Friday, November 11, 2011

Committees for Occupy DC

Occupy DC is incredibly well organized with a number of committees which I learned all about when I sat in on the General Assembly (GA), the nightly meeting at which all occupiers (and apparently me!) are welcome. As one of the speakers pointed out, the committees do the real work. The General Assembly is just a place for reporting, and sometimes for building consensus.

All the sidewalks in the square have been renamed for various revolutionaries and rock stars. The General Assembly is held each night at 6 PM. Not everyone attends, but those who do are briefed on what the various committees have been up to. The Declaration Committee is drafting a Declaration of Independence. From America, I guess. None of the occupiers I have met in the three occupations I have visited, seem to like America much. The committee had finished the Preamble and reported at the GA, on the night I attended that they would be heading to the Point Chaud crèperie at 14th and K directly afterwards,  to work on the causes. Occupy Boston is working on a new Constitution, so it is only fitting that Occupy DC should have a Declaration of Independence.

The Safer Occupation Committee is apparently working to provide a safer space for anyone who has to deal with incidents of oppression from racism and ableism and sexism and, as they put it, stuff like that, that makes the world feel crappy. They go to great pains to remind everyone constantly that this isn't a white man's movement. There are signs posted everywhere to that effect,  so it must be true.

First person to talk to me when I arrived at Occupy DC was the gentlemen in the green baseball cap. He was a little annoyed that I would not tell him where the free food was. But I had only just gotten there, and I did not know. He asked another guy in a green hat,  and got his answer.  Maybe other guy in a green hat is with the White Allies Committee. That committee came into being because the People of Color Working Group requested it. There was no report made by the People of Color Working Group or by the White Allies group either, but the lady announcing the formation of the Women's Group wanted us to know that both the People of Color Working Group and the White Allies Group exist.

Rule number eleven of the occupation guidelines is:
While #OccupyDC is reclaiming public space for the public, we will be respectful of others who live in and use these spaces on a daily basis.
A tourist I had met on the street on my way to the site, had already been to McPherson square to check it out earlier in the day. She said the homeless are thrilled to have the occupation there. They have never felt so safe.
The equestrian statue of General McPherson stands in a fenced off grassy circle at the middle of the square and serves as a meeting place for some of the committees, and as a convenient place to sit.  I could not tell if the couple above were occupiers or not. But one of the committees was going to meet in the circle after the GA. Maybe it was the Women's Committee. At first, the coordinator described it as the Women's Committee, but she caught herself before she got in trouble for saying such an insensitive thing. It's against rule number ten, as you may have read in yesterday's post. She said if you identify as a woman, you can come and we will talk about what we want if you have been experiencing sexism. 

The Outreach Committee reported that their job is to build up stronger relationships with the DC city government. They are also going to be passing out flyers and knocking on doors in Shaw because they want to be sure that all the residents know they are welcome to join the occupation and maybe set up a nice tent. With a teddy bear hanging in effigy. Jesse Jackson, when he spoke, noted that the poor should be at the occupation. But people from those neighborhoods are not flocking to join, for some reason. Outreach is also contacting  area colleges, and have invited DC public school teachers to come down and hang out to find out what the occupation is all about. Outreach will be working hard on finding out what the community (those people who have not shown up to join the occupation), think the occupiers ought to be working on.

Another group has met with seven other occupy groups from across the south, to discuss the 300,000 people who are currently suffering from health problems caused by the Gulf Oil Spill. The leader told us we will not have heard about that due to the media blackout. All those right wing newspapers like the Washington Post (don't tell me you missed yesterday's blog entry--go back and check it out, it's all explained there) are keeping it under wraps because they don't want anyone knowing.

Possibly this was the same committee which was going to be involved in a national conference call with other occupy groups from around the country. That was to happen Monday evening after the GA. People were welcome to stand nearby and kind of be part of it, but they were told they should not call in to participate. Having the phone ring kind of messes up the lines and makes everything  pretty inconvenient. So just the "coordinators" of this leaderless movement should be in on that phone call.

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