The transcript reports the portion of GA that took place offsite, indoors, at Encuentro5.
This is an ATTEMPT to transcribe the GA that took place on October 27, 2011, for Occupy Boston.
This GA--or at least the bit of it that this document describes--took place offsite at encuentro5.org, because it was really cold and sleety at camp. (Thank you, Encuentro5!)
Edited to add: DISCLAIMER from your friendly transcriber: I know there were many important and nuanced things said at this meeting, and I tried really hard to report everyone’s words exactly. I know I missed things; people talk faster than my fingers move, and I was positioned in a way that made it hard for me to see and hear people--I need to do better with that! This represents a good faith attempt at a transcript, but it’s not an exact transcript. Where I knew I was summarizing as I was typing, I tried to use parentheses. Where I knew I was omitting something, I tried to use ellipsis or spaces.
A few abbreviations I’m using, apart from standard abbreviations (i.e. ppl for people, Sat for Saturday) CQ--clarifying question POI--point of information. POP--point of process WG--working group OB--Occupy Boston temp check--temperature check GA--general assembly. “Floor,” “Participant,” and “Person” are used to reference people whose names/roles I did not hear, or who did not identify themselves by name or role. Most people so noted were located in the assembled crowd, not on the stage.
This is a live transcript, done in real-time, not from memory. If you look at the history you will see edits made after the 27th; the only edits made after the fact involved adding these notes, and fixing typos and misspellings. (And probably not all of the typos were fixed.)
These minutes begin in the middle of things because that was when the transcriber arrived--when we were taking amendments for a proposal brought forward by Eric from Logistics that we authorize $1000 in emergency funds for winter stuff like blankets.
Amendment: I would love to see something in this proposal that we post information about weather forecasts so people can plan, because we don’;t all have internet access.
Amendment: would like to add ability to buy snow shovels, also $40 each day for laundry.
Adam Amendment: We have to remember that we’re occupying Boston and that’s what this is about; we need to send a message. Instead of turning this into a budgetary concern, let’s have Logistics come forward with what’s needed and the price it’s needed. The problem with the government is that we aren’t specific enough about budgets; then we get mad because they don’t spend the money how they say they will.
Amendment: We need as many blankets as possible and I support winterization; at the same time we don’t want to spend $$$ at big corporations so we might have to suck it up and spend more money at smaller shops. How can we do this well.
Amendment: If it snows, tents will collapse; can we include hand brooms or something to get snow off of tents?
Amendments: On the smaller shops thing: what if we go to Goodwill or thrift shops?
No more amendments--now we’re giving the proposer, Eric, a moment to prep a response. (8:30 PM)
Consensus process is being reviewed.
Participant: I object to all of this. I think that all of us regular occupiers never get a chance to speak. We need a chance to vent before everyone goes home. It happens every time. I don’t think most of you know what’s going on at this camp. Who here was at a tent last night? as far as I’m concerned we’re the real occupiers.
Eric: right now we’re triyng to get a proposal made...
Participant 1: That’s what I want to do, but because I don’t do the proposal in those formal ways and so I never get to speak...
Participant 2: OK, so take the time to go to BPL and sign on and make a proposal if you want to...
Facilitator: We have a process which we’re trying to run as best as we can so that emergency proposals can be heard, so everyone’s voices can be heard...
Participant 1: My voice isn’t being heard...
Facilitator: Yes, and we’re trying to take our time and get everyone to be heard. [....] Is our proposer ready to restate?
Participant 3: May I suggest that when we have dead time we revert to individual stack while the proposer is revising?
Facilitator: OK, so if we want to do this we can do individual stack--2 minute time limit.
Participant 1 (the gentleman with the objection to process): When everything is going well, I don’t speak up because everything is going well. When things aren’t going well I get into a fury because I want things fixed. I’ve been in a tent for weeks; I haven’t showered or shaved or washed my hair. There are people on the ground who consider themselves the real occupiers. They call GA the circle jerk of pod people and they don’t like you. We’re laughing about it on the ground, but a lot of people are pretty damn unhappy. I happen to be well educated and one thing I study is generalship. And good generals always prepare their troops first; they take care of their troops and ensure that they are well fed, taken care of...will you stop that, one more time, bro, and you and I are going outside. I don’t want to be interrupted.
Participant 4: Speak your piece.
