General Assembly Minutes 2011-12-06

Roles

Facilitator – Spike
Time keeper – Lars
Stack taker – Erin
Note taker – Walton
Dish faerie – Danny
Bin faerie – Graham
Vibe checker – Karin
Guide/greeter – Kenzie

Agenda

Roles, respect check, donations, agenda approval – 5 minutes
Welcome, consensus review – 5 minutes
Announcements – 5 minutes (+3)
Other Occupy news – 5 minutes
Occupy Gainesville news – 5 minutes
Deep breath – 1 minute
Open discussion: addressing disruptive behavior – 15 minutes (+25)
(Ice) Break(er) – 5 minutes
Open floor – 10 minutes (+6)
Working and affinity group reports and proposals – 15 minutes (+15)
General proposals – 10 minutes
Announcements and appreciation – 5 minutes
Clean up

Announcements

Ilene was wearing her snazzy OG shirt (which are available at Hear Again Music Movies) and a high school student approached her. He said that his civics class was studying the Occupy movement, and his teacher’s sister was involved in OWS. He told her that he had visited the plaza a few times, but his parents didn’t know. His parents then arrived, and told Ilene that they had taken him to the plaza a few times, but didn’t want him going there alone. Ilene took a picture with the student; his mother told Ilene not to worry, she won’t end up on Youtube. Ilene told them not to worry, she was already there.

Ken delivered a batch of buttons from Scott and Sherry (thank you!). If you didn’t get one, don’t worry, there are more to come.

Ed and Chris were illegally evicted today. Ed made some calls, got some advice, and with the cooperation of the sheriff’s office, forced Union Properties to let them back into the house.

Thursday’s affinity group training assembly will be the most fun you’ll ever have in a workshop.

The radical carolers will have rehearsals tonight after GA.

David Cobb will visit us tomorrow at noon.

Tomorrow night, the Civic Media Center will screen “The Corporation” at 7:00 PM.

Other Occupy news

Occupy Melbourne (Australia) responded to the prohibition of tents in their park by putting together a “Tent Monster” direct action, where several activists wore tents as costumes. They hid inside the tents until the police arrived to remove the “tents”, at which point the Occupiers yelled “space monkeys” and the tents sprouted arms, legs, and heads and began running around the park. Even the police had a good laugh at this. Unfortunately, they (the police) decided to take a strong hand and violently tore the costume from one of the occupiers, leaving her in the middle of the park in her underwear.

Occupy Asheville, Atlanta, and others are taking part in the Take Back Our Homes action, occupying houses that are being foreclosed.

Occupy Gainesville news

Ed and Chris would like to thank Tommy, B.Love, Ty, and everyone else who occupied their front yard in protest of the illegal eviction.

Ty’s backpack (small, blue hiking pack) is missing; please keep an eye open for it.

Welcome back, Willie!

A TV20 reporter visited us tonight and interviewed Lars. She told her 99% story to Zot: she, and her fellows, are being forced to do more work for less pay and at a faster pace. Nearly all the reporters who visit us share a similar plight; even though they work for the corporate media, they are still the 99%.

Open discussion

Context: Last night, Coral was watching over the sleepers. Three men were sitting nearby. Coral didn’t think much of it—it’s a public park, after all—until he was nearly hit by a flying beer can. He approached and found them drunk and surrounded by discarded cans. It would have been helpful to have reference to an OG agreement regarding intoxication and disruptive behavior.

Annette noted that we already have a no-tolerance rule. [Secretary’s note: this has been invoked in the past, to good effect, and without hard feelings.]

Willie added that not everyone abides by this agreement. He uses a very simple method to deal with this sort of unwanted behavior: 911. He says it is a good deterrent that minimizes conflict. [Sec note: this strategy has also been effectively used in the past to offset disruptive behavior.]

Spike reminded us that it is everyone’s responsibility to be observant. If you see someone violating the guidelines to which we’ve consented, or someone behaving in a disruptive manner, please take the initiative and address the matter.

Lars has drafted an amendment to our agreements directly addressing intoxication and disruption. [See general proposals, below.] This amendment received much attention and discussion on Facebook. Gary asked how this amendment will help our situation.
Lars explained that the benefit of our process is that it provides an opportunity for everyone to bring their own ideas for creating a healthy community to that community and discuss them. In this way, we can raise consciousness about what a good community looks like. Occupy is about people looking out for one another. The amendment is motivated by a desire for us to agree on ways to do this. Agreeing on a minimum standard of acceptable behavior is a good thing. The amendment is written such that if anyone feels unsafe, we agree to take that person’s perspective seriously.

B.Love expressed concerns that certain comments made last night made it sound like our agreements were being treated like park laws, and that if they individuals don’t follow them they aren’t welcome.

Chris reminded us that we don’t have rules, we have guidelines. If you feel that someone is being disruptive, you may ask them to leave until they are sober (and theoretically no longer disruptive). They will be welcomed back.

