Democracy Action Working Group (DAWG): Minutes 10.4.14

 

Occupy London DAWG Meeting: Thursday 10th April 2014 6pm

[please note next meeting @ Friends House, Euston; starts at 6.00 pm on Thurs. 17th April]

Present: John, Sam, Dean, Chris, George B, Maria S, Maria 2, Steve, Janie Mac, Ali, George, Jamie

Minute Taker – Sam. (I’ve summarised a lot, as there was much said, and quite a lot of things repeated. I’ve written what I thought were the salient points made in the meeting)

 

The preceding Saturday DAWG had an informal meeting after the GA in the Ye Olde London pub. There was a energetic brainstorming session over proposed policy reforms to improve democracy. Maria S suggested that as there are many other groups who have been working on these issues for a long time, so rather than conclusive, we ought to see it more as team building exercise and to energise newcomers.

 

Deciding the date of the action (this took up basically the whole meeting, but aspects of the nature of the event were discussed at the same time, so that it might be decided when best to hold it.)

 

Last week George suggested 16th October occupation of Parliament Square until the 18th (Thursday-Saturday). Wednesday the 15th Occupy London 3rd anniversary.

 

Dean asks why we are waiting so long to do something. John replies that he wants as many as 10,000 people to be in attendance, and so this requires thorough preparation. Dean says this is a good answer.

 

John – there is a big TUC march on Saturday, they may pass through Parliament Square.

 

George – Our best bet of 10,000 is Saturday.

Proposes a 3 day occupation of St Pauls, to maintain Occupy’s link to the City, and then a major contingent marching on Parliament Square to occupy there. This is at the same time as other issue based occupations converging on parliament simultaneously, eg. NHS campaigners, legal aid, students, teachers, etc.

 

Jamie is not convinced by use of St Pauls. Risks being self-referential. We should not do something simply for the nostalgia.

 

George replies the point of a St Pauls occupation is simply Occupy being part of a greater whole, making the point about financial influence, and then joining with the others on the Saturday.

 

John not keen on the idea of multiple dates and sites. Confuses and divides people. We need to announce one day, in Parliament Square.

 

Chris and Sam see these things as mutually compatible. Profound idea of different groups coming together under banner of democracy. If individual occupations all attract attention at the same time, media coverage more likely, build momentum for Saturday. TUC will bring numbers.

John emphasises that the mandate from the GA is for an event on Parliament and nowhere else. All our publicity and funding should go towards that. He says he will not go to St Pauls, and if people want to occupy there they should start a different working group.

 

John, Dean, Jamie all agree that focus needs to be on the Saturday at Parliament Square.

George not saying that everyone occupy st Pauls, just a core occupy group, as the other groups hopefully do their own events in other areas of the city.

 

George suggests Saturday as potential starting day, occupy until Monday (with the other occupations including St Pauls being before that.) John worries that if we start on Saturday we risk looking like we are hijacking the TUC march. Jamie says ‘redirecting’ and ‘hijacking’ is just spin on the same thing. Janie Mac says that we needn’t be worried about union opposition as they are saying they want to take lessons from Occupy.

 

John makes the point that if we do it earlier, (ie. Wednesday) we get more bites at the cherry. On Occupy Wall Street’s first day, only a few people turned up, then came back in increased numbers in following days, as the eviction attracted media attention and so increased support. Use evictions as method of milking the media and mobilising the support of others. Therefore, proposal: start on Thursday, get the coverage on the media and plan to retake the square on Friday, and then the biggest event on Saturday. Means that Wednesday can be for Occupiers at St Pauls beforehand too. Many find this convincing.

 

Janie Mac makes the point that if we turn up on a weekday with quite low numbers and are turned away, the media will either not report it, or it will be simply called a ‘dispersal’, ‘eviction’ won’t be used. We need to somehow work out how to play the press and make it known it was an intended occupation.

 

Jamie is convinced by Janie’s argument about question mark over ability to spin in the press. Says this might be a reason to choose Friday, as people can come after work and we need it to be as accessible to as many people as possible.

 

Interlude:

Discussion emerges as to the nature of the event itself.

 

John says that we should be presenting demands to parliament, or holding a People’s Assembly which are not threatening actions.

 

Chris adds to this that presenting a petition to parliament is a powerful message.

 

Maria S suggests that we have a two day programme of speakers and workshops.

 

John adds to this a 48 hour speakathon, which is peaceful and so difficult to disperse.

 

Janie Mac – ‘a political festival!’/George – ’festival of democracy’

 

George says we need to frame the event as ‘fluffy, spiky, family-friendly’. Needs to be mainstream. Steve – needs to be colourful, fun and clear. He like the phrase ‘fluffy, spiky’.