Philip:: A good general makes sure all his troops are taken care of, he walks through the camp at night and makes sure everyone is taken care of, last one to go to bed. He’s also up first every morning--I’m up first every morning. The other night we had that safety thing and there were all these peopole with these crazy proposals who weren’t even in the camp. I had to walk away. One of our best members, Barry, responsible for the sign tent, walked away too. A lot of what goes on in here is just BS, it’s just process for the sake of process. We can’t forget the people on the ground. We need rubber boots, go around, take care of people. An army moves on its belly. When you’re being rained on and you get hot food and coffee--the food guys are great--you just feel better. Instead of telling the soldiers do this and do that, fix the world. … I could start a riot right now or I could quell one. [....on mediation and dispute, not hearing clearly, philip described mediating a conflict between three groups] It took me three hours, it was draining, that’s mediation dispute. When I come here I want to be respected.
Participant: ANd so do I.
Patricipant: Don’t fucking patronize me.
Philip: don’t cut me off. What I’m saying is--and you’re going to do the proposal, GA thing--maybe if you’re going to do that, off the top you want to ask people, hey, do you have something to say that’s important, not a proposal, just something important. Now, who slept in a tent last night and will sleep in a tent tonight? Everybody, if you’re not sleeping in a tent, that’s fine, good for you...I saw one of the troops and some woman said when he said “Hey I saw you here last night,” said “Oh, I wasn’t here last night,” and that’s not okay, just being fucking rude to him.... [we are going really fast and the transcriber can’t keep up] All the people down there in the mud, we need support. They don’t even know when the group meetings are, let’s invite them. Does everyone know where I’m coming from? Okay, thank you, I needed to vent on behalf because everyone puts it on me. ANd I support everyone here, and I know there have to be committees and every kind of committee. I haven’t been in a warm place in weeks (we’re GA-ing in encuentro in a WONDERFULLY heated building!)--this is good. Thank you, OK, I’m ready to listen.....and I need to speak to the safety thing. That guy David, he was running the safety thing, and he knew how to do it, he was rough but he was on point every time. I saw him in action so many times, he’s not hurting nothing, all those safety guys did it right. And the other thing, the BPD isn’t against us...speaking of safety, if anything really bad is happening, they WANT to protect us! They don’t want anyone to be raped or mugged or beaten or killed. They’re there 24/7, they’re going to do the right thing.
Lots of “Thank you, Phil, we appreciate your voice” from the other participants.
Facilitator: now we’re going to restate the proposal.
Eric (proposer for Logistics): $1000 for emergency winterization for the following stuff: blankets, brooms (can’t hear it). As this is an emergency fund we can’t make the budget yet. We will try to buy from secondhand and thrift stores. We will disseminate weather reports throughout the camp. We also propose a $40 per day budget for laundry for Logistics. (the proposal is longer, please check the wiki)
CQ: Will the money be made available before or after (i.e. reimbursement or cash release)?
Eric: We’ll go to Finance and request the funds since they have access to funds as we purchase things.
POI from Finance: Again, this is up to $1000, not just $1000 handed over--this is a budget. Every item, there is a form and receipts. Everyhthing is transparent and it will all be published for anyone who wants to see.
Participant CQ: Is there a priority list of stores--wholesalers, goodwill, etc.? WHere will you buy things? Cheapest? Fair trade?
Eric: That’s the aim; if you have suggestions for where to buy things please add it as a friendly amendment.
POI: I was a farmer for 10 years; basic rubber boots are the best, I know where to buy them.
Eric: if we include boots it will increase the cost of the proposal quite a bit. how do people feel about having boots.
Ok, we’re taking boots as an amendment? I think?
People’s mic is slower--sorry, people!
Amendment: Let’s do the boots as a separate proposal; keep this as emergency.
Strong concern: should we put a cap on this? what if we need more than $1000?
Eric: This is a temporary fund; if this temporary $1500 (now it’s 1500, that happened) isn’t enough we can bring another proposal. Now I want to open the floor to suggestions.
Support: Brilliant! Genius!
Support: I would have a campaign of free donations before any money is spent...
That’s already in place.
Support: It is not even winter yet and it’s fucking cold. And it’s just going to get colder. So everything possible that we can do to keep everybody warm, let’s get this shit done. THe more comfortable are the more we can push the government and get our point across. Let’s keep this community good.
Philip: Cheerfulness is the number one thing, we need to keep everyone cheerful, happy, smiling.
Support: The health inspector and shelter commission manager were at Dewey and blessedly found nothing to complain about. They ARE concerned about how we are winterizing though and how we are going to keep ppl warm, so as soon as possible that we can show them we are taking the weather seriously...
