GA Minutes – Friday 13th January 2012

 
GENERAL ASSEMBLY FRIDAY 13 JANUARY 2012
Facilitator: Saskia
Co Facilitatator: Phil
Minutes: Sara
Weather: Cold
Atmosphere: ??…. (Phil) “Electric!”

Facilitator welcomed those assembled and pointed to a number of important dates: Sunday we will have been occupying the courtyard of St Paul’s for 3 months. On the 99th Day many will assemble at the National Occupation Conference in the ‘Citadel of Hope’ in Sheffield (21 January).

Facilitator Introduces Agenda

  1. Short announcement about eviction from Vica
  2. Proposal from Finance (presented by Vica)
  3. Democracy working group statement will be given 1hour 20 minutes
  4. If we have time we will discuss some issues corresponding to democracy.

(Minute takers note: Questions due for discussion were a) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the General Assembly process and how can it be made more inclusive? b)Is the aim to create a more participative democracy out of the existing parliamentary system or looking to replace Parliament altogether?)

Interruption: We need to discuss a letter addressed to the church. Would like to make a formal complaint about GA process since it was promised this would be discussed.
Facilitator: Is there a copy of the letter?
Response: No I gave all my letters out.
Facilitator: If Max arrives we can talk about the letter then?
Response: I want it on record I did my job.

Facilitator: Court hearing judgment will not be delivered on Monday due to an error in listings office.
Interruption: I want to express a concern about safety, what precautions should we be taking to ensure the safety of the public?
Facilitator: If Max turns up we will cut democracy discussion short and talk about letter to the church (minute taker assumes this relates to safety as well).

  1. Facilitator: I’d like to add a quick discussion about what we include in Sunday’s day of events.

 

EVICTION ANNOUNCEMENT

  • No court hearing on Monday. Lets take opportunity to start talking. On Wednesday the GA discussed eviction and we came up with some ideas. Now it’s time to implement them.
  • What emerged? 3 action groups to be formed:
  1. Communications: concerned with before eviction, during eviction and after.

 

Meet Sunday 2pm at the BOI to discuss how to coordinate online.

  1. Peaceful Resistance: Will be facilitated by Liz

 

Meet Saturday 2pm TCU (meeting to move to another location): bring ideas of peaceful resistance to eviction

  1. Logistics: Get stuff off camp facilitated by Luke of Finsbury Square and Matt (Tech).

 

Meeting Saturday 4pm TCU to move to another location

Facilitator: Phil takes on role in Saskia’s absence – stresses importance of people not talking over each other and showing one another respect.

FINANCE

PROPOSAL:

  • Need to allocate funds to pre-approved costs without passing through the Finance GA every Tuesday.
  • Toilets £345/ Food for 3 kitchens (Fins, LSX and BOI but not Justice) £170/ Gas LSX £80/ Gas – toilets £160/ Fuel for generator at LSX £62
  • This to be re-evaluated on a monthly basis

 

Response: The kitchen needs a spare gas cylinder for when they run out.
Response: Don’t worry we always have a spare
Technical point: There is a strong smell of gas!!!

General talking follows

Facilitator: It’s ok someone’s making tea.
Facilitator: Happy with this automatic allocation of funds every week everybody? Tinkle of hands, Any objections? No objections or blocks
Proposal Carried

DEMOCRACY WG INITIAL STATEMENT DISCUSSION
Statement read out in relation to existing efforts to reach out into the neighbourhoods including the Occupy Toolkit on the website which proposes how to create people’s assemblies locally:

The current economic system is undemocratic.

The parliamentary system is compromised by corporate and financial interests.

We need democratic alternatives.

We encourage the formation of general assemblies in neighbourhoods, workplaces, and education establishments across the country.

Occupy London has been holding general assemblies outside St Paul’s Cathedral since the 16th October 2011.

Our process is young and incomplete and does not always work well.

We are improving our process by consensus in open meetings.

We invite everybody to participate in a creative experiment with democracy.

We recognise different kinds of democracy.

We recognise the non-assembly movements and general assembly processes that are different from our own.

We demand the parliamentary system obeys the command of the people.

 

Facilitator: Saskia returns. Do we have consensus?
Objections and corresponding discussion
Concrete sentences made as suggestion underlined.

