Theme: Revisiting the initial statement
Location: Paternoster Square
Proposals that achieved consensus
- Formation of Occupy May working group
- Formation of Occupy NHS working group
- Announcement of skill-sharing event
- Announcement of open day event
Points raised for future consideration
- Problems with current behaviour patterns regarding event organisation and dissemination (top-down structure, insufficient notice)
- Develop process to determine what kind of events require GA approval
- Keep the initial statement as a historic statement and in order to honour the involvement of all those people in Occupy who helped make it.
[very warm temp]
Tammy – Vica, are you going to tweet the location of this GA?
Vica – I’m tweeting it now.
Tammy – You do realise that out of the 500 people following that twitter feed, 400 are coppers.
[laughs all round]
[human mic, led by Tammy]
General assembly for Occupy London starting now in Paternoster square.
Tammy – Welcome home people.
Tina-L: Everybody grab a seat, we’ll get started. Welcome to tonight’s GA, roving a very short distance. We have 4 proposals to get through, then we’ll discuss the initial statement. Does anyone require hand signals to be explained?
[Tina-L's granddaughter, Amelia, aged 7, demonstrates the hand signals]
Mark – I learned a new hand signal in Milan (waves hand in front of face), means I don’t care.
Fanny – I learned this in Nice (raises two arms up touching each other in parallel), means you’re being racist.
First proposal – Fanny for Occupy May.
Fanny – This is in a way a funny proposal to put through. I am proposing to form a working group called Occupy May. As you are aware there are different working groups planning actions for May but only one of them has got GA approval. We want to follow the process and announce an overall group that will facilitate communication among all these groups. Aim is to plan, organise and publish the actions in May and facilitate communication. Consists of subgroups 1st, 12th and 15th of May.
Tina-L – Clarification point. Have you spoken to the people organising 1st, 12th and 15th and are they in agreement with this?
Fanny – I’ve been to most of the meetings of these groups, it’s a lot of the same people, lots of overlap. General feeling is that some kind of communication between them is required.
Vica – I wanted to add that this is not an over-arching structure, just a way to make sure each group knows what the other is doing.
Tina-L – I’d like to take a temperature check [very warm hand waving]. Any blocks or stand-asides? [none]
Fanny – Next meeting is tomorrow 4pm at Ye Olde London.
Second proposal – Faseela for Occupy NHS
Faseela – The proposal is for an NHS working group to foster closer ties with people who are NHS activists and trade union leaders and bring them into Occupy a bit more. Already got a few people in Harringate. Looking to direct actions, that sort of thing.
Sarah – These are people involved with single issues groups in London?
Faseela – Yes, the suggestion to form a working group came from them.
Jack – They need to know that the closer they get to Occupy London, the more they may have to look into changing their structures, i.e. towards being more non-hierarchical.
Vica – We welcome people to join but also to participate in Occupy in general, learn our processes, work in a collective, inclusive, transparent way. Maybe this will cause people to question their own practices.
Tina-L – Has anyone got any further clarification points?
Sarah – I can see this idea being really problematic. The way we organise is very different to other activist groups. I would be a bit worried for those people whether they would feel bullied into our way of working or us into their way of working.
Tina-L – How do you think these people will manage if they have a hierarchical structure?
Vica – I think we might be presuming too much. Why don’t we start meeting, ask them to come to a GA, make their meetings open to everyone?
Mark – I don’t think it’s very important. If this working group wants to do something that significantly relies to Occupy London, they go through the GA but otherwise they can do
Lilias – My understanding is that Faseela can start an Occupy NHS working group, will it be an official or an unofficial working group?
Tina-L – If it passes by consensus, it will be an official working group. Can I take a temperature check? [very warm]. Any stand-asides, disagreements or blocks? [none]
Third proposal – Mark skill-sharing event
Mark – We, me and some other people, have been organising a skill-sharing weekend on 21st-22nd April. The idea is to get support from outside organisations, e.g. Seeds for Change and direct action groups, have a big event, strengthen ties, get people geared up.
Lilias – Where will this be taking place?
Mark – Two places. A Friends’ house (Quaker meeting house in Euston) and part of it in Finsbury square. There’s too much to cram in one place. We’re still in the middle of organising speakers etc.
Sarah – Would suggest you have a table at open day.
Michael – Do you know that the Occupied Times is already linking up with Seeds for Change to do the same thing?
Mark – It is the same thing. If people have ideas, organisations or individuals, come see me, Sam H. or Vica.
Tina-L – Temperature check? [all hands up]
Fourth proposal – Vica for open day
Vica – We have been trying to organise for three weeks, next Tuesday at the Friends’ house in Euston. Idea is, this is a space for working groups to share what they’ve been up to until now, what they’re planning to do in the future but also engage people as part of the build-up for May. Unfortunately due to the tough weeks we’ve had, it hasn’t gone through the processes it should have, so I’m bringing it here to ensure that it can be endorsed by the GA.
