… defining home …

… one step back …

This is the first of what I think will be a series of (probably non-consecutive) posts in which I get pretty personal, putting myself out there in hopes others will consider doing the same. To try to build community, empathy, and understanding – to personalize this movement.

It is only when we stop seeing each other solely as our roles or affiliated Working Groups – Facilitator, Kitchen, POC, Direct Action, whatever – and start to see each other as people with backgrounds, with histories, with stories – that empathy will prevail over judgment and we’ll begin in solidarity to get some real work done.

And, through our own storytelling and understanding of our histories and what brought us to this moment, this movement, we understand our place within it and possibly where our efforts should lie.

“If this isn’t deeply personal for you, it won’t stay political for long.” – Hilary

This is the beginning of my effort to define for why this is personal for me. For me to identify at the root, the heart of things, why I occupy.
This may be one of the posts that I tell my mom she might not want to read. But I know she will anyway.

… two questions …
 
One of the courses I took during the Institute for Social Ecology Intensive was called “Liberating Land for Community Control.” It focused on community-based organizations that have reclaimed abandoned and vacant properties for use by communities in the form of housing, gardens, and community centers.

On the first day of the class we were asked two questions:
    1. What does ‘home’ mean to you?
    2. Is housing a human right?

This is my [expanded] answer to the first question.

… home …

Home is not a place, or a building, or even shelter. Home is not defined by where I live or where I keep my things. Home is a feeling, something I understand intuitively through the people I am surrounded by.

Growing up, home was my family – my parents and my older brother.
 
We moved houses three times between the time I was 12 and 16. I had lived in the first for 12 years, and about for three in the second two. None felt more like home than the others.

I liked the houses we lived in, but moving always kind of felt like an adventure, and I relished in the ability to shed old skins and redefine myself in new spaces.

Moving at age 12 allowed me to replace the bunk bed I had been using since I was very little, the top bunk populated with toys and stuffed animals. In our new house my room was gradually covered, wall to wall, every inch, with magazine cutouts, posters, and music lyrics written on masking tape.

The space became defined by my teenage angst. This room was defined by me, not me by it. It was my room, but it wasn’t my home.

Home was still determined by the people in the space with me.

… leaving …

When I left for college in August of 2001 that feeling of home stayed with me. And for the first couple years, that feeling drew me back to Chicago and my family. There was a part of me that thought I might move back there.
When my brother moved to LA the summer before my senior year, the feeling evolved and I started planning a post-graduation move to the West Coast.
 
But spring break of senior year, in LA with my parents visiting my brother, changed nearly everything for me.

Every concept I had of what it meant to be family – everything I thought I understood of my family – came crashing down around me.

I learned a lot about how priorities, transparency, honesty, money, and love affected my family, and our relationships.

I found out my future was being mortgaged to sustain an unsustainable present.

Only now do I understand that my family was most likely working class, not middle class, as I had always assumed.

I learned that a dramatic explosive event is never where a story begins – there is always something, an action, an event, building up to this reaction. This is a symptom of some other root cause.

And I’ve learned that treating symptoms only delays an eventual relapse.  Root causes must always be the focus of restorative, or better yet, transformative action.

A lesson learned on this trip, and in the months that followed, would be reaffirmed nearly six years later – love alone isn’t enough.

Without mutual effort, trust, compassion – what I now might call solidarity – a relationship cannot be sustained on love alone.
 
… partners …
 
I had a partner for six years. We lived together for most of that time. This partnership taught me more about myself, my capacity, my abilities, than anything else I have ever been a part. I learned and experienced true empathy, understanding, compassion, compromise, struggle, and forgiveness.
I can’t say at what point the feeling developed, but once it was there, it was impossible to ignore or misread: She and I were family and wherever she was, that was my home.

While we attempted to build a home together, a place where we lived that was decidedly ours, the real sense of “home,” that feeling, permeated everything, regardless of where we were physically.

When we traveled to Montreal or San Diego, Cuzco or Edinburgh, if we stayed in a hotel or with friends, that feeling was always there.

If I was with her, I was home.

Because we were together, I was home.

When we broke up, I lived in the shadow of what my life was for the better part of a year.

All of my post-college years were spent within this partnership, and many of my decisions, whether it be about career, where to live in the city or move out it, etc., were made as one half of this partnership.

I have few regrets about that, but it took a long time to recover from. I realized that nearly everything in my life could be reevaluated and realigned. The options were so vast that it was far easier to do nothing – to plod along well-tread paths rather than to try to tread new ones.

… two steps forward …
 
In the years following the trip with my parents, and the months following my breakup, home was defined by my circle of friends who not only helped me weather the storm, but also made it all worthwhile.

And then Occupy Wall Street came along.

I can make a direct connection to how all this is relevant and applicable to OWS and my activism work. But I think for now it’s enough to have put all this out there.

I know that it comes from a place of privilege to talk about home in an emotional sense, without the fear or concern regarding actual shelter that so many people in this nation, and across the world, have on a daily basis, not to mention the actual struggles for basic needs that I will probably never know.
 
I will be moving forward from this point – acknowledging this is my reality, putting it on the table, with a desire to learn and grow and evolve – knowing this is all just a tiny fragment of why I occupy.

… on Spokes Council …

… bi-coastal collaboration …

I was asked by my friend and comrade, the incredible Hilary Moore, who collaborates with Occupy Oakland, the Ruckus Society, Movement Generation, and wrote a pamphlet everyone should read titled, Organizing Cools The Planet, to write up some thoughts and observations regarding the implementation of a “spokes council” meeting format within Occupy Wall Street. Hilary said that Occupy Oakland is considering one and looking to harness feedback from those who currently use the model before diving into their own.

(brief side note, Hilary’s course at the ISE Intensive, Aligning with Frontline Communities has totally impacted and shifted the way I am seeing myself within the Occupy Movement and I look forward to writing about that soon.)

A spokes council, unlike a general assembly which allows for and encourages individual voices, utilizes a series of filters to limit the amount of voices in any conversation. At the meeting, each working group (or caucus) is given one spoke (person who speaks on its behalf). Each group confers, discusses, reaches consensus if necessary, and then empowers the spoke to deliver the message of the group. 

More info about the original proposal that created the OWS Operational Spokes Council as well as some background on the model itself can be read here.

Over Christmas I was able to share many of these thoughts with Occupy Minneapolis who are also considering adopting a spokes council for operational decisions. What follows is what I shared with Hilary. I look forward to hearing how the discussion with Occupy Oakland went and hope that they find spokes fruitful. I believe in the model as a meeting format, but I have concerns as well.

