By Clayton (cneums1@gmail.com)

The first day of the occupation was a success! Though the crowd started out predictably small, it grew steadily throughout the day and by the 3pm General Assembly the Austin American Statesman reported there were about 1500 people in attendance. Later in the evening, by our own counts, that number swelled, possibly over 2000. It was great to see so many people in solidarity behind our cause and I hope these numbers keep rising as the occupation moves forward.

In order to sustain momentum, Dani and the Coalition Outreach Committee called for a canvassing of neighborhoods around Austin to bring in a diverse group of people. Dave Cortez was able to sign a lot of people up for doing “bank runs” and hopes that today’s 4:00pm march (for which he’d like people to start to gather around 3:30) will add to those involved in direct action against large bailout banks. The address of our Base Camp was announced (5011 E. Ceasar Chavez) and Harry with the Transportation Committee needs people to help shuttle people back and forth as well as transport supplies. Chadwick is helping to handle web content and asks for videos, pictures, audio, etc be sent to info@occupyaustin.org so he can get them up on the website.

The GA itself ran possibly more smoothly than any other meeting we’ve had to date. There was concern that the procedural structure would not work with so many people in attendance. Facilitation met for about half an hour before the GA began to discuss ways to handle the size of the crowd and decided to try and stick to proposals whenever possible, and encourage people not to plug their website or cause if they couldn’t form a proposal that the group could approve or disapprove of. The GA was used a place to present well-formed and actionable ideas, and to link people and other committees with magnet groups working on similar projects.

The meeting adjourned after an hour and 45 minutes, our shortest GA to date. A full agenda was set and covered, and we reached some consensus decisions.

  • Lost and Found was established next to the Library
  • A statement of solidarity with the tent city was passed: “We don’t necessarily want to break the law, but we respect the tent city’s right to civil disobedience and stand in solidarity with them.” That could possibly use some revision.
  • Les was approved as magnet of the Political Action committee to discuss issues/ordinances we could get behind as a group. I hope this does not tread on the feet of the Local Action committee who is trying to work with city council to meet our demands.
  • Thomas was approved as temporary magnet for the Radical Cheerleaders and led a chant that provided a nice energy release during the meeting.
  • Sarah was approved to begin organizing a benefit concert.
  • Support for Art Acevedo and the APD was nearly unanimous, and the suggestion by someone that they were going to turn and arrest us was highly unpopular. There were, in fact, no incidents that I’m aware of.

In a nutshell, the GA flowed very smoothly and seems more than capable of accommodating large numbers of people. The Facilitation Committee met afterwards to discuss ways of further improving that flow and simplicity for newcomers. The advocate position that worked so well yesterday was officially added to the facilitating team and will be utilized at every meeting.

The structure is beginning to fall into place! We’re creating a space where people can express their ideas and truly shape what this movement is about. We are working to decentralize power into the committees so that those most passionate about an issue can work together to solve it, and then present their well-constructed ideas to the larger body. We are becoming more efficiently able to facilitate these GA meetings so that everyone has a voice and there is as close to no conflict as possible.

It would seem, after the first day of the Occupation, that our General Assembly will thrive on the influx of ideas, rather than be crushed by the influx of people.

 

6 Responses

  1. Appreciate the updaate, but please do not add your own commentary to meeting minutes- ie there was not “nearly unanimous” police support, and this wasn’t an agenda item.

    If you are going to take the minutes, please post a thorough recount of what happened, highlight consensed upon proposals and keep track of said proposals. All of this is a part of good consensus facilitation and follow through. There has to be a readily accessible record of the GA’s for those who were not able to attend.

  2. I participated in the GA at 3:00 on Friday. I have been in thousands of meetings in my life and facilitated many, but I have never been to one where 1500 people, most of whom didn’t know each other, could come to consensus on important issues using nothing but hand signals! You guys are great! You’ve restored my hope!

    BTW, when will we march on Chase? WE want to close our account with the group. I’ll be back to city hall soon! I hate to miss a minute.

    Peace, Jeanie

  3. I like reading these blog-like reports that capture the spirit of the assemblies. Since minutes are for facts and actions, how about just double-checking for any commentary in the minutes portion and moving them to the other paragraphs? Thank you, Clayton, for the effort and time put into these reports!

  4. I take this as the writer’s reflections on the first GA. Like the title says.
    GA minutes are in the Resources section. Thanks for yalls work!

  5. http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=9521

    I had the opportunity the other day to watch a most enlightening program broadcast by UCTV. The one-hour program was called “How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap?” presented by President Clinton’s former labor secretary Robert Reich.

    “Inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity in America is wider now than it’s been since the 1920s, and by some measures since the late 19th century. Yet the nation seems unable or unwilling to do much of anything to reverse these trends. What happens if we allow the trends to continue? Will they “naturally” reverse themselves? Or will we get to a point where disparities are so wide that we finally find the political will to take action? Alternatively, will the disparities themselves grow so wide as to discourage action, by fostering resignation among the losers and indifference among the winners? And if the latter, where will it all lead?” SOURCE: Goldman School of Public Policy UC, Berkley

    The presentation made excellent use of economic graphs to demonstrate how large of a gap has developed between the upper class and the middle class (not to mention the lower class) with regards to income, wealth, and opportunity in the United States between the years 1962 to the present. The trends are alarming to say the least. The speaker correctly points to birthright as the beginning of the disparity that allows for advantages in everything from diet and healthcare to education and connections. Being born into a middle-class family myself, I have truly benefited from my birthright in terms of these advantages right from the starting gate. Some people would argue that many a poor person has risen up by their “own boot straps” but I would argue that in today’s society, most (not all) poor people can only rise up with a good pair of athletic shoes or a willingness to sell drugs. Otherwise they have to remain content with working in the service industry for comparatively lower wages than their upper-class counterparts. Mr. Reich further points out that one of the elements keeping our society glued together is the belief or perception by the lower class that opportunity in this country still exists and that if one is willing to work hard, they can be successful.

    The speaker talks of two potential outcomes for this growing disparity. He uses the metaphor of the rubber band to illustrate his point. Our society will either “snap back” with a series of reforms supported by all three classes and the government to regain a sense of fairness when it comes to income, wealth, and opportunity in the United States. This has occurred at least once before in the history of our country during a time referred to as the progressive movement. The other potential outcome is for our society to “snap break” whereby this country exists with two entirely different societies. The problem with the latter outcome is that it often leads to the arrival of a demagogue who plays upon the emotions of the middle and lower classes all for the hidden intention of personal gain. We have seen this all too often in history with the likes of Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin etcetera. Mr. Reich suggests somehow that the upper class are not a group with malicious intent but rather are nothing more than a naive self-indulgent class of people who don’t know any better. Here I beg to differ. I believe the upper class is guilty of a careless disregard for their fellow countrymen. They have the arrogance to believe they are superior and deserving of extravagance regardless of how they attained it and regardless of how it affects the rest of society. Once again, history shows us what happened to those monarchs who behaved the same way. Do I think there will be a violent revolution in this country? I hope not. Do I prefer a new progressive movement over even a peaceful revolution? Absolutely. My fear however, is that we are already rapidly approaching the point of “critical mass” beyond which there is no turning back. The question today before the American people is what are YOU prepared to do?

  6. @Rich, we do in fact post the full, factual GA minutes on the website. This is purely commentary that also tries to break down the meetings and make it easier to read. As far as the support for APD goes, that near-consensus was only among those who attended the GA, I can’t speak for those who did not participate. @Kunda thank you, I will try to make it more clear that this is just my interpretation.

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