Lilias – What time do you have for people to start preparing?
Vica – Doors open at 5pm. 5-6pm is for working groups to organise and set up the space, getting a few nibbles for the evening. We won’t be asking for funding for this, so if anyone wants to bring anything, that would be great. We’ll be talking more about this tomorrow (4pm at Ye Olde).
Jack – I want to understand the process through which we got here having this being discussed now. [or words to that effect, not exact quote]
Tina-L – I agree that the question is a relevant one but let’s go through the proposal first before analysing how and why the proposal came to be here this evening.
Vica – I can answer that question. It’s been a bit hard analysing what’s been going on, not being able to keep up with all the e-mails. Two things. First issue is that this event was advertised by Press as an Occupy London event. Second was a question about event organisation. Two issues that need to be tackled differently. Re press release, we’ve had many events released by Press without going through the GA. It would be interesting to start a process about how we deal with this. Organisation part, was miscommunication. I thought it was sufficient to talk about this at working group GAs, with minutes.
Michael – I want to register a similar point. I’m here from the Occupied Times and I know that Steve and other people were upset about how things were organised, and also it reflects a pattern of how things are organised, things being announced and then we have to conform to other peoples’ agenda. We only found out about this event a week before it’s due to happen, half of our team is abroad and we’ve had to scramble to get people here.
Tina-L – Any more clarification points? Any blocks or stand-asides? [none]
Sarah – Can I do a shout-out. Next weekend is the national conference, it’s the most incredible program I’ve ever seen. It’s in Southend. I’ll go home and send this round to you, starts 12pm on Friday. They don’t want anything except a contribution towards the food. There’s camping space for 100 people. They’ve got amazing things sorted out. They need financial help with a generator and a marquee. I’d like to be able to say to Neil tonight an estimate of people going. Lots of cheap deals to get there. They’ve got water, legal placement in place. Need to bring your own tents.
? – Is it an Occupy national conference?
Sarah – Yes, this will be the first one for three months.
Jack – The Corporations working group has been asked to go down. We do have a meeting again on Thursday, location to be decided, which is cutting it a bit fine. If people want to e-mail me, would be great to get together, if only by e-mail and organise.
Mark – Where’s the agenda?
Tina – It should be mailed on the Sheffield mailing list, also uploaded on the wiki.
Sarah – We’ll be doing a Citizenship workshop between 4-6pm. Neil will have a stall at open day (April 10th). So who thinks they might go to the conference?
[fair number of hands go up]
Tina-L – Tammy will read out the initial statement, then we’ll go into break-out groups, discuss how as Occupy we can go about applying this statement and if there’s anything in it that we would like to address or change.
Tammy – Do you want to human mic it? Or then have four more people reading it together.
[Fanny, Tammy and Amelia take turns in reading out the statement]
Tammy – For the break-out groups, we need to get back to this initial statement. We’ve had an awful lot to deal with over the past few weeks, we need to do that but also get back to our reasons for being here.
Tina-L – We’re going to go with about 20 minutes. Temperature check on doing it as one group?
[very warm temperature]
Tina-L – Do you want to do this with me as facilitator? Form a circle?
[circle suggestion wins]
Tina-L – Shall we do it one point at a time? I think we can breeze through some.
Vica – Shall we put a time limit?
Tina-L – Five minutes per point?
Fanny – How about having a general discussion that could include if we think this statement should be revisited at all? Then maybe highlight some points we should specifically concentrate on?
Lilias – I think it’s perfect except for #6. This is long-winded and a bit out of date.
Jack – I actually like this being there, it gives it a temporal quality, pulls it back to the start, will make us remember that time and the situations around it.
Obi – “We are of all ethnicities”. It has been pointed out that we are not of all ethnicities. I like the way Occupy Brighton has stated “we welcome all people” – but we don’t welcome all behaviour.
Luca – On point 6, I think that yes, we should change the time reference but without cutting out the reference to the workers movement. Accept all movements attacking this system that are not in contrast with this statement.
Mark – I don’t think we should change the statement at all, it’s a reference to a point in time. We can make an entirely new statement, informing ourselves with the initial one as a guide. We should ask who are we know, what do we want now and keep it real.
Michael – Number 5 about regulators. If we were to change it, I have a problem with the idea of there being the actual ability for regulators to do anything. Regulators are intrinsically open to be captured by industries, .e.g. finance. It makes us sound a bit unrealistic and naive to think that we can actually regulate the kind of industry that we are fighting.