… thoughts on Spokes Council …

In my opinion the most effective OWS Operational Spokes Council was held Wednesday November 16, 2011. About 42 hours after Liberty Square was raided we no longer had an encampment for the Spokes Council to facilitate the operations of, yet we met anyway. We were in still in shock – in crisis mode – confused about the movement and our occupation, and how to move forward. The facilitators asked each Working Group to answer three questions and to present those answers to the Council.

     1. What are your immediate needs?

     2. What do you have to offer?

     3. Where do you see the movement going from here?

Each answer was written on huge sheets of paper on the wall so everyone could see. Now with lists of needs and offers out in the open, we could clearly see where there was overlap, and where holes existed. Communication, technology, and basic needs were areas of overlap in both categories.

The lasting legacy of the Operational Spokes Council thus far is the creation of Clusters ­– a cooperation of Working Groups. Two examples that came out of this meeting are Safety Cluster (Medical, Mediation, Non-Violent Communication, Safer Spaces, De-Escalation) and Communications Cluster (TechOps, Info, Media, PR, Press). 

Spokes Council has allowed us to get working groups in one place to begin to coordinate, to align resources and skills through face-to-face interactions. Something we have tried to do, and haven’t always had the time to do, is make space for Working Group Report Backs and Announcements, which can be a time for groups to express concerns or needs and then at the end of a meeting leave at least 15 minutes, if not more, of un-facilitated time for groups or individuals to connect and talk about issues or questions that were raised and connect with those who can be resources or partners. 

… back in time …

If I could go back in time and have the process by which Spokes was created altered drastically, rather than immediately granting authority to pass proposals and allocate funding, I would have Spokes be a coordination only body. Use it as a way to cull ideas, provide education, development and discussion, to establish support and buy-in for proposals that are shaped and work-shopped in this space but that eventually go before the General Assembly for consensus. This way, a lot of the work has already been done. Many of the questions, concerns and amendments are already addressed by the large amount of people developing it in Spokes, as well as by the clusters or individual working groups outside of the actual Spokes Council meeting. That way, by the time it comes to the General Assembly, it has the endorsement of all the groups that created it, and the Operational Spokes Council. 

Then perhaps after a period of time, once Spokes Council has earned the respect of the community, and trust in the work that its producing, if the GA feels its review of proposals created in Spokes is redundant, the GA can grant the power to allocate funds or pass proposals directly to Spokes.

Ideally this eliminates the misconception that Spokes and GA are competing for resources or power – that they aren’t in fact two sides of the same coin. They complement each other. They make each other stronger. Spokes crafts a proposal, does the leg work, establishes buy-in, and saves time in the GA by bringing well-honed operational proposals for approval; allowing for the General Assembly to focus on big picture discussions, movement wide decisions, etc and not getting bogged down in logistical or budgetary operations.

… foresight …

The worst thing about the OWS Operational Spokes Council was the admission process. Basically every Working Group or Caucus had to present themselves to the Council and explain why they felt they met the criteria for an operational group (as opposed to a movement group) or a caucus. We then went through a consensus process to admit them. Some groups got through very quickly without any pushback. Several, however, were incredibly contentious. This process was taking weeks, and had it not been for the raid that occurred as we were in the middle of it, was very much on track to destroy the community. Keeping the discussions objective proved an impossible task.

My advice would be to provide a seat at the table for every group that wants to be a part of the council while outlining in advance clear guidelines for participation and removal. We have been trying to reach consensus upon a set of Community Agreements that participants of Spokes Council must abide by and in a sense its almost too late.

… definitions …

A general note as well would be to clearly define the exact parameters under which the Spokes Council is to function. What is its intent, and what types of decisions does it make? This cannot be defined in vague terms. It must be explicit. Because of its design, inherently a filtering of voices for efficiency and culling of consensus up a ladder so to speak, a Spokes Council is not ideal for opinion based conversations, or topics where its ideal to have individual speakers be able to voice their concerns directly.

Discussions about ideals, values, visions are not suited for a spokes council. At least not the OWS Operational Spokes Council. The General Assembly or an open-space format are more appropriate places.

… onward …

Thats what I wrote to Hilary. I hope its helpful and that Occupy Oakland can learn from some of our missteps. I love that Occupations across the country, and the world, are learning from each other.

This Movement is growing so rapidly in part because of the wealth of information we are able to quickly share.

We all learn and grow and evolve based on each other’s successes as much as our failures.

And if we continue to do that – to not be deterred by missteps, not be discouraged by failures, to share our knowledge, to not reinvent the wheel – well then another world really is possible.

… on conflict and consensus … pt 2 …

… conflict …

Consensus is a process. I laid it out as best I could in my last post – tried to make it bite-sized and accessible.

At the heart of consensus is discussion.

Communally we develop the proposal. Ask questions to make sure we understand it, but also to make sure the proposer hasn’t missed any opportunities or details – not to question the motives of the proposer, but to help the proposal be better.

We express our concerns so as to take any opportunities for oppression and place them out in the open for everyone to see and address. To move forward together.

Our greatest asset – as a movement, as a community – is the individual experiences, feelings, and knowledge that each person brings to the collective.

The ability of a group to reach consensus on anything is dependent on the group having some level of shared goals, visions, and principles that bring it together. It doesn’t have to be explicitly stated or documented, but at least on an individual level, we have to acknowledge what brought us here, and assume that some part of that brought everyone else here too.

… in a nutshell …

In its broadest sense, Occupy Wall Street seeks social and economic justice – an end to the systems of oppression that consolidate wealth in the hands of the extreme few at the expense of everyone else. Obviously there is so much more. But if you want my sound byte of what OWS stands for, there you go.

Occupy Wall Street wants to liberate space – both physical and ideological. Without public space in the hands of the people, the community, can a public sphere truly exist? And ideological space, taken up for generations by the moneyed few, utilizing violence and systematized pillars of oppression to hold power over women, people of color, and gender queer (to name a few), is being opened up for those voices to be raised – by taking their rightful place in this discussion,we shape a more inclusive and just society.

… morality …

To be perfectly honest, yes, our system of consensus can be abused. The way it is currently set up, we can only accept a block at face value, as the blocker explains it. Regardless of how well that block is explained, whether it is along explicit moral, ethical or safety lines, or someone only having a few words to say why they can’t let the proposal pass, the block stands.

As a community, we can take their explanation, try to understand it, and try to empathize with their position, their feelings, their experience and offer an amendment that might be found agreeable to both the blocker and the proposer so that as a community we can move forward toward consensus.

What we cannot do – what we must not do – is question the block itself.

And this brings me to my first block.

I’ve regularly been attending General Assemblies since October 17th. When not on a Facilitation team, I have rarely spoken to the Assembly. I tend to think that if I give it enough time, someone else will say what I’m thinking. Often I’m right, sometimes not.

