Put both hands up and wiggle your fingers if you agree with me. Point them at the ground and wiggle them if you disagree. If you feel neutral but still want to express yourself, aim your fingers parallel to the ground and wiggle them. Think I’m breaking procedure? Arrange your thumb and forefinger into the shape of a triangle and hold it above your head.
With this silent language, the General Assembly of Occupy Philadelphia began its meeting, which is held every Tuesday and Thursday in the Friends Center at 15th and Cherry streets.
Upon introducing myself as a reporter, the facilitators debated whether or not I was welcome. They almost held a vote among the entire GA, before deeming it unnecessary.
When everyone filed into the two-story church and settled down on the pews, the meeting began when the facilitator roared, “Mic check!” The crowd yelled it back at him and the chatter stopped — mostly.
After a reading of the Occupy Philadelphia guidelines, working committees reported on their progress. Occupy Spaces plans to refurbish a vacant lot with greenery, Occupy groups on the West Coast plan to rally to stop a shipment that’s being escorted in by the Coast Guard and Occupy Pittsburgh is planning a march in protest to Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R-Pa.) budget speech.
Next came the announcements. One man, clean-shaven and sporting a brown hat that matched the rest of his brown attire, stood up. He was one of the only men without a beard of some sort. He introduced himself as Nate and immediately explained his stunning lack of facial hair.
“It means I’m running for Congress,” he declared — Pennsylvania’s 13th district. Twinkle-fingers went up all around the room. It was one of Occupy’s few moments of universal consensus. I wished I had a camera.
After other announcements, the group moves onto proposals. The procedure for this is strict, and if someone deviates, finger-triangles are immediately thrust into the air.
First, the person making the proposal reads it aloud, followed by the facilitators opening the floor to “clarifying questions.” These questions are theoretically true to their name — not attacks, not disputes, but true clarifications of the proposal.
In reality, the clarifying questions were about 50 percent clarifying and 50 percent snarky. In some cases of snarkiness, I didn’t blame them.
A facilitator walked around with a notepad to keep track of the order of questioners. A maximum of five people at a time were on “stack.” The sixth was often frustrated.
“Concerns” came next. At this time, members voiced issues they had with the proposal, offered support, refuted earlier concerns or suggested slight tweaks. The same procedure with stack applied. If a proposal is open to amendments, members will offer those ideas after concerns. Then a counted vote took place to pass or decline the proposal.
The proposal on the table yesterday concerned a new set of guidelines regarding respect. People took turns reading aloud the proposal, and I was reminded forcibly of some of the worst moments of high-school English. Then the debates began.
“How are we going to hold people accountable?” one woman asked.
“I don’t want us to have the way where the only way you express anger is to be passive aggressive,” said the long-haired man in front of me. He also added that passive-aggressive behavior was the “middle class way” to express one’s anger. No one disagreed.
People expressed concern about the finality of these rules. Someone offered an amendment to add the following text: “We emphasize that this is a living document that can be changed by the General Assembly.” The amendment passed, but there was no consensus on anything resembling an accountability procedure.
With five minutes left in the meeting, the GA held a vote. Thirty two voted yes on the proposal. Two voted no. Three abstained. The amended proposal had passed, and Occupy Philadelphia adjourned till Thursday.
Occupy movement remains active on campus, in city
Occupy movement marches on MLK Day in recognition of wealth inequality
Arrested Occupy protesters’ next court date set for April 26
Despite signs of fading, Occupiers hold strong
Occupy Wall Street does not represent the 99 percent
Occupy faces unknown future
The inside perspective: Professor recounts experience in jail following Occupy arrests
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.