The process to formalize our list of demands began at the general assembly last night. As could be imagined, the assembly, which has so far usually taken only from 7pm-9pm, was going on until 11pm when it was tabled to let the campers go to sleep. Amy Goodman and Cornell West showed up late in the day while Susan Sarandon and John Cusack stopped by earlier. Cornell West gave a rousing speech to open the general assembly-he’s, as far as I can tell, a very cool guy. His fro is even more impressive in person.
Creating a list of demands is going to be a long and arduous process, since we can’t seem to come to an agreement on what shape the demands are going to take, let alone what they’ll be. Many people in GA were making suggestions, everything from letting every person present write their personal demands and dump this phone book-like text on the internet to the suggestion of a former British diplomat who’d resigned over Iraq named Karen who said “None of these protests has ever worked without a simple concise and comprehensible list of commands.”
I tend toward his side in the debate, as I’ve been telling everyone at the information booth that I greet that it is about the three interlocking issues of SEC reform, reinstatement of Glass-Steagal and related safe-guards, and campaign finance reform so the other two aren’t immediately knocked down by lobbying efforts. When I explain this concisely, it gives passerby’s the most confidence in what’s going on in the square, while a genuinely accurate account of where we’re at in the process (somewhere between productive clusterfuck and growing pains) would just play into the plethora of articles calling the protests pointless. The general public seems somewhat confused by the direct democracy we practice in the park, especially if they haven’t attended a GA.
Also, in the process of making an encyclopedia of demands, if god forbid it comes to that, most of the demands are going to be direct subsidiary issues of the major issue, which is the wealth distribution and campaign finance reform. It seems a lot of the new people showing up (and there are a lot of them) seem to love this direct democracy thing in the abstract but are slightly too idealistic to make the greatest tacticians. Hopefully the group can come to a reasonable conclusion.
There are other issues popping up that could possibly cause compartmentalization. The LGBT groups have started to come out, something I wholly support and wondered why it took so long. However, in the huge list of new subcommittees that have popped up is one called “The Speakeasy Caucus”, which is a “safe space” exclusive to non-male identified persons. This, while it would be an awesome idea for a group outside the square, doesn’t gel with either the idea of absolute openness and inclusivity in the protest. Though the woman running the group claimed that transgenders etc. were inherently uncomfortable with anyone self-identifying as a male, I think she was selling them short. A very friendly transgender named Tails came over to the info booth last night and seemed fairly comfortable. I don’t think the group in the square has any raving homophobes.
Work groups are popping up quicker than I can keep track for the most part. The square is effectively a working model of communal socialism at this point and the various committees are beginning to solidify in their staff.
Numerous people from Saratoga showed up and we were all gossiping until the wee hours of the morning at the information desk. We tried to outdo each other with the most disgusting urban dictionary definition we could throw out. I think the winner was either “The Ultimate Houdini”, “The Alaskan Pipeline”, or “The Mississippi Mudbucket”. It was damn close though.
A surfer from Alabama came up to the booth during the day and we discussed the lack of accountability by BP for the oil spill. I spoke with reporters from Time Magazine, Reuters, and The Nation magazine, all of whom were very friendly. Both press and police presence have quieted down today, though I expect the massive march this Saturday to draw back both.