This is what we call, “Step Up, Step Back.” If those of us with male, white-skin privilege step back, opening up the space for those who have traditionally not been encouraged to take it, someone will have the opportunity to step up and say pretty much exactly what we would have said.

There have been proposals I haven’t agreed with, or don’t particularly like, so I down-twinkle them in the temperature check. If I really don’t like it, and it moves to modified consensus, I’ll vote no.

There was a proposal a few days ago requesting the GA to ask two members of the Housing Working Group step down from leadership and coordination roles. I have serious concerns with recent decisions and actions of the individuals in question and supported the concept of this request, but the individuals were not present during this proposal or the discussion surrounding it. I think it’s extremely problematic to essentially put people on trial in absentia.

I stood aside. I had serious concerns with the proposal, but defaulted to the community to make the ultimate decision.

… the proposal …

A proposal that has been bounced around and discussed amongst individuals for a while now, possibly in part instigated by people’s reading of CT Butler’s “On Conflict & Consensus,” is that the community should be able to evaluate the validity of a block and decide if it meets certain criteria. For the record, I have never read CT Butler. I’ve heard him speak some, but have not read his book. Also for the record, I don’t really care what he has to say on this topic. OWS is like nothing anyone has ever seen before, and previously held notions or ideas have to adapt to OWS, not the other way around.

The blocking proposal has gone through various forms, and has come before the GA at least twice. I happened to be on the Facilitation Team both times and therefore couldn’t participate in the conversation. This past Sunday, it came up again, and I was finally able to add my voice to the conversation.

In its current form, the proposal wanted to empower the community to call a point of process on a block if any member of the General Assembly felt that the block was not meeting the criteria of an ethical, moral, or safety concern. The Facilitator would then take a straw poll to see if the community considered the block to meet those criteria. If 75% of the Assembly were in agreement that the block is valid, then it would stand. If not, it would be collectively removed.

… concerns …

I have many concerns with this proposal and the direct and implied effects it would have on the movement as a whole and the individuals that make it up.

I expressed my concerns during that point of the process and being that the proposer or the subsequent friendly amendments did not alleviate them, I chose to block the proposal. I tried to articulate my concerns as best I could, both during that stack and again when I explained my block.

I’ve thought about it extensively in the days since and had conversations with people who were not in attendance, in preparation for when this proposal eventually comes up for consideration at a future General Assembly.

… blocked …

I blocked this proposal because it so antithetical to everything this movement stands for, in my eyes.

Occupy Wall Street, as a movement, is about addressing root causes. We seek to create social and economic justice.

This is not a charity and this is not about bandaging symptoms. If we can address symptoms, and alleviate suffering along the way – as a byproduct of our work – that is great, but our focus has to be deeper – our path must be laid out and must be long-term.

Taking a temperature check on the validity of blocks is not a means to build more meaningful consensus.

This proposal is designed to deal with individuals who make our process more difficult than some feel it needs to be. It is in effect putting a bandage on people’s discomfort and frustration. It is not dealing with, acknowledging, or seeking to remedy the root causes that might result in someone feeling the need to obstruct our process in the only definitive and powerful way we have – the block.

Consensus is about discussion, debate, dissent, concessions, questioning, all with the intent of resolving conflict.

This proposal is a cop-out.

This proposal adds process in place of building community. We need to put in the time and hard work to get to know each other, as people, in order to build this community. It will, and should be, hard, slow work.

But, it will be worth it.

… prefigurative …

As a movement, we must be prefigurative. It is our obligation to embody the ideals and values of the world we seek to create. The ends do not justify the means. We cannot build a new world on the groundwork of an ugly movement.

We can only hope to drown out the negative voices with the even louder voices of positivity. Attempting to silence the voices we find disagreeable is re-creating the systems of oppression we are trying to topple.  

Because this is a movement of incredibly diverse people with different backgrounds, upbringings and experiences, we need to acknowledge that different people have different communication styles and unconventional articulation abilities, or prior access to education. But that doesn’t mean their input is less valid.

I think we’ve seen quite often that – while I love this community passionately – it’s not always a safe space. I would like to have faith that in some cases, when someone blocks, they do have a moral or ethical concern, but perhaps they don’t feel safe expressing those concerns, for fear of being a dissenting voice, or facing hostility from the other members of the Assembly. 

At some point, we need to trust that people come here to act in good faith.

Obviously not everyone does, and I’m not talking about provocateurs or infiltrators, but people who traditionally haven’t been given the space to have their voice heard and perhaps are acting out now that that space has been provided.

But that doesn’t seem like a good reason to me to add in additional punitive process.

In the absence of community agreement and shared values, which I am conflictedabout documenting this early in the life of this movement –this occupation - this proposal feels exclusionary to me. 

I’m not quite sure we’re ready to say definitively what our community values are, or our shared ideals, or goals. The Safer Spaces Community Agreement for Spokes Council is a good start for our code of conduct, but I don’t think that’s exactly the same as defining what our values are.

Occupy Wall Street has only been around for four months and our scope is huge. There has to be room for dissent and disagreement and discussion within our movement. We need to be inclusive, not codify punitive measures of exclusion.

There are individuals in this movement who have been labeled disruptors or agitators. People who recently have taken the position of blocking just about any proposal asking for funds that do not address the basic needs of the homeless Occupier population – food, housing, and Metrocards, for example. There is an argument that can be made that these blocks are made along ethical lines – that this occupation has people dependent on it, and we have an obligation to care for them; with funds depleting we must focus on their needs.

You don’t have to agree with this line of thinking, but agreement is not the issue.  

… misdirection …

This proposal is clearly a way to target individuals and not the issues at hand. Already we see adverse reactions to certain individuals, regardless of the content. Either their presentations, or they themselves, are enough to make people tune out before they even begin speaking. 

Taking a temperature check to evaluate a block feels punitive, and I’m not sure we have a right as community to address the concerns of specific individuals as it pertains to a block.

We should not debate the validity of anyone’s individual concerns. Rather, we can decide communally, having heard the blockers’ concerns and the stand asides’ concerns, that we still want this proposal to move forward. We can do that. We have a process for it – modified consensus.

But what we should not have is a system in place to validate or nullify someone’s moral, ethical, or safety concerns, however effectively they are communicated. 

I’d rather have modified consensus at the expense of consensus than consensus at the expense of an individual.

… unfriendly …

A friendly amendment was suggested – and accepted by the proposer – to put in place a one-week trial period to see how this whole process would play out. When I restated my concerns to explain my block the proposer reminded me of the amendment to see if I would be willing to delay my block a week. To allow this trial period to happen so as a community we can evaluate it based on practice. 

