GA Minutes – 7pm Friday 6th January 2012
Date: 6 January 2012
Start time: 19:20
End time: 21:15
Proposals that achieved consensus:
- Economics working group can go ahead and approach groups on housing issue assuming (a) they give GA regular updates on their progress and (b) GA gives approval of final documentation that would be aimed at the government (proposed by Economics).
- Process working group to go ahead and make a register of proposals that are pending or have achieved consensus (proposed by Process).
Phil gives brief breakdown of consensus, hand signals, how to work out an agreement on proposals etc. Agenda: brief few minutes from Economics group re meeting they have planned coming down soon, followed by Outreach group, break-out groups, feedback, announcements and working group feedbacks. Estimates this GA to take an hour and a half.
Economics w.g. – Chris. Came for temperature check last Wednesday, now seeking endorsement for arranging a meeting for Land and Housing subgroup. Housing lies at centre of economics crisis we live in. Idea is to put together a government program of social housing offset by money that has gone into quantitative easing. What we want to do with that idea, is get NGOs and other people like British Social Housing Federation, Shelter, Chartered Institute of Housing etc. who know a lot more about the subject than we do. If we manage to achieve meetings of this kind we would like to have the approval of the GA.
Phil asks if there are any clarifying points.
Ruth – I’m absolutely thrilled that somebody is focusing on housing, a primary issue for a lot of people here who are homeless and generally. I’m a bit unclear on what you’re asking us to do. Are you asking us to put together a set of our demands to give to the government? A lot of people that you mentioned are on the other side of the housing table. It might be more appropriate to hear from environmental groups and homeless people here. Those are the people I think we should be involved with first.
Chris – In essence, we are obviously very much aware of the issues of conflict of interest out there in the housing sector. One of the aims would be to pick this apart and have as socially and environmentally aware a proposal. Get a working paper to give to the government.
Ruth – Would the paper be put to us before it is put to the government?
Chris – Almost certainly. I just hope it wouldn’t take months to get it through.
Liz – Lots of groups in London who know of practical housing methods, zero energy housing, straw bale housing, bedZED etc. When I first saw their work almost 10 years ago, I assumed it was the way forward for all affordable housing. I put in a plea that you approach groups like that.
Chris – The more, the merrier. Obviously it has to be thought through very carefully but that’s very helpful, thank you.
? – Would it be useful to have an hour lecture at TCU so I can comment on it more effectively?
Chris – It might be of more value to do that when we have more factual information.
Peter – If we could have as an amendment that anything that is put through to the government, it goes through the GA first.
Chris – I have no reservations, I think that’s fine.
Ruth – In addition to that, could we hear a progress report. I’d hate to hear that you’ve put tons and tons of time into this and the GA says no.
Phil recaps with the two amendments (regular updates, and GA approval of any documentation that would be aimed at the government). Are people happy with the Economics proposal? Are there any blocks? Big wave of hands. No blocks. CONSENSUS REACHED.
Jamie – Obviously outreach covers a whole lot of recent areas. Loads of schools are now inviting us to come to schools and one university has invited us as well. We’ve started a series of workshops. Quite a lot of people on the youth outreach group are teachers already. We had one such workshop a week ago, of what they think an ideal outreach occupy workshop would be like. There’s going to be another one on Saturday. Some of the ideas that came out: if you’re going to school, you have to go and bring tents, set them up in the classroom. Second workshop is at 2pm here (TCU).
The other side of outreaching to youth is two gigs that we did last year (which is only about two weeks ago). We got really popular bands to play here but in between the gigs we got to have a general assembly. The teens who came here actually did occupy, they got involved with all of you lot, into breaking groups, got exposed to facilitation. They loved it.
