Checking out Occupy Asheville’s ‘General Assembly’

It was a gorgeous fall day today, Saturday, November 5, so hubby and I got out the bikes and rode downtown with our nine-year-olds to catch a session of Occupy Asheville’s General Assembly.

The girls understand basic civics concepts like free speech and freedom of assembly – and we’ve had some fun coming up with witty alternatives to fit the cadence of their daily Pledge of Allegiance at school—but it’s not too often they get to participate in live parliamentary process.

It’s not your textbook parliamentary procedure, mind you, but there’s an organic flow that works. As the session opened, a central moderator acquainted the thirty or more folks in attendance in the use of a set of hand signals; those attending are encouraged to provide approval and guidance to speakers using these signals. I was quite taken with the now-familiar Greek chorus function provided by listeners who repeat the speaker’s statements so even those in the back can hear, no amplification needed. It just takes the words “Mic check!” from the orator to turn on the human amplifiers. It’s low-tech, functional, and innovative, recalling the ancients somehow.

On this occasion, representatives from a series of working groups were on hand to present brief reports on recent progress, and offer information about plans in the works so newcomers can get involved. There’s a media work group, and a ‘direct action’ group, and one specializing in street theater, which is meeting soon to plan for their “Black Friday” presence at a local shopping center. We also heard from a work group covering legal issues, which presented the text of a proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of those arrested November 2. The claim is that arresting folks who are assembled on the sidewalk is unconstitutional, since that’s a protected activity in the public square.

There’s room for everyone in this movement: we heard from a self-described gender-neutral individual, on behalf of a working group focused on eliminating oppression within the movement itself (although it wasn’t immediately clear how such oppression might be manifest). Yet another speaker implored attendees to take care to stay positive with their inner thoughts, since just thinking about ‘heavy’ things actually has a physical impact—incrementally increasing one’s physical weight—thus placing an unnecessary burden on the corpus. (I briefly considered offering a defense-of-empirical-science-based work group…if this movement really takes hold, I’d like to know certain universal laws will remain in force).

This “occupation” isn’t a constant presence in any particular location, but ebbs and flows depending on the availability of folks to organize and participate. And if you want to connect, organizers have made it pretty easy: see the Occupy Asheville website,, or their Facebook page, to learn more.


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5 thoughts on “Checking out Occupy Asheville’s ‘General Assembly’

  1. martinv

    As a member of the media working group and a member newly formed’rationally demonstrative theories’ working group, I debated strategy with her following this explanation. As per our agreements as an organization we refrain from engaging in public denunciations of fellow active participants on topics of disagreement, expertise, and personal differences. Occupy Asheville is an open forum for dissent and committed to an inclusive and horizontal structure. Indeed networking around a deepening conversation regarding our politics, economics and culture is the most important thing that we are doing and have accomplished, in my opinion. I digress, Occupy Asheville is interested in exploring ideas for a reimagination of our common future and acting on them. Talk to Victor Ochoa with our Outreach Working Group and he’d be happy to direct you to the right people to get you involved with anything from legal, action, organizing, outreach, donations of resources, time, or your most valuable contribution, your idealism and belief that the world can change. It must. It is not the world or the nation that is in danger, it is the human spirit that is in jeopardy.


    the media working group

  2. Bill Thurman

    One of the commandments in the law of G_d tells us not to follow a multitude to do evil. Nobody knows what may at length result from the protests & rioting in Egypt, Libya, &c. Both have done very bad things so far.
    Before consenting in any way with any group any man or woman with a conscience needs to understand the most probably agenda of that group. In many places a Stalinist mentality proves quite dominant in professedly global & city occupations by these groups.

  3. Uh.

    I feel all warm inside.

    I don’t remember any gushing romantic accounts of the tea party in these pages.

    • Bill Rhodes

      Could it be that the tea party was quite cold and indifferent to outsiders? That was my experience, Tim.

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