On Sunday 9th October, the second planning meeting for “Occupy Melbourne” was held at Ross House in the CBD. It is hard to believe that this action was only called for just over a week before, but between 50-60 people crammed into the meeting room to help plan the action. Those in attendance were a diverse group of non-aligned activists, socialists, anarchists, spiritualists, Zeitgeist believers, Indigenous activists, unionist, working and middle class folk, old and young and at least one libertarian capitalist! The movement at this stage defies simple characterizations.
Around the world the Occupy Movement involves people getting together and experimenting with different models of democratic organisation. This inevitably involves making and learning from mistakes made along the way. Sunday’s meeting was a microcosm of this process. The meeting started out fairly bumpy and confrontational but the group, by holding each other accountable managed to create a much more democratic and productive space. As will be true at the coming General Assemblies, process and good facilitation was the key.
Major political issues were raised throughout the meeting. At the very outset one member of the Socialist Party raised the concern that the social conditions in Australia were different to Europe and the U.S. and the Occupy Melbourne movement was unlike to gain large numbers. Therefore he suggested instead of an occupation we hold a rally instead in solidarity with the Global Day of Action – United for change. This idea was pretty much howled down and did not receive much discussion. A quick show of hands revealed most people in the room wanted to plan for ongoing occupation. Time will tell whether this speaker was right or wrong.
Other political issues raised, which no doubt will come up again if the protest takes off included the issue of people being allowed to identify themselves as representatives of political parties or groups within the Occupation. On the one hand it was argued that this movement should not belong to anyone one group, whilst this was countered by others arguing that it would undermine transparency and peoples democratic rights if people were not allowed to publicly identify with parties. No consensus was reached on this issue. Issues of how to deal with the police, police liason and how to ensure the protest remained non-violent were also raised and obviously have to be worked through more thoroughly. The issue of police liaison has been one that has caused much friction at some other Occupy actions, particularly “Occupy LA”. The issue of who and how the protest talks to the mainstream press was also discussed but no firm conclusions were reached.
Most of the meeting’s time was taken up with the discussion and formation of Working Groups. Firstly, it should be noted that it was voted unanimously that all working groups must be accountable to and report back to the General Assemblies of the Occupation. It is envisaged that the General Assemblies will meet at least once a day during the Occupation.
Working groups that were formed and people can sign up to be involved in included: Police Liason, Food, Media (including mainstream media, social networking and the website, Promotion, Indigenous Liason, Union and Community Outreach, Childcare, First Aid, Legal, Logistics, Facilitation and Scheduling. These groups met towards the end of the meeting to make plans for next Saturday. People will be able to join these working groups on Saturday 15th in the Square.
The other major topic of discussion was what should the first day of the Occupation actually look like. Should we have set speakers or a “Speakers forum”. Should we use PA’s or the “people’s microphone” being used in the Wall St demo’s. Should we march as a collective to join the BDS’s Max Brenner protest happening at 1PM on Sunday or should we march to BHP as the symbol of corporate influence over the Australian political system. Another idea included a Monday morning march to the Stock Exchange. In the end it was decided that the people who turn up on the 15th should decide what happens. A scheduling working group was formed and their proposal for Saturday’s schedule is listed at the bottom of this article.
The other feature of the planned Occupation that was flagged was that of workshops. It is envisaged that those who wish to can run workshops each day at the Occupation including on the 15th of October.
As someone who was part of the anti-corporate Globalisation movement that occurred between 1999-2001, I see many similarities between that movement and this one. The sense of being part of a global movement, the identification that our ordinary people are not being heard, and the realization that is the greed of corporations and the rich that lies at the heart of so many of our problems.
Occupy Melbourne has already received international and national mainstream coverage. Its Facebook event has over 2000 attendees, however who turns up on Saturday 15th and perhaps even more importantly who remains in the Square on the morning of Monday 17th will be the real test. How this all develops is anyone’s guess but certainly to nearly all in the room on Sunday 8th, they felt they were part of the start of something big.
It should be noted that this is just one subjective account of the meeting. Feel free to post your account of the meeting in the comment section below or as a separate article on Indymedia.
The ‘Scheduling Working Group’ met on 9th October and came up with the schedule below
Occupy Melbourne - 15 October 2011 at City Square
10am - ‘Welcome to Country’
10.15am - Introduction to Occupy Melbourne (‘Who are we?’)
10.30am - Practical Logistics [with Logistics Working Group]
10.45am - Set up camp. Workshop slots.
12pm/noon - Gathering of community groups/affinity groups. Lunch.
3pm - Working Group report back
4pm - General Assembly
Occupy Melbourne Website
Occupy Melbourne on Facebook