So it was quite a night. David and I went down around 8pm and joined the General Assembly to decide how to conduct the evening. GA is a long process, but it is a thing of beauty. Basically it makes it possible for a large crowd to reach consensus. A lot of discussion about whether to have a dance party before midnight or be very serious about the whole event. Whether to clean up the camp or let the authorities do that. Whether to all do the one thing together or people break off into groups and do their own thing. It took hours and as time was running out it was decided to mainly protect the camp in an act of civil disobedience. One or two speakers got really heated, and someone broke the mic stand. It was handled so well that the angry energy quickly died down.
We had clarifying questions about what it would look like to ‘protect’ the camp. Where people who didn’t want to get arrested should go, (across the street) and then the lawyers did a presentation on being arrested, how to avoid a charge of resisting arrest, I didn’t realize how easy it is to get that charge, even if you stiffen your arm, if the officer is feeling pissed off! We were told what happens at the police station, bail, court, and jail solidarity, to plead not guilty. All a good preparation. I had already talked to friends who have been arrested multiple times and had taken off my necklace, given David everything but my driver’s license and $40 for a processing fee, and a banana in case I got hungry during what was possibly going to be an all night affair. I was in deep winter gear, with no laces on my boots and layers in case the cell was cold. All set. When the lawyer presentation was over someone ran up to the mic and said that a group had broken the Occupy procedure by not coming to consensus with the whole and started to use wood and pallets to barricade the camp perimeter and that we should go immediately and take the barricades down. It started to feel that things were splintering off in different directions and there was tension in the air. I began to feel afraid. I was ready to be arrested but not ready to take my chances in a sea of disorganized people that included a few hotheads and a small number of crazy people. [cont'd.]
David and I walked around the camp to look for my friend Jorge, who is in the facilitation group. I felt very insecure; I couldn’t see any of the faces I knew, the people I trusted to keep things organized. As we walked around there were small groups mic checking everywhere with different ideas as to what to do. Mic check is the procedure where the group repeats what the speaker is saying and comes to a consensus. These were mini General Meetings if you like, in small groups. It’s how Occupy runs. No leaders, anyone can start one of these. At this point it was 11pm, one hour to go and no direction. People were flooding in to the area, (A call had gone out to progressive organizations to come at 11pm to show solidarity) a brass band was playing, helicopters hovering overhead, and strangely more media than police. We found Jorge much to my relief. Jorge, David and I searched the crowd for the Quaker group who are experienced in non-violent civil disobedience. We found them and they became my buddies for the arrest. David exchanged phone numbers with someone’s husband in the group and I relaxed. We decided not to join a group who were going to form a chain of linked arms, as we didn’t quite trust that situation. Could be construed as resisting arrest and we couldn’t be sure how all the people involved would react. Instead we went to find the spirituality tent and wait for arrest there.
Suddenly we heard a countdown, like New Year, it was midnight. A cheer went up and people called Happy New Year! And nothing happened. No police movement no authority approaching the camp. I went into the tent and sat in meditation for fifteen min with two young girls. It was so peaceful in there, a lovely haven in the middle of all the craziness. Then our group walked around to see what was happening. It was amazing. So many people had turned up there were well over a thousand. People were singing, chanting, and lots of familiar faces from progressive groups around town. There was a crowd across the road and a crowd on the camp side of the road. Cars and trucks passing by honked in support. Spirits were high. At one point two police officials walked briskly through the crowd, comically followed by almost the entire media, running to keep up, with cameras etc. The police looked very serious and the media looked a bit ridiculous, especially the TV glamorous anchors. This was the head of the special police force that were responsible for the brutal attack on the camp in October. I thought, ok this is it. We kept expecting something to happen. Again nothing. Even when the two crowds merged in the middle of the road, trapping a taxi and blocking the street, the police did nothing. Then around 1.30am a statement was mic checked saying Mayor Menino didn’t want a confrontation and that there would be no eviction this evening. He was hoping that they could work with the Occupiers to come to a peaceful solution. (I’m totally paraphrasing here) THIS IS NOT NEW YORK was all I could think. It would have been a blood bath by now if it were. Suddenly, with the adrenalin out of my system I felt really exhausted. Around 2.30am we headed home with two new friends, Quakers from Cambridge. What a night. We would not have missed it for the world.
Who knows what is going to happen now. Most of the camp is down and moved out, including the wonderful life size statue of Gandhi, the library, food tent and medical tent. I am sure people will regroup tonight. I am not sure what to do, whether to go down again or not. If you get arrested on a Friday you are in jail all weekend and I don’t think I am up for that given the recent gut problems and my very limited diet! I will be joining the Occupy TV And Radio group, which is a fit for me. I am sure there will be many more opportunities as we go forward to demand a fairer country. We won this battle but the war is far from over.