People are leaving. “Can you please not leave yet so we can keep quorum,” asks participant.
Calling for blocks now. None.
YES! 75% consensus! Cheering! Yay!!! “I get so happy when something is passed, so excited!” (EDITED: What we passed, in brief: $1500 in emergency funds for logistics to use for emergency winterization.)
Facilitator: OK, do we still have quorum?
Facilitator: OK, so now we’re in individual stack.
WG proposals are now on individual stack--not as proposals to be consented to but they can get comments, temp checks, etc.
Community Wellness (was going to propose): Community safe space proposed for wellness; community wellness is same thing as mediation committee. We are committed to facilitating understanding, respect, and safe space. We propose to hold wellness trainings, etc. (This is all in an awesome written proposal which I am not going to type). Collection and distribution of resources for people leaving camp indefinitely (esp if they are asked to leave camp after other avenues of resolving problems have been explored). White armband designates Community Wellness folks to signify their neutrality.
CQ: What kinds of conflicts?
CWWG: CW tries to mediate conflicts--including between individuals and Safety WG.
CQ: Is your proposal going to include all these separate proposals?
CWWG: No; this is a statement of who we are and some of the things we’re working on and will bring to GA. Not all these proposals together; they will be introduced as separate proposals.
CWWG: Meeting Sunday at 2:00--meet by Gandhi statue!
Is the Safety proposal happening?
Safety: Public meetings weekly in regards to various safety issues. Rotating in shifts; we encourage OB members to rotate in shifts to create communitywide accountability for safety; this will avoid creating bodies of authority and will help us all be more invested in the community. Each one, train one--I do, you watch, you do, I watch--training described. Deescalation of conflict. If a safety member (gets too emotionally involved?) he or she should step down for the day. Those members of Safety who are asked to step down for the day or night should do so calmly. Involving police in nonviolent conflicts is discouraged. Recs training of Safety by Community Wellness for improvements in mediation. (Safety is awesome and fast in speaking; this can be found on the wiki probably in full written form)
Amendment: Ppl should not be able to work consecutive shifts to prevent burnout; must rotate off. Also, create rotation of FEMALE safety members; we have a medic volunteer interested in conducting female self defense training. We hope safety--and female safety--will take on mediation and self-defense.
Amendment: can we strike the word “petty” from the proposal (referencing crimes not to be addressed by Boston Police I think?)
Discussion on definition of “petty crime”
CQ: How would rotation of shifts work?
Amendment responding to CQ: Because we are all part of the same community and everyone is a volunteer ir would work like other volunteer WGs; people would OFFER to work. It would be volunteer and on rotation, and people would be encouraged to volunteer.
CQ: Are there going to be shift leaders? If you’re going to be rotating people in and out and nobody is accountable for the next rotation we could have a gap if everyone drops the ball?
Safety: There’s an overlap between shifts, so there is time to hand off--previous group to new group. Everyone is accountable.
CQ: I think the idea behind this is that everyone is responsible for everyone’s safety; we’re eliminating the possiblility of secret hierarchies being formed. My only concern is--and I like the idea of self-defense training--when it comes to deescalating situations, you’re sometimes going to have a street person a lot bigger than you and not necessarily in solidarity with the movement, it’s OK for them to be there if they don’t hurt anybody else--but we’re going to have to have some self defense training so everyone is capable of defending themselves even if they’re in a conflict with someone bigger and faster than them; otherwise it defeats the purpose of safety. If you can’t get in between two people who are fighting then what’s the point?
Participant: I’ve had firsthand experience with Safety team so far, I’d move for the immediate removal of several individuals from positions of authority in Safety, bc they are an immediate threat to our community.
CQ: What did you see that was an immediate threat?
Participant: One person as the #1 person in charge of safety has repeatedly threatened violence, swearing, derogatory remarks.
Participant: I felt personally threatened by this person.
Participant: --and threatening and escalating and spreading rumors in our community. We’re talking about Paul.
POP: Is it OK to talk about individuals who are not here?
Participants have suggested that maybe we should not have public notes if we are talking about private individuals.
Facilitator: let’s return to talking about the amendment and proposal on the floor.
Participant: I woul suggest that we not even have an informal sitting around and talking conversation about another person at camp; I think we shouldn’t talk about this, but let’s bring it to a GA with quorum.
Facilitator: OK, let’s talk about this generally; we’re talking about safety problems and the practice of removing divisive people still, just not about specific people.
