Occupy Atlanta Day 8: Words on the Street

Previous days’ coverage can be found here.

Yesterday, I went directly to the kitchen and didn’t get to Woodruff Troy Davis Park until 7:53 P.M. After eight hours of making food, we showed up with three 5 gallons buckets of food, and they lasted for about thirty minutes. A lot more people were present for the General Assembly last night than any day since Friday, October 8th, when the occupation began.

Friday night saw a new moderator who had trouble keeping people from speaking out of turn. It doesn’t look like anyone can or will moderate for more than two days, and being a moderator looks like one of the worst jobs in the world. My theory is that people think to themselves, “It can’t be that hard, I know I could do a better job,” and then when they get up there are confronted with the unpleasant reality that both of their assumptions were wrong. The sole good moderator has disappeared for the time being, at least from the GA’s.

I got around to listening to the General Assembly at 8:45, and the discussion revolved around a notice to the occupiers that Mayor Reed would be sending a cleaning crew to the park Saturday morning. Fears concerning Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to send in cleaning crews as a pretext to displacing Occupy Wallstreet (which he later postponed) were on everyone’s mind, and the debate revolved around whether the occupiers would vacate the park or confront the police. The points turned out to be moot, as someone in contact with the A.D.I.D., the Atlanta department in charge of maintaining the parks, said there would be no police escorting the cleaners.

At 9:23 consensus was reached, allowing the cleaning crew into the park under the supervision of a reserve force of 50 people to watch them while the rest of the occupiers, in conjunction with several Atlanta Labor Unions, marched on the State Capitol. Tim Franzen (who is falsely monikered the movement’s leader in the AJC), stated his opinion that the Mayor wouldn’t make a move on the occupiers until after Sunday’s commemoration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. The GA was adjourned shortly after.

And later in the night the Mayor backed off his Monday at Five executive order, claiming he hadn’t intended it to be seen as a showdown between the city and the occupiers. The city has also installed several port-a-potties by the park, and I think the city government is in wait-and-see mode.

I don’t know if the city is intentionally scaring the occupiers, but each new government action regarding the park is met by consternation and a wavering of will in the GA. So far the voices calling to stand strong have won out, and I don’t think any other outcome is possible, considering how the GA’s consensus decision-making all but guarantees maintaining the status quo.

Some of the movement’s “leaders” were visibly annoyed with the process, and I wonder if a different system will be instated, or if fewer and fewer decisions will be brought before the General Assembly.

After the GA, I was sitting and talking with a friend and inadvertently ended up manning the Welcome Table, which has an assortment of fliers and a person (in this case, me) tasked with explaining the movement to and answering the questions of people who show up to the park to check out what it’s all about.

Six people came to talk to me between ten and eleven-thirty P.M., which was six more than I expected. The first was a sophomore at Perimeter College. He asked what the movement was about. My answer is that it affirms a democracy’s need for a public space where people with different beliefs can gather and freely exchange their views, as that seems to be the primary purpose of the movement thus far, at least from what I’ve seen. The pat answer is that it’s about ending the too cozy relationship of business and government, where members of the country’s elite, i.e. the 1%, run the country for their benefit and leave the 99% to fend for themselves.

His reason for being there was to talk politics, and he took a seat and talked to me until an occupier who also liked to talk politics sat down and they had a little powwow.

Next was a middle-aged man who was, I think, trying to trip me up or catch me in a contradiction. He wasn’t able to, because I am a badass hedger, and wished us luck and went on his way.

The next person to come up to me was a guy in his thirties who lived next to the park. He was a bit cryptic. At first I thought he was complaining about the influx of homeless to his neighborhood, but after he talked for a while I realized his general feeling was that he supported a lot of the movement’s ideas, but when he looked outside his window he saw a park that had been turned into a college quad, which is a fair assessment of the park during the day. There are a lot of people working, but there are even more hanging out. I think that’s a function of the park’s proximity to Georgia State: a lot of students add bodies to the occupation, but don’t do much towards working to make the world a better place. This is a common complaint even within the movement, as some of the occupiers who are committed activists wish a lot of occupiers would do more than hang out and march on protests. After all, real change, even if it’s as small as feeding the homeless, requires roll-up-your-sleeves work.

It’s a common critique of the Occupy movement: how do you expect to change anything by sitting around complaining? It’s fair, to a point. A lot of work is still being done behind the scenes, and it will take time to percolate into the occupy crowd. Or maybe it won’t, who knows? If all of the people protesting in Atlanta spent several hours a week at government assemblies or volunteering, they would effect a change much more efficiently. But that’s lonely work, and it’s nice to stand in solidarity with other people. Plus, the occupation is, in its own way, fun.

The third guy who came up to talk to me was a fifth grade social studies teacher. He just wanted to let me know how much he appreciated what we were doing in the park, and that he thought we had the right idea. He wasn’t convinced we would successfully change anything, but he thought our hearts were in the right place, and would be discussing the occupation with his students the following week.

The final two people I spoke with were a young couple, but the Georgia Perimeter student and the occupier he was talking to peeled them off when upon finding a new audience for their thoughts. Which was a welcome relief, as I was exhausted by that time from the cooking and the talking.

At 11:30, the Atlanta Radical Fairies showed up with some food for the protesters. I was hungry, and decided to go home (where I have food) rather than leave one less plate of food for a homeless person or an occupier.

Before I went home, I stopped by sixty Walton street. Someone was talking about how a violent confrontation would be “good for the cause.” I wonder if he had himself in mind as the person whose face would get smashed in by a billy club, or if he’d be the one filming it from a safe distance. For some reason, I suspect the latter.

I don’t know if it means anything, but of the six people I spoke to, all but the Perimeter College student were black. I don’t have any good ideas as to why this was (maybe a statistical fluke?), but I thought it was interesting. Maybe white people are afraid to walk downtown after dark.

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  1. I appreciate your posting these. It gives me a chance to check in with what’s going on in our own city. Keep ’em coming.

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