Statewide General Assembly 3/10/12 Haybarn Theater, Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont
Introduction to Facilitation team and agenda
Warm welcome everyone, diverse and big group. Only had about a week to pull together the team and agenda (speaking facilitators, stack-takers, vibe-checker, note-taker).
The process is an important alternative to business-as-usual. We are not just voting in our own little booths; instead, we are coming together to share our voices equally. The facilitation team is here to defend that equality; they have no more decision-making power than anyone else.
Explanation of hand signals, stack, vibes/voting (http://www.occupycentralvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/OCV-Leaflet.pdf). The silent hand signals are important for allowing everyone a way to contribute without disrupting the person who is speaking.
Step up/step back: we’re taught a lot of things about how much voice we have and how appropriate it is to speak. It’s important for us to challenge ourselves to step back if we are comfortable and practiced at speaking, and find ourselves talking a lot. At the same time, it is important for us to recognize when we have not been contributing, and challenge ourselves to step up.
- Introduction: 15 minutes
- Moment of Observation — ’Why We Occupy’ — or why did you come to the GA today — circle up with 3 people: 10 minutes
- Grounding in Our First Statewide GA / Explain Intent as Facilitation Team: 5 minutes
- Caucus Stack: 10 minutes
- Breakouts & Reports Back: 35 minutes
- Proposals: 30 minutes
- Statewide process
- Statement of Solidarity
- Declaration of Autonomy
- Announce Next Statewide GA (pick a date, suggestion for May Day on Statehouse Lawn) / Working Group Formations: 5 minutes
- Announcements: 15 minutes
- (GA Officially Closes; No one is required to stay)
- Soap Box
- Warm Welcome and Intro
- Review Process & Hand signals with focus on Why
- Review & Seek Approval on the Agenda and Facilitation Team
- Each Local Occupy Group and Its Members Think About Who/What to Report Back During Caucus Stack (about things your local occupy has done or is doing)
- The Purpose of a Statewide GA
- Can make decisions, but it is a feedback loop process, of information going back to the local group for discussion, and making changes as necessary to clarify our purpose and process.
- Take Stack, Report by Region/Area
- What is your local Occupy working on? What have you done? Struggles? Successes?
- Break out by Discussion Topic – or Working Group – or Action
- Open stack, Participants Announce Topics and Location (for discussion) (5 min)
- Everyone chooses where they want to go (15 min)
- Report back from each group so that the whole group can hear (15 min)
- People have other proposals, including solidarity statement with VT Yankee actions later in the month. Where can these come up?
- Stack for proposals will continue after the three proposals already planned.
- Can we talk about other proposals in the breakout sessions?
- This is being live streamed and recorded, please use the microphone, and keep this in mind when you are making comments.
Approval of the facilitation team and agenda: Passed with a few flat hands.
Moment of observation (groups of 3 meeting briefly and discussing “Why We Occupy”, why we are here today)
Intent of the first state-wide GA
- Faciliation team wants to let you in on their thinking for this GA. We don’t have a process for how to meet and coordinate across local assemblies throughout the region, and we want to find one so that we can network and talk about the continuation of this process.
- Clarifying Question: Why aren’t we using the people’s mic?
- We would use that if we didn’t have a sound system, and if we had twice as long. The history is that in Zuccotti park, they couldn’t use electronic sound amplification so they had to find a way to amplify themselves.
- The facilitators asked ourselves, “What decisions can we possibly make in this context? And how will they tie back into local GAs?” We decided that in the interest of consensus and direct democracy, the decisions we can make here are provisional agreements – any decision can be reached, but will only represent the will of those assembled. These decisions are made with the expectation that they will be brought back to local GAs. Facilitation will be proposing an ongoing process later on, in the Proposals section (below).
- This is time to hear what’s happening in local GAs around the state.
- The Northeast Kingdom 99%: In Newport there’s not a lot to occupy; the title “99%” makes sense to people in the community. We’ve been rallying every Saturday for about 30 minutes in the cold weather. We’re fortunate that Bread & Puppet are nearby and they’ve attended a lot. We’ve been occupying local meetings (select board, legislative breakfasts, corporate meetings…); showing up and participating, hold the feet of representatives and community leaders to the fire. It works.
