New: Berkeley Dodges End of the World, Joins National Anti-Wall Street Revolution Saturday at Bank of America Plaza Downtown
As Wall Street protests spread across America from Manhattan—to Boston, Hartford, Savannah, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile. Columbus, Ga., Chicago, San Diego, among others—Berkeley, which recently survived the end of the world while awaiting "the revolution," joined one Saturday afternoon at the Bank of America Plaza at Center and Shattuck.
Berkeley almost missed "the revolution."
But thanks to heads up community organizing by a People's Park founder, Michael Delacour, 73, Berkeley is back in the game--with an initial crowd of more than one-hundred enthusiastic protesters, which is sure to grow.
A process dubbed "general assembly," ably led by student leaders from the university moved a usually fractious mob to action. While avoiding the pitfalls of drafting demands, or writing a position paper, the crowd was unified enough, after a mere two hours of recitative consensus, to enlist more than ten volunteers to camp-in at the plaza to begin at 6p.m. and continue until "Hell freezes over," as one of the organizers put it.
What began as a planning session became the beginning of a vibrant protest, with established protocols, and the prospects of long life.
Russell Bates, of Cop Watch, a veteran Berkeley radical, could not believe his eyes. Looking to the heavens, he proclaimed, "Grandfather, I'm coming to join you"
Delacour, earlier in the week, exhorting a group of People's Park users to protest, intoned, "if not now, when."
When came sooner than anyone, including Delacour, could have expected.
What spontaneously became a fully-formed protest had been billed as a "planning meeting." for a Wall Street protest scheduled for October 15 to give protestors time to collect their platforms and agendas. Instead at least two student leaders, who met with Delacour Wednesday after a small planning session in front of Bank of America on Telegraph, moved the crowd efficiently and swiftly to action.
The demo is on, and it has no closing date, according to the organizers. "We're prepared to stay here until hell freezes over, one of the organizers said.
How did the students do it? They used a process they called "general assembly," which they characterized as governmental. Here's how it works. Speakers speak briefly in a recitative oratory somewhere between rhythmic poetry and call and response. Speakers were limited (no more than three pro, three con). A speaker speaks his terse rhythmic message in tweets; the crowd repeats the words—a type of "active listening."
They ought to patent the process, before donating it to Congress. You've got to see this to believe it.
General assembly broke a log-jam over whether to stage the protest at downtown BA or Provo (lately AKA Martin Luther King Civic Center) Park. "Let's stay here for now, and if we grow, we can always branch out," it was agreed.
The recitative style of oratory, which most speakers quickly adopted (it threw off Delacour, who has been known to ramble) was a major component of the successful event.
Delacour was grass-rooting most of the week. He has interrupted his grieving for his wife, who died under mysterious circumstances more than four months ago, to lead the revolt. Earlier this week he took to the People's Park stage to exhort a motley band of People's Park regulars, lined up for free food, to join an anti-Wall Street protest.
Delacour's appeal in the rain to a park food-line was met with indifference and shrugs.
One woman called out, "I believe in alcohol," as some snickered.
Delacour returned a day later to press his case, but this time with a brief appeal in which he offered to hold a demonstration under terms set by the crowd. "You pick the location for the protest," he offered. "It's your demonstration."
Then he went to the end of the food line to get his Food Not Bombs feast. While in line, he discoursed on his relationship with his dead wife.
This is a chance of a lifetime of community organizing for Delacour, and he seemed to be approaching his opportunity with great care.
Wednesday he presided over a public planning committee meeting in front of Bank of America on Telegraph Avenue, which was attended by twenty, including eight students. For Delacour, whose People's Park organizing in the sixties relied on uniting with students, the symbolic student presence was a harbinger of a town-student action, and he glowed with satisfaction from the potential for sizable student involvement.
Delacour's hopes, viewed by his detractors, as "crazy" came to fruition.
"The students at the planning meeting told me, they can draw four-hundred students," Delacour said Thursday. Students may have fallen short of 400 (I counted fifteen), but the ones who turned out were choice.
The new Mario Savios are John Holzinger, 20, from Pasadena, and Bo-Peter Laanen, 20, a Scandinavian. Both are Cal Political Science majors. Remember those names.
Ted Friedman started out reporting this story from South side, but wound up off-beat downtown.