Monday, January 30, 2012

Sheffield National Conference

Sheffield National Conference

On arrival

The camp was located outside Sheffield Cathedral. The occupiers barricaded themselves into the sites with the back of their tents, pallets, railings, other building materials, etc. Signs and posters were put up on the outside of the white marquee so passers-by could read them. Pallet beds and tents within tents helped prepare the camp for winter. They also had a fire in the central open area with a kitchen tent and the communal white marquee on the sides. Being fortified helped them deal with difficult behaviour and turn away visibly drunk people before they had a chance to enter the site.
The Citadel of Hope was being tidied up when we arrived. We helped carry dirt and debris out of the site to be binned. The building had toilets, a large downstairs meeting hall & kitchen, and upstairs was a theatre!
The first evening was spent deciding the agenda for Saturday, lots of familiar faces from the Edinburgh conference.
Quite a lot of tech imported from Occupy LSX – rooted android phone working a bit like an internet router, 
HD spy toy helicopter, and 3D printers (think replicators from Star Trek).

“Big Occupy”

Saturday started with going around each of the sites to get an update on what’s happening in the world of Occupy. Delegates attended from occupations in Exeter, Sheffield, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sydney, Geneva, Norwich, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster, Worthing, Brighton, York, Nottingham, Leeds, the Netherlands, Darlington, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bristol. A huge increase from the 9 camps represented at the Edinburgh conference.
Chinese village of Wukan overthrew the Communist Party back in September. First time anything like that’s happened. Occupy World of Warcraft & Occupy Second Life have happened. ‘Hopupy’ which travels between occupations to boost morale happening.
4th February is meant to be a big celebration day for the Occupy movement, which is also International library day.
Lots of camps are facing evictions, and relatively speaking Exeter Cathedral have been very tolerant of us. Strategy of ‘unadulterated, non-violent, non-cooperation’ suggested. St. Paul’s case can be a template for other Occupy court cases. Legally speaking, the right to protest exists to the extent where it causes minimal inconvenience. Proving the location isn’t a nuisance is essential to not being evicted.
Occupy 1.0 – internal camp issues, evictions
Occupy 2.0 – eviction cannot stop us! – site about where Occupy can go from here. Use the Occupywiki!
Sunny times ahead! Just make sure we come out of our evictions well.
Occupy wants to be involved with International Women’s Day, May Day, and International Workers’ Day.
Some camps sending people into schools, organising kids so they hold their own junior GA.
Moderated live streams of national and international conferences are the future.
International conference happening 9-11 March in Brussels. Meetings also happening in Rome, Madrid and Athens. March from Madrid to Athens taking place, in Rome now and due to arrive in Athens in time for the conference.
Protests now de-facto illegal in Chile
Online TV channel – Occupy Mexico
Bolivia – war now unconstitutional & natural environment has rights thanks to mass movements with general assemblies, consensus politics, etc
Occupy Wall Street working well with local unions, working towards Occupy Congress, Occupy New Hampshire primaries,
Occupy Johannesburg taken a squat
OWS Making Worlds Conference 16-18 February
Occupy had fun with a flash Occupy the Vatican, GA then held in Rome
Plan for Earth Day?
NATO & G8 summits later this year, Occupy Chicago up to something =)
Wikipedia blackout – maybe Occupy can adopt similar tactics to protest against SOPA (oh yeah, congress changed their mind so the bill wasn’t passed. We won!)
‘Black March’ – some people not buying anything copyrighted that month – weekly roundtable meetings Thursday 7.30
Occupy Moscow – holding negotiations with Occupy Wall Street for a program of nuclear disarmament
Haiti supports Occupy! Lawyer in Haiti taking the UN to court over the mess they made with the cholera epidemic in Haiti
May to have a Fortnight of Action (1st – Int. Workers Day, 7th – May Day, 12-15th birthday of Spanish Indignados). Exeter can organise own events for most of that, protest every day, send a delegation to London for the 15th

Climate Caravan – film screenings, panels, discussions, touring occupations in May. Details and dates need to be worked out.

“Little Occupy”

How can Exeter better reach out to the people of Exeter?
Focusing on specific local issues, making sure there are people “front of house” on the path. Be careful not to give too much or too little info. Regular events an essential.
Organisations like churches, Greenpeace and the Woodcraft Folk natural allies
Even Daily Mail readers are in the 99%. Talk to people on the Right as well as the Left, focus on commonalities.
Having celebrities on-board *can* be useful, but only if they genuinely take part in the democratic process rather than as a gimmicky PR stunt
Training people on how to talk to the public a great idea
Be careful not to give the wrong impression, the “We are the 99%” slogan can be misinterpreted as saying we claim to directly represent everyone which can come across as presumptuous to people who don’t understand the economics in the slogan.
People like to be listened to when they talk to Occupiers, not lectured.
Sending people to other camps as “ambassadors” means we can mooch ideas and they can mooch us back.
Visuals and keeping written info up-to-date important
“Stop looking inward, start looking outward” – Occupy 2.0. Diverse outreach groups. Opportunity to be a hub for sympathetic and supportive groups.
Our message, because it’s so broad, is flexible so we have a unique opportunity to bring people from across the political spectrum on board.

 “Inner Occupy”

You’d think larger camps would tend to have more issues with metatalking, internal communications, etc. but it’s equally a problem for smaller camps. When these issues boil over you can lose members of the occupation which even on a small scale is disastrous in smaller camps
Keep to time on agenda items, train facilitators by cofacilitating experienced and inexperienced members.
Occupy 2.0 an opportunity to keep the protest moving without getting bogged down with camp issues that come with an entirely open site. There needs to be a safe workspace for WGs, workshops, the free university, people who are burned out etc.
Indymedia worth looking into. Using things like Piratepad to communicate within the camp a handy tool.
On communication, making sure that decisions made by the GA are carried out is so, so Important. Asking someone who’s assigned a job how it’s going is a great step. Regular reports to the GA from WGs also good. We have the potential to be a fantastic occupation but each component part needs to be moving in the same direction for that to happen. Lose the ego, jealousy, hatred, tribalism and cliques that we’re constantly in danger of sinking into. Each camp needs to be built on trust, honesty, respect, peace, love, freedom, and other buzzwords like that.
We need to ask ourselves what makes a good GA, and what makes a good facilitator

So in conclusion…

Communication needs to be worked on massively and we don’t want to get bogged down with site issues and evictions. These challenges are an opportunity in disguise, and evictions can be carried out in a way that works for us provided we’re organised, sincere and committed to making it so.
Message of solidarity to Sheffield central library for letting us use their computers for free and sending vital information in time for Saturday’s GA.

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