Ruth – That’s a great example of how things are developing and how we want them to develop. Quite a lot of people here have done outreach, e.g. going out to picket lines, bringing people here etc. We’re working towards something more systematic. There are six things I want to list to you. One, we’re going to have a form on the website that people can fill in who want to invite a speaker. Second, we want to use the method of having people petition, because it’s something that people can do that involves them without making a huge commitment. The petition we have now is very simple (we support the occupation), we thought we could add the 10-point statement, it would stimulate discussion etc. We thought of adding this online, asking if they agree with it, add their e-mail to a list, send them a weekly newsletter. It’s not a petition in the normal term in that it goes straight to the government, it’s a statement of support and basis for discussion. Next, the purple book that people in info tent may have noticed,. It’s specifically for people who wish to get involved. Next, most important thing, is how to train ourselves. We want to hold workshops here for people to get ready to go out and speak about Occupy. Work out our common themes, what are the things not to miss out, how to deal with difficult questions, maybe have a practice run, heckle each other, just work out how to do it. We then want to have a list of who’s had that experience, ready and who’s ready to go out, when they are available etc.
Sam – Feedback from the two youth outreach events (just before Christmas and New Year’s Eve). One of the things that I’ve noticed in the people that I spoke to that day, when you first come down, you really realize how imposing, organized, disciplined and how well it’s run. What a lot of people came away with was ok, this is something I could respond to. I want to thank everyone for their energies, especially the facilitators, made people feel very welcome. Special thanks to Andy, not just for providing the sound system but also in dealing with the police.
Jamie – Some of us will talk very briefly, like a minute, about our experiences of performing outreach. I’ll just quickly doing the RTM (branch meeting at Finsbury), week one of the occupation here. Talk was quite ill-prepared, it makes you realize how important it is to prepare. All we had to do was talk for about 20 seconds and it was strange. All the guys (there were only three women) had developed their own ideas of what Occupy was. With young people, they’re quite frightened, it’s a really, completely different environment, they’re quite shy. A lot of people are curious but don’t know how to do Occupy. It’s very important to be incredibly welcoming to people but also to allow them to get a feel for how things roll here, direct democracy etc. Be as inclusive as possible. Describe what you learned, what could be better etc.
Peter (EEE group) – We’re actually fighting the same fight as environmental groups. In our group, we have quite a lot of contacts with environmental NGOs, we’ve been invited to meetings etc. We’re drawing some of those people in, we’re intensifying those efforts. We have the last tent at the camp, we’ve set up a table there. We end up talking about the occupation in general to people who visit here. If we could get the energy of the environmental movement all behind us, this is something we really want to push.
Hassan – The job we are doing as an international solidarity working group, it overlaps with the outreach groups. We are dealing with different countries, like Syrians, Egyptians, Congolese, Nigerians also. This is the nature of the cosmopolitan, different ethnic minority groups in London. We practice what we say. We shouldn’t divide manual and non-manual jobs. We should do everything we need to develop our ideas. Today again, we went to support the Congolese. Unfortunately, we were only four people. As the previous speakers said, if we plan and talk about many things and produce a lot of working groups but we don’t put our effort in practice, we don’t achieve what we talk about. I’d like to say, let’s together move from theory to practice. Action, more than words.
Tammy – I’m not personally a member of the outreach group. But even if you’re not a member of the outreach group you can individually do outreach. Every time one of us talks to someone outside this camp about occupy, there’s a bit of outreach. For me a little bit of outreach came about as part of a discussion as flash occupies, going out to local communities who are feeling the pinch of current economics.
Liz – I live in Shepherd’s Bush, want to follow up on what Tammy said. In each of our communities we all have the opportunity to talk. I wanted to start a discussion in my neighborhood when somebody pointed out to me, what I’d really like to do is, I noticed how many shops closed down because the rents went up. Our neighborhood is looking increasingly shabby, what is to be done about this etc. We need to inform ourselves. I think occupy has helped people to start thinking that way. Every journey is an opportunity, every conversation is a possibility. I’m very proud to be part of Occupy. People tell me, thanks for doing this for me, I reply no, you’re doing it for you, I’m doing it for me, and we get into a dialogue.
