Occupy Whatever has become what they are fighting.
I went to Occupy Philly and found that an individual cannot petition the government system they have installed. This is the story of how this movement is already off the rails.
In my last Huffington Post piece (Link) I proposed the Occupy Movement invite everyone running for office in the next election to speak before them.
Rather than just run my mouth online about this, I went down to Occupy Philly during a down time to find out how to do this. Spent the better part of Tuesday night (from about 9:30 pm to 2 am) speaking to people about this proposal. I found a lot of people liked this idea.
None of the people on the ground I spoke to were associated with the "Working Groups". I am convinced the Occupy Movement has been co-opted by the Legal Industrial Complex.
The "Working Groups" is where I found resistance.
The first wall of resistance was from a "Democracy Outreach Group". What Occupy Philly has done is created a complete bureaucracy for their operations. I had to get through at least 3 people before I got someone to tell me they would not do this because it would jeopardize their IRS 503c Status. "We cannot endorse people, or we would be seen as political and we would be jailed for tax evasion".
My first thoughts - If putting tents up in the City Hall Courtyard cannot be construed as political, then what is political? Do I still speak English?
My second thought was about how folks here are complaining about how the money has co-opted the process. If the leaders of this group (yes there are leaders - it takes time to find them, but they are there) are already more concerned about keeping a tax status rather than doing things to advance Democracy then the Legal Industrial Complex is winning.
The amateur lawyer passed me to the next person who said that we would have to invite everybody? My response was - "Yeah - that is the point. We would need to invite everyone who is stepping up for their communities to see what they have to say."
There is an undercurrent that all politicians are evil. That is a damaging prejudicial statement. Yes - it is a form of bigotry - just like sneering when you say Tea Bagger , Liberal Pinko Commie, Tree hugger, Fascist, Pig or whatever it is that sits across from you on the political spectrum.
Good people step up to run for office. They put their lives on hold. They put the jobs at bay. They sacrifice time with their kids (a sacrifice that I could not make).
To do what - Serve their communities.
To get what - A ration of garbage from people who do not understand the system they are railing against. To get their reputations impugned for even stepping up.
It has to stop. Because the more you denigrate those who serve you the more you will get exactly the people you may not want to step up.
The Occupy Movement would not have to formally endorse anyone, but allowing these folks to present themselves before the Occupy Movement will create the interaction that may allow minds to be changed on both sides of the process. If an individual occupier is sparked by what a particular candidate says, there is nothing wrong with the candidate giving a phone list or other campaign contact material to an Occupier so they can help out. It is a form of political speed dating.
Besides, in this environment, just showing up to an Occupier forum says something about the bravery of the candidate. (I would give bonus points to any GOP candidate that has the stones to present themselves.) The Occupiers can see who may be with them. There is going to be an election on November 8th whether they are Occupying or not. Wouldn't be better to know who may be sympathetic to you.
Being passed from group to group I learned there are not written rules of engagement here. My brain spinning, I went home.
I returned on Thursday during the day with the hopes of getting to speak before the General Assembly. This idea of inviting candidates is now constrained by time. Contact needed to be made with the Boards of elections to get contact information together to reach out to those running. To do this properly, a schedule would need to be set so that a couple of hundred candidates could be evaluated in a reasonable manner while respecting their schedules of the jobs and the campaigns they are running locally. If a candidate wanted to bring some of their people with them to check out the Occupy movement first hand; networking and connections could be made.
It is Thursday night, an OK from the General Assembly would allow me or others to contact the boards of elections in the 5 county Philly area to get the names to start contacting candidates over the weekend. Time is tight, but doable in a sane manner. Losing Friday and the weekend (we are dealing with the county governments here) contacting candidates would not be able to start until at least the middle of next week. You lose the sanity factor and it becomes a half-baked process. Everyone looks bad.
The only way to bring something up for a discussion at a General Assembly - where the work of this "Organization" get done - is to form a working group, get it approved, then present your working group to a at least 2 other committees BEFORE you may speak formally.
Again - Victory to the Legal Industrial Complex - It is Briefs over Boxers.
As I was trying to shepherd this process I was getting resistance and bad information from a number of people within the Occupy Working Groups as to how and when these things may be done.
I was finally told of the "Facilitators Work Group". These are the people really running the show. They are the gatekeepers of the General Assembly. I found where and when they were meeting after being given yet another run around by the Democracy In Action Group (I hope I spelled that right, it may be called the Democracy Inaction Group).
I went to where Facilitators were meeting and prior to the start of their business I attempted to explain the situation. I was told that since I am an individual with an idea - I had no standing to even speak to these people.
It blew me away that this movement about Freedom, had created a rule system so restrictive that an individual could not speak or seek redress.
One of the people who gave me the bum steers approached the group area and irritated, I said that he gave me bad information.
His response was - "I will get Security".
My response was - "Maybe you should get them".
"Are you threatening me?"
"No, but if you feel safer having security, maybe you should go get them."
He took his place among the Facilitators Work Group and stepping away I began to think about how the government at large uses their security forces. Again, an example of how Occupy Philly is replicating the system they are railing against.
Briefs over Boxers once again.
The General Assembly started around 7pm. Evidently, I would be allowed to speak to the General Assembly as part of The Stack. But I was told no one would act on my idea. There were reports from about 20 of the working groups.
Then were the proposals that the Facilitators had approved for presentation. The first proposal was to limit the General Assemblies from twice a day to once a day. After it was approved, I started to think about how the government limits access to their meetings too. Another great comparison to how this "Democracy" is mimicking what they are railing against.
The next 3 hours was a discussion about a letter the City of Philadelphia sent to Occupy Philly. They wanted to meet with leaders of the group to find a place for the protest to go later in November when construction will start around City Hall. The Occupiers had their list of demands too - basically they want some police behaviors to be modified.
The problem is the facilitators do not know how to run a meeting. None of them every bothered to look at Roberts Rules. Roberts Rules is the How-To book on running a meeting - you know facilitation. The General Assembly stacked up with amendment after amendment that could not be managed.
It was very easy for those who do not want to talk to the city to completely gum up the works so that nothing was done. I thought I was looking at Congress - but don't tell the Occupiers because they would get insulted.
Ironically one of the legal team (about to be co-opted by the ACLU and some National Lawyers Guild or something) actually offered up the method to short circuit the entire Occupy Process. So paranoid was this member of the legal team she said that the City could overwhelm a General Assembly with 200 paid city employees and take over.
The Government does not need police with batons and riot gear to make this go away. If City wants to make the Occupy Movement go away the cops, in uniform (I think most of them ARE in the 99%), could form a working group, issue a proposal to decertify and shut down the whole thing. It would not be hard to use the Occupiers own rigid system against them.
BTW, when I got to the stage to speak my peace - I got about a minute to speak before I was pushed out of the way. I get more respect from my all GOP Board of Township Supervisors. (I may have created an opening on the board by giving one of them a heart attack after reading that.)
The last thing I said dropping off the stage was...
"Is this what Democracy really looks like?"