Occupy Atlanta Day 9: A Movement Takes Shape

Previous days’ coverage can be found here.

I arrived at 3:32 yesterday. The cleaning crew had come and gone, and by all accounts they were polite and didn’t interfere with the protesters.

Earlier in the morning, Occupy Atlanta marched on the State Capitol with Moveon.org, but once Moveon brought out politicians to give stump speeches, the occupiers left. There is a very real distrust of organized political power, and the occupiers are positively paranoid about being co-opted by any particular political movement. Whether this results in them having no political voice remains to be seen.

A lot of people were in the park, but not the thousand expected. Still, despite the lack of demands, the movement continues to grow.

The AJC’s reporting of the Mayor’s stance on the movement continues to shift. Before it reported that he said the Monday deadline was anything but, however in a recent article it sounded like he changed his tune. I wonder how he feels about the movement; I’d like to go see him talk, and intended to yesterday, but got roped into attending a committee meeting.

Occupy Atlanta is beginning to plan for the long term. Donations aren’t drying up, but the logistics committee decided to spend several hundred dollars on a bulk purchase of food, rather than buying food daily as had been the policy so far.

At 4 PM there was a march on the Federal Reserve. I saw about fifty people leave. I still haven’t been on a march or a protest, as there’s always more work that needs to be done.

There will be another march today at 5 concerning the commemoration of the MLK, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. They’re marching to the tomb of MLK, Jr. The march is supposed to last four hours, and the General Assembly has been moved to 9 PM. Woodruff Park is turning into a staging area for protests and marches.

The first edition of the Occupy Atlanta Newspaper was distributed yesterday. It’s not official or endorsed, but it covers the going ons and opinions of those involved in the occupation.

I attended the General Assembly, but was taking stack and unable to take detailed notes. I will note that most important decisions are being made outside of the General Assembly, and very few of the important members of the occupation were there. Tim Franzen showed up for a couple of minutes, but rolled his eyes when he saw yet another inexperienced stack-taker, and left. I happen to think the General Assembly went fairly well last night, although nothing of real importance was decided.

The moderator was Benjamin, the middle-aged black man who moderated the past Saturday. Like then, I think he did a good job, despite the protests of the “Old Marxist” who said he “was really beginning to wonder about this movement,” with the insinuation that the Occupy Movement has become undemocratic and authoritarian. He also suggested the crowd read “Imperialism” by V.I. Lenin.

The General Assembly convened their breakout groups, which went much better than I predicted. The people I talked to had a very favorable impression of them, and the breakout group I was part of (logistics) was able to help everyone who came to talk to us. Pretty much, people came asking to volunteer or for help about who to talk to about [insert issue]. As a non-ideological committee, there’s not much to argue over, and the members are so overworked that any new suggestions are met with, “That’s a great idea. Would you like to organize it?” Usually, but not always, the answer is no.

The only proposal on which consensus was reached was the creation of a Childcare Committee. Free childcare is now available in Woodruff Park, although I’m not certain how many volunteers they have.

There will also be an unofficial commemoration of the renaming of Woodruff Park to Troy Davis Park. Anyone interested in attending is invited to, although the ceremony is not officially endorsed by Occupy Atlanta.

Perhaps most importantly, Occupy Atlanta will split into separate caucuses and each caucus will come up with a list of demands. Then… I’m not sure, maybe there will be a separate set of demands from each caucus, or maybe they’ll synthesize the demands into something everyone can agree on. I attended the “Radical Left Caucus” after the General Assembly (although I don’t consider myself a member of the radical left… maybe the Krugmanian Left), and they didn’t seem to be having an easier time coming up with a list of demands than the General Assembly. I left when a discussion devolved into whether white people can sympathize with the injustices facing people of color. I agree there is a white blind spot when it comes to the non-white experience, but I’ve heard both sides of the argument so many times that I simply find it boring; it’s like watching a movie for the thousandth time.

There was also some discussion on the whiteness and maleness of Occupy Atlanta’s leadership. I agree this is a problem, but I’m at a loss as to how to fix it. I think the root of the problem is this: white people are more likely to come from a background, i.e. solid middle class or upper-middle class, that allows them to be a full-time organizer of Occupy Atlanta, or Occupy Wallstreet, or wherever. For example, Logistics has three bottom-liners (willing and able to work an 8 hour shift). Two are white men (well, one is a drag queen and I’m unsure of his preferred gender reference, but the person has an XY chromosome), and one is a black man. The two white bottom-liners are, I believe, on hiatus from their jobs while they organize, and the black bottom-liner is a full-time social justice advocate. There are two black women on the logistics committee that I’m aware of, but they both have other obligations and aren’t able to commit to the movement full-time. There’s also a latino woman, and some white men. So actually the logistics committee is pretty diverse, but its two most active members are the two white bottom-liners. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the logistics committee is the most diverse, and the other committees should think hard about this.

Sorry for the shitty last paragraph, I’ll try to take more detailed notes tonight.

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