  • We need to mention ‘inclusion’ since the GA process doesn’t have space for everyone to express themselves. Not everyone is able to speak to a room full of people so we need structures that implement inclusion.
  • Are you suggesting we could set up a group of voluntary advocates that help people learn to express themselves?

 

Question not answered

  • I like the first 4 sentences but uncomfortable about point on “young and improving” which she feels is too apologetic. She has confidence in process. We have come up with fantastic statements and amazing debates, the road can be bumpy and we need practice.  Also last sentence is clunky.
  • In response John B who amalgamated text of statement: It was discussed in November that this needs to be a humble statement. It needs to include a commentary saying we haven’t got a perfect model. Weeks later the GA descended into a mess. This point needs covering.
  • From an outsider/visitor’s perspective I think this is a strong and confident sentence (re: improving) It’s not boastful. I thought “Right, you know where you are at”.
  • Like to raise a point about democracy group. No one knew it existed because it was hidden under assemblies. Speaker doesn’t like last sentence. It’s too strong. We may be uncomfortable but do we want to ‘demand and command’? How about “Parliamentary democracy ought to be responsive”. It would be better to show and speak about ‘mutual respect’. How about “We are committed to work to achieve a parliamentary democracy that is democratically responsive and constitutionally accountable to the electorate”?
  • John the amalgamator: It ought to be noted, perhaps even footnoted in the statement itself that the last sentence is  a watering down of the ending of the United For Global Democracy Statement

 

“Today, like the Mexican Zapatistas, we say “¡Ya basta! Aquí el pueblo manda y el gobierno obedece”: Enough! Here the people command and global institutions obey! Like the Spanish Tomalaplaza we say “Democracia Real Ya”: True global democracy now!” Today we call the citizens of the world: let us globalise Tahrir Square! Let us globalise Puerta del Sol!”

  • One of the biggest problems is apathy – we talk about command of the people? No one gives a fuck. People don’t have time. The majority says apathy rules and so it does.
  • Instead of “obey the command of the people” perhaps “we are respectfully asking or requesting…”
  • I don’t have much faith in parliamentary democracy. We need a more localised democracy, this over centralised parliamentary model is the problem and as long as it exists the system will remain elitist and undemocratic.
  • It’s not about asking or demanding but doing it for ourselves if and when we stop being apathetic.
  • This statement is vague. In view of the fact that we don’t actually have a democracy, it is an autocracy in this country, we have opportunity here to question rules made in court, by the banks and through legislation.
  • Democracy by definition has to be something in the making. The point where we start thinking of it as an idea that adheres to a particular form is when we lose it. It should be constantly evolving. There is something inspiring about that collective dream and democracy as part of that. We need parliament to divest itself of its power, away from the will of the corporations. We ought to be careful about power and divide and rule (in terms of small localised power bases). If we talk in terms of plurality and local democracy then we may fail to consider properly the strategic dream.
  • Praise for George’s comment above: democracy should be organic and evolving
  • Eric forgets his point –come back to him later
  • We should include a wiki definition of democracy at the beginning so we know what it is and should be. People have forgotten or don’t realise there is different types of ‘democracy’ because of the shit we’ve been dealt.

 

 

Facilitator picks more people to speak

  • Shimri online wanted to make two points at this GA.
  1. Parlt sys – is not in Palestine or other countries. It is in UK only
  2. The ‘united global democracy’ statement ought to be linked to this statement. Suggests footnoting.
  • so many political views, to express this tension inside movement, instead of simply “we demand” we could express both reformist view and more militant viewpoints contained in movement “ we demand…but won’t wait for them to make the changes”
  • I understand that people don’t like ‘parliaments’. We need a last sentence otherwise it will leave a black hole. May be it needs to bland to appeal to wide audience “we will work to achieving a responsive democracy” and say nothing about parliament at all.

 

Facilitator takes temperature check on this suggestion

Some disagreements.

  • Cyril remembers his point: The parliamentary system forms a part of representative democracy. Believes it is possible to prevent concentration of power within ‘representative democractic system’. We need a democratic system that represents the will of the people with accountability mechanisms: like criminal sanctions against politicians who don’t obey manifesto pledges.
  • We need to do a comparison of diff democratic systems. Her best experience of democracy was in India. Also rates American Senate. British democracy was written by and for the barons not for the peasant, like us, “speaking for myself”. Laughter
  • Holy scripture commentary regarding the US constitution which the speaker says is a transcribed from The Torah, from Aramaic and Hebrew and Greek, into English. We have lost foundation of the constitution which is Jesus Christ.
  • We could include a traditional definition of informed consent at the beginning of the statement. Something like “We have misinformed consent which means we cannot exert our will based on an informed view”
  • We need something about participatory democracy at the end as well as at the beginning and replace the word ‘accountability’. We can use IT to bring about a participatory democracy, it’s all entirely possible. We can’t physically meet in one place but we can do it virtually.  “…vibrant participatory democracy”

 

Clarification: Do you mean meeting in a virtual world online?

