GA Minutes – 7pm, Monday 21st November 2011
Minutes of Occupy LSX General Assembly
7pm Monday 21st November 2011
SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS AND DECISIONS
1. Approval of statement of solidarity with Egyptian activists [Consensus achieved]
2. Approval of current Occupy LSX Charter, proposed by Legal group to facilitate court proceedings – [No consensus] – Referred for further discussion and clarification.
3. Approval of current Economics Working Group statement – [No consensus] – Referred for further discussion and adjustment.
Update from Egypt:
We’re inspired by Occupy London because it seems so unlikely. Lots of you have been hearing of violence by the military and police in Egypt. I want to go through what you don’t hear on TV or read in the newspapers. There has been constant action from below all over Egypt. A number of popular committees have developed in different neighbourhoods, and have been monitoring how the local government have been acting, and helping determine how the government can operate on a local level. We can’t just demand the change we think should happen – we need to start practicing it in order to propose alternatives. Occupy has lots in common with Egypt and we need people to exchange ideas to see what we can learn from each other.
In Egypt, there are systematic attacks by the military on the freedoms of political activists and everyday protesters, because these people are threatening the status quo. A number of people were injured in last weeks revolutions, people have lost limbs and eyes. Protesters in Tahir Square demanding justice were attacked ruthlessly by the military on Friday night. They demanded the military step down from power and hold elections, which the military keep delaying. We doubt they intend to hand over power. After any attack more than 10,000 people pour onto the street. They are attacking with transparent tear gas, which is labelled ‘made in the USA’, newly imported. Rubber bullets, live ammunition. The death toll so far is 35 people, and many have been injured in the last 48 hours.
The demand of the protesters is that the military steps down. We are either legitimate as the people, or the undemocratic, unelected, unaccountable military is legitimate. If they become legitimate, and suppress us, we will be completely suppressed. In Cairo the military are not a ruling institution anymore – the current government are standing down and the military are handing over to a transitional government. There will be a ‘million person march’ tomorrow all over upper and lower Egypt. Workers, socialists, islamists, youth will be taking part. 52 people have been arrested and are being tried fro killing the rest of the protesters. If we win, they lose, and unaccountable governments everywhere lose. The story is being told from the side of the military – ‘violence continues in Egypt’ – but its a constant struggle of the people, and it’s important that we tell our story. Please join our protests.
We are asking for consensus for Occupy London to make a statement of solidarity with Egyptian activists. [Warmth]
The statement is as follows:
“We, Occupy London, send out unconditional support to the revolutionaries in all the Tahir Squares in Egypt and support their demands. We denounce the killing of peaceful protesters by the unaccountable and undemocratic ruling military junta and police. All glory to the martyrs, long live the revolution.”
> I’m not too sure that anything can be ‘unconditional’.
< Happy if we just say we offer our support? > Let’s only say solidarity, not unconditional or full support.
< OK, we’ll change ‘unconditional support’ to ‘solidarity’. > ‘All glory to the martyrs’ – I would find this metaphysical, doesn’t join with me and how I would like to express support.
< OK, we will remove this. “We, Occupy London, send out solidarity with the revolutionaries in all the Tahir Squares in Egypt and support their demands. We denounce the killing of peaceful protesters by the unaccountable and undemocratic ruling military junta and police. Long live the revolution.” Do we have consensus on this statement? [Consensus achieved] In the last hour the ministerial cabinet has resigned and we have a little revolution inside the ministry of interior. The days to come, and your support, are critical. We will be protesting every day this week, till Friday, between 5pm and 7pm outside the Egyptian embassy in Park Lane. There will be a march on Edgware Road on Friday. An event has been created on Facebook. -- WORKING GROUP FEEDBACK -- Direct action: There will be a demonstration tomorrow against Santos, the President of Columbia in relation to the young people who are being assassinated as false positives. It’s being organised by the camp of solidarity with Columbia, in conjunction with Houghton St, MOV22, LAWAS and the LSE Student Union. Meeting on Houghton Street, 11.30am - 2.30pm. Holborn nearest tube. -- First aid: On Wednesday morning, between 10am and 2pm, there will be a GUM team holding a clinic in the 1st aid tent here on site. -- If anyone heard my attempt to put a proposal together about 10 commitments, we will be meeting to reformulate them. Meet 3pm on Wednesday on the cathedral steps. -- Info: We want to talk to anyone interested in helping out at