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, www.occupyasheville.org, or their Facebook page, to learn more.