Response: Yes

  • There is a problem with that because it means that information is not communicated. So it becomes exclusionary. You need both- online and in person- and communication between the two.
  • (apart from its elitist nature of course), the model of Ancient Athens, in the sense that everyone was ‘free’ and had same rights to a voice should be our foundation. We can create  a new system for a more complex world that works online and is based on these ancient ideals.
  • Democracy is constantly striving. The world is constantly changing. It has to be constantly worked upon to work.
  • Local democracy is crucial. One person one vote can work on a local scale. Participatory democracy is viable when it is local.

 

Response from John the amalgamator: reference to neighbourhoods covers that.

  • Real Democracy and Participation are words that mean different things to different people. It can simply mean local neighbourhood meetings, community organisations, councillors from local council talking to local people or something radically different.
  • Need an illustrative example after first sentence “banks exert control over our lives by setting interest rate”
  • To incorporate sense of moving and evolving democracy we could replace “work to achieve” with “towards developing…”
  • Accountable is not appropriate terminology. The democratic system is an idea created by whoever decides to create it and they will know what it is and re-create it, accountability doesn’t come into it.

 

Clarification: The first paragraph could feed into the second

Facilitator: That is not a clarification

Interruption: Man shouts reluctantly? a mock roar into Tent City University

Facilitator points to next people to speak.

  • Let’s not concern ourselves with who will read it. Let’s write this for ourselves. This statement should reflect our own form of democracy.
  • The statement has lost the link between political and economic tyranny and the fact that they affect one another –  the more money you have the more power you have. This needs to be mentioned.
  • There appears to be a conflict between on the one hand democracy as a practice that ought to be extended (not an idea), and on the other democracy as an idea that needs to be worked out before it is put into practice and which therefore needs to be made accountable
  • Parliamentary democracy is a dictatorship of elites over people. They use the media to manipulate opinions and then do what they like anyway. Accountability is not enough.
  • The parliamentary system is compromised by economic interest. The system is intrinsically corrupt. Everyone thinks politicians are lying bastards.  Rather than explain what we should do, at the end of the statement, we should say how we do it, we should “big up the GA”
  • Concern that we are trying to solve too much. This is a small statement about supporting local neighbourhoods. To develop earlier point re apologetic sentiment in statement, we need to show humility, yes, but can we make the point by saying simply that “the process is evolving, and invite people to come down. We can acknowledge a world out there that needs improvement”
  • The first paragraph expand point re ‘undemocratic’ thus after corporate interest sentence…”placing power in the hands of a narrow social elite and rendering the population passive”
  • We should include something on “right to community and self governance” which speaker considers to be clearer than ‘democracy for the people’.
  • We should start with a hard hitting sentence about perilous state of economy. This is another opportunity, as one of Occupy’s concrete statements of intention, to push the argument that the economic crisis is linked to the political system, people have valid fears of economic collapse, and this should be addressed in our informational output with some finesse:

 

“As the economy hangs in the balance and our resources … perhaps something like this sinking ship something like that.”

  • We need to situate the statement in a global context but talk to a specific people – the British people. So statement needs to reflect this nuance. Example “The current economic system is throughout the world undemocratic. The British parliamentary system is compromised…”
  • We should start with something asserting what democracy means. “Democracy means rule by the people. The current parliamentary system is run by corporate interests. It is undemocractic”
  • …”which has allowed the 1 % to fundamentally undermine the economic basis and security of our society”
  • George re-iterates his view that the movement must be global. If we become parochial we miss a trick, “as billions across the world are effectively dispossessed by the their so-called democratic governments, and the prospects grow more perilous, we believe more than ever in the renewal of the democracy that this movement so importantly seeks to embody”
  • Democracy means ‘rule by the people’, that means 100 per cent of the people, not parliamentary democracy which is ruled by a few elites.
  • Likes “as billions…” but wants to start with a positive affirmation of what is meant by democracy – ruled by the people.
  • It may seem cheesy but “by the people, of the people, for the people” was written this way for a reason
  • After “we encourage…”we should emphasise inclusivity, that there are people from very different backgrounds in Occupy and the beauty of the Occupy GA is that we are not from the same neighbourhood or workplace, this is not just a tribal phenomenon but an inclusive one.
  • The three main parties have lost touch with grass roots we should return to local communities and go back to grass roots.
  • We need to discuss how to be involved in decisions if you can not attend GA.