the Info Tent. It’s an important part of the camp - it’s where visitors arrive and get information about the rest of the camp. It’s rewarding - people come in saying beautiful things about the camp. We will have a diary with 1 hour rota slots. We will have a fully trained person and a volunteer for each hourly slot. If you have a spare hour, please come and dedicate it - people from all working groups. -- Tranquility: We are having issues with noise. There have been a lot of complaints about people being loud late at night or when functions are happening at St Paul's cathedral. If you are having a music event, please check at the Info Tent to see a timetable of St Paul's events, so that we don’t disturb them, because they’ve been very accommodating to us. -- Eviction: If anyone wants to be named in the proceedings as a representative, please meet 11am 22nd November downstairs in the Salvation Army Cafe. We will talk you through the ramifications of this. You would be appearing in court. -- Energy, equality, environment: There will be an international day of climate justice on 3rd December. Things will be happening all over the world to coincide with the latest round of disastrous international negotiations on climate change. There will be a teach-out in front of the cathedral at 10.30am, a camp against climate change march starting here from 1pm and ending at the Houses of Parliament. We’ll be inviting everyone back here for tea afterwards. If you want to get involved, or if you have any ideas, please let us know. -- Occupied Times: The Occupied Times headquarters has been moved to Finsbury Square where we have a lovely tent, power and wifi. If anyone is free on Wednesday 23rd November, please come and help us fold newspapers from 1pm. We’ve got thousands to get through - please come along. -- Shelter: If you would like a space to sleep here for the night, please let us know before 9pm, 10pm at the latest, and we will allocate you a space. After 10pm, Nightwatch and Tranquility take over and deal with the overall running of the camp. -- PROPOSALS AND DECISIONS -- 1. Occupy LSX Charter, proposed by Legal group to facilitate court proceedings This is the latest version of our charter, which is vital to our survival and how we conduct our court case. The Guardian article today referred to the registrars reports of graffiti, substance abuse, desecration and defecation as issues at the head of the City of London Corporation’s attempt to evict us. I don’t intent to comment on how we will be addressing that in the legal team, but we need to do our best to address the issues there are in that area. This proposal is for an interim charter. The full charter will require more considerations. We just need this charter so we can be represented by a solicitor as a group of people. It’s quite simple - the GA would be commissioning itself to act as one body. It’s a small constitutional document. Companies and community groups all have one. It’s the lowest level of constitution, to agree what we act on collectively and bring some definition to the collective. We will read this out as it stands now, and will take a temperature check and points. [Proposed charter read out loud] This framework document is very important for us to act on within legal proceedings. Any points of clarification? > What is an ‘individual agent’ within this legal framework – how would this work within the collective legal entity?
< We are trying to act as a collective group with consensus decision making, but individuals are free to be defendants in their own right, separate from collective. > Why can’t someone be represented by both and then choose the one thats doing the best job at the closing stages?
< You can be a named person within the collective in proceedings, represented by the solicitor and barrister we’ve got, but you can’t be both. You you have to be a named party to begin with. It might be possible to join in later, but the court might object to that. To be named in a separate right, the court expects you to do that. A collective defence will provide protection to those people acting individually. If we separate out, we are less strong - that’s the principle to consider. If anyone requires exact clarity on this please consult a solicitor. Temperature check for the charter. Any disagreements? > I’m not a lawyer, but I see a number of logical flaws in this document. It’s worrying that the notice of why we need this document and the charter itself are printed on the same page, because the top notice could be seen as a form of duress – not good. This needs to be taken away for a full review. We’ve stated in the legal part of the document that without a charter we can’t proceed with a legal defence as a collective. I would like further clarification of the exact legal status to be made clear to the group. Not opening up our defence strategy, but educating us on the law and how it works. We need to understand our rights before we ratify something that says ‘these are our rights’. The charter says “The wording on this charter has been specifically chosen for legal reasons. Of course, we can talk about some of the content, but it is important that this Charter is accepted” – this is not what we want pinned to the charter, this does not happen in charters.