Spike also reminded us that open containers are against the law in Gainesville. Having alcohol on the plaza will draw police attention and create a negative attitude toward OG. We consented to our guidelines months ago, and not everyone here was around back then. Spike suggests that we should have a sign stating the agreements of our community to educate newcomers and express the nature of our community to the public.

B.Love reiterated his concerns that, though our safety is paramount, we should not force our will on others; recreating an oppressive system is counterintuitive to the goals and mission of Occupy.

Ty expressed his belief that every person decides her/his own destiny, and has a right to stand up against oppression, but does not have a right to oppress. Ideal guidelines are more of a mentality than a set of hard and fast rules.

Zot appreciates what has been said, and feels that a statement of agreements will help the visiting public to become more comfortable with us. We can’t be content to only reach the portion of the 99% that likes laissez-faire policy on substances and disruption. Most of the 99% does not take this view, and we want them to join us and be comfortable. They need to see us as responsible and more caring about community than what they’re used, not less; more willing to go beyond individualistic “me first” attitude, not less.

Lars noted that, as a culture, we have certain preconceived ideas of what rules mean and the consequences of breaking them. That’s not the only way we can protect ourselves; there’s another way, and that’s the way we’ll grow. If we don’t grow as a community and be considerate and sensitive to the most vulnerable amongst us, we’re essentially reverting to the each-for-her/himself mentality. We need to develop a community where everyone feels safe, and even people who don’t feel they can personally speak up will have recourse to group support. To get there, we need to talk about it and how to foster that consciousness; how to be insistent, consistent, and gentle about creating a safe space.

Tommy reminds us that our rights end where others’ begin.

Chris agrees with Tommy, and others, but we must be able to make people feel safe in our community. If that means having guidelines, that’s fine. Maybe we can suggest that any non-prescription impairing substance users should leave the area until sober.

Spike objects to the notion that getting fucked up in public, and in our community, is not a right. Occupy is not about creating a society without standards, accountability, responsibility, rules, or mores; we seek freedom, compassion, kindness, but that doesn’t mean we must condone acting out because they have a right do so. No one has the right to endanger the community to express themselves.

Tommy reminds us that we’re here to ensure the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Being intoxicated makes some people happy.

Lars noted that the proposed agreement does not say that you’re not allowed to do whatever you want; it simply states that if you are intoxicated and disruptive, you’ll be asked to leave. That’s not to say that you will not be welcomed back later.

B.Love commented that certain substances, for some, a spiritual practice, and for others a medical one.

Danny added that there is a difference between medication and recreation; but neither is a good reason to endanger the community.

Erin asks that if you do use substances, keep it to yourself, do your own thing, but don’t act a fool.

Graham suggested that it is within our ability to provide a safe space for intoxicate individuals. The real issue here is not intoxication, but disruptive behavior. He expressed some concern over the language used in the amendment may be seen as unwelcoming, and that we should not reject a vulnerable individual and send them to an unknown fate.

Spike reminded us that, while being intoxicated isn’t grounds for expulsion, intoxication and bad behavior often go together. When people are asked to alter their behavior or leave, they often become angry and threatening. [Sec note: this has also happened in the past at OG.] Having an agreement we can reference will be valuable to our community. However, any intoxicated individual who complies with our rules and our suggestions for orderly behavior should be welcome to share our space.

Ty felt that the proposed agreement is against the basic values of Occupy as a people’s movement. Each person should be free to deal with other individuals as they see fit. Creating guidelines about interaction is bad faith and distrust toward the people in our movement. Mediated influence, through rules, is unfair to those immediately presence. Everyone must be responsible for our own lives and sympathies, and deal with our lives as we see correct.

Ed wondered at which point someone else’s pursuit of happiness infringes on one’s own happiness.

Danny pointed out that we’ve moved from a discussion about conflict resolution into a debate over the morality of drug use, and that’s about as useful as discussing religion. We should avoid wording that addresses morality, and focus on brainstorming a resolution. Let the police police the park.

Ken encouraged us to ask, what is this Occupation about? How long do we plan on doing this? We need to bring people into our community; potential participants are watching us and evaluating our behavior and plans. Above all, we must control ourselves and create an image of something better than what we have now.

Open floor

Tommy: everyone wants a voice; please don’t belittle the opinions of others.

Ilene expressed her displeasure with the detention law [National Defense Authorization Act]; it reminds her of Nazi Germany. She also noted her sadness stemming from the documentary she saw last night at the CMC about Harry T. Moore, an early civil rights activist who was murdered by the KKK. The case was never solved, and it’s far down on the cold case list; everyone is urged to write the attorney general to pursue the investigation.

Eric told us that this is a beautiful space, and a great moment in time. The collectiveness of society coming together as one to embellish this life which we are trying to survive.

