Wednesday, August 3, 2011

REPORT: First General Assembly of New York Established; Preparations for Wall St Occupation Begin

Hello everyone - Here is MY report on the August 2nd, People's Assembly on Wall Street. I emphasize MY report because it consists of my perspective alone on the activities of the day and does not represent any official record of minutes of the general assembly.


Under continuous pressure by police, the first General Assembly of New York (GA-NY) made some of the initial decisions to begin organizing for an occupation of Wall Street currently planned for September 17, 2011 and to extend indefinitely.

The "People's General Assembly on Wall Street" action on August 2nd ran from approximately 4:30 - 8:30 pm. The event began with a speakout via microphone and speaker just south of the Wall Street Bull on the cobblestone section of Bowling Green Park. After approximately a half-hour, earlier than expected, the structure shifted towards convening an actual general assembly. A protest march on Wall Street was voted down by the GA on August 2nd, the symbolic date for the deadline for Congress to pass the bill raising the federal debt ceiling (which, notably, makes across the board cuts to government spending without raising any tax revenue). Each segment ran at approximately the following times: speakout from 4:30-5:30, a general assembly (GA) 5:15 - 7:15, split into working committees 7:15-7:35, and a final wrap-up GA.

Aside from one particular point of confusion and concern [which I have noted in detail in 2nd-to-last paragraph at the end of this report], the events of the August 2nd assembly on Wall Street went mostly according to plan. The activity of the first GA-NY included:

- Approx. 7:15 pm: Voted to break up into smaller committees and reconvene shortly thereafter. Committees on Outreach; Food; Technology: Social Media; Students; thoughts on the structure of the

GA were established. General Assembly reconvened after [I was not present for it].

- Voted to have next GA-NY Meeting on Tuesday, August 9 at 7:30 at Irish Hunger Memorial, 1 World Financial Centre, NYC [NOTE: initial proposed location was DC 37 and changed after the GA reconvened post-committee meetings]

- Discussion of proposals and concerns for a planned occupation of Wall Street

ACTIONS taken by the committees include [I was not present for reports from the committees, but received this information second-hand]:

- Outreach: next meeting Thursday, August 4 at 6:30 pm at the Writer's Guild, 250 Hudson St, 7th floor open to all interested in organizing outreach to NYC community groups, as well as national and international organizations

- Food: plan to have food at next GA meeting on Tuesday

- Logistics: discussed tactics for interactions with police during an occupation

- Thoughts on the GA structure: Agreement/disagreement based on hand signals; Create a progressive stack; In particular, created structure for proposals including a moment for clarification and tempature check; next, ask for discussion/blocks; then, the vote. A block breaks down concensus and moves to 2/3rd vote.

CONCERNS expressed during the GA were, with particular action and agreements reached in parentheses:

- need to establish working committees; New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts (NYABC), a coalition of unions, student groups, community organizations and activists for NYC and who were responsible for the Bloombergville occupation in June 2011 have established some organization already and could be utilized to not overlap; however, the majority of the participants in the GA-NY are not part of NYABC and may not wish to meet under that name (realized that these options were not mutually exclusive)

- need to define the proper format of a GA (a committee was formed to discuss and consider the GA structure)

- The GA must be open to expressions of agreement or disagreement: despite the inner tensions that might come from that, we know there is much to unite us.

- Not wanting to be enveloped under another pre-existing group while not wanting to dismiss a lot of the work done by NYABC

- Despite legal concerns that police will not allow us to use parks in a group of 20 or more, there was significant emphasis placed on the importance of having GAs in public space

- Logistics about confronting police in an occupation of Wall Street; be sure to record any repressive activity that is going on; be careful discussing any plans for civil disobedience

- Need to reach out to unions, who are strong in NYC

- Concern about September 17, 2011, as the expected date of Wall Street occupation: established by Adbusters but without having contributed any material support to organization

- Need media and musicians; need to hear/collect the stories of people who have been affected by budget cuts, mortgage foreclosure, etc.

OTHER PROPOSALS made during the GA but which were not voted on include [I did not catch all the proposals which were made]:

- convene GAs in the boroughs/neighborhoods; have GAs at least weekly

- creating a special website for the GA-NY

- having a demonstration targeting the Federal Reserve bank,

- promotion of organizing work being done through Picture the Homeless,

- organize through New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts who have experience with one occupation (Bloombergville) and have already done a lot of groundwork in NYC, others?

- the committees should prepare the proposals which come before the GA

Finally, a brief attempt to objectively describe the confusion and concerns that arose in the first GA-NY, a few participants were adamantly opposed to the initial speakout sessions being voiced through the loudspeaker, proclaiming that it was "not a general assembly" and demanding that a more open GA be created. Though organizers quickly shifted to the general assembly structure for the meeting, maintaining use of the loudspeaker caused the opposed participants to organize their own assembly, causing a brief bifurcation in the group: one group utilizing the GA structure of an open floor but maintaining the loudspeaker to contend with the traffic noise, the other group seating themselves in a circle closer to Bowling Green park. The breakaway faction had objected to the format because it appeared to function more like a rally than a GA and expressed concerns about being forced to speak under a particular political party or viewpoint voiced this criticism; as they broke off to begin the GA, paricipants were stuck between the two groups. As the power began to die from the loudspeaker, the group voted by simple majority to move to the traditional GA and joined the circle, in which the GA was already under way.

[All apologies for lack of coverage on the people who spoke at the speakout and the beginning of the GA (before I started taking notes), and both during and after the committee meetings. If anyone has notes on these who spoke and what was discussed during portions that were missed here, please include your information in the comments below. Also, and this is important, if you did not have an opportunity to speak or have something you forgot or would now like to mention or felt dissuaded or otherwise discouraged from speaking, please add to the comments here. As an open and democratic community, we encourage everyone to engage in dialogue: no matter whether your comments are supportive, productive, or critical please make them amicable in all cases. Thank you, all!]

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