And back to discussion of the date…

 

After Maria brings us back on track, saying we need to decide a date before meeting allies, the decision goes to a temperature check. 5 vote for starting on Thursday, 5 vote for starting on Friday.

 

Janie Mac initially stood aside, but relented to favour Thursday. She says that even if a few of us go to parliament, we can do a ‘Lone standing man’ protest spread out across the square. Steve is keen on this idea, and comes up with some characteristically colourful suggestions, involving dressing up like Mr. and Mrs. atoms, cardboard cutouts of forts and everyone being ‘as placid as a platypus’.

 

George isn’t convinced this is best reason to hold it in on Thursday, as we risk losing momentum. Argues that Friday is better for building to a big event on Saturday.

 

John says that we should make an e-petition saying that parliament must debate whatever is agreed at this assembly in Parliament Square.

 

Chris argues that in order to present something to Parliament we have to be there on a weekday. We therefore need to come up with some provisional demands, have an assembly to discuss with other groups, and the logical time to ‘hand-in’ what we have is therefore Monday.

 

Discussion over the relative merits of either starting on Thursday (more time to build momentum, community, back up plans, longer programme) vs. Friday (less time to get messy, working towards handing in on Monday as a final date).

 

Everyone agrees on starting Friday! This is in order to present demands agreed over the weekend programmed assembly.

 

Sam – Groups can do issue based occupations beforehand, possibly some at St Paul’s, and march to Parliament Square on Friday morning. Maria S – start programme at midday on Friday?

 

Sam – what if we don’t come to a decision? Maria S – this should be framed as a discussion space, the process of this is important and needs to be discussed with other groups too. She says we can call it the drafting of a new People’s Constitution perhaps.

 

George emphasises the need to frame this a search for solutions, not simply highlighting problems. We should bring in experts to talk. Maria – talk to the Constitution Society?

 

John agrees that demands create clarity and cohesion. Media can’t attack us for no solutions. He is happy with meta-demands, but he knows others want more detail.

 

Maria 2 suggests we lobby MPs en masse, go to their MP surgeries etc.

 

Dean suggests that we have speakers on Friday, to warm people up on the issues. We then have some kind of vote on Saturday, as this is when the legitimacy of whatever we decide will be affirmed. Prepare a few specific and detailed issues for Sat.

 

George describes the double edged sword of vague demands. Says we need to get around this by having a great website with small/medium/large demands. Small to attract attention and inspire, the larger with suggested reforms which would be possible under a real democracy, complete with academic references, etc. Not simply programmatic, but also broad enough to attract support. Ali is keen on this.

 

John asks if we should have a ‘pow-wow’ with all interested parties at some point. How is August?

 

Maria – we should do it earlier than August, a lot of these organisations only meet quarterly.

 

And that was about it. Sorry if I missed anything you said off.

 

Sam

xxx

Post Script.

After consulting Minute Taker for correctness, Chris wished to add:-

Chris stated his rounded view of the comprehensive agenda for the OL DAWG campaign for democracy. The principle purpose of a successful action focused upon parliament is to gain publicity and stir interest in a debate on how we ‘do democracy’. It may be that OL would be seen centrestage in this, and if it is and is to rally/ have hope of capitalising on such an opportunity, it needs not only to be posing the questions – that’s all to easy and ineffectual – It needs answers also. These don’t have to be foolproof but they do need to have a natural wisdom and simplicity so that anyone who is stimulated to take a real and constructive interest is not put off either by the complexity or any bias that may have divisive left/right undertones agenda. That is, I think in keeping with what was discussed and agreed, one great strength of OLSX/L is that it remains squeaky clean in respect of political leanings, and could not unreasonably be characterised as an Idea that springs from care about all the terminal evils that afflict our global society and with foremost purpose of waking the world to its responsibility to confront this reality and explore the rational options to help to put things to rights. In so doing, while this was not really an option for OLSX, I take the personal view that if one criticises a system, if this is not to be an essentially ineffectual pastime, there has to be an associated suggestion of rational alternatives. These do not need to be perfected as they must serve principally as a stimulus for that debate that can and should lead to an alternative game plan to develop in the search for optimal functionality.

One or more of the group have variously suggested that formulation of ‘demands, charters etc.’, should be by wide, massive or ‘expert’ consultation, I have every faith in the view that, in terms of outline ideas to offer the ‘bones’ of a debate, OL has all the wit and wisdom necessary to kick start with ideas for debate.

 

I would also mention that I voiced concern about the clash with the TUC demo because of logistics of people power/numbers – guess we will have to hope it all comes together well.

 

 

 
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