B. Love felt a bit offended by a comment; we have to understand that as a culture and a society we’ve been pushing for revolution in rights for all, and there are still oppressed people out there. The war on drugs dehumanizes certain people based on personal choices. Certain people make these choices out of selfishness and greed, and others make them out of personal experience and exploration. The common mentality is a generalization, and it is insulting to an oppressed group. Don’t stereotype based on a single choice; people are deeper than that.

Danny observed that there are people coming to the plaza during the day to look at our posters and flyers, and these people have questions, but no one is here to answer them, and they leave unsatisfied.

Ty sees OG as a near-perfect example of treating our fellows on a horizontal level, but there is too much emphasis on consensus and not enough on individualism. He feels that we are focused on consensus rather than action. To grow, we must be about more than talk.

Molly has felt overwhelmed with negativity about our world, to the point that even a walk in nature did not help her out.

Working and affinity group reports and proposals

Media, via Chris

The Barter Day video flyer is done and will be posted tomorrow.

Next month’s bill for the WiFi is due Sunday; if you’ve pledged to donate to the fund, please do so.

The team will be making a series of educational videos. They will be informational, and contain common knowledge. The first will be a process video, detailing the hand signals, GA roles, working groups, and affinity groups. It was decided that the production does not require consensus from the GA; but they will be shown to the GA for final approval.

The group is also looking into starting a radio station; it’s free, and Ed has the expertise.

The next media team meeting will be at 5:00 PM on 11 December, at Maude’s.

Proposal (passes): the media team will use the name Occupy Gainesville Productions, provide the website URL, and use our hand logo as a watermark (to prevent mainstream theft), in the educational videos and the video flyers.

Food and Comfort, via Ilene

Proposal: one sleeper will volunteer to transport the dish wagon in the morning, for breakfast.
Concerns were raised regarding security; the proposal was withdrawn for further development.

Internet, via Karrie

The team is still tweaking the website; please notify them of long-standing errors and forum trolls. (For trolls, send the team the permalink for the individual post.)

It’s lonely in the forums; come over from the Facebook discussion page.

The Facebook community page is at 3800 “likes”; tell your friends, let’s get this puppy up to 4k by Friday.

The new site works on phones; it may look a little funny, but the team is working on it.

At the media team’s request, a Ustream will be added to the same page as Livestream during our transition from the latter to the former. This setup will begin on Sunday, and persist for one week.

On the new site, anyone can see and post in the general forum. To see and post in the non-public forums, you need to register for an account, and be verified. To get verified, contact the internet team via phone, Facebook, or in person, and they’ll upgrade your account.

Graphic Design, via Karrie

Proposal (passes): use Karrie’s designs for the business card and the Veterans for Peace advertisement. (These were made available for review and comment online, and passed around at the GA.)

Meditation, via Ty

The meditation group sees GA as a form of group meditation; as such, they feel it is within their jurisdiction to make the following proposal:

Proposal (passes): The dish master and bin master will henceforth be called the dish faerie and bin faerie, to eliminate any unpleasant connotations of the term “master”.

Conflict and Support, via Lars

Proposal (passes): the 15 December GA will be a healthy-boundaries-good-friendships-and-loving workshop GA.

General proposals

The following amendment to our community agreements was proposed:

“We agree that building community requires clarity and accountability, and acknowledge the devastating effects of addiction in many of our communities and families. Although we don’t judge the choices that participants make in their lives, we recognize that setting boundaries is necessary for the safety and health of our community.

“Especially in our political action, we choose to be sober. If someone is so chemically impaired or otherwise disruptive as to cause another to feel triggered or unsafe, we embrace that person’s courage in saying so. The impaired person may be asked to come back once they are not impaired.

“We acknowledge that choosing to be unresponsive to a request to leave the area immediately often has lasting effects on the mutual trust and the caring relationships on which healthy community thrives.”

The proposal was withdrawn due to continued contention.

Proposal (passes): OG will host a convention for any and all Occupies in the southeastern region. This event is tentatively scheduled for 30 March – 1 April. Our participants will spread the word at the Florida People’s Convention this weekend.

Proposal (passes): a portion of our donation fund (about $50) will be used to print Rockupy flyers and purchase supplies for hot cocoa. Donations garnered from the cocoa will be returned to our donation fund.

Announcements

Free clothes and haircuts will be given away on 11 December as a part of the 352 Hip Hop Family’s 1st Annual Christmas Dinner at the Thelma Bolton Center (516 NE 2nd Ave.). There will also be dinner and music.

Chris, Ed, Ty, Tommy, B.Love, will be occupying Chris and Ed’s front yard (6907 SW 49th Ave, in Greenleaf, across from Kanapaha Park) tonight and tomorrow night. There will be tents, and everyone is invited.

Ty appreciates OG and what everyone is doing, but expresses some concern about an elitist mentality amongst a clique of people who’ve been here from the beginning. He urges us to be conscious of such a mentality, and wishes us the best.

Julie has made some connections with local restaurants, and they want to feed us. So tomorrow, we will be dining on Italian cuisine.

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