Participant (safety): The biggest problems we’ve been having---I don’t know how Safety was assembled in the first place or why there needs to be a single group of people guarding our area rather than everyone doing it together in a nonviolent way, we’re here to work together. Another issue at hand was that a lot of people on Safety were drunk while on duty. And you just can’t address a situation correctly if you’re under the influence. And I had a personal issue with the Safety team and a member of Logistics that they were moving our tent with me inside of it. They needed four feet of space but the space was already being occupied by bike generators and we told them it could not be moved because we had already decided to put the bike generators in as a group. And the space they needed--I’m the one that needed that space.
We are no longer quorum and these are not minutes of GA.
Participant: There is a need for a Safety group....there are some people in Safety who are leaving and who have left, they were not healthy, I’m sorry for what went on but these people were not healthy and we’re trying to resolve this.
Participant: Safety, like other working groups, was created by people who just got together. If you want to start a working group you just get together. I had my cell phone and other personal items stolen...so safety got together to meet this need.
Participant: Actually, there was I think on the second or third day of the occupation there was a proposal put forward at GA in the morning and he proposed community watch and it was voted on and approved. I don’t know when it stopped being ocmmunity watch and became safety.
Participant: That was a different attempt to address the issue.
Calls for support and objections.
Objection: (can’t hear the first objection)
Facilitator: we’re trying to get everyone’s voice heard; I’m sorry you feel your voice isn’t being heard and I’d be glad to talk to you about it.
Objection (to proposal re safety): I’ve seen a lot of groups that do overlapping things; for example is direct action different from the mics.
Participant: Mics is an affinity group, part of DA but not the same as it.
Facilitator: lots of proposals left so let’s keep talking.
Participant: Strong support for proposal; let’s make sure that this proposal is presented actually at GA.
Participant who read proposal: Absolutely, we need to take urgent action to fix the safety team.
Participant: Rather than removing individuals let’s do it like we’re forming a new group, that way we don’t need to worry about hurt feelings.
Participant: I am in very strong support and I suggest we have an emergency GA for this tomorrow, it’s just that important.
Stephanie from Urban planning: We talked about how there’s a lot of people in the camp who just hang out and party; 5-10% of camp works, the rest just mess around. we’re trying to set up a system to keep track of people’s contributions. We want to set up a way for people to each do an hour work, one hour’s easy to do and we can get things done that way. And there are overnight options as well. Also tent layout--the old group just fell apart--so we want to do that too and we want to figure out who is staying where consistently, who stays for the weekend, etc. Next: lockers and valuables, with a password system so nobody says “Oh that’s my Macbook” and just takes it. We want locks on lockers so everything is safe. Someone proposed a card system that they do at the bodega by the courthouse; a card you cut in half with a sentence on it that matches up [transcriber note: they used this in the middle ages for contracts--HLS has one of the few ones left, it’s really cool!] Drum talking as a mean of communication for the watch for codes--watch, fire, raid, etc. I hate the walkie-talkies, people screw around with it. One of the reasons this group came together is becaue we want our approach to be more of a revolutionary hostel, not a humanitarian camp; we want a bed count and an assigned thing so that people have to work to have their beds. AN idea for this is for people to do one hour of work a day; manual or mental labor. They have to sign in if they want to hold a bed. And we want community tents for people just passing through--and this ties in with the lockers; if they have larger tents, they need a bed count for the # of beds within the tent to make sure they are not wasting beds. We’re going to post this on the wiki so please join us.
Participant: We’re deciding on which day is good for meetings--what day is good for people here?
Participant from urban planning: OK, Saturday at 1. Let’s meet at Gandhi. The DA tent is empty for now so we could also move.
Saturday 12-2 is our birthday party.
Ok, NO, it’s SATURDAY at 2 at Gandhi.
Participant from UP: people from WGs often miss actual hot food, so we have two ideas. WG people get hot food first, or a messenger system for someone to go through camp to notify everyone, and nobody gets food until the messenger has made his or her rounds.
CQ: This is going back to winterization things too. A lot of tents will be taken down and community tents will be set up--is that what you’re suggesting?
Urban Planning: We’ve just gotta fix the layout to work better; we’re not taking away your tent.
CQ: Well, it’s more of a point. Tent layout, we have a lot of cubic feet in measurement, if we could figure out a good layout, there’s a lot of space we could have if we layed it out better. People have footer tarps that are bigger than their tents and that’s not necessary.
