Last night was the 2nd public meeting of people working to organize Occupy Richmond. This movement has no leaders, no organizers, no hierarchy. The meeting yesterday was not perfect, as could have been expected. There were over 250 people there, many new to organizing, consensus process, facilitating and more.
The main decisions being made yesterday were regarding the time, date, and location of the beginning of the Occupation. A large group started off the discussion, going through some bare bones facilitation and decision making basics. Then folks split into smaller groups to talk about the date and location.
In smaller groups and in smaller conversations throughout the night, there were many discussion about the economy, politics, rights and more. The types of discussions that do not happen on a very regular basis among strangers in Virginia. Just having these discussions, no matter how imperfect, is significant.
Ultimately, what was decided was to avoid conflicting with the TRAP protest already scheduled for October 15th from 1-3pm in Monroe Park. TRAP is the recent Virginia legislation aimed at forcing abortion clinics to meet hospital standards, which would have the chilling effect of shutting down 17 of the state’s 21 abortion clinics. This new rule, wrapped up in the word safety and health, is really about limiting women’s rights to abortion and the health care they need.
The Occupy Richmond group is encouraging people to participate in the TRAP protest. Occupy Richmond will then meet at 4pm on October 15th in Monroe Park. At that time a location will be chosen for the Occupation. Repeat, location TBD.
On the issue of location, there were many ideas thrown around. Kanawah Plaza, Monroe Park, Capitol Hill, FedEx Plaza, locations around VCU, and more were all discussed. There were some folks fixated on Kanawah Plaze for its proximity to the Federal Reserve Bank. Others pointed out that the Federal Reserve Bank is not necessarily the main target of this event. Also that the consequences of trespassing/making mistakes at the Federal Reserve are a lot higher than other places. And that Occupying Kanawaha Plaza would displace homeless persons who sleep there on a regular basis.
This meeting was not perfect, by any means. Folks from marginalized groups swiftly felt marginalized by the process, which is not a good place to start. More white men spoke than other people. Issues of privilege were not really addressed, or understood by many folks in the crowd. Instead of actual consensus “modified consensus” was used, which basically makes it a direct democracy with a limit on how large the majority must be to silence the minority.Hopefully folks (not from marginalized groups) can step up as the Occupy Richmond idea continues to do some education and discussion regarding issues of privilege, among other things.
However, there were a lot of new faces, and a lot of good conversations that did occur. The creation of an autonomous space, in and of itself, can be an empowering positive thing. When this space is created, hopefully radical and anarchist and awesome people in Richmond can find inspiring ways to use this space. Workshops, discussions, and more are all possible once a space has been established.
Here is a video of part of the meeting:
Again- in the time between now and the 15th there is a lot of preparation and education that can be done. From Know Your Rights workshops, to getting new batteries for a flashlight, to taking a few minutes to read about privilege, anyone planning on participating in this occupation owes it to themselves and there fellow occupiers to do some preparing if they can.
http://www.monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com has information about an occupation of Monroe Park that happened earlier in 2011.