< [Clarification] This text is on the front of this document to indicate the time constraint put on us by the court, for information purposes. Does that answer your question? > It is still not acceptable, and we could still push for adjournment. Have we considered that yet? As for the charter, if we affirm the initial Occupy LSX statement, we’ll be stuck to this position. We’ve been here for 5 weeks – we need to review our hastily arranged position. Regarding the 2nd point, it doesn’t harm to recognise the importance of the Magna Carta, but perhaps all previous legislation should be? It’s a prerequisite that we recognise the importance of St Paul’s – it doesn’t need to be that we all respect the building. We could simplify to say we respect all organisations and spaces around us, to as where the law is not arguable. I have a major problem with “as occupy LSX we commit to a consensus model of democratic engagement” – this has blatantly been breached here. You can stand with a block for 2 hours and things aren’t reviewed. We’re not taking time to think things out properly. This isn’t good for us. We’ve all affirmed we’re non-violent anyway – it’s inherent. It says “We recognise the fundamental importance of having respect for and appreciation of individual rights and freedoms”. If people are breaching these rights, its not really a matter for us, it’s a matter for the police. I would like a copy of the Safer Spaces policy referred to.
< It’s available in the Info Tent. > I’ll come back after a proper debate elsewhere. Things need to get thought out properly. We committed to consensus. The key element is debating, which is not happening. We need to reform. The last point is fine. We need to heavily review this before we can put it through.
> We’re being told we can speak to the solicitor, but when I tried to today I was told there was only one conduit, the 3 people on the Eviction Legal team. I’m experienced – barrister since 1975, represented people in previous occupations, academics, human rights, all pro bono – for nothing. People on this legal team have no O-level law. We’re going to court and being told “go together or you’re on your own”, and we’re supposed to ignore individual representation and play along. It’s outrageous. I’ve been contributing a lot to the camp and working with the Anonymous group, talking to the clergy on a daily basis. I’m worried that the voices of the people on the ground at Occupy LSX are not being listened to by the legal team and solicitor. The only charter we need is that we believe in the independence of the human spirit and soul. Let’s think carefully before we ratify something we haven’t had 24 hours to read. We don’t want to be represented by people who tell us what to do. If they won’t do things how we want, then we can get someone else, like Bindmans.
< There are a lot of questions around the difference between whether we are represented by 40 individuals or a charter, but neither means any less representation at General Assemblies. A charter just amplifies the sense that everyone is equal, and does not lead to decision sidestepping the GA. I gather from talking to the legal team that whether we represent together or as individuals wouldn’t change the possibilities if they find against us. I we had an opportunity to sit down with the lawyers at some point it would be good to get a concrete response to these concerns. Next points: > Regarding self-representation. You can stand up and make a statement in the high court, it doesn’t have to be a legal statement, it can be a moral statement. Doesn’t have to have legal weight, but if you have something to say in court for moral reasons then you should. For example, in response to the charge of occupying the highway, “the earth is a common treasury for all and we have the right to occupy the land”.
>The other day a chap stood up here and got consensus to be a legal representative for Occupy LSX. I dug around and discovered that he’s a Freeman of the City of London Corporation. Is this a conflict of interests, or something more sinister? He’s also an enclothed member of the Worshipful Company of Coopers. He has taken an oath to be obedient to the Lord Mayor of London, which includes “I do solemnly swear I will be obedient to the Mayor of this city, I will maintain franchises and customs thereof and keep the city harmless, will know no gathering or conspiracy against the Queens peace and will hinder them to my power”. [Warmth]
OK, we’re not going to seek consensus on this tonight. There is a court hearing on Wednesday whether we like it or now. We will seek consensus at tomorrows lunchtime GA. It’s important as many people as possible of this, given the time constraints.
> Can the legal team please respond to these connections between legal reps and the City of London?
< We’ve just been made aware of this, and I want to get into the details and establish if there is a conflict of interest. The charter is a functional document that enables us to do work. We aren’t deciding anything, it doesn’t lock us into a particular way of doing things - it opens up additional ways. 15 people have put a lot of work in since we were served on Friday, analysis, feedback, critique, running around engaging and encouraging people to be engaged. If there’ no confidence in me, I’m happy with that. I am experienced at putting judges on the spot in courts, I’m not under control of the bar, law society or judges - I’m a free individual committed in my heart and soul to what I believe. If I don’t know how to do something, I will tell you. We’re in a fluid situation, things change all the time. Legal team update. I’ve just talked to the rest of the legal team on the phone and the legal situation has changed the last 2 hours - we don’t need to pass this charter tonight, or for Wednesday. [Proposal postponed] This has been a valuable discussion. We’re all doing our best, and it’s important we respect each other despite profound disagreements. > I still don’t understand what the legal group will be doing in response to this new information of who our legal representatives are and whose interested they are representing. This sways the advice they’re giving. Can the legal team respond to this information?
< I’m going to meet the legal team now, and will bring this information, talk about it, and will address these issues at tomorrows GA. Is this OK? [Warmth] > If we’re being told that there’s a reason, we need to know why. I feels hierarchical at the moment. We want to know why, and until we’re told why we’re just dancing in the dark.