- There are 13 people here from Rutland. We meet every Saturday, rally then have a GA at a coffee shop. We got the Citizens United overturn on the town meeting ballot and got it passed. Because we got the vote out around this, lots of other ballot items that are usually shot down were instead passed this time. [Unsure if either Facebook page is preferable; including both] https://www.facebook.com/OccupyRutland, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Vermont-Rutland/275601819127934
- There are 6-8 people here from Occupy the Upper Valley (Hanover, Norwich, Lebanon…). At the moment, we are deciding on the issues that are considered to be most important to our assembly. The goals and strategies group (our “philosophical arm”) conducted a survey to find out what people want to work on. We created groups around the various issues: actions group that considers outreach, facilitators, 9/11 truth, transformative change, Post Office workers, Vermont Yankee. http://occupyuppervalley.org/
- Occupy Central VT. We’ve spent a lot of our time up until now focusing on infrastructure and process. We’re lucky to have great facilitators and tech working groups. The Education and Empowerment WG has been organizing monthly teach-ins and regular discussions. We have a vision statement that we’ve consensed upon. Our next step is turning that vision into strategy and tactics to move it forward. http://www.occupycentralvt.org/
- Occupy Barre. On Fat Tuesday, we held a funeral march for corporate personhood. Our group started in the fall with road trips to Occupy DC and OWS. We’re meeting on Monday to plan our next action, and will keep you all posted. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Barre/264554233562997
- Occupy Wall Street. We’re building a propaganda factory. Check out the new issue of http://occupytheory.org, coming soon. We’re working on re-occupation, building on the lessons from last time. One aspect of that is how to better understand GAs: that it isn’t parliament; people don’t give up their rights. http://occupywallst.org/
- Occupy Burlington. Started with marches after OWS started. Occupied space for 2 weeks, ended with tragic police confrontation. Continued to have GAs despite difficulty of finding space. Now we are renting the Unitarian Universalist Church for Sunday meetings. We have thriving working groups. Just started committing a section of our GA to discuss direct action as a whole, because everyone wants to be part. We’re planning a march to confront the policies of the Obama administration when he visits on March 30th. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Vermont-Burlington/241564049229609
- Campaign finance reform in one statewide race in VT in 2014, Get Money Out of Politics
- May Day actions
- Monetary democracy
- VT Yankee, Entergy, actions against them
- Ongoing Occupy free university
- Defend the Postal Service and jobs
- Occu-curious, general Q&A
- Networking, media outreach
- Statewide women’s issues
- Democratizing our energy system, particularly around action against Lowell wind farm
Reports back [Note: Only one group (Free University) got their notes to facilitators at the GA. They will be typed and included in the comments below. If others have notes from the breakout groups that they wish to share, please do the same.]:
- $ Out of Politics: Discussed the components: 1) Campaign finance reform 2) Term limits 3) Citizens united 4) Pay to play 5) Clandestine trading information (congressional insider trading). Corporate personhood is not the main issue with Citizens United.
- May Day: VT Workers’ Center has their annual May Day rally and march to the Statehouse on 5/1. It will involve rallying at the post office, then going to the Statehouse. What can Occupy contribute? We’re going to organize a labor speak-out after the rally. Very few people in the state are actually part of a union. Union members will get a chance to talk about their work and struggles, and there will be space for non-union members to talk about theirs. To get involved with planning this, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Free university: Goals: 1) To educate people 2) To bring new people into Occupy through direct outreach. Could be a physical space, or multiple, or electronic. We think this should be a good way to bring new communities and new people into the movement. We talked about community meals, film screenings, and discussions. Occupy London has a website with thousands of videos [could not find link].
- Postal services are under attack; part of a plot to destroy public goods for profit. Mail is not just for the wealthy who can afford overnight mail. Rural offices being shut down affect all of us. This is a problem across the country, and a way to connect Occupy all over. Connect to this group through email@example.com. Proposals and actions coming soon.