My response was, “I do not feel comfortable putting a trial period on what I feel is immoral.” I stand by that.

This proposal is ugly. I don’t blame the people who wrote it or the people who support it. I understand why they want this failsafe in place. It would be convenient. It would make things easy. But the more embedded I get with OWS, the more I learn about the history of radical and revolutionary movements and organizations, the more I truly believe this should not be easy.

If it were easy, it would have been done already.

If it were easy, we’d be living in a more just world.

If it were easy we would have toppled the pillars of oppression that uphold the empire.

We have to be willing to put in the hard work – to live better now – to create a better world as we go. 

I’m willing to put in the work. I’m willing to struggle. I’m willing to be frustrated and angry and exhausted.

I’m willing because I am looking forward to the eventual victories of our collective struggle.

This – this very difficult struggle – is why I occupy.

… on conflict and consensus … pt 1 …

… consensus …

Occupy Wall Street rejects the concept of hierarchical structure and organization, putting emphasis on horizontalism, collaboration, and consensus-based decision making. While many people involved with OWS have a history of working with consensus process, this is my first venture with it. And, after going to my first General Assembly in mid-October, I fell in love with the movement in large part due to the use of consensus.

For those unfamiliar with it, I’ll provide Consensus 101 on the process as utilized within the OWS community, which is necessary to have an understanding of my next post regarding “blocks.”

The goal of the Consensus Process is to create a proposal that, while presented by an individual or Working Group, the General Assembly as a whole can take ownership of and have a collective stake in. We don’t have to love the proposal, but through the process we will hopefully arrive at a result that we are not dissatisfied with and a proposal that we can feel comfortable with its moving forward.

The “Consensus Process” begins with the explanation of the proposal.

… clarifying questions …

Stack (a list of the names of people wishing to speak) is be opened for individuals in the General Assembly to ask questions of the proposer to better understand the details, scope, intent, reach, and impact of the proposal.

The proposer has the opportunity to address and clarify all questions to ensure everyone understands the intent and details of the proposal.

… concerns …

Once all clarifying questions have been asked and answered to the satisfaction of the Assembly, stack is opened on concerns.

Concerns should be focused on the proposal at hand, and not be used to direct personal attacks at the proposer or the Working Group.

It is the responsibility of the proposer to explain and relieve the concerns of the Assembly.

Because blocks and stand asides are framed in terms of moral, ethical, or safety concerns (that affect the community as a whole or the individual), it’s helpful for frame concerns in this way, if possible.

… friendly amendments …

Once all concerns have been voiced and the proposers have had the opportunity to try to alleviate them, stack is opened for friendly amendments. These are typically informed by concerns and questions previously addressed in the process. Tweaks, adjustments, and suggestions can be offered to make the proposal more agreeable.

It is at the discretion of the proposer to deem an amendment “friendly,” meaning they accept including it in their proposal. An amendment that the proposer decides to reject, for any reason, is labeled “unfriendly.” 

Often, amendments will be contingent on further work, investigations, or inquiries with other Working Groups, but will not require the proposer to come back to the General Assembly.

… temperature check …

When all friendly amendments have been heard and considered, the proposer is asked to restate (succinctly) the details of the proposal, including accepted amendments.

Facilitation then asks for a temperature check of the General Assembly, looking at the ratio of Up, Middle, and Down Twinkles. 

If the read is generally positive, then the Assembly is building toward consensus. 

If the read is generally middle or poor, it would be appropriate to see if there are outstanding questions or concerns. Alternatively, if the discussion has already gone on quite awhile, and the impression is that the Assembly is not in support, or it needs more work, Facilitation can ask if the proposer is willing to table the proposal for further development.

… stand asides …

If the Assembly is building toward consensus, reflected by a positive temperature check, Facilitation then asks if there is anyone who is choosing to stand aside. A stand aside is a someone who has a serious concern with the proposal, possibly on a more individual scale, not a concern about how the proposal affects the community as a whole, but is willing to allow the proposal to move forward if that is the wish of the community as a whole.

Stand asides are given an opportunity to voice their concern and to be a part of the overall conversation and record of the proposal, but ultimately will not affect its outcome.

… blocks …

After stand asides are counted and given voice, Facilitation asks if there are blocks against the proposal.

Blocks are framed as “serious moral, ethical, or safety concerns that affect the movement or occupation as a whole and go beyond one’s personal feelings or implications of the proposal.” It’s said that blocks should be taken so seriously, “that if the proposal were to move forward, the individual blocker would consider leaving the movement or occupation.”

An individual who decides to block is given the opportunity to explain their block and if possible offer a friendly amendment that, if accepted, would result in them lifting their block.

This process goes for everyone who holds a block. If after this process even one block remains, consensus cannot be reached.

 … modified consensus …

 If consensus cannot be reached due to standing blocks, then the proposal can move to modified consensus, which is in effect a vote with a threshold of 9/10ths of the participating assembly in favor required for passing.

When modified consensus begins, Facilitation should take a count of members of the General Assembly who wishes to be considered part of the process, yes or no, by asking them to raise one hand in the air. (This implicitly allows for individuals to stand aside, or abstain, from the vote.)

Facilitation will next ask for individuals who are not in support of the proposal to raise their hand. This is not the same as asking for blocks, and will often result in a number greater than the number of blocks. Because we are now in a vote, the Nays do not have to meet the same moral/ethical/safety threshold.

If the total of no-votes exceeds 10 percent of the total, (it must exceed, not just meet 10 percent), then the proposal does not pass modified consensus. If the total meets or is less than 10 percent of the total, then the proposal passes by modified consensus.

… 100 William Street …

… the roving GA …

Sunday 1/1/2012 – the first day of the year – the first General Assembly of the year – and Liberty Square was closed by Brookfield Properties and the NYPD, who claimed that damages needed to be addressed and the park had to be cleaned following the previous night’s OWS events in the park. 

Since September 17th, not rain, nor cold, not barricades, or raids, direct actions, celebrations – nothing – has stopped Occupy Wall Street from holding its General Assembly in Liberty Square without consensus of the General Assembly.

We, members of the Facilitation Working Group, began planning to hold the GA at the nearby privately owned public space located at 100 William Street. It’s a beautiful atrium covered on the top and bordered on the sides by an office building and stores, but open on either end to the streets. This space was used once before when a GA consensed to move due to rain. Word of the change in location was spread via social network, word of mouth, and eventually the OWS ComHub text message blast.