Unless someone can specifically respond to this, let’s continue this discussion at the 7pm GA tomorrow. Please can the legal team make sure someone explains what’s going on at tomorrows 7pm GA.
Do you agree? [Warmth] Any disagreements? [No]
Draft statement from Economics working group
The Economics working group have come up with an initial statement, taken from input around the camp and other working groups. It’s somewhat a compromise to accommodate different positions. Every sentence has been reworked, some many times. Some have said they don’t think it’s radical enough. Essentially, we want to start a process for people interested in putting forward alternative systems. This is simply the initial statement, that hopefully consensus can be agreed on.
[Reading of draft statement]
Once we’ve got more feedback and broad support we will go on to have a meeting for broad strategies in Tent City University, with things being brought back to General Assembly. Tax havens, Tobin tax etc – it’s down to you.
[GA breaks into groups for 20 minutes to discuss the draft economics statement]
[One person from each group returns with main points from group]
People feel very passionately about this. I personally thought it was a good initial statement, but was surprised at how problematic other group members found it. We didn’t agree on the 6 headlines. People didn’t feel it was strong enough. Some people want to abolish money, some just want to tweak capitalism, so apparently this is just what the Economics WG managed to agree on.
Someone in the group feels the statement doesn’t address gender issues – an important part of economics, as women do most of the work and hardly earn any money. One person strongly disagreed that saying that the government had made a naive assumption was wrong – they actually made a cynical assumption.
Where it says it highlights major concerns, maybe it should say ‘some concerns’, which will let us add more concerns in future. It’s great the Economics group want this feedback, let’s appreciate the amount of work they’ve put into this.
It should start with a more positive statement at the beginning – not just about opposition. We’re all feeling we have a common purpose in being against inequality and injustice. It’s also about the behaviour of individuals.
Unsustainability. We need to look at the impact of the current system being environmentally unsustainable. Engagement – creating or framing this so we encourage actual engagement – so we get more people involved.
We raised a number of points. Not enough for 3 concrete proposals. We would like more time to consider and feel we could produce something more constructive.
The next Economics Working Group meeting will be at 5pm 22nd November, downstairs at the Cafe Nero by St Paul’s tube station. You can leave messages for us at the pocket in the Info Tent.
The Economics Working group would like to ask for consensus on the whole document. If we don’t get it immediately, we will move on and the document will go back for more discussion.
OK, your responsibility now is to put your feedback in the Economics pocket in the Info Tent, or come to the Economics Working Group meetings. We’re fed up of people saying we don’t know what we want, we have to look forward and keep going. As part of this GA, we will all eventually get these things out.
After more feedback and meetings, we will come back to the GA with another proposal.. Thanks for your words of wisdom.
> We will be showing a film this evening ’Future of Hope’ which is about Iceland. They have a new constitution, they brought the bankers to court, they embraced economic and environmental reforms. Showing this evening in Tent City University Cinema.
> Tomorrow we’re having a ‘die-in’ to protest against the reality that energy companies are charging an arm and a leg for people to keep their homes warm. A quarter of households can’t afford to stay warm, several thousand people die of cold each winter because of this. We’re going to Westminster for 10.30am tomorrows to go to one of the big 6 energy companies to ‘die of cold’.
> I’m organising a peace walk this Friday, from here to Westminster, supported by Veterans for Peace and Peace Strike. It’s not an official Occupy LSX event. We’ll be leaving here at noon on Friday. It’s an unauthorised demonstration, and there are laws relating to protest in Westminster. The purpose is to call for peace, to end UK involvement in the war in Afghanistan, and for a declaration that the UK will not attack or invade Iran under any circumstances. We’ll visit the MoD, 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and possibly British Aerospace Engineering.
> I have great respect for the people who I saw thrashing out this 2 page economic statement. Speaking on behalf of people without economics degrees, I would like a response to people who say ‘what’s St Paul’s for – you’re all anti-capitalist aren’t you?’ – these people won’t stand and read a 2 page letter. Please for the sake of us could we have a brief thing that says “we’re not anti-capitalist, we’re blah blah blah”, so we can tell our friends and neighbours what it’s all about please.
> It’s important that we bear in mind, we’re one of the luckiest occupiers- we have not had to deal with police aggression and harassment so far. Solidarity with the 99%, and solidarity with occupations around the world. In the end we’re all here to fight global injustice.
Thanks everyone for still being here and helping out.