It’s funny—I’d seen the park before my real “first day.” I went down on the day of the mass entrapment on the Brooklyn Bridge, knowing nothing really about Occupy Wall Street other than that it was becoming “a thing.” But the park that afternoon was nearly empty of people, and I didn’t understand why. I had no idea that in that very moment, everyone was busy getting arrested! (About 700 people were arrested that day.) I left with my scarred expectations met; after years of disappointing antiwar, anti-globalization, anti-Bush, and pro-Obama efforts, I wasn’t sure how OWS was any different.
So my real first day wasn’t until October 11. The night before, I saw a tweet by @mcsole about the Boston Police Department preparing to evict Occupy Boston, with a livestream link. I wondered if I knew anyone there and clicked the link.
I watched that livestream until about 5am. A line of police slowly swept away and arrested hundreds of people, including some who it later turned out I’d known for years. All night, I kept one eye on the stream while the other sorted through Twitter, and by morning I’d decoded enough of the network of on-the-ground tweeters and streamers to realize something amazing was happening—and growing at a crazy clip.
I crashed for a couple hours before heading into work, where I spent the day distracted by the aftermath of the OB raid. When work was over, I darted down to Liberty Square. When I got to the park, it was full of life and felt nothing like it had while everyone was getting arrested on the bridge!
I walked into the park from the entrance on Liberty and saw a huge group of people gathered around a large screen full of words, shouting in unison. “What’s this?” I asked someone.
“It’s the General Assembly.”
Huh? I sat and listened. The first thing that struck me about the GA was the beauty of the human microphone—and how similar it was to a TCP/IP network. Each participant did each other participant the kindness of repeating their words, so that people farther away could hear. The second realization hit much harder, after I’d listened for a few minutes: The GA was using consensus process … in public! I’d only ever seen it used in relatively small radical circles before. The idea of proposing it to the world was crazy!
Was it, though? I thought about the infuriating division, gridlock, inaccessibility, and absurdity of the politics of not just our two-party system but our global political dialogue, and using consensus process started to feel like revelatory genius. Our disagreements are close to our hearts, but the agreements we do have as people call for so damned much collective action that really there just isn’t time to nurse those conflicts.
“Are there any blocks?” the facilitators called out, and the GA generously repeated the phrase. No blocks; the occupation would now own two veggie-oil generators and plenty of fuel. My brain exploded, my heart went ka-thump ka-thump. I pulled out my iPhone, tapped on Twitter’s blue bird icon, and began typing.
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