- Entergy is running VT Yankee nuclear power plant at 120% of capacity. How can Occupy support the actions that are planned for tomorrow and later in the month. Proposals will come during that section of the GA.
- Communications group. Would like to facilitate communication between Occupy groups across the state. Talk to Steven Marshall (Burlington) to get involved.
- Women’s issues. Forming women’s alliance. Concerned about marginalization of women within the Occupy movement, especially around speech. What can we do beyond step up/step back? Need to discuss why women are silenced. Working toward empowering partnership. Talk to Kate Soule (Burlington) to get involved.
- Lowell Mountain wind farm: Discussed getting away from mode of profit-making energy, and toward small scale. Have informational handouts. Talked about contacting governor and representatives. The Public Service Board will be holding hearings on Derby Line wind project. There is an Earth Day event planned, but not sure when. In May there will be a guided tour up the mountain. Seven people were arrested in the fall, we need supporters to come to their court date.
- The reason there is a 99% and 1% is because of how we structure the money system. We need to be more literate about how it works. Working to start a state bank. Prepared a workshop and happy to come deliver it wherever. Also have a CD and film (Organic Money, email to get copies: firstname.lastname@example.org) There is a Google discussion group you can join. Need to change the monetary system if we’re going to have positive social change.
- Survival: It’s an urgent matter. If you haven’t been poor, it’s hard to understand survival. Someone speaking earlier was saying that there are going to be disappearances. The government doesn’t take care of us; we need to take care of each other. We have to form intentional communities to assure our survival. Contact Tom from Northeast Kingdom 99% if you’re interested.
(In Greece, General Assemblies often run 7 to 9 hours. Approved to stay until 6:45)
- Working process for these proposals:
- Discuss (points of information, clarifying questions, reactions/thoughts/concerns/amendments)
- Amend phase: proposer may choose to add from what comes up in discussion.
- Vibe check, with reconciliation of down hands until consensus
- Vibes on this process: Good.
Process proposal (http://www.occupycentralvt.org/2012/03/10/310-statewide-occupy-vermont-ovt-formation-proposal/)
- Apology, not a lot of time to fully go through this. Explanation of some points: move towards regional (VT, inclusive of neighboring areas) directly-democratic assembly. Can’t make this happen today, but can start in that direction. Proposed purpose: Organize Occupy VT GAs – delegates can make decisions approved by their local GAs. Trying to set GA dates (3 or 4 GAs a year roughly). Not a proposal to create a new organization, but only to serve as a “super group” connecting and subservient to local GAs. Lower part of the page is what we see as the basic Working Groups it will need to begin.
- We are invited to the Village Building Convergence to have a full day of Occupy-related events – It is the weekend after summer solstice, 23-24 June. This is a date and place available in June for a possible Summer GA.
- What would we be coming together to decide?
- We don’t have clarity of who is here from Occupy groups, or how we can come together to make decisions. This proposal would not allow the regional GA to make decisions for or on behalf of local groups, but would provide a means for local groups to make proposals to each other. Occupy VT would maintain autonomy for the purpose bullet goals that begin the proposal.
- This proposal is basically just us admitting that we are one larger group of people working towards the same thing. This is a way of saying it. Regardless of the exact wording, the fact that we are here shows that we want to do this.
- Once the statewide GA meets and sets a proposal for local groups, and the local groups make their decisions about the proposal, do we have to wait until the next regional GA or is there a way to resolve it sooner?
- Directly democratic organizations work many ways. We’re not deciding that now. Finding the best system could be a goal/responsibility of the statewide communications group.
- Summary proposal statement: We will have a regional GA on May 1st in Montpelier and from there we’ll make decisions about future assemblies. We promise to contact all local GAs to make sure they can attend.
- Consensus: Passed.
Declaration of Solidarity (http://www.occupycentralvt.org/2012/03/10/ovt-declaration-of-solidarity/)
- Typo fix – bullet point at end is “Participation”
- This and the Statement of Autonomy are proposals to bring these statements back to local groups for discussion/adoption. Amendments will be made in local groups. Can also email comments mailto:email@example.com
- Solidarity: We stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy movements across the globe.