Fanny – I do agree that this quite beautifully brings us back to where we were in October but also that we should add some points of this, slightly change some points or come up with a new statement, Occupy in spring 2012. This doesn’t speak for example of the democratic deficit, lobbying power, the fact that we can’t change anything by voting, it lacks a global picture, e.g. developing countries and imperialism. I would like to see these issues additionally raised.
Tammy – Number 6, my suggestion would be, we supported the strike on N30 and student action on N9 and we will continue to support actions to defend our health services etc.
Tim – I was going to say exactly the same thing, I think it reads revisiting badly at the moment. Also want to support number 5. It’s a question of completely rethinking how regulation works within industries. When I’ve looked at the banks, putting new laws in place might be necessary.
Tina-L – I’m supporting a rethink of 5. Also Obi’s drawing attention to all ethnicities. Add also what Fanny says what we do overseas that’s so harmful. I don’t know about a full rewrite. I’ve seen how it warms people every time it’s read out, so I’d support tweaking.
Lilias – Add the year, 2011, to point #6. I’m confused by all ethnicities, Obi says we’re not – why aren’t we?
Obi – Somewhat pointed out that Papua New Guinea has about 100 different ethnic groups.
Tina-L – Clarification. If we added the dates, why should those two particular actions be kept in an initial statement above and beyond other actions and strikes we support.
Tina – It’s an emotional and historical reference. I think we should keep it as is and move on to a new one if we think we’re in a different place now.
Jack – I took the initiative to change the word “support” to the past tense.
[cries of "naughty boy Jack"]
Mark – I think it says a lot about the rigidity of the movement that we sometimes suffer from. It’s an initial statement that hundreds people got involved in. I’d be uncomfortable now that we’ve been reduced in population to seize the moment and reduce this down. I think we have to accept that the kind of politics we’re talking about is an ongoing organic thing, should just have this statement as a point in time of where we were then.
Arun – Are we making amendments or is this a discussion? I also feel quite uncomfortable about amending this statement. Comment about statements and policies, I think we really need to think about our practice and not something that’s on a piece of paper.
Fanny – We are just initiating the discussion of whether we should make changes.
Tammy – After this is done I’m going to be cheeky and propose a new statement working group to work on this, have it ratified by the GA as a working group, look into this more deeply and give to the GA to decide what they want to do.
Lilias – I thought we were just looking at the statement to remind ourselves of these points and how to bring the Occupy movement in line with these points.
Sara – This to me personally has temporal and spatial significance. I’m incredibly proud of this statement. There may be bits in there I’m not happy with personally but think this is something that should be framed. What we can do is go down the points in this statement and ask ourselves how, as Occupy, we’re going towards fulfilling these points.
Obi – I think the initial statement is very fluffy. I’d like to see it become more hard-hitting. Talk about fractional reserve banking. Have a second initial statement.
Jack – I think also that the mindset that makes someone desire to change that statement, heads back to the old way of thinking, as George B. put it “governmentality”. We are considering structures of modification rather than structures of rethinking.
Vica – Just that we’ve had this discussion is amasing. I think it would be nice to activate this discussion within Occupy. I also feel I wouldn’t like to change this statement but would be powerful in May with a new statement. But also see the difficulties now to find common ground. At the same time, it might be a very interesting experiment to be doing.
Fanny – Re writing a new statement, I wouldn’t start the process now, not before May. I’d rather wait, see if we can get different kind of voices involved, after May, have way more voices than the people sitting now.
Arun – We are moving towards working groups having more responsibility in their work, don’t know if we need to have this discussion about amendments.
Mark – Perhaps after May, if we’re successful, there might be a moment like October with a strong feeling of unity with lots and lots of people looking to commit to something. At this time, the London movement is really diffuse, there’s confusion as to what this movement is and isn’t. Other than that, we can make a statement for May.
Lilias – Now that I’ve listened to everyone, it reminded me of a talking circle I had a couple of weeks ago at Finsbury square. “A goose will fly 75% farther when she flies with her brothers and sisters than when she flies on her own.” Also, the transition movement talks about building a new system that will be better than the old system, works while the old system is still in place, doesn’t have to destroy the old system. If we get a new statement, that can be there as well as the old one.
Mark – I totally agree with what you’re saying that the statement is long-winded, there’s lots of stuff that if it were up to me I’d change. But I find it weird to remove stuff from something that’s historic and we’re so proud of. I can’t get my head around it. Perhaps we can be inspired by the content of the initial statement, say something loud and proud for May.
Fanny – This powerful thing we come up with before May could just be the callout for May. Looking at the other side of this flyer, it has the sites we had, it’s quite outdated now, old websites. We don’t really know what Occupy London is now or whether Occupy London exists. Having an Occupy London initial statement now feels a bit weird.
Sara – We still have about 2,000 flyers in my kitchen at the moment.