 

Response: Please make sure your name is on Real Democracy mailing list

Facilitator suggests starting thread on Forum. John to send Vica an email to go on Forum

Facilitator: Points will be taken to Democracy Working Group meeting on Monday at 6.30pm in TCU. Break out into groups to talk about doing something nice on Sunday for 3 month anniversary. Shout outs afterwards.

SUNDAY 15 DECEMBER – 3 MONTH ANNIVERSARY
Minute taker missed Phil’s group feedback

  • Music for movement and celebration, songs about revolution
  • Andy won’t be here so who will set up?

Facilitator suggest brief confab after meeting

  • Video clips, vegan cake, music, inject energy, consider Tunisia and democracy village and the places in the Middle East that have inspired us.

Facilitator : We have to take responsibility and make it happen.

  • Can we smash the state?

Laughter

  • Yes we can do it artistically by staging performances involving wrestlers dressed up as MP’s.
  • Poi dancers call out

Facilitator – Lets get together on Saturday at the TCU 3pm?
Technical point: There is a piece of artic ice melting on the steps from 2pm and events corresponding to this until 6pm.
Facilitator: It will only take 10-15 minutes. TCU 3pm Tomorrow. Bring Ideas. This is what I call ‘serious fun’.

SHOUTOUTS
Direct Action:
At 10am on Saturday a group is going to go and arrest David Cameron. 11.30am going on a walk to honour previous leaders. Meeting at John Wesley’s statue. £2 to attend.

Mike – I’d like to talk to someone about education?

Events:
Artic Ice will be symbolically melting on the steps of St Paul’s on Saturday. It’s been in the freezer for two years waiting for a suitable event. Poets, artists, speakers from Greenpeace will be collaborating in this performance art where bits of ice will be handed to people for it to melt in their hands. Come with cameras. We need help transporting the ice to St Paul’s from North London – if you can help with this speak to me – Ragnhild.
Outreach:
Speaker training coming up. Check with Info tent for more details.

Call out for support for run, 60 miles in 6 days from Aneurin Bevan’s Statue in Cardiff to the Department of Health, Richmond House, Whitehall, London. To protest against the Health and Social Care Bill and NHS privatisation. Check bevansrun@blogspot.com. Will be at Shepherds Bush at 1pm on Saturday

Shelter:
We have 3 spaces available at the moment.

  1. The meditation tent is now available to responsible people
  2. There is a diary room tent opposite Natwest. Bench, desk and chance to write about occupation. We need a caretaker for the diary room.
  3. Turkish tent – former residents have been campaigning in Europe after 35 villagers were pronounced dead in outbreak of violence. Permission to use as art gallery. Rab and others on the case. Welcome input.

 

Proposing that there are 7 areas of the camp, each with 14 to 15 tents, every two weeks someone should clean each area so we need a working group to make that happen.

Outreach and DA comment:
The community affected by Brookfield Asset Management which plans to log the pristine island of Cortes in Canada, one of our last remaining virgin forests (10 bn company who also own Zucotti Park) are petitioning for forest to be handed to them. Action today should have been better supported. Likewise Congolese protest outside embassy was attended by 3 occupy members. We should be supporting more campaigns outside of Occupy.

Tranquility:
We need a tent for ourselves for down time after our shifts. Currently using the cloths store. Propose to close clothing tent at 8pm every evening. People are coming in and out of the tent with questions at 2 and 3am. We need this tent as a place to calm difficult situations in an emergency.
Response from Earthian (Shelter): No one came forward when I told them the tent would collapse. The plan is to give tranquillity a tent for the night watch crew. The sleeping bags and clothes need to go to BOI.

Men, you’re great yada yada ya but please lock the door when you go to the toilet!
Response: Is the back of our trousers so offensive?
More laughing

Legal:
Listings office made an error. Court hearing is not on Monday.

 

ENDS

 
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