October 1, 2011 I attended Occupy Maine. I really just wanted to see what it was about. I had been watching on live feeds and in various social media threads that something was carrying on in Zucottoi Park in Manhattan.
The Portland event was part of Occupy Together at nationwide emergence of solidarity with the NYC group. What was most intriguing to me about OWS was the process they called General Assembly (GA). So, I went to Monument Square in Portland, Maine to learn about their process.
I met about a hundred people there. One person was a mom like me, Delina. There was an instant affinity between us. She brought her two young children along. She shared with me that she was deeply concerned for the children generally, growing up in the current environment. Stressed out parents, who have no time for their children and no means available to assemble any quality of life for their families. She talked about the young people coming out of college with debt and no hope of a role in society that will sustain them, no livelihoods. She spoke of this compassionately, lamenting that she was one of the lucky ones.
I met John too, a man is his 50's who stays home to take care of his elderly father. His dad needs nearly constant assistance so he was not able to commit to organizing with the group. Understandable. He seemed to really like the idea of inclusion and diversity of opinions, of lifestyles, of ethnicities that occupy groups were actualizing. I found his sentiment compelling, yet the group was not as diverse as the city population around it.
There were also these three young men, I met. Ray, Chris and Evan where back packers. They were headed to Olso in a few days but they really wanted to spend every last minute in support of what was dubbed "Occupy Maine". They were philosophers.One had a sign that read "Property is Theft". A pretty radical idea that I had not considered before.
I met a local Restaurant owner, Tom, who owes Nosh. He carried a sign that listed a history of dates: organization of the Federal Reserve Bank, Glass-Stegall Act, Repeal of Glass-Stegall and another significant dates that I was aware of from my own research after the crash of 2009. I respected that he was bringing historical context to conversation. He was intelligent, cogent and articulate. He was the first person to block some action in the GA. In a consensus building session about demands he blocked a statement about forgiving student debt.
(Personally, I thought compulsion toward forming demands was instigated from outside the movement through the criticism that OccupyWallStreet should have demands.)
I met a man named Chris also. He had no home and identified himself as homeless. In a small group conversation about direct action we was overcome with emotion as he listened to what was happening. He had clear eyes. He was willingness to be a part of something that would make his life have purpose. He wanted to spread the word.
general assembly at Zucotti Park, Demi. I self identified as an activist. She was totally invested in the civil disobedience. Tents would occupy Monument Square that night. We all learned about the Occupy Wall Street process and structure from her. It was a lot like the self-organizing methodologies that I love. She told me that she was in the medical workgroup at OWS, trained to be a street medic and to despense supplies. She was also in the facilitation work group in NYC.
There were others represented there too: students, parents, grandparents, activists, veterans, techies (who seemed to form a clique), young people, old people. Not one fit a stereotype that was cast by the mainstream media.