Monday, January 16, 2012

The Occupy Oakland General Assembly & Autonomous Action Endorsement

Now I'm aware of the fact that I am not one of the individuals that have been with Occupy Oakland since the beginning (I came in about November 2nd as many did in support of the General Strike) but I have been a major supporter, ustreamer, and blogger since I started coming. The one thing that I quickly noticed was the General Assembly and I really liked it. I mean let's face it as a Parliamentary Debater, I can appreciate direct democracy breaking out on the amphitheater steps of "Frank Ogawa Plaza" (otherwise named Oscar Grant Plaza by Occupy). However, as time went on the GA started to lose its sparkle to me, and many others. So much so that it is been a little difficult to continue to make quorum. Initially I had written a proposal to change the GA process to be more inclusive, but I can't sit at EVERY GA with 2 more people from my proposal writing group to wait for our turn to read the proposal. The process seems to have gone from the decision making process of "Occupy Oakland" as a whole, to the place for theoretical debate and a breeding ground for more autonomous actions.

This is a good thing and a bad thing for multiple reasons, keep in mind that this blog is my opinion combined with things that I have seen and heard from my experiences. That does not make me the final word on anything, but I think it's important that people remember that as they continue to read. Anyway, this is a good thing because it gives room for people to get together and do the things they feel as if are needed to further the movement and/or help the community. That is a great thing because as I've said many times before I feel like diverse tactics should be embraced not used as a tool to divide the house. Also, it gives room for these different actions to be applied in different areas and for people to support them while still having the Occupy Movement not loose momentum. That part is wonderful, but there is a down side. It's unfortunate but it is my belief that more people need to realize this fact as forewarned is forearmed. It's an apparent fact to me that being a part of the 99% movement means that I will not agree with the tactics of everyone all of the time. That doesn't mean that my opinions don't matter, or that the movement has left me as an individual behind. With groups like TAC using their right to autonomous actions, there are bound to be people who disagree with the ideas that the group is employing. If so, don't criticize in a way that you will not be heard. Instead offer constructive criticism that doesn't finger point and degrade the efforts of college aged young people who are doing their best. Either that or form your own committee and start employing your own tactics to work towards the same goals. No need to fight among ourselves.

I got a little off topic here, but I find it difficult to discuss the GA without talking about the highly controversial group (TAC) within Occupy Oakland that has been recognized officially. Basically after checking out the GA and supporting several actions that came out of the GA, I went to NYC for Thanks Giving, came back and TAC was the surviving face of the Occupy Oakland movement. While I was gone, these young individuals had made the news for the foreclosure on 18th & Linden, shortly after they had combined forces with just Cause and the Black Panther Party without GA consensus.. just autonomous action and people seeing the effort and wanting to help. The teaming up with other organizations lead to the takeover of the property on 10th & Mandela in Oakland, and then another encampment simultaneously on 20th & Mandela. Now, although there is some good discussion and interesting questions that are brought up at GA, it seems to stop there with many people voting on things and going home waiting for them to magically happen. Meanwhile disappearing through the planning process without coming to meetings or giving feedback and then giving harsh and mostly undeserved commentary after the fact. To these GA attendees I shame you.

I shame because Occupy Oakland has not had any other successful largely publicized encampments since the take down of Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant Plaza), even though there has been a vigil and a 24 hour presence there. 24 hours of citizens protesting and Oakland Police officers standing around, playing angry birds, and occasionally harassing Occupiers with the tax dollars of the citizens paying them to do it. With every single GA being rushed and giving what seems like the same amount of allotted speaking time (1 minute) like the City Council meetings is almost hypocritical to the anti establishment element of the movement. I have spoken to several people who feel the same way, and there are those who no longer attend but just decide to support in the way that they can saying "let the theorists have their debate" referring to GA. The thing is that it's easy for the divide to be placed when the GA is nowhere near as inclusive as it pretends to be. With proposals coming up in the queue randomly and having to be present with at least 3 of the writers upon the calling of the proposal is already frustrating enough. However, when GA barely makes quorum every night, a lot doesn't get decided anyway.

Without successful autonomous actions, Occupy Oakland would not still be going as strong as it is, giving the freedom to all individuals to represent themselves and take action towards solutions to the issues plaguing their communities. It has to work this way because the same things that work in lower economic areas are not going to work in the suburbs. So with Oakland having east & west then Piedmont, Claremont and the Oakland Hills, there are obviously going to have to be different tactics used, and not all of them are going to be approved at GA. It actually kills me how some people "support" Occupy until people protest in a way that they don't like. It drives me crazy, divorce the culture in a real way. Stop demanding that others submit to your hedgemonic influence and just be happy that we are working towards a common goal and that we are WINNING. Or form your own committee and events instead of being mad at those who are trying to make a difference. This is the way that we can still all pursue the same goal and don't have to conform in order to "fit in" as a citizen with an opinion.

