Back from marching with Occupy Oakland's successful march to close the Port of Oakland Wednesday—where it flew an Occupy Berkeley flag made the night before—Occupy Berkeley returns to a troubled encampment. Wednesday's planning meeting ("general assembly") in MLK Civic Center Park was cancelled so that Occupy Berkeley could join its big brother in Oakland.
When Occupy Berkeley comes home, it will return to problems plaguing the protest almost from its beginnings.
(1) MINOR, BUT TROUBLESOME—SOMETIMES VIOLENT—CONFRONTATIONS WITH OTHER CAMPERS IN CIVIC CENTER PARK:
Although the exact number of "violent" incidents may be no more than five or six in two weeks, the subject of violence or the threat of it, is a regular topic in the planning sessions where overnight "security" has been requested from the very beginning of the overnight occupations—first at Bank of America Plaza, and now in MLK Park.
Adopted resolutions in the 6 p.m. planning sessions have repeatedly called for a non-violent protest.
Raven, who occupies a sound-booth tent in the center of the park, appealed this week for more support for breaking up fights in a tent encampment at the Southeast corner of the park, across from Berkeley High. In an emotional plea for help, Raven described a raucous brawl in which two campers had their two dogs "ripped off."
Interviewed the following day, a resident of the often troubled Southeast encampment reported that the incident for which Raven sought support had been peacefully resolved (eventually) and the missing dogs were returned.
According to Raven, Berkeley Mayor, Tom Bates, visited Raven's tent last week where he took a picture, and shook Raven's hand, "complimenting" him "for being nonviolent."
An Occupy Berkeley woman, told this week, of spending more than two hours "mediating" a domestic dispute in the nearby Southwest encampment. She said a police car was parked nearby. (Another occupier pointed out that police cannot respond to domestic disputes unless called).
Thursday evening, Larry Silver (camp maintenance from the beginning), complaining about a "dog-mauling," Wednesday, near the camp, for which the police had to be called, said "this is destroying us."
Some members of the Southwest encampment complain that they feel unwelcome at the Occupy camp, characterizing it as "snooty."
(2) GETTING ALONG WITH THE CITY OF BERKELEY, ESPECIALLY THE CITY MANAGER'S OFFICE:
According to Krisss Worthington, district 7 city councilmember, the encampment is in a grace period before the city council debates Tuesday its response to the civic center occupation. According to Worthington, he and two other councilmen who support the occupation would probably be outvoted by more conservative councilmembers. "They have five votes to our three," he said this week when visiting the occupiers.
"If the council delays a vote Tuesday on the protest, and they've delayed before, the city manager's office may have more influence over the park," Worthington speculated.
In the meantime, according to Worthington, Berkeley Police Chief, Michael K. Meehan has told Worthington the police are taking a watch-and-see attitude.
Jim Hynes, an assistant to the city manager, last week delivered "directives" on park regulations to the encampment.
While Occupy Berkeley has grown to nearly thirty tents, most of the campers are not connected to the protest, but have seized the opportunity to set-up tents nearby the protest encampment. Campers interviewed in the Southeast encampment support the protest, but only a few attend the nightly planning sessions.
As we reported last week, the encampment is in violation of several directives. A source, other than Hynes, in the city manager's office voiced additional possible concerns, such as the encampment's location in the middle of an historic district and proximity to Berkeley High, where students, on school lunch-break, populate a median which is within feet of the troubled Southeast encampment.
Perhaps as a goodwill gesture, the city manager's office has restored water and electricity to the park. But should the juice be cut—as it has been—the encampment will be solar-powered by the newly formed technical work group, which is a man named G.S. Khalsa.
(3) STAGING WEEKEND ACTIONS THAT DRAW:
Sunday's scheduled "How (Occupy) Berkeley Can You Be?" didn't happen. How Berkeley is that? A sound booth in Raven's tent was ready to amplify the proceedings, had there been any.
Although weekly planning sessions have attracted new occupiers, attendees average 15-25 nightly, and there has not been a major action since Oct. 15, when more than two-hundred Berkeleyans marched throughout downtown Berkeley to join with anti-Wall Street protests around the world.
A teacher grade-in last Saturday drew mostly a handful of teachers.
Russell Bates announced at Tuesday's planning session, that he would propose, Friday, an action at local banks for Sunday.
(4) ADOPTING MEETING PROTOCOLS THAT DON'T BOG DOWN:
Facilitating techniques used by an array of nightly facilitators, have been under attack from the first week of the protest, when it became obvious that facilitators were using techniques from the New York City occupy, including the "general assembly mike check," which requires short-burst comments strung together for a statement.
Mike (Delacour) doesn't do mike check, but he did organize an early, local version, of Occupy Berkeley, and has been openly critical of Occupy Berkeley's process and, like many Berkeleyans, has joined Occupy Oakland where the general strike Delacour had proposed for Berkeley was watched by "the whole world."
Delacour's general strike proposal was rejected by the Occupy Berkeley general assembly weeks ago.
A man who one night "blocked" all proposals, lobbied a key facilitator Tuesday night, recommending using facilitating techniques, from Starbucks, Green Peace, and other Occupy chapters.
Michael M., a veteran occupier and throwback to Berkeley's freak heritage, delivered a diatribe against the process at Tuesday's facilitator's meeting, charging that "the process emulates the corporate board meetings we despise." Arguing for "an issues oriented open mike;" M accused the facilitators of elitism, and squelching free speech. "The current process lacks vision and inspiration," he thundered.
Although each facilitator tries to improve the process, the process always seems to stand in the way of progress.
(5) KEEPING TRACK OF ADOPTED PROPOSALS AND OBSERVING THEM:
The same issues re-surface each meeting, like a computer bug. Issues over journalists, and photographers, how to control personal inter-group verbal attacks, and process issues that seemed resolved—have become planning session soap opera.
Berkeley's general assemblies are becoming déjà vu all over again, according to some critics of the process—which includes more than a few facilitators themselves.
At the end of Tuesday evening's general assembly, a young woman new to the group, asked, "What do you want; what do each of you want out of this; what's your next move?"
At first there was an attempt to re-direct or divert her question, but eventually the young woman was given more time.Good thing, because that young woman had just pushed Occupy Berkeley's hot button. You could see in the faces of group members
Ted Friedman is way off his South side beat.