General Assembly minutes – Friday 11 Nov, 1pm
Occupy London 1pm General Assembly (GA) Friday 11 November 2011
The agenda: intro to how consensus works for new attendees; announcements; working group feedback, discussion item 1 – camp security; discussion item 2 – bug hunt about issues relating to how GA works.
The process group holds an open meeting at 10 am everyday in Starbucks to gain a consensus and agree the agenda for the 1 pm GM. They also meet at 5pm to to gain a consensus about the agenda for the 7pm GA.
Martin from the tech committee announced a tech meeting at 3 at the tech tent. The GA has not given them a definitive mandate yet and this will be discussed, along with the contents of the Occupy wiki
There is a spokesperson meeting at 4 pm at Ye Olde London Pub; all working groups are asked to send a spokesperson to ensure communication between the groups on areas in which there will be benefit in collaboration.
At 6:30 on Sunday there will be 1st aid training at the med tent. [An issue was raised that this would clash with the GA at 7 and there was some support for the timing to be rethought.]
Discussion item 1 – Bug Hunt – open Mic on the workings of the GA
This was initiated because a number of people have been suggesting, particularly in relation to the 1pm GA, that they can sometimes have insufficient substantial discussion, insufficient focus and poor attendance. The mic was then opened up – summary of points……
People should be more focused when speaking – time limit of 1 minute per person.
We might consider changing the times, maintaining structure and re-investing in them. Announcements should be focused and people should limit the time they speak to one minute during discussions. This was subsequently used at this meeting and seemed to work well
It may be sensible to discuss day to day site issues at the 1pm GA and reserve substantial discussion of our objectives, progress so far and next steps at the 7pm GA. Light heartedness would help.
Our approach to participatory democracy is outstanding but some individuals are undermining the process and we should try to temper this as it may lead to media commentary being framed less favourably.
GA is a great system and to further its effectiveness it would be great if we could do more to ensure people are well informed beforehand so they can participate more effectively. This requires more transparency and as part of this public minutes were commended to the GA.
Building on that point it was suggested we might pre announce some agenda items for the next 2-3 days so people could brush up on the details and prepare proposals.
This approach was commended but it was noted that events are very fast moving and there should be scope to modify the advanced plans on the day in light of newly emerging issues.
Rob from Occupy Peterborough suggested the occupy movements should develop and maintain common hand signals during consensus and that people should recognise the seriousness of a block – e.g. they typically mean you are seriously concerned about a proposal and would be willing to leave the camp if it went ahead in the manner currently being proposed.
For a smooth GA we need to look at the effectiveness of the relationships between the GA and Working groups. There can be too much discussions of the fine detail in GA and one would hope that more of that could be worked through in the working groups. The point about sharing details before the meeting so people could contribute from a more informed position was re-iterated in relation to this issue.
There was concern that the legal working group was not held on site and involved virtual communication with lawyers and this made participation difficult.
The good progress we have made with participatory democracy was commended and it was suggested we could build on this by circulating handouts and details beforehand to aid engagement.
The point about the GA and working groups not interacting well was re-iterated. Many of the working groups don’t come to GA and partly as a result if this there is a perception that some WGs are working at cross purposes.
Announcements – The legal team reported back
Firstly they requested more volunteers to help organise the meetings so more people could participate. They announced that the response to the city of London had been put on the website at around 12 noon and read as follows:
We reject the proposal, as the terms are unreasonable and they serve only to establish the ground work for the City of London Corporation to bring proceedings against the Occupy London Stock Exchange occupation based at St Paul’s Churchyard.
The City of London Corporation is an undemocratic authority which is more accountable to corporations than the public. We cannot negotiate with such an institution without undermining our sister occupations across the globe, who are being violently oppressed by authorities with the same interests as the City of London Corporation.
We propose that if the following terms are met, we will wish to continue dialogue. We call on the City of London Corporation to do the following:
1. Publish full, year-by-year breakdowns of the City Cash account, future and historic. 2. Make the entirety of its activities subject to the Freedom of Information Act. 3. Detail all advocacy undertaken on behalf of the banking and finance industries, since the 2008 financial crash.
We have been working, and will continue to work, with the fire service as well as the health and safety executive to ensure the occupation remains a safe environment for ourselves and our neighbours.
The legal team strongly advised the phrase “will wish to return” rather than “may” …”continue dialogue” because in the language of law the word “may” does not constitute a negotiating position / counter offer.
Finally, the legal group said that proceedings against us are likely to be issues this afternoon or Monday.
Discussion item 2 – Camp Security
Jules, a member of tranquility outlined their work and some of the issues they have been facing. Firstly he urged us to think about this not in academic terms but in real terms related to our safety. Their role is to liaise with the police to keep us all safe. People who are not involved in the movement have been coming onto the site, behaving violently and accusing him of being a fascist for trying to enforce the rules we have agreed, e.g. no alcohol or drugs. In one incident there was insufficient food in the food tent and it had to be temporarily closed. Some of these people were ignoring the closure so tranquility had to cordon off the tent. They were then subjected to violence and abuse by people breaking through. There has been a reduction in the number of people volunteering for tranquility which has led to people working multiple shifts and getting little sleep. Another member of tranquility then outlined some potential solutions for discussion such as getting in outside help from like-minded groups such as trade unions and organising a rota to ensure there are 30 volunteers each night to share shifts. The mic was then opened up for discussion…..
No evening GA should proceed until there are sufficient volunteers for night watch. The sufficient number would be agreed in advance and 30 was suggested.
Jules suggested this has been tried before: 30 people did volunteer but only 7 turned up.
There should be more women on night watch.
In addition to people coming from off-site to cause trouble, some of the people causing trouble were living on the camp and had only come to party.
This is a political movement for change not a festival. There was a great deal of disquiet about people who were treating the camp as the latter.
The solution does not lie in the night watch and tranquility volunteers alone; we should all take responsibility for our safety. If anybody observes violent behavior in the night they might call for a mic check to spread the word for everybody to come out take witness.
We should thin out the separation between tranquility and the camp, we are all part of the camp and are all responsible for our safety. We should seriously consider outside help who can legally restrain trouble makers, e.g. help from trade unions.
When an incident happens it can lead to escalation if people stand around watching and commenting. Can people people disperse as tranquility have found it much easier to do their job on a one to one basis.
It was suggested that tranquility members wear a visible symbol so people knew who to approach for help, e.g. an arm band.
Chris who liaises with the night team but deals health and safety in general confirmed that he wears a visible jacket. He said that people could go through the costly process of getting SIA accreditation or putting up a security fence around the food tent but thought the money should go on food.
Jules from tranquility said that some volunteers find it easier to work if they do not wear a visible symbol. Also could people be quiet around their areas during the day as they are getting much needed rest at that time. He also asked if it were possible for food to be made available to them during the night.
There were no further comments from the floor so a working will convene at the info tent after this meeting to work up these ideas and bring back a proposal to this evenings GA.
Michael from Leeds had come to the meeting to bring thanks and solidarity. He urged people to consider transferring money from share holder owned banks to member owned banks such as the co-op and credit unions. Some credit unions are too small to handle large amounts of transfers so could people move small amounts, this will help save people from loan sharks and payday cheque shops.
A lady has bought a yurt to act as a communal sleeping space for women – it is being erecting to the left of where we get our food.