I have heard recent complaints about the way the finances seem to be tied up in bureaucratic red tape. Many (who will remain nameless because I have not received permission to use their names) have complained that they have not been able to be reimbursed for things they have done (like bail themselves out of jail) and some committees saying that they have not received their stipend every week. Likewise there have been rumors of several donations from Occupy Wall Street in the amounts of $25,000 and $30,000. It is not clear to me and others if there is a total of $55,000 in donations given or if it was the initial $25,000 donation and another for $5,000 for a total of $30,000. This is causing frustration among some supporters especially when it comes to bail money and funds for food etc. I plan to see what else I can find out about this particular subject, but the point that matters to me is the fact that there is obviously a divide between SOME of those willing to put their bodies on the line for what they believe in and those who discuss the actions in theory/planning. I have to wonder certain things like why isn't there a National Occupy Movement bail fund or agency even? Why is the GA that struggles for quorum and is not the most inclusive of what I will call the front line voices the one that makes the decisions and votes on how the money will be spent and/or the approval processes of the finance committee. It's unfortunate to see such a scuffle breaking out within Occupy over the funds that are donated. Shows how there are problems with the effects of capitalism even when actively working to protest against abusive capitalism.

In my own personal opinion, I really wish that the 2 could merge. I will be posting a proposal on my blog because I simply don't think the now 2 day a week GA would provide a process in which even I would be able to get multiple people to be present at every single meeting waiting until our proposal comes up to be read and discussed and voted on. Not that I think 2 days a week is even enough. I feel like the GA is already rushed and that we should have more time to get the word out about proposals before they are discussed as far as pros and cons or friendly amendments. Rushing through things and deciding them in 1 night while claiming to have the voice of the community is a little far fetched. In order for there to be a successful plan there must be agents of action and agents of enforcement. those two need to be able to work together. Period. Hopefully, this all gets worked out and the movement can continue to sustain itself.


  1. Hello,
    If you have concerns about the Finance Committee, we are available via email and phone:
    voicemail: 510-239-3935

    We have posted the financial statement for November on the website. You can download all of it here:

    Additionally, we will release another statement in December, showing expenditures and income.

    Also, the procedures for requesting funds are posted online as well:

    Our meetings are each Thursday at SF Pizza on Broadway, from 6:00 pm onwards. We welcome newcomers, so please come if you have questions or concerns.

    1. Thank you for your reply and putting the contact info and meeting times on the blog. I will call for details and post them to the blog as well. Thanks again

  2. Hi - Just to clarify This is just in reference to issues about bail - our committee does not have any say over other financial matters in occupy oakland the bail policy for Occupy Oakland - as stated through the Anti Repression Committee that deals directly with bail and court/ jail support is - Unless there is an emergency situation we will only bond people out after their arraignment. The reason for this is that at that time the bail is often dropped or seriously reduced. If people choose to bail themselves or their friends out before the arraignment we do not guarantee any reimbursement. This policy was passed through the GA. Of course its unfortunate and understandably frustrating if folks weren't aware of this policy but we just dont have the money to bail everyone out before their arraignment. if folks have qustions about this they can reach us at
    thanks again for your insight.

    1. I just wanted to reply and say thank you for addressing some points within the blog. I am someone who has not needed to really deal with the finances and so I am writing form the things I hear as far as that is concerned. I am hoping that this can clear some things up for some folks. Thanks again :)

  3. Hi Bella!

    Let me clarify about the money we received from OWS.

    First, let me clarify that when I say "we received", I mean every penny of the money from OWS went to our Occupy Oakland finance committee. Tim, from that committee, responded to you above, and the process they have is one of the most professional and transparent amongst the Occupys. That doesn't mean that everyone gets anything they ask for, and there are rules about what the money can go to, but the process is accountable and you definitely don't need to rely on hearsay, you can always find out what was requested / spent / denied from the people who handle the money.

    So there were two donations from OWS over the last 3 months. Both were earmarked for particular types of expenditures. The first donation came after the first raid on our camp in October. We got $20,000 to put in a bail and medical fund, not to be spent on anything other than bailing folks out and helping injured people get care. We also got thousands of dollars worth of tents in that proposal, but those were bought for and shipped directly to us. I think most of that bail money has been spent, since weve had a lot of folks arrested.

    Then, the second donation came just weeks ago, when we asked OWS to help defray the costs of the port shutdown. They amended our proposal, and have nowsent $25,000, which has just now been transferred to us. However, not all of that money is designated for OO's general fund. OWS gave conditions, specifying that $5,000 goes to Occupy bail, up to $8000 is a REIMBURSEMENT for 12/12 expenses. This replenishes our General Fund, and can be used for anything Occupy Oakland needs it for. The rest, about $11,000 is slated for Longview related expenses, and of that at least $9,500 of that will be used to reimburse Occupy Longview, Occupy Portland, and Occupy Seattle for expenses related to the upcoming EGT grain ship blockade. Any unspent money will revert to Occupy Oaklands general fund. The reason this money is coming through Occupy Oakland is that people trust our finance committee and the inter-occupy coordination we were able to do for the Port Shutdown.

    I appreciate the way you lay these concerns out clearly without accusing. At the same time, I worry about where the people who are talking to you get their information. Some of us in the labor solidarity committee have been hearing rumors that accuse us of shadowy financial shenanigans... They see we are moving big finance proposals and OWS is sending all this money, but somehow, Occupy Oakland is still poor. The truth is, compared to OWS and most non profits, unions, etc, Occupy Oakland has always been "poor".
    But we're making the situation much better, not worse.

    For the record: anyone who thinks the port shutdown took resources away from Occupy Oakland is wrong. We said, when we asked the GA for funds, that we would seek to cover these expenses later. We worked, very hard, for a month! after the action, to make good on that promise. And the port shutdown is the only OO action project where the working committee managed to completely offset the cost of the action... So we are proud to have delivered on our promise. We should be proud, we coordinated the biggest direct action the country has seen in a long time, and didn't end up costing Occupy Oakland a single penny!