Occupy Atlanta Day One: The Facts

Yesterday I went to #OccupyAtlanta’s General Assembly. These are the facts.

Denton and I showed up at Woodruff Park at about 6 PM. Several hundred people were milling around and being filmed by camera crews from CBS Atlanta, Channel 2, and 11 Alive. I didn’t notice any police the entire time I was there; they seemed to be content to leave the protesters alone so long as things remained peaceful (which they did).

At about 6:15 the people running the event marched the crowd to the center of Woodruff Park and had them form a circle so they could begin the General Assembly of Occupy Atlanta. The crowd was diverse with regards to both age and race, although it leaned young and white. A lot of people present had never protested before, and there was a lot of self-aware smiling and laughing, as if they’d wandered into the protest by accident and didn’t know what to make of the silly situation they found themselves in.

Some variant of the thought, “I’m not the kind of person that chants goofy slogans and rails against the oppressive state,” ran through over half of the crowd’s minds, I guarantee it.

The “facilitators” of the event spoke to the crowd and went over the structure of the General Assembly; all decisions would be reached through the consensus. The crowd expressed its approval of various proposals through wiggling fingers, or if a person disagreed with a proposal they could block it by crossing their arms, whereupon the facilitators would discuss the objection, alter the proposal, and then try once again to find consensus. It takes forever.

The facilitators were, without exception, white men, a point to which I’ll return in a later post. Esau, a middle-aged man with a grey beard that looked like the kind of guy who would work at an independent book store, moderated the event, and he had several other people taking notes, managing “the stack” (the order in which people speak to the crowd), etc. They didn’t describe themselves as anarchists, but that’s how I’ll refer to them for the rest of this blog post.

The first order of business was to decide on a process for making decisions. I’ll spare readers the details, but it took about twenty minutes to approve the process that the facilitators had decided on before the General Assembly. The process was written up on a poster board.

When the process had almost been approved a man in the front, a self-described “Old Marxist,” spoke for several minutes about the dangers facing the movement, about the need to overthrow the state, and how vast majority of people assembled would, “When things are not so friendly as they are now,” side with the state and the police. After he finished his speech the proposal on the process was approved.

Right before 7 P.M., John Lewis, the representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, either asked or was asked to speak to the crowd (it was unclear which it was). Whether he should be allowed to speak was turned to the crowd, and while the vast majority approved, a person in the crowd blocked the proposal, suggesting that allowing him to speak would privilege his status as a person over the rest of the crowd.

From there, a long discussion ensued, and when it became apparent John Lewis wouldn’t be speaking, the crowd booed. John Lewis left before any consensus was reached, and the anarchists continued with their agenda. Eight committees spoke about their functions and asked for volunteers, and the crowd dwindled as time went on. You can find information on the purpose and contact information of the committees here.

After all of the committees spoke, Joe, the person who’d blocked John Lewis from speaking, called for a proposal to occupy, i.e. camp out in, Woodruff Park. He riled up the crowd and I left during the ongoing discussion. I hope Joe never attains any power, because he came across as a Mussolini with the voice of David Cross, and the kind of person who would line people up and have them shot for “the good of the cause.”

The crowd decided to occupy Woodruff Park around 10, and the police didn’t interfere.

Other news coverage:





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  1. October 8th, 2011

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