As people started to assemble shortly before 7pm, a building security guard came out and told us that we could not be gathered on the stairs, the area in front of the stairs, or really anywhere within the atrium. When we informed him that this is a public space, he said, no it’s not, you need to leave. We asserted, yes it is. And guess what, there’s a sign over there that says, “Open to the Public.” He advised us that the “public space” referred to by the signs was essentially the sidewalk.

When we asserted that was incorrect, he said, “Fine, I’ll be right back.” At this point, we knew were minutes away from being joined by the NYPD. We let everyone know that the police were probably on their way and called the National Lawyers Guild hotline (212-679-6018) to notify them and try to get a legal observer to come down.

Within minutes about ten police officers arrived including the “white-shirt” Winski, who I’ve learned in the days since has quite a history of involvement with OWS that I’m sure you can imagine is not amicable or friendly.

With cameras rolling, capturing both stills and video, we were systematically intimidated and pushed (verbally) out of the space. When we tried to reason with Winski, telling him, this is a public space, we were told, “The owners of the building don’t want you here. You have to go.” “But this is a public space!” we said. “Tell it to the judge in the morning, I’m going to arrest you,” he told us.

We mic-checked, and using the people’s microphone read the contents of the sign, which include, “Required to be open to the public from 7am to Midnight.” And written in giant font at the bottom – “OPEN TO PUBLIC.”

image

Winski wasn’t having it. Video of this interaction can be seen here, courtesy of live-tweeter extraordinaire, @diceytroop.

We moved to another POPS across the street to begin the General Assembly, but Occupy Wall Street was not done with 100 William Street. Almost immediately, plans began to form. 

As an aside, an awesome new chant was developed because of our ongoing saga with Officer Winski – “W-I-N-S-K-I! You are why we occupy!”

… planning …

The next day, Monday, several friends and I discussed how perhaps we missed an opportunity the night before. Our 1st Amendment rights had clearly and blatantly been violated, and maybe we should have taken the opportunity to expose the NYPD for oppressing the right to peaceably assemble in favor of a corporation that didn’t want to allow us near their building. Some of us thought that maybe we should have sat down, begun the GA in front of the sign declaring this space public, and force the NYPD to arrest us.

The General Assembly, at its heart, is a radical and revolutionary act ­– a group of people collectively participating in direct democracy through a process of discussion and questioning to reach consensus.  

Lucky for us, the General Assembly meets four times a week – we had roughly 29 hours to plan for the next one. 

At the same time we were having this discussion, the OWS Communications Hub had been in contact with the Legal Activist Working Group who was trying to ascertain all the details of the previous night’s events. Being looped into these conversations were members of the National Lawyers Guild, longtime civil liberties lawyer Norman Siegel, members of the City Council, as well as State Senators. 

The prevention of OWS from using a public space to peaceably assemble, as it had the right to do, was being taken very seriously. 

After speaking with a coordinator of the ComHub, and being assured that there would be significant support from the community outside of OWS for holding the Tuesday night General Assembly back at 100 William, there were two more groups that needed to be added to these discussions – Facilitation, as a full Working Group, and Direct Action. 

The issue of the previous night’s GA was able to be brought before the Direct Action Working Group at the tail end of their meeting, and a few of us were able to discuss at greater depth what we were hoping the following night’s GA would be – business as usual while standing up for our right to peaceably assemble. 

Tuesday’s GA would be radical, with the intention of having a run-of-the-mill GA, but with many of us willing to be arrested should the police illegally and unconstitutionally prevent our assembly.

After discussion with the Facilitation Working Group and reaching consensus on moving forward with holding the General Assembly back at 100 William Street, I contacted ComHub to ensure that the Legal Activist Working Group and the NLG would in fact be in attendance. This was confirmed, as was the solidarity and presence of members of the City Council.

Later that evening at the OWS Operational Spokes Council, the Facilitation Working Group made an announcement via our Spoke, Nathan (@NaSH12), about Tuesday’s General Assembly and urged everyone to attend and spread the word. For us to be able to stand our ground in the face of police intimidation, we would need as many people as possible from our community together in solidarity.

I was pleasantly surprised how many Working Groups were already aware that the General Assembly would be in part a direct action and already mobilizing. The Direct Action Painters, for example, were already planning signs and banners to hold in the front of the Assembly.

Also fortuitous for this General Assembly was that it would cap off j3, a day of demonstrations and protests to raise awareness and draw attention to the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA is seen by many as the death of due process and habeas corpus while introducing the terrifying prospect of indefinite detention of American citizens arrested on American soil by the US military – in effect instituting martial law in America.

The fact that President Obama signed the NDAA into law in the dark of night, on New Year’s Eve, highlights how ashamed he, and all of us, should be about this.

… j3 …

j3 began with a press conference on the steps of the New York Public Library in Bryant Park. Speakers discussed the facts of the NDAA and the possible future it presents for us. A Muslim American expressed the solidarity of his community, knowing they are on the front lines in this ongoing struggle for freedoms and civil liberties, and stating that they stand with OWS. 

image

Throughout the press conference, Occupiers dressed in military jackets snatched protestors from the crowd, black-bagged them and dragged them off to detention. We yelled “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” as they were dragged off, but the glaring reality of the NDAA is that President Obama, 86 Senators and 283 Congress-people who voted “Yes,” have no shame, no honor, and no respect for the Constitution or the people of this nation.

Following the press conference we marched from the Library to 3rd Avenue and 47th street to a building in which both New York Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, have offices. Schumer and Gillibrand, both Democrats, voted yes on the NDAA.

We demonstrated on the sidewalk in front of the building with roughly a dozen NYPD, including a small scooter unit, lined up in front of the building and on the street behind us. 

image

We chanted “N-D-A-A! Why’d you sign our rights away?” We demanded the Senators come out and face us, answer to our faces why they supported an unconstitutional law.

Although I had to step away after this demo, the day of action continued with a demonstration in Rockefeller Center that ended almost before it began, as the NYPD and Rockefeller Center shut down the square, kicking out tourists as well as protestors to prevent the space from being used for political discourse.

As an alternative, the march went to Fox News.

The planned events of j3 ended at Grand Central Station. A flash mob of Occupiers spread out through the Main Concourse to mic-check information about the NDAA, the destruction of habeas corpus, due process, and civil liberties. 

Throughout the hour-long demonstration, the mic-checked speech was repeated three times. From the information I can gather, three protestors were arrested. 

In the video seen here, citizen journalist Jake (@jdegroot) asks the cops to say why Jose, a medic, was being arrested. Their silence forces Jake to ask if this is the NDAA in effect and whether Jose is suspected of terrorism. 

Trusted friends who were near Jose at the time of his arrest in Grand Central tell me he was in fact not mic-checking, nor was a mic-check even going on at the time.

