Yarrow (angelweed) wrote,

#OccupyRichmond begins

The big question Saturday will be where to occupy -- the very first planning meeting, way back in the mists of beginning on October 5, had decided to defer the choice of location until the day of action. There's energy around two main choices, Kanawha Plaza near the banks, and Monument Avenue near the "statues of dead white assholes". The police have promised either a permit or an informal hands-off for sleeping in Kanawha Plaza, and discourage Monument Avenue. The newly involved and excited folks at the core of the #OccupyRichmond group are attracted by the idea of targeting the banks around Kanawha and are inclined to trust police assurances that we won't be arrested for sleeping there. (It's illegal to be in a park after sunset in Richmond, punishable by a fine). Long-term local activists have proposed Monument Avenue partly because it has wide grassy medians that aren't parks.

I'm worried about trying to make such a choice by consensus -- or modified consensus: we use a 90% rule. In practice that means that if there is a 90% preference for a proposal, it's acted on without much discussion. Dispreference is signaled by wiggling downturned fingers (the opposite of the wiggling upturned fingers of agreement). Our signal for a true block is crossed arms, hands in fists. Then there is discussion.

Yesterday's meeting got bogged down in blow-by-blow consensus readings on ten or fifteen points of process, and folks got restless and jumped stack with direct responses way too often. We decided to use a technique from the People's Assemblies and take a stack of folks speaking to the strength of each proposal and a stack of folks with concerns. And perhaps to ask for consensus to take a preference vote.

At the 4:30 facilitation working group meeting I hear of another facilitation meeting with an entirely different set of folks, to happen around 9:00 after an 8:00 event involving "stuff with herbs and scents". I'm worried about having two sets of people making decisions, so I decide to go to that one too.

Besides, the stuff with herbs and scents sounds intriguing. It turns out to be, well, magic -- we speak our intentions, we sing songs, we laugh, we cast herbs onto a 300-year-old Turkish prayer rug, gather them up, and take them out to spread over the city. It's a bit weird doing magic with monotheists -- they keep saying things like "we're all the same" where I'd say "there's room for all of us". Still, there's ecstasy. We start with "I am opening up in sweet surrender to the luminous love light of the One", and later folks take up "We are rising up like the phoenix from the fire -- children of the earth, spread your wings and fly higher" to the same tune. I'd learned the phoenix chant in jail in 2000 (though "children of the earth" was new to me until I heard eddy sing it in DC). It's nice to have that thread return.

We don't finish until 10:00, and there's no energy for talking about facilitation. We do find out that the police officer who's been talking to us says the mayor has decided to enforce all the clear-the-park laws after all, and grant no permit.

There are about 300 people here, maybe half new. We have an outside facilitator, a woman who's trying to take a break from activism but has been persuaded to come back just this once. She's excellent, at first letting the occasional person with an inappropriate direct response finish before pointing out that it wasn't in process, and later as the crowd becomes more educated stopping people earlier.
The local Occupy Richmond man working with her, who'd been a bit tentative at a previous meeting, steps out and covers her back with great confidence.

As people speak, its clear there's more energy for Kanawha Plaza than Monument Avenue, but neither gets 90%. We finally consense to take a vote between them, with one true block that turns out to be not a block of this current preference vote but a strong concern about doing the same in the future.

Folks march to Kanawha, where there's more discussion about taking the park (despite the sunset law) or staying on the sidewalk. The eventual decision is the sidewalk. Folks seem to have the idea that sleeping on the sidewalk is also illegal, though I can't find a reference in the city code. I'm willing to sleep in the park or on the sidewalk, with or without the risk of arrest, but I do need to sleep sometime! I give another oldster a ride to his car, bring back some water, and go home. But do I sleep? No, I send you this!

/Now/ I'll sleep.


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