POI: The winterization committee is engaged in a lot of discussion about layout, so I suggest that winterization and urban planning go to one another’s meetings. Winterization is actually having a meeting right now.
Urban planning: they’ll shut us down if we don’t have enough exits...
POI: That’s a conversation that winterization is having...work together maybe?
POI: Let’s say you’re washing dishes, but some people are going to do this at different speeds. Or getting water. How do you figure out who’s actually doing what and how?
Urban planning: we’ll have to figure that out.
Comment on a different topic: Subjecting the wrong message; how are we going to be peaceful if we’re going around fuck this fuck that. At the police. It’s one thing to be against police brutality, it’s another thing to be against POLICE; they help us a lot. Also if we’re thinking about layout talk to vets; they have tons and tons of experience.
And back to urban planning discussion! Strong concerns and objections!
Concern: I would encourage people to think of ways to incentivise people to work. it sounds like forcing them to work is a lot like the institutions we are protesting. There have been conversations about organizing projects so that everyone can get involved. I think there are a lot of ways to create a community where everyone fels an obligation to one another in a way that isn’t “You have to work an hour or you don’t get to sleep or eat here.” This is seconded by another person.
Concern: I do think we should incentivise people rather than insisting. We should prioritize what needs to be done to create a sign up sheet first before we start pushing--then if nobody is signing up let’s try to mobilize people to get things done.
Concern: I have a strategy and that is that I don’t have a clear dividing line between when I’m taking care of myself and taking care of the camp. so if I go to the food tent and they’re out of forks then I go and wash some forks. I put in the time but it’s virtually effortless.
Concern: If you start tracking who’s in camp full time, who’s doing so many hours, then we might be contrary to the spirit of the egalitarian ideal of this camp.
Concern: I’m not signing up on those sign up sheets, nobody’s going to tell me I have to put in an hour, that’s going to cause--yes there are going to be followers and lazy people, but if you get people to pitch in all together--the good people in this camp are always willing to pitch in and help; the dogs are going to be the dogs, but the good people are good.
Concern/suggestion: On the food issue: could we arrange and plan for common meals at a specific time, so we’re all eating together?
Urban planning: Unfortunately food isn’t predictable; when the hot food comes in they’re opening up and feeding us.
Urban planning responds to objections/concerns: We felt we needed a reboot of camp. There are a lot of people who are not working. There are people right by my tent who are just parasites, up all night, doing god knows what. So unless we think intelligently about how to engage people we’re not going to work. There are a lot of people who are just loafing.
Concern: how about people who are working the crowd and talking about politics?
Urban planning: that’s fine! I know people are skilled at different things, we won’t tell you, you have to wash dishes, or you have to do this.
Concern: Using the army as a metaphor, armies have always had camp followers--people who come here and get the free food like parasites but when it’s time to fight they’re melting away. As long as people are coming, and they ARE coming, they’re coming, we’re occupying boston as long as we’ve got tents on the ground--even if some idiot is in that tent trying to levitate, as long as there are tents here people are coming down and they’re talking and listening and they’re here to listen to us for the things that matter. I came to talk about financial reform on Wall Street and Washington DC, I’m all about fixing the country, so I don’t care if there are idiots in the tens as lonmg as we care about the real issues.
Urban planning: I completely agree with what you guys are saying, we don’t want to force people or rank people at all. But to be successful it’s not just about demands, we need to show people that we have something better--I don’t like capitalism and I want to end that so if I’m trying to convince someone I have this great idea and it woul work better. We’re trying to make something better here. Maintenance: we have ten minutes to leave. So I’m going to stop trying to type.
Ack! Oakland person is here! AWESOME!
Oakland: I’m from Boston and I’m bringing tidings. A bitg thank you to occupy boston. It’s just warmed our hearts, your support and I just wanted to say it again.
Participants: That was bad ass--you guys are fucking awesome.
Oakland: They’ve escalated, and now we need to respond and do what we do.
Oakland: They definitely threw concussion grenades that night. They definitely used tear gas, ruber bullets, and flash-bangs.
Applause and spirit fingers for Mr. Oakland!
Participant: I knew people who weren’t occupying who went down in solidarity after the events.
Nurses’ union: protest is happening tomorrow against a group that is brewaking every labor law...can’t hear. Protest tomorrow at noon starting at Occupy I THINK; check.
And I’m really stopping now. night, everyone! We need to clean up encuentro5 so that we’re good neighbors!