Some Thoughts on Occupy L.A. General Assembly, by Victor

Victor originally posted his analysis about Occupy LA’s General Assembly on Facebook, and has been generous enough to allow us to re-post it here in full. Some of his points are unique to OLosA, especially the local organizers’ unilateral decision to work hand-in-hand with the police. But a lot of his points also echo a lot of the sentiments of people of color who have attempted to participate at Occupy Wall Street (OWS), which started two weeks before. OWS’s white organizers and facilitators created a model which is being repeated in cities all around the continent, and continues to marginalize men of color, queers, and women of color in particular.

The General Assembly was rather messy and undemocratic:

1) The “mic check” method that the organizers are copying from the NY Occupiers is a Pavlovian conditioning tool. That is, but having the crowd repeat every last goddamned word that comes out of the speaker’s mouth, it begins to INVALIDATE internal dissent and force the person to accept what is being said and repeated as truth. It is almost like a cult. This is NOT democratic any way.

2) A full 85% of the speakers, at least during the “controlled” portion of the General Assembly, were white. Among comrades last night, there was much discussion how there seems to be a lot of tokenism with people of color, but that decisions are essentially being made by a few white individuals.

3) Even though the movement is being claimed as leaderless, there are “leaders” who have been directing for the last week. None of the local L.A. people have ever seen who these people are, or where they came from. From what we heard, they’re from West L.A.

4) A People of Color/Womyn/Queer Committee was established to address the fact that Occupy L.A. was NOT inclusive of the demographics in L.A. The brother from this committee who spoke was downright amazing, and held it down. He even dispensed with the bullshit “mic check” repeating thing. As the brother was speaking and giving his righteous criticisms and pointing out male, white, class, and hetero privilege, only a handful of us people of color and white allies were clapping. Everyone else looked annoyed and puzzled.

5.) The organizers of Occupy L.A. have been working in cooperation with the LAPD since the beginning.

6.) The permits that Occupy L.A. got were only for camping on the sidewalks, not in the park.

7.) The LAPD told the people from Occupy L.A. that they absolutely had to be out of the park and on the sidewalks by 10:30PM.

8.) At the General Assembly of (September 30), it was decided that the collective vote to decide whether to camp in the park or on the sidewalk would be made the following night, (October 1).

9) At last night’s General Assembly meeting (October 1), the organizers had already made the decision to follow the LAPD’s demands and camp on the sidewalk, WITHOUT the democratic input of everyone at the park!

10) A womyn of color from the audience pointed out that the General Assembly had not followed it’s own procedure and allowed the issue to be analyzed and argued collectively–which resulted a prolonged, messy discussion. She was asked to speak and make her proposal. As she was doing so, she kept being interrupted and “coached” by some of the organizers. A couple of us ran up to her to give her support so she could speak her mind without interference.

11.) There was much frustration over how “occupation” would be handled. The organizers kept stressing that they wanted this movement to last three months and that by disobeying the orders of the LAPD, they would come and shut it down. The other argument was that the movement should have NEVER been negotiating with the cops in the first place, and that by following the city ordinance, it was NOT an occupation at all.

12.) Rather than have the collective present decide if they would stay in the park or on the sidewalks, they used fear mongering tactics to scare people into following what they wanted–to follow the orders of the LAPD.

13.) We argued that if the collective decided to stay in the park, that those who chose not to sleep there had to find a way to demonstrate solidarity to the occupiers in the event that the cops would attack.

14.) The organizers were taking an individualist approach and stated that THEY had decided for everyone that the movement should stay on the sidewalks, and that anyone who stayed in the park was on their own.

15.) The organizers tried to instill fear in the people present by announcing that cops and firefighters were already stationed just a few blocks away. Our own scouts went ahead to check it out and this proved to be FALSE.

16.) As we stayed arguing with the organizers, one of the main dudes (white male) seemed exasperated and kept telling us that we were basically ruining all of HIS hard work he put into the movement. If we stayed in the park and got arrested, it would be HIM that would get the gravest consequences from the cops, because they apparently told him as such.

17.) As people began moving to the sidewalks, a circle of us decided to fuck it and stay in the park past 10:30PM. A few comrades decided to camp inside the park as well. Those who would not be camping stayed to give them support and solidarity.

18.) The organizers tried to instill fear in people saying that the cops were already on their way because they had heard it on their own police scanners. They didn’t have any.

19.) 10:30PM came and passed, and no cops. In fact, people started coming into the park around midnight and laying about, chatting, sleeping, WITHOUT any police interference. By 1AM, everything was chill.

I have much more to say about this event in particular with hierarchy, white privilege, lack of democratic centralism, etc.

11 Comments

Filed under DisOccupy

11 responses to “Some Thoughts on Occupy L.A. General Assembly, by Victor

  1. punkdudeus

    “5.) The organizers of Occupy L.A. have been working in cooperation with the LAPD since the beginning.
    6.) The permits that Occupy L.A. got were only for camping on the sidewalks, not in the park.”
    Nobody has cooperated with the LAPD; it was communicated to them that we would be holding a nonviolent presence there indefinitely post October 1. No permits have been taken out, it is our right to sleep on the sidewalk. What exactly are your complaints about the cops? They’ve arrested a total of 0 people here in LA.

    “9) At last night’s General Assembly meeting (October 1), the organizers had already made the decision to follow the LAPD’s demands and camp on the sidewalk, WITHOUT the democratic input of everyone at the park!” This movement is based on free-association and mutual support; people were notified that they could sleep where they want, but that there was to be a risk of arrest if they chose to sleep on the sidewalk…in either case, there would be mutual support. Nobody can force anyone to sleep anywhere…nobody made a decision for anyone else.