Harjeet – I’m working part time in info tent here. I think that’s outreach by itself. The experience of working there, is you have to be ready to answer any kind of question that is thrown to you. Different skill sets are important. If we go out to communities, it would be good to have people e.g. from legal or environmental group, go out and share our knowledge. There are lots of other groups out there. We have a lot turnout of people from ethnic minorities, it’s possible to get them here if we put in the effort.
Phil introduces the discussion groups: workplace, youth, local community and ethnic minorities. The smaller the circle, the greater the quality your conversation tents to have.
Youth w.g.– I gave a lecture here in this tent, ages ago, making it now into a lecture plan, is going on TES (Times Education Supplement), means any teacher can use it, push the message out. Gigs in schools, music gigs, occupy workshops and assemblies. Look at all the different points in the curriculum, geography, environmentalism, history. Importance of having printed material, small pieces of paper that explains what Occupy stands for. Importance of young people feeling welcome. Have very clear times which are kept to. Build up schools that would visit here but don’t overstretch. Have packed lunch area, to save space. Have advert inviting schools, show how it meets the needs of their curriculum. When you’re doing outreach, go slowly, make sure missions are well-planned, tight and you know exactly what you’re doing before you start.
University events. Expect some criticism. Different activist groups with different agendas and ideas. They may have different preconceived ideas of what occupy stands for. The whole point is to go out with an occupy message, so when they come down here they know what it’s all about, non-hierarchical sitting down. Take over a bit of space, not a basement, a space that’s more occupy ethos.
Technical point – Matt – anyone hungry? [sandwiches and muffins passed around]
Ethnic minorities – we divided ethnic minorities into three categories requiring distinct approaches. First, activist ethnic minorities. These are the minority of the ethnic minorities. Best way to approach them is by listening to their protests, joining their picket etc. Physically supporting their protest is essential. There are some local activism groups (e.g. south London activism group) that are run by ethnic minorities who are also interested in Occupy; one is sending regularly articles to the Occupied Times. Second, British black people, Chinese etc. who are well organized, hard to penetrate and very religious. Approach them through religious channels, e.g. Church Times or Radio 4’s Thought of the day (2-minute slots dedicated to all religious faiths and no faith). Third: average people, these are the majority of the ethnic minorities. Here, the approach should focus on local communities. We can refer them to the second point of the Occupy London statement (all ethnicities etc.). Go to their community centres and hold workshops there. Try and get people on board who speak the language. Do some translation, e.g. Occupy London outreach newsletter, get free translators. Or send an article to one of their newspapers. Approach local radio. These are standard ways. Monitoring the ethnic press would work well: the Voice (really well known paper for British born black people), a few community channels that could be approached, e.g. BET (cable). Finally, bring them in, invite them to write for the Occupied Times. A newspaper is a good outreach tool. We (Occupied Times) are thinking of putting together an article on the economics of racism, ethnic minority involvement in activism and politics.
Local communities – well-known ideas. Pop-up and flash occupations. Important to have preparation first, going to local areas and finding out what those local issues are. Put up posters beforehand, leafleting so people know you’re coming. Online outreach. Nice, sexy new ideas. Door-to-door can work, particularly if there’s a couple of people going together. Going round where you’re in a building where you’re all wearing a piece of clothing with a particular message. Occupy should have a poster. We’ve got some very talented people here and we should have a poster. Similar to this, there’s a window poster that says I’m occupying blank because blank. Mentioning things in existing speeches, e.g. within political meetings at intervals and church sermons. Potluck suppers. Set up a tent somewhere and tell the local community to come along and have a potluck supper. Performing local services, e.g. doing shopping for old people, insulating houses etc. Big community. Info schools being set up in places. Occupy tupperware parties.
Workplaces – homes, universities, factories, community spaces e.g. Starbucks. What kinds of people are there. Colleagues, customers, service users, trade unions. National conferences for trade unions, attend. Can occupy a workplace, go with your tent and set up, if you know a colleague getting fired. Organise some kind of talk during a lunch. Get the Hare Krishnas over to support. What do you think the answer to the crisis is, throw it at them, start a conversation. Smart app with workplace and occupy. Negotiate discounts for occupy. Recruitment fares. Go and subvert it or go as occupy and set up a table next to Barclays bank, it would be interesting. At staff meeting have a consensus-based meeting, experiment and fun for all of them. To what extent does consensus and collaboration already exist in the workplace.
