Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupying Berkeley

Occupy Berkeley Rally
I have so far attended two meetings of the newly emerging Occupy Berkeley group which has taken up residence in front of the Bank of America building on Shattuck Avenue in the city where the Free Speech Movement was born. Over one hundred people were present at the first meeting at noon this past Saturday and, appropriately, a pow wow for Indigenous Peoples' Day was taking place a few blocks away in Martin Luther King Park in front of Berkeley City Hall.

The group was a welcome mix of young folks and seasoned boomers, students, unemployed, union and non-union workers. Everything was structured democratically, so much so that it became a bit laborious. The people's mike, the crowd repeating line by line what is being said by the speaker, worked as far as getting the word out, and really drove home a feeling of commonality and understanding, but also made everything take much longer.

The goal of every decision is to achieve consensus. Any person can block a proposal by crossing their arms over their chest. Then the individual has the opportunity to speak out against the issue. I know from my political salad days that consensus is a laudable but extremely difficult goal to achieve. Yet, the fact that these gatherings don't feel at all like the protests of the seventies, is a positive development, like the old saying, "mental illness is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results."

At a six p.m. organizing meeting the next day, Sunday, the process worked better. Around 20 people were in attendance. An agenda was adopted that included committee reports and security shifts to protect occupiers from vigilantes as well as the police. Supporters who are not occupiers, like myself, can plug in by donating all kinds of supplies, doing outreach and just showing up to express solidarity.

Occupy Oakland is kicking off in Frank Ogawa Plaza at 4 p.m. today, Columbus Day. This Saturday, October 15th in Oakland there will be international marches entitled "Jobs Not Cuts."

I was reading today that a military commander in Iran is labeling the Occupy Together protests spreading throughout the United States as the beginning of an "American Spring." Considering it is already October, I would call them the beginning of an "American Fall," which considering the depths to which this country has sunk, sounds fine to me!