Mark – Sell them on e-bay!
Tammy – If you can let me have lots of these flyers. I’m actually opening info again this week at St Paul’s in info, just without a tent. Pop-up table with a chair. If they take that, blanket on the floor.
Michael – Papers [newspapers]…
Tammy – That too.
Tina-L – I’m now totally against tweaking this, it’s a historic document. We can have a new outreach leaflet that simply highlights the types of working groups we have, and use that as an outreach tool, telling you what’s Occupy is doing.
Obi – If we get rid of the 2000 leaflets, that means we need to print out some more. Why not make initial statement 1.1?
Tina-L – We’re doing a new leaflet for outreach exercise purposes, Sara mentioned.
Fanny – Just wondering, simply because of time, I wouldn’t go into a point-by-point discussion. People in this circle appear to be thinking in the same way as the statement. Can we take a temperature check, as a basis for future discussion? It might be worth noting in the minutes.
Tina-L – Phrasing this, that we keep the initial statement as a historic statement and in order to honour the involvement of all those people in Occupy who helped make it.
[very warm temperature]
Michael -In terms of the leaflets, at the working group GA, Ronan got consensus to print out leaflets for May.
Tina – It’s unclear what the situation is right now, Ronan promised to return the 300 pounds he got at the last GA due to breach in process. Also, I don’t think the flyers are about the initial statement but about promoting the May events. Not sure, would have to ask him.
Tina-L – Shall we move on to shout-outs?
Fanny – On Saturday 14th April, I am aware that this clashes with the national conference which is quite unfortunate, there is an open meeting organised by the counter Olympics movement, a collection of community groups campaigning against Olympics, sponsors etc. The Olympic working group hasn’t been formed because of disagreement with Occupy London things but there are still individuals who want to be involved, so we thought the most reasonable thing to do would be to join other groups planning actions.
11am-4:30pm Bishops Gate Institute, I’ve sent an e-mail to groupspaces. People can contact me if they want to ask anything, I’ve been in contact with the organisers, am happy to print out the agenda and bring it to Finsbury square next week.
Amelia – I support people from Occupy London because they care about the future!
Obi – We were evicted from Limehouse. We’re now at Miles’ end, we weren’t evicted yesterday, so we’re probably safe until Tuesday. Come and join us in Miles End.
Jack – Me and Sara visited on Tuesday, it’s a very quiet place, a wonderful Occupy site, wonderfully different from anything I’ve seen so far. Slightly different way of making decisions, go take a look at what Occupy could be.
Arun – This is a callout in line of 12th May planning. This is about organising a family activity in the morning, doing a treasure hand within the city, have music etc. We’ll be talking about this hopefully in the meetings tomorrow 4-6pm at Ye Olde London pub.
Fanny – Might as well say a couple of words on Leighton marshes. The atmosphere is amazing, lots of activists, it’s nice to see people sitting round the fire discussing a campaign that really works. The court case yesterday was lost, however people are still willing to fight, bringing the campaign to places where they have even more visibility, they are really determined to stop them building that basketball site. I’d encourage people to get active in this campaign, it’s really inspiring to see such things happening.
Tammy -This is just an idea I’ve had and something I’m doing as an individual but I really want to do it and I would appreciate any support. I’m reopening info over there [points in direction of old info tent]. I know that whole area with my eyes closed. I’d like to have a chat with TCU see if we can get TCU up and running? I’d like to find out about getting some meditation going where the meditation tent used to be. I know it’s cheeky, it’s an outreach opportunity and also direct action. Also, fundraising I organised for yesterday, it was suggested it happens at Finsbury square it would be easier for people from Finsbury to attend, I couldn’t make it, got held up at the Leighton marshes court. Interestingly, only Andrea turned up, not a single person even though it was right next to Finsbury square.
Tuesday 1pm in TCU I’ll be doing fundraising for anyone interested.
Tina – TCU?
Tina-L – Essence of TCU. Old site.
Michael – I love the info tent idea and I think we’ll try and have an OT person with you at all times because we have massively struggled to have situations as good as that. That place to distribute was so incredible. People were coming to the site expecting to have political conversations. Engaging with people for 15-20 minutes, they’d give us 20 pounds for a paper. But maybe, don’t push it. If we start trying to build up too many things, they’ll try and get rid of us.
Lilias – I went down to Little Hampton, keep driving past a sign that says “200 acres of land for sale.” I called them asking for the price but they wouldn’t give it to me.
Tammy – It’s been a beautiful general assembly this evening. Thank you.
Obi – Livestream crew. Occupy Nomads are in Mile End now.
Tina-L – Also thanks to Obi for the continuous broadcasting, it’s such a treasure trove. I now pronounce this assembly closed.