… final hours …

Back at 60 Wall Street, I was with the Facilitation Working Group discussing, among other things, the planning of the night’s Call to Action General Assembly. 

On my way to the meeting I received a text-blast from ComHub saying that Liberty Square was open again, and subsequent tweets/texts wondering if the GA would move back there. The consensus was to keep moving forward with the plans for 100 William Street.

Liberty Square is our home, but I believe we should return only on our terms – when and how we decide to – as we did on New Year’s Eve. It’s entirely possible the NYPD and Brookfield reopened the park specifically to try to get us to not use 100 William as advertised. The thought was that we must hold our ground at 100 William, and not crawl back to Liberty just because some third party says it’s ok for us to be there.

At the meeting, two of my favorite people in this movement, Marisa, an Occupy Wall Street organizer from the beginning of the occupation, and Nathan (@NaSH12), volunteered to co-Facilitate the General Assembly and the three of us met to discuss the messaging of the assembly and how we would frame the night.

Nathan, having been at the roving GA on Sunday would explain the situation and describe the series of events that occurred then. Marisa would then provide a historical context for the meaning of our General Assemblies, how our very gathering is a radical and revolutionary act in which we must stand up for our right to assemble in public space.

As it got closer to 7pm, a few of us walked through 100 William Street to scope the situation. Throughout the day we had joked that the police would probably just barricade it closed from the beginning. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and we discussed where to position the Facilitation team. While we loved the idea, and potential photo opportunities, of having the Facilitators stand in front of the “This Is Public Space” sign, it would not actually be ideal placement for conducting an assembly. We decided to have the team stand on the steps, much like in Liberty Square, to maximize their visibility to the assembly, and vice-versa.

… a call to action …

By 6:50 the atrium was filling up, by a little after 7, it was packed.

image

I saw representation from so many working groups – Facilitation, Direct Action, Homeless Occupiers, Legal, Accounting, Minutes, Screen Printing Guild, DA Painters, ComHub, Info, Tech, Library, Media, Meditation, Mediation & Non-Violent Communication, Medics – and so much more. 

In addition, as promised, the National Lawyers Guild was out in force, including their president Gideon Oliver. Norman Siegel was in the assembly and on several occasions intervened with building security or the NYPD. City Councilmen Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) and Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) attended and I saw both Councilmen intervene on behalf of OWS when police interference seemed to be overstepping.

There was a large but not overwhelming police presence around 100 William Street. Unlike during the demonstrations throughout the day, there were not many uniformed officers within direct sight of the General Assembly. Lined up on the streets nearby, however, were several police vans, mobile Command Centers, and paddy wagons.

The impression was that the NYPD was there to support and back up decisions made by the private building security, but did not try to use their presence, or the arrival of reinforcement units, as the intimidation tactic we so often see. 

All things considered, it was an extremely successful night, and an incredibly productive General Assembly. We discussed six proposals, including budgets for Metrocards for use by the OWS community, as well as a proposal that would declare solidarity with the Occupy Congress actions on j17. The first, having reached consensus, moved forward. The second, after healthy and important debate, failed to reach consensus or pass via modified consensus. 

There were verbal clashes between Occupiers and Security who tried to enforce a list of rules taped up around the atrium well after our Assembly began.

Police tried to intimidate us.

But we stood our ground and held our assembly.

We were within our rights. 

We were right.

   

(photos & videos courtesy of @buddhagem, @poweredbycats, @diceytroop, @jdegroot)

… d31 …

It’s the first day of a new year. January 1st, 2012. I’m sitting at a dining room table in my friend’s apartment listening to M83, head still cloudy from an amazing night capped off by two beers on an empty stomach. Behind this browser window, Tweetdeck dings every few seconds with a combination of #OWS tweets and New Year’s Day ramblings. Fortuitously, as I started writing this, the following tweet passes by…

@dontbeaputz #2011 was the year that it started, but #2012 is the year that #OWS will happen.

Based on last night, I couldn’t agree more.

image

That being said, it wasn’t a perfect night and I have some concerns. There was violence, there was miscoordination, there was mixed messaging, there were strategic blunders.

But, there was beauty, there was solidarity, there was passion, there was joy, and there was hope.

d31 started for many of us at the General Assembly in Liberty Park A larger crowd than many recent GAs was gathered, possibly due to a series of events and actions planned for in the park, and nearby, throughout the night. After a few short announcements, the first proposal began. Within moments, commotion started around one of the circular flower beds in the middle of Liberty Park. I looked over and saw maybe a dozen cops, including at least one white-shirt officer, briskly enter the park heading toward the commotion.

A small tent (tagged #tinytent on Twitter) was erected in the middle of the flower bed surrounded by multiple rings of soft-locked protestors. As information started passing around, we learned that a mother and her two 4-year-old children were inside the tent. Organizers were mic checking the General Assembly to explain this was a planned, coordinated direct action.

However, there was not unity amongst those gathered in and around Liberty Park on whether this was an effective or well-timed action. Brookfield Security and the NYPD closed one entrance of the park and limited access at the other, denying many people access to the park and the General Assembly. 

Razor, one of the homeless Occupiers, and key organizer among many of the homeless occupier population, was furious with the action, saying it amounted to child abuse. I can’t say I disagree. I believe there is a place for children in the Occupy Movement, and in direct actions. But I’m not sure this was one of those instances. It felt like exploitation and lacked a clear message of why were using children as props to occupy the park. If it was merely to deter police interference, that feels like a lazy cop-out (forgive the pun) to me.

The General Assembly attempted to continue but with people prevented access, trying to participate from outside the barricades, as well as the ongoing saga of #tinytent, little was being accomplished. Eventually, it was announced that the two children would hand over the tent personally to Brookfield Security (in a coordinated photo op) in exchange for the park being reopened. 

This was somehow seen as a victory or positive conclusion to the #tinytent stunt. On this point, I couldn’t disagree more and instead of sticking around to witness this farce, I went with a group to join the Noise Demonstration outside of the Metropolitan Correctional Center near City Hall.

I was really disheartened by the conclusion of #tinytent and was so confused as to why there wasn’t more vocal opposition to it. The narrative of Occupy is that we are liberating public space for public use. Handing over the tent, the symbol of an occupation, to a private security force so that they reopen this [privately owned] public space is just ridiculous and so completely antithetical to everything that we’re trying to do. #tinytent emboldened the opposition, empowered our oppressors and voluntarily gave up power to those who seek to control us. While cute, #tinytent was an overwhelming failure of message and execution. 

BUT. The night began to turn around with the “Noise Demo Against the Prison Industrial Complex, for the Liberation of Political Prisoners & Prisoners Of Wars,” located in front of Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC, the federal jail in lower Manhattan) - 150 Park Row.

