They’re going to Occupy Brooklyn today in Grand Army Plaza — but why is not entirely clear.
More than 70 activists inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement held their first planning session the 11 am rally on Thursday night at a community center on Atlantic Avenue — a good crowd, but one that was unable to decide anything, even what to argue over.
The activists threw plenty of ideas against the wall at their first “General Assembly” — should the farmers in the weekly greenmarket be involved? How should the rally be publicized? Should it be moved to Cadman Plaza? Should local businesses or churches be involved? — but decided on little.
About the only thing that was decided on was that future meetings should be held somewhere else, to encourage greater diversity.
The decision? The group formed a committee to report back with sites for the next meeting.
In so much as it is being led at all, the Occupy Brooklyn movement is being spearheaded by many people who have attended various training sessions organized by Occupy Wall Street, where the guidelines of “direct democracy” are instilled.
At the Thursday night meeting, for example, the floor was open to anybody, guided only by a set of rules explained to the group by a faciliator at the beginning of the night — and Robert’s Rules these ain’t.
Facilitators bring up topics and then take “stack,” which means they solicit viewpoints from the other participants. Minority participants are bumped to the front of the “stack” if they want to speak.
To vote, participants raise both hands and wiggle their fingers.
Consensus is next to impossible given the group’s central rule: Nothing can be approved without a 90-percent majority. And the gentle rules which preach acceptance for all viewpoints can be occasionally hijacked by loud participants.
Consensus is the goal, but the movement has already been rocked by a major conflict, as the creators of the Occupy Brooklyn website and Twitter feed — key tools for getting the word out — didn’t even show up for the meeting.
Still, organizers considered the assembly a success, citing a good turnout and lots of energy in the room.
“We got as much accomplished as you can hope to do,” said a man who had facilitated much of the early part of the meeting, who gave his name only as Jeff. “It doesn’t look like a corporate board meeting, but it can work.”
Besides, disorganization is part of the horizontal decision making process, noted other organizers who have spent some time in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.
“Democracy is a messy process,” said Todd from Bay Ridge. “But tonight, you saw dozens of people who have never met each other go from complete strangers to a group that reached consensus.”
Or, at least, successfully formed a committee about where the next meeting should be.
Occupy Brooklyn rally in Grand Army Plaza (Flatbush Avenue at Union Street in Park Slope), Oct. 15, 11 am. For info, visit https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/occupybrooklyn.