    “10) A womyn of color from the audience pointed out that the General Assembly had not followed it’s own procedure and allowed the issue to be analyzed and argued collectively–which resulted a prolonged, messy discussion. She was asked to speak and make her proposal. As she was doing so, she kept being interrupted and “coached” by some of the organizers.” You’re right, she should have been allowed to speak, and was. But she came up to speak without having a clear concept of what she actually wanted to say, thus leading to confusion. If you’re going to propose something and say it in public: tell people what you are proposing, how you want to implement it, and why. If not, you need to rethink what you want to say and perhaps save it for a more appropriate time.

    Furthermore, the animosity from groups in the crowd was not constructive. People were yelling at each other without any respectfulness at all. There were people yelling “LET A BROWN PERSON SPEAK” when both Hispanic people and African Americans Spoke. Are we to begin judging others because they are “not brown enough” now? We live in a dynamic and plural society where these classifications are blurring more everyday.

    Many people have been working on creating this, and have given up much of their time and energy. The processes are based on building consensus, not creating a voting system to replicate political divisions within the group. It’s difficult, and everyone wants everyone’s voices to be heard, but to do this there needs to be organization and structure and common sense.

    Don’t miss the forest for the trees, not everyone is out to get you. Let’s work together on this and not start sowing dissent only for the sake of sowing dissent. Don’t feel represented? Go to the OPEN AND ANNOUNCED facilitation meetings as well as all the other groups that are forming to try and make this works. Discussions like this can be constructive, but on Saturday night nothing about the racial insults being hurled was constructive at all. Especially not 2 minutes into the beginning of the GA when people were trying to explain the processes developed to actually run an efficient and open popular assembly.

    I’ve also heard critiques of the “hand signals” as if they’re some radical conspiracy to disenfranchise minorities….what else do you suggest then? How is a large group of people supposed to demonstrate their opinions so that meetings can be run smoothly and make progress? Yelling? Screaming? Insults? That alienates people and shows small mindedness.

    And these groups coming together on police brutality and diversity dynamics are exactly the heart of the movement. Have an issue? Stop attacking and start constructing. Dividing people up is exactly what the 1% want.

  2. punkdudeus

    Also, did you ever go to a pre-October 1 GA or facilitation planning session? How do you know there weren’t people of color there? And what do you mean by democratic centralism? Everyone is here because they want to be. Voting enables factionalism and motivates those in the minority voting position to walk away because…well…there’s nothing tying them to the movement. I know it’s frustrating, it’s a long process and we have to do it step by step. It is far too early to begin pointing fingers at others.

  3. punkdudeus

    Finally, one more thing:

    I completely understand a fear and mistrust of the police. But they are human beings. They are workers. There are Black Cops, White Cops, Gay Cops, Straight Cops, Hispanic cops. There is more that unites them to us than divides them. Maintaining a position of irrational antagonism is shortsighted and scares away people who don’t feel as militantly opposed to the police. If you want a broad movement, don’t scare people away by telling them they’re no good if they don’t hate cops constantly and want to escalate situations irrationally. Radicalism is a GREAT AND BEAUTIFUL AND FUNDAMENTAL course of action. But, as Saul Alinsky would reiterate, you need to organize and do things well, with a view to what the big pictures is. True revolution arises out of the critical analysis of objective reality, not from instant reaction.

    • This blog is intended to be for, by and about people of color. Now that you have managed to take up more space than Victor’s original post, we ask that you immediately stop occupying even more space with your never-ending comments (and please pay attention to the fact that you taking up too much space to begin with is the whole issue here in a nutshell).

      • Dustin dustinlmu@yahoo.com

        I am white, so based on disoccupy’s comment I guess I’m not supposed to comment? But that’s strongly against my nature, so:

        I never heard the folks speaking tell the group that “they had decided for us,” as is stated in point 14. I was on the fence as to whether it was best to sleep in the park or sidewalk. Then I heard compelling arguments presented for both sides, and was ultimately convinced that avoiding potential conflict with the cops made the most sense. I spent a beautiful evening in conversation with a black Muslim, a Swede, my bi-sexual Jewish girlfriend, a white guy from Tennessee, and a lesbian immigrant from Cuba.

        I agree wholly that people of color, women, and queer individuals possess unique and valuable perspectives, and face unique challenges. I also agree that this land was stolen from native people of color. The greater the diversity of identities at Occupy LA, the stronger this movement will be. That said, I did not observe the authoritarianism or lack of diversity described here.

  4. Pingback: The General Assembly and Grassroots Democracy « UnpermittedLA

  5. nobody

    I went to some GAs before the first. Some of the above, I agree with. There is def. a circle of organizers who dominate, despite themselves maybe. They’re not white men though, which is lolzy. Still, it’s a problem. The structure of the meeting isn’t really consensus, in my opinion. It’s partially there, but there is no spokescouncil and affinity groups. The whole “let’s talk in small groups” thing seemed coercive to me. It seems to do the opposite of what an affinity group would do.

  6. Juan G

    I look forward to this myopic and mentally paralyzing concept and phrase “people of color” evolving into something productive, authentic and non-polarizing. It’s often merely based on skin tone (so call it out for what it is) and it’s bullshit and not empowering anyone.

  7. occupier

    Thank you for your thought provoking article, but #6 is wrong. There’s no such permit. It stems from a court order a couple years ago that LAPD can’t cite the homeless from tenting on the sidewalk from 10p-6a. So everyone can now take advantage of that.

  8. Pingback: The General Assembly and Grassroots Democracy, by UnpermittedLA | DisOccupy

  9. Pingback: O:Chch #Occupy #Christchurch update #NZ #chch #eqnz #OWS « Rik Tindall blogs

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