When we arrived, there were about 20-30 people starting to gather on the corner opposite MCC, handing out air horns and noisemakers. Some had drums. Sully, one of my favorite OWS organizers (and people in general), had a marching band brass horn. At a little after 9pm, we crossed the street, and made our presence known.

image

We were loud. And only got louder. Within minutes the crowd swelled to dozens. 

We got louder.

d31 noise protest

The lights in the prisoners’ cells overlooking the street started to flicker on and off as the prisoners inside showed their solidarity with us as we showed our solidarity with them. It was beautiful.

And then we mic-checked. 

YOU.

ARE.

NOT.

ALONE.

It was beautiful.

A speech was made, via the People’s Mic, echoing between the buildings so that the prisoners inside MCC could hear.

This isn’t the exact wording of the speech, but is from the pre-demonstration information…

“We come together in protest and celebration. For those locked up, we bring that celebration. Through the din of revelry and rage, we tie ourselves to those who suffer systematized white supremacy and war against the working class, behind steel bars and safety glass. May this simple night of noise-bringing carry momentum into a new year of open conflict with the state and capital.”

image

Back in Liberty Park, the General Assembly was called to a close and many of the folks from there joined the MCC demonstration. We made more noise.

And then we marched. While I feel that leaving the demonstration was misguided and off message, it was a great to see the support of New Yorkers as we weaved our way through Chinatown, over to the Manhattan Bridge and back toward MCC.

The march set the stage for what would be a night of aggressive, random, and scary police actions. Several individuals were violently arrested. Several more were violently knocked out of the way in the process of other arrests. I saw one individual knocked so hard into a parked car as police ran after a protestor that it took three people attending him to get him back on his feet.

As we marched south on Centre, near Central Booking, I identified an undercover cop marching with us, passing along directions and information via an earpiece. I started to point him out to one of the live-streamers so we could document him, but we all got distracted by a huge commotion in the street.

Shawn Carrie (@shawncarrie) tried to join the march from the street on his bicycle. On Centre Street he was targeted, ripped from his bike, thrown around, violently manhandled by numerous police officers and arrested. Somehow though, much to our delight, zip ties didn’t prevent Shawn from tweeting from the back of the paddy wagon.

image

Shaken, we marched back to MCC. The atmosphere was incredible. So much love and solidarity. Not to mention so much noise. The prisoners continued to flicker their lights.

Then word starting spreading via Twitter and text messages that groups were forming in Liberty Park, already at least 150 people. We decided to take the party back to our park.

At some point along the way, as we made the familiar walk from Foley Square to Liberty Park, we started to hear that perhaps the barricades were being taken down and the continuous police presence at the park perhaps wasn’t enough to prevent us from retaking the park.

During the march through Chinatown, I did notice several members of Direct Action (who I won’t mention by name), people I have a great deal of respect for, who I hadn’t seen en force at an action even on D6 (where I know many had specific tasks they attended to, but were not among the larger body, that I could see). Not only were they participating, but they seemed energized and prepared. A few had painted large black blocks across their faces. The feeling was in the air that perhaps there was more to the planned events for the night than what was publicly known.

image

By the time we got back to the park, clashes between Occupiers and the police were already going down along the south side of the park. From what I was told, barricades were being pushed on both sides, often into people, aggressively. After allegedly being hit with barricades, police used pepper spray on Occupiers. The man in the photo below is being tended to by a medic after getting pepper spray in his eyes. 

medics treat pepper spray

The clashes on the south side were extremely reminiscent of the N17 day of action, when after rallying on and around the NY Stock Exchange in the early morning, Occupiers meeting back in Liberty Park attempted to take down the barriers on the south side, resulting in mini-raids by the police into the park.

But tonight it went down differently, not taking long for the barricades along the south end of the park to be pulled apart. Over the course of the night, Mt. Barricade, or Barricade Peak, was constructed in the center of Liberty Park.

Mt. Barricade

As it got closer to midnight, the crowd in the park continued to grow, including Occupiers, families, tourists, and New Yorkers of all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders.

Mt. Barricade was bolstered throughout the night by additional barricades from the north side of the park, as well as from the eastern, Broadway side. Interestingly, police only entered the park up to this point to reclaim enough barricades to reform the Broadway side barrier. 

police reclaim barricades

As midnight passed we celebrated the dawn of a new year, and with hope in our hearts, the dawn of a new world.

The OWS Bat Signal projected messages of hope and a radical future on buildings nearby. We made noise, we hugged, we kissed, we made more and more noise.

imageimage

As the night went on, the police presence around the park continued to grow. Formations amassed on various sides and corners, packs of scooter cops zipped around the park. At least 5 cops on horseback stood nearby, or walked down Broadway. The greatest concentration of police was along the northern side of Liberty Park.

image

Around 1am, a spontaneous march was orchestrated. People who I have never seen before moved through the park encouraging us to take to the streets. A celebratory crowd, used to showing our solidarity, moving together, often taking to the streets as a show of power, was, in my opinion, swayed into making a poor decision by a few loud voices.

I’m convinced that this march was orchestrated by the police to disperse the crowd within the park, to shrink the numbers of Occupiers as their own numbers were bolstered by reinforcements who were able to leave Times Square after the midnight celebrations.

Many of us, sensing that a march was misguided, not to mention message-less and destination-less at this time, stayed in the park. We had reoccupied—why abandon it? I heard the argument said in the moment, and in the days since that, “They were going to raid it eventually, so we might as well march.” Yes, they were going to raid Liberty eventually, but why make it easy for them, why, like tiny tent, just hand it over?

As people continued to leave for the march, members of the NYPD DCPI (Deputy Commissioner, Public Information) Unit, which is responsible for issuing Press credentials, were sweeping the park, asking anyone with professional-looking cameras whether they were credentialed members of the press. We knew something was about to happen, and the police were concerned about media attention.

image

My friends and I moved to the perimeter of the park. The number of police on the north side numbered in the hundreds. They were in formation, wearing riot gear. The glowing officer below had a box that came up to his waist full of zip ties that he was constructing. 

zip ties

Without notice or warning, the police moved into the park. It was a militarized, coordinated maneuver that they have now had plenty of experience perfecting. From the side of the park, we watched several Occupiers, most likely those who were found standing on Mt. Barricade, being dragged from the park, aggressively, by multiple cops. I saw a protestor, when he fell to the ground along with police struggling to drag him into a paddy wagon, get kicked by a frustrated cop.

