A General Intro of the General Assembly

The General Assembly. This is definitely not an event I expected to come across when analyzing Occupy Wall Street. I say this because I didn’t have much knowledge about the movement, minus what I saw on TV, read online, and experienced first-hand in Occupy DC. For me, these three sources only shed light on the outer shell of the egg, which contains the logistical embryo of OWS that many never see.

The General Assembly is OWS’s nightly congregation. It takes place around 7 p.m. every evening. Participants include individuals from different backgrounds: homeless, blue-collar workers, college students, you name it. In the “GA” as it’s known, people from all walks of life become activists for the night, if not longer. With diversity, comes companionship. It’s common for “food, packets of cookies or pretzels, or bottles of water to be passed hand-to-hand around the rows, shared by strangers who had just become comrades” (Writers 26).  As a result, various perspectives are brought into the pot for ample analysis by all in attendance.

An interesting aspect of these GA’s is the role of facilitators, those who run the meetings. Somebody on the outside would probably classify a facilitator as a leader, but OWS ensures no such label insinuating hierarchy is attached. Facilitators are introduced by first name only and rotate responsibilities both within meetings and in between them. Also, seasoned facilitators are often paired with young, inexperienced ones in order to promote equality in skill level and speaking ability. They also aren’t allowed to lead more than one meeting in a row.

Credit: Youtube
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odFygPMwbIM

More next time on General Assembly and how hand gestures run the show…



12 responses to “A General Intro of the General Assembly

  1. coffeeshoprhino

    This reads like a basic report about the General Assembly. What is the point/claim of this post?

    • You’re right, I neglected to include my central point in this post. In my previous post, I highlighted the lack of logistics in OWS through its lack of organization and stratified communication.

      This post on the General Assembly was a sharp contrast to that previous post, not only in showing that communication is prevalent within the movement on a massive scale, but also with the GA structure masking the stratified organizational system that lies behind OWS (also to be researched further). This post generally serves as an introduction to an aspect of OWS logistics that I’d like to research more of.

  2. I think your article could benefit or find that missing focus through contrasting the General Assembly to some of the focuses of Malcolm Gladwell’s readings. Gladwell discusses how protests born and fueled through social media generally lack the substance of past movements which found its beginnings through other more hands-on outlets. This General Assembly is definitely a form of first hand organization of people that are directly involved in the protest. The General Assembly doesn’t apply to those who show interest by following trends on twitter, but to those who are actually there and truly being a part of the movement. Gladwell’s opinions contrasted with the General Assembly could make for an interesting post.

    Andrew D’Amato

  3. Meechiepeachie, contrary to Coffeeshoprhino, I think that while your post does read like a report, it does offer easily digestible analysis. It quickly informs me that the OWS movement is more organized than I give them credit for.

    Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of the Action that changed America, a book that makes a point of being written BY THE PEOPLE, says that the General Assembly is one of the movements most impressive achievements, coming to represent the sense of camaraderie and a “spirit of community” (OWS: The Inside Story, 25). And while these meetings are obviously conducted FOR the people, the interactive quality that the “people’s mic” introduces is provides an assuring “rhythmic cadence” (25) that makes these meeting even more potent by the necessity of group involvement.

    The General Assembly exemplifies the unity of the resistance that the OWS movement is proud of. People from all walks of life gather to listen, “What unified this disparate throng was a tangible sense of solidarity, a commitment to the cause of the occupation” (OWS: The Inside Story, 26).

    Short of simply serving as way of whipping the crowd into a rebellious frenzy, the GA was initially a sort of governing body, nothing formal of course (or else jeopardize the illusion) but rather a forum for discussing the methods, logistics, and future of the movement. How do we get food? Where should we go in case we get kicked out of Zucotti? Medical Stuff? Legal Stuff? SANITATION?! The GA was originally a meeting place where all of these issues were adressed. Of couse “the GA also provided a place for protesters to air grievance [and whine]” (OWS: The Inside Story, 27).

    Hand gestures, sign language, and Twinkling (which is basically just spirit fingers) make it possible for the crowd to communicate with each other and the speaker. ” A curling of the hand into a “C” shape indicates that clarification is needed. A pointed finger, point of order. And rolling of the hand means “wrap it up.”

    Of course the 99% who wrote this account is the first to admit that the GA procedure can get disorganized and sometimes, due to a variety of factors not limited to “superfluous points of [order]…the fact that the meeting are held publicly…[people show up who are not] familiar with OWS proceedings, or, worse, unsympathetic to its aims” (31).

    Overall the origins of the GA reflects the civilized act of “peaceful protest” that the movement stands for. It is flexible, dependable, and empowered by and for the masses.

    Understand however, that Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed America was written BY these angsty masses, and is therefore a PRIMARY SOURCE. And according to my professor, not to be trusted.



  4. eimilealoisia

    I would suggest using a less conversational approach to this article, the informal style of the first few paragraphs makes your post seem less credible. I think this pot would be enhanced by addressing a specific question about the “GA”, such as; what issues are decided? does any “voting” occur/how is it carried out? how important is the GA to the movement overall? how much authority does it hold? etc. This is a solid base/introduction to the GA; maybe you could do another post building on this one?

  5. I informally disagree with the beginning of the statement above, bro. But yeah I’d kind of like to see an addition too. Maybe talk about how the General Assembly is representative of how Isaac (in the video) thinks society should be run.

  6. WOW this post is a popular one…thank you for enlightening me! I too had no idea this aspect of the OWS movement even existed. I think it’s interesting that this movement refuses to elect a leader, or that no one has really tried to come forth as one. You would think that no leader = no movement, but it’s clearly happening. I think that is one aspect of this movement that gets it so much fame. This movement is about “the people”. They are all equal because that is what they are striving for: equality. This brings some questions to mind, however. Can leaderlessness really last? Who would step up if a leader was decided to be had? And furthermore: how much power does a vague mass of people really have?

  7. coffeeshoprhino

    Asulkin, I do take your point that Meechie’s post is very informative. However, a post that is informative and makes a claim about the movement is going to be a more useful way of approaching this blog space. In other words, what is new about what Meechie is bringing to this topic? It is fairly easy to find the information about how the general assembly is run from multiple sources. So, what is new that Meechie brings to the discussion about OWS. Take your claim that: The General Assembly exemplifies the unity of the resistance that the OWS movement is proud of. You make this claim, although a fairly basic one, and then support it with primary source material (which I asked you to approach with a critical perspective, not necassarily an untrustworthy one. Be careful of your word choice.). If Meechie had decided to make a claim about the GE, the use of the GE, its effect, etc. and moved on to support it with evidence the post would be a lot stronger and offer something new to think about re: OWS.

  8. Pingback: The Big Question: What is Occupy Wall Street? | Occupy Wall Street Analysis

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