. Causing provocation, esp. deliberately: “a provocative article”. I am not stating a fact, your article is provocative. The questions is, are you doing it to divide people or to help us come together. I think the latter, although I also believe you missed the mark.
    3) I agree that light complected people should check their privilege. Men too and the well-off and documented citizen. LA has a demographic majority of 50.3 White and 47.7 Hispanic & Latino. Let’s all check and recheck ourselves. We have a lot of people in this movement and it would be a shame to lose their voice when the numbers of whites and hisp/latinos is so pronounced. But again, lets not play the race cards on each other.
    4) I understand that taking time off is not an option for you. Hopefully you will continue to write. Expression and outreach is paramount. I wonder if you speak other languages than english? Translations are needed in our diverse communities. Anyway, we are all doing what we can and I look forward to shaking your hand some day. We have more in common than we have differences. I will not stand apart from you, but with you if you are willing to take the path of peace. Of course, I support your decision to defend yourself and I will do the same. I would not be alive today, if I didn’t have the sense to either shut-up, run or fight back from time to time.

    • I’m hoping to rewrite this in Spanish, with the inclusion of the more recent post updating some things that have changed since Sunday’s GA… when I have time of course. After that I’d like to do a Portuguese translation as I live in Little Brasil. Also on my agenda are a more detailed explanation of spokescouncils and affinity groups and how they might function in OccupyLA, and revisions of some things I’ve written on occupations and the logic of demands (originally for the student movement but adapted for this context).

      I prefer to write anonymously, partly on principle and also because I’ve faced some harassment from the police because of ideas expressed in past blogs. But I’ll also be raising these and other issues in person as constructively and productively as I can, and it would be great to work through the practical and philosophical questions confronting us collectively.

      • I look forward to attending Affinity groups on the grounds of City Hall. If I am not mistaken the ‘ideal model’ for the GAs is a similar to the approach used at tribal councils by Indigenous peoples of the N.C.&S. Americas. We have so much to learn from each other, we have the potential to make so many new friends and allies. We live in a divided country and our political system has institutionalized racism… this is a trick. We all play it to some degree or another. We are all one people despite our wrapping or privilege packages… let’s please build bridges as fast we can. Our ancestors and our children will be proud of us, if we do this thing right.

    • Did you also see the famous “Police scanners” that those spreading the stories about cops massing four blocks away (invisible to those who went to check out the story) claimed to have, but suddenly couldn’t find when people wanted to have a listen themselves?

  11. Pingback: Update to “Decolonize L.A., That’s the Movement We Need” | In Bed With Frida Kahlo

  12. Pingback: The General Assembly and Grassroots Democracy, by UnpermittedLA | DisOccupy

  13. Hi there. I just want to say, this is the people’s movement, not the movement of a small cadre of well intentioned white people. One good step would be to replace yourselves. There’s plenty of leadership roles in the movement as organizer’s without taking complete control of the process. I encourage everyone to find affinity groups and help change this. There are always concessions made in protests on City property. But no one should be made to be a mouthpiece for the City. There’s no reason people should be made to feel outcasted to where they have to tweet to other cities for help. There’s always dissent in positive ascent. And it should be handled with due process. People on the ground in the Occupation have the first and last words. And yes, I truly hope more will be done to DeColonize the Los Angeles Campaign. I thought the points are fair and are worth noting. There are other ppl blogging on the process. People should put together such a list of ideas, but some people don’t have access to blog their concerns or ideas. People want to help, but clearly the issue of non-diversity in the top chain should be addressed in my .02 opinion.

  14. A short note from someone who’s been heavily involved in Occupy Wall Street: We’ve never sought permits for any of our activities, neither the occupation itself nor the marches. And our General Assembly explicitly prohibited the use of police liaisons. I believe these measures have been instrumental to our success.

    One small correction: Police gave us permission to march on the pedestrian path of the Brooklyn Bridge, not the street level. We decided to take the street level anyway.

    Lastly, a huge THANK YOU for this insightful, constructive critique. It speaks to many of the concerns and frustrations felt by anti-authoritarians involved in the GA here in NYC. We’ve been fairly influential in our GA but still face many of the same issues you describe.

  15. ANARCHISTS-
    1) Form an anarchist caucus to meet together at the occupation, and be able to discuss problems and then challenge them in the larger GAs as a unified voice. fight to maintain the autonomy of the movement’s participants, anarchists and non-anarchists. If it is too late, form your own occupation!
    2) Everyone should read this awesome article about the spanish occupation movement and things anarchists learned from it: http://www.crimethinc.com/texts/recentfeatures/barc.php

  16. Pingback: #Occupy Digest « occupy california

  17. snaps!

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