- I’d like to see an amendment that we make democratic involvement in our monetary system an inalienable right.
- Against: This presupposes that our vision includes any monetary system at all.
- Don’t want to wordsmith this tonight.
- Agree that this is desired and we will take it back to local assemblies: Passed.
Statement of Autonomy (http://www.occupycentralvt.org/2012/03/10/310-statewide-proposal-ovt-statement-of-autonomy/)
- I’ve been noticing conversations that have been happening across the country. This aims to ameliorate some conflicts that seem to be rising in a lot of GAs. It has also been updated from language of other GAs who have adopted similar statements. It basically says that assemblies are independent of parties and political or corporate money.
- What I’m hearing from this is that if you’re part of the occupy movement then you support participatory democracy within Occupy. Does that mean that you don’t support participatory democracy in other groups? Would you encourage people to join their local Democratic party?
- Definitely do support participatory democracy in other groups. Everyone should be empowered to participate in whatever other groups their conscience dictates.
- Opens the door of setting up a parallel civil society. Problem with the language, “party-less, leaderless, political decision making body” is that Occupy groups consider themselves political decision-making bodies. We haven’t considered the social aspects of Occupy. The concept of creating a new progressive society needs to be in this. Occupy isn’t just political, it’s about creating a new society based on egalitarian ideals.
- Love the ability to empower people. Not leaderless but leaderful – every participant and citizen as a leader.
- Movement of many leaders.
- Clarifying the last part. Is it disclosure or transparency (call out for anyone being paid for their attendance, or asking those people to come forth at their will?). Should we add press?
- If you’re being paid to come to GAs, say so. Both disclosure and transparency.
- Quite a few political organizations with paid staff. This is important.
- Local groups should bring questions like adding press.
- This isn’t a mission statement. We need one, but this isn’t it. May want to include more language.
- The solidarity statement is very clear about intentions. This one is not. Would be good to clarify our social and political intentions. Working out how we relate to other established entities.
- How do people who do not have a local group stay involved? Need to work that out. For now, get involved with occupycentralvt.org
- I don’t have a group. Thanks for thinking about it, but really it’s up to me to organize and start a local group. (Twinkles)
- Agree to bring to local GAs: Passed.
OVT Endorses closing Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Endorses rally at Entergy headquarters on March 22nd. And strongly suggest that local assemblies endorse and get involved with this cause and the actions.
- I think we can’t endorse on behalf of OVT, only as this random group of individuals. Suggest dropping first two parts and keeping third.
- Only have power to agree on what has been approved by local GAs.
- As of march 21, none of VY electricity is being sold in VT. MA and NH have more power to put on pressure. Amend: Reach out to MA and NH electrical consumers to put pressure on VY.
- Restatement: Respectfully asks local Occupy groups to participate in and support the March 22nd actions.
- Consensus: Passed.
OVT Respectfully encourages Occupy groups to join in actions against Entergy across the country.
- Strikes me that we’re not sure of our power to endorse these things. Move to strike these as proposals, include them as announcements here, to then be passed along to local groups with the notes. Would ask local groups to spread the word about these actions. Would be faster for these actions which are coming up.
- Amendment to make the proposal more of a suggestion.
- We respectfully ask local Occupy groups all over the US to support the closure of VY, by occupying local Entergy offices all over.
- Consensus: Not passed.
- Over time, losing people. Are the remaining 2 proposals burning? Both will be made into announcements.
- Inter-Occ – coordination between GAs. Weekly phone call. http://occupyeverywhere.org/mailman/listinfo/interocc_occupyeverywhere.org
- People have been working on saving the postal service. We’re asking you to take this information back to your groups. There’s a letter that we’re seeking signers for. We ask you to join the network, the ad-hoc working group. Ask you to join the May Day action. Get in touch with Traven through Occupy Central VT if you are interested.
- We have the Plainfield Community Center for further gathering/discussion. Only have it until 9, then there’s a Grateful Dead dance party you can join if you like.
- We need facilitators. If you’re interested in helping to facilitate the May 1 GA, please do. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Goddard has done a tremendous job of making this thing happen. Help stack chairs and pick up trash.