Ruth – Lea is planning in Shepherd’s Bush, her own area, an event in her church hall where people are invited from local council estate and the million pound houses. Don’t know when it is but it is being organized. Maybe people who are planning things in their own area might want to go check it out, what to do and what not to do.
? – The House of Commons belongs to us. We can go in there and lobby our own MP, squat in there as long as you like. Let’s go and occupy the House of Commons.
Anon – Museum of London would like some of our stuff when we leave, including Banksy storybooks sign, our solar panels, the typewriter in the library. Tell them we have our own museum of occupation
Phil – Hackney occupy has an event coming up. 2011 the year of occupy. On Monday 7:30pm at Pogo cafe in Hackney.
Feedback from online working group. Short text/pirate pad. Talks about a new platform launched over the last few days (occupii.org) website. Social networking site. Here’s their text:
“We thank you very much for the opportunity to get our voice heard. Long struggle to connect with the occupiers on the ground. We are proud to announce the launching of this website. It’s an open invitation to all occupiers, all nationalities. We are working on Android app that should be live an a few weeks. Main chartroom via mumble.”
One more proposal that we’re bringing to the floor, from Process working group. We want consensus from GA to go ahead and make a register online of any proposals that are pending or have been agreed upon so we can maintain a database of them, so we don’t forget six months down the line what we agreed upon. Big wave of hands, no blocks. CONSENSUS REACHED.
Peter – thinking about alternatives for the future. Concept of an eco village. We have someone coming along tomorrow 11am here. If you’re curious, come along and find out what that is.
? – Beyond capitalism? Economics event a week from now (Sunday 15th). Panels of three, then question and answer session. Bank of Ideas, starts at 11am, spread the word.
Vica – Finance working group. Next Tuesday is going to be the last time we accept requests for money that has been spent in 2011. Internal Communication – Sunday 11am, Bank of Ideas we are going to have a meeting with everyone involved with online platforms, twitter, forum etc. It’s about getting to know each other, see what everyone is doing etc.
Max – This is an amazing way of doing the sound. Big hands for Andy and Phil.
? – Re mumble, every Thursday at 7pm we have a big round table event. We’ve already had people from Middle East, US etc.
? – Two proposals, two consensuses, well-done Occupy. Give yourselves a round of applause.
Earthian – Shelter group. Every GA we call out if there’s anyone else staying here and needing a place. We’ve got a geodesic dome that was allocated to a different working group but is currently occupied by people smoking and drinking that we don’t like. I’d like you to help me go address them. At the end of the day we have to respect occupy concerns. I wanted to ask anyone to come forward and be a caretaker for the geodesic dome, someone who has a strong personality and can deal with different scenarios because I cannot be everywhere. We want more of Earthian in the camp. When I went to Occupy Birmingham, they have only 15 tents, I said they’re not perfectly aligned, they said go back to London. Wind has blown a lot of tents away. If anyone is free tomorrow, we’ve got a lot of planning, modifications, cleaning up, if you can come and help us after 10am.
Ruth – It seems there’s a working group set up to discuss what happens if the court rules against us. I think everyone should know that it’s happening. There’s a meeting planned about it at the Bank of Ideas.
Anon – Alan Moore visited today, will come again to give a talk.
Gareth – new working group being set up [to deal with implications of recently passed] NDAA (national defense authorisation act) in the US. This essentially codifies in law the power of the US to detain anyone in the world. The British equivalent is the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act.
Earthian – Another geodesic dome has been donated, 5m in diameter, can accommodate about 30 people.
Tina – Tomorrow 2-4pm in Trafalgar Square there is a support of internees in Guantanamo Bay. Make a suggestion that someone goes to speak. We haven’t been asked to speak but impromptu might work, like it did for Bradley Manning.
? – Have five or six people act as ushers around the camp, engage people who are too shy to enter the info tent.