First-person Report from OccupyBoston: Monday, 7 p.m., Dewey Square

OccupyBoston is taking on the seemingly impossible. Except it's not.

After two days of monitoring OccupyBoston in the media, and on Twitter, I decided it was time for a trip to Dewey Square. I went to the General Assembly on Monday. It was damp and threatening more rain, but given the weekend storms they’d been camping in, it seemed certain the weather would have little effect on attendance.

As I arrived, the facilitator was finishing up a quick review of communication protocol, which consisted of a series of hand signal that allowed the facilitator to “take the temperature” of the crowd. I moved toward the front and found a place to sit as she was finishing up the review. “Opinions and feelings,” she said, and the crowd chanted in response, “OPINIONS AND FEELINGS.” She continued, “are not,” and then the crowd “ARE NOT.” “Points of information.” A rumbling chuckle accompanied, “POINTS OF INFORMATION.”

It seemed odd, the call and response. But it turns out, that wasn’t what they were doing. It was the “peoples’ mic” whereby the people helped to amplify an individual whose comments and questions would not otherwise be heard by the crowd. I’d missed that part of the review.

The first item on the agenda was announcements, and representatives from each committee came forward with their updates. First up was Media. It had been an exciting day, as the spark had taken hold and coverage of OccupyBoston was growing exponentially. After a brief celebratory moment, the speaker added,  “But remember, this is not an exercise in entertainment for the main stream media!”

A tall thin man, reminiscent of the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, took the stage next. He was modest in demeanor but clear in his task. He represented “Legal.” He encouraged anyone planning on doing something that might get them arrested to stop by the tent and fill in an intake form. This would let others know what to do should they end up in jail. 

The Medical staff members, identifiable by their red crosses, were next. There was a brief review of general hygiene and then, “We are not telling you to wear shoes at all times, but PLEASE wear shoes at all times.” Another rumbled chuckle from the crowd.

The representative from Logistics was a young woman with a small frame and a focused presence.  “There is no more room in Dewey Square,” she said. She asked that people wait for a cohesive plan, rather than planting themselves willy nilly around the city as occupiers in other cities has done.

It started to rain a little bit and there was shuffling and rattling as people pulled out donated ponchos or opened up their umbrellas. Some left, but not many. It was time to move onto the next agenda item, but something had started to shift in the crowd.

The process, remarkably smooth and efficient given the number of people present, became destabilized by a few people who were unable to understand that their actions, and it is in no way inappropriate to say their selfish actions, were causing a great deal of damage. The facilitator, being the one with the microphone, came under fire. The process began to wobble as a few more gained control.  Others became giddy with the ill-gotten power. The next 20-40 minutes were spent trying to corral those blindly wandering around bumping into everything.  And though there was a gradual cohesion re-established, the topic for discussion was abandoned.

This is the point at which many people might throw up their hands as say, “It’s never going to work.” But they would be wrong.

The occupiers are attempting to create a model of democracy that has never had a chance to flourish. It is a messy process, but it creates solutions that are multi-dimensional, because they are the result of many blended voices. It is the process of non-linear thinking. Educators currently refer to it as divergent thinking.  The occupiers are applying that this way of thinking to governance. It hasn’t been done before.

I spoke with someone involved with facilitation after the meeting. “Did they eat you alive, too?” I asked. “Oh, yeah,” she said. “So what are you going to do?” I asked. She went on to explain her plan, whereby the agenda is posted and Tweeted about in advance of assembly so everyone has time to review it. The first 10 minutes of the next meeting would be spent on amendments posited by the crown. After that, the topic is closed. No challenges, no more discussion.  

It’s a good start.

On the train ride home I reviewed the contents of my head, and I was struck by the irony of what had happened. The topic for discussion had been to find ways of protecting the disenfranchised voices from the whims of the vocal few.

It is not a small task that has been taken on. It is by no means easy, nor is it intended to be. Challenging the power structure is particularly difficult when your allies have been trained to follow the power structure. Success depends not on overturning the few already in power. Success depends on empowering the many despite the resistence of the few.

About this blog: Fourth-generation JPer Lisa Hiserodt blogs observations of Occupy Boston, currently occupying Dewey Square in the Financial District to protest financial disparity and lack of a functioning democracy, and part of a movement that is blossoming into hundreds of nationwide protests modeled on Occupy Wall Street.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joseph October 12, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Dan (con't) - Problem is, they’re not smart enough to realize what they’re even protesting or where to direct their anger. They should be protesting how the government is governing, and how business is conducted in DC, not how investment banks, banks, and Wall Street make profits. How about the bailout of the auto industry - How many times has that occurred? I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the loans to save the ENTIRE banking system was repaid by all the banks, no? Can the auto industry say the same thing? I will concede that I don’t necessarily agree with how the US Government could bail out corporations and not work with homeowners to refinance their ridiculous loans. That seems to have done more damage than good, but that is for another discussion that I will gladly participate in while James is busy shining this troll’s shoes. Working hard to be successful is what this country is all about. Not handouts. Call me callus, or a troll, but I hate how people feel they are entitled to a good living, or have what others have worked hard to achieve, verses working hard for it. Life sucks, get over it.
Dan October 12, 2011 at 09:33 PM
Joseph - I don't think of you as a troll, but you do have a inclination on focusing on the periphery of the subject. You seam to have a thing on what people wear or have, as such you try to classify them as being two faced. What someone wears or presents outwardly does not imply they are being two faced. Having a smartphone maybe their only tool to post their resume online in their effort to get a job as they don't have a computer or access to one. Just because you see an expensive pair of shoes within a picture does not mean the shoes belong on one of the protesters (i.e. Mary). Many of us have succumbed to the image police or have become programed by the din of endless ads on radio, TV and the Internet on what one needs to own. A common issue for the young. Some of us are not so easily swayed or have chosen to spend ones mad money on something to offset pain of dally life on something totally frivolous. Others while living without the basics need some release as well. As an example the poor spend their hard earned money lottery tickets hopping for a way out. To the point of being an addiction. I've been lucky, I've been around the world a few times and have seen first hand how many people live (luckily, on some else's dime). We have it much better here than many, but with that said, we have lost our way. Our personal values have shifted to the negative.
Dan October 12, 2011 at 09:34 PM
pt2: Instead of kicking someone try to understand them. Just don't take the words of talking heads or the trimmed viewpoint they offer. Go out meet the people discuss with them what is troubling them. I bet you will be surprised they are not much different than you. When I was in mainland China I had a chance to spend a lot of time with a bunch families. There view point was so misshapen on who I was as an American and I was as much of them being Chinese. Over the months I was there I explained what my world was like and they did likewise with me. At the end we learned we were more alike than different! I learned an important lesson which over and over has served me well. Don't always assume the worse of people. Sure, I've had my close calls as well, but only the hatred of oppression being present.
Marc near the Park October 12, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Thanks Michelle, I'll read that. I will admit I am somewhat inclined to be drawn to the comments and ideas that are far out of left field on the "Occupy" side of things, so I'm curious to hear another viewpoint.
Joseph October 13, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Sounds good Dan. I understand your point. I can’t say I agree with it 100%, but that’s ok too. Believe it or not, I'm not swayed by "first impressions says it all." I usually like to give a person, or even a place to eat, a few attempts before passing judgment. I guess my daily walks around Dewey Square paints a much different picture in my mind vs others.


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