As the arrests continued, of which I saw maybe half a dozen, although there may have been more, the cops, in formation, pushed Occupiers to the edges of the park, along the north side, and then west, reforming barricades behind them. At the same time, word was being spread that the march was meeting hostile resistance, protestors facing penning and violent arrests.

As we stood on Church Street, facing south, the view can only be described as awe-inspiring and terrifying.

mass of cop cars

I’ve lived in New York since August 2001. I can tell you without hesitation, this was the largest show of force by the NYPD since 9/11 that I have seen. Because I wasn’t able to get closer to Liberty Park than Broadway and Fulton on the night of the Nov. 15 eviction from Liberty Park, I can’t speak to how it compares to that night, but this was shocking.

By about 2am, the park had been cleared and Brookfield’s private security was cleaning and reassembling the barricades around the park. I don’t think it hurts to mention that Liberty Park is a public space. And the NYPD, whose job and objective is to protect and serve the public, on New Year’s Eve/Day, served the needs and desires of a private corporation.

With the park no longer a concern, and a march reaching into SoHo and beyond, the cops began speeding off up Church. It was a glorious display of pomp and circumstance, full of sound and fury, unfortunately signifying quite a great deal.

procession of cops on the move

A few of us went to a bar not too far away. We’d been on our feet outside for hours and wanted to decompress. The night began in ways we weren’t expecting and continued in that vein for another 7 hours. As we sat at the bar, sipping drinks, eyes glued to Twitter and text messages, we asked each other if we just saw certain info we knew we all just received at the same time. About friends and acquaintances arrested or assaulted on the march and about those joining jail support at the 5th, 7th, and 9th precincts.

We’re still trying to acquire all the information about what happened that night. What was planned and what was spontaneous. We’re still working through how we feel about what we experienced and what we saw. What we heard. What it all means for the movement and our role within it.

Where we go from here.

image

What I know, without a shadow of a doubt, with everything that happened on d31 into j1, for better or for worse, our actions, and the actions of the state – a new world awaits us. A new day dawned. The future is up to us.

And this, all of this, is why I occupy.

(photos in this post courtesy of @carriem213, @_girlalex, & @poweredbycats)

… d6 …

December 6, 2011 began Occupy Homes, a nationally coordinated initiative to retake foreclosed back from the banks and give them to families in need. An action, that from the moment I heard about it, was so beyond excited to attend. I knew that other Occupations, including Minneapolis, had already been participating in actions occupying and fighting evictions (with and on behalf of homeowners) in foreclosed homes. And taking Occupy to the outer boroughs, to a community hit hard by the current economic status of our country, was a great step for the movement.

Occupy Wall Street, in collaboration with O4O, coordinated efforts to take a foreclosed home in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn where the rates of foreclosure are amongst the highest in New York City. OWS spent the weeks leading up to the day of action canvassing the neighborhood, reaching out, discussing our plans, our goals, and ideally creating solidarity within the neighborhood for the day action.

I met up with a friend in Ft. Greene to head to East NY. On the train, we ran into half a dozen other occupiers on their way. The stage had been set for a great day.

The day began with two rally points at the neighborhood’s subway stations. From there, the hundreds who had collected began a march through the neighborhood. From the first moments of the march it was clear that today would be a different kind of action. For the first time the streets we took were not full of yellow cabs, out of town commuters, predominately white tourists, and businessmen in suits. Additionally, any reservations anyone had about how the residents of East New York would feel about Occupy Wall Street descending upon it early in the morning were quickly allayed. The joy, interest, and general solidarity of every bystander I witnessed was clear from the onset.

The march snaked through the streets of the neighborhood, past business, homes, and schools, stopping at a serious of foreclosed homes along the way. Members of the local community, homeowners who have faced foreclosure, as well as Community Board Members who represent these districts spoke about their experiences. 

image

The number of houses in the neighborhood that have been foreclosed was staggering. In an effort to publicly highlight this, Occupy Wall Street put up signs reading “Foreclose On Banks, Not People,” and yellow “police tape” that read Occupy Wall Street across the doors and windows of foreclosed homes.

image

At the third stop on the Foreclosure Tour of East New York, in addition to the speakers previously arranged, there were two impromptu speakers that came from the crowd o people in the neighborhood who had joined the march to share their stories.

One young man was facing eviction that very day. He was nervous to speak using the Human Microphone, but was so overwhelmed by the possibility of losing his home and saw hope in the Occupy Movement. Fighting through tears he told his heartbreaking story.

As a result, several members of Occupy Wall Street decided to go with this gentleman to his home to set up an eviction defense direct action. 

OWS Foreclosure Tour, Stop #3

After making four stops throughout the neighborhood, the march arrived at the fifth and last foreclosed home on the tour - The Occupied House. Having already gained access to the home, beginning renovations and repairs to make it more inhabitable (the house was sitting vacant for three years), Occupy Wall Street planned a block party in front of the home.

OWS Foreclosure Tour, Occupied House

With more speakers, including members of the family who would be living in the home, amazing food, music, and dance, Occupy Wall Street, the Occupied House Family, and the larger community celebrated the liberation of this home from the banks and its return to the people. 

Occupied House Block Party

When night fell, the now infamous OWS Bat Signal made a brief appearance. As the block party continued, Working Groups, including Facilitation held their regular meetings in the street in front of the Occupied House to show solidarity with the day of action.

Occupied House Bat Signal

The greatest success of D6, besides the great deed done on behalf of a family in need, was beginning to establish of a greater narrative, based on action, not words, of The Occupy Movement.

D6 answered the question, “What are we for?” rather than only highlighting, “What are we against?” 

We helped make the lives of some of the hardest hit members of the 99% a little bit better. We showed a community that this movement is about them – their needs and their lives.

The banks abandoned this community for financial gain. We will not abandon them.

This is why I occupy.

… there is so much more to say …

I wish that I had started this is at my beginning, nearly 11 weeks ago. I’ve seen so much love, so much passion, so much hope, so much progress.

And so much fear, so much oppression, so much violence. From within our community as well as directed at this community.

Sometimes there are no words, sometimes there are too many.

Over the coming weeks I will do my best to capture the Movement. And do my best to look backwards, while looking forward, at how far I’ve come, how far Occupy Wall Street has come.

Where we are, and where we’re heading. 

The whole world might be watching, but until the whole world is participating, we, I, must be ever vigilant to make this movement incredibly transparent, engaging everyone on the most personal level possible.

"We Are The 99%" cannot just be a catchphrase.

Until the 99% is united 100% in this struggle, we will not succeed in deconstructing the systems that oppress us, that aim to divide us for financial gain, that keep us fighting for scraps and fighting for our survival.

This struggle, and its ability to unite us, striving for a better world, a more inclusive one, without systems of oppression…

…this is why I occupy.