I had heard about the Beehive Design Collective, presenting its wonderful “cross-pollinization of the grassroots” at Boxcar Books last night, and decided to go. So glad I did! Check out their website. Since the Occupy Bloomington campsite was less than one block away I decided to go there first, to donate blankets and jackets and cherry tomatoes. And of course, I took more photos (unfortunately, with my little dog Shadow tugging at the leash, so some are slightly blurry.)
This was Tuesday evening, only 48 hours from Sunday evening, when the occupation began, and already, it was obvious that a differentiated physical organization had sprung up. As I walked in, I saw tents on one side, the General Assembly (billed for 6 p.m., I was there just before 7 p.m.) in the middle, with kitchen beyond that.
There are a number of signs made by children gracing the grounds.
Jim (permie student houseguest from Philadelphia who is currently living at the camp) came back at lunchtime today for a shower and internet access (public library closed today) and told me that getting the kitchen organized was extremely easy and flowing. That there were a lot of people there with a different kinds of experience — church camps, school groups, people familiar with other actions, including one person who had just come from Occupy Wall Street. So it all just came together. I remember their call for a canopy that went out yesterday morning, and there it was, firmly in place above the kitchen that same evening. Donations are coming in for food, water, clothes, tents, sleeping bags, blankets, tarps, utensils, etc. What they need now are big pots, and somebody has just donated some money, so maybe Goodwill for the pots?
Aaah, check out the library!
Standing behind about four rows of people, trying to hear what was being said at the General Assembly, I happened to listen in when a young boy sitting atop a statue (known locally as the “Uieee”, with cardboard propped up its side) spoke.
I was amazed at how sure of himself he sounded, and how respectful his listeners. Jim tells me today that he spoke a number of times at the meeting, and was right there with the rest of them.
Jim is concerned lest the General Assemblies devolve into the usual “debate mentality” that seems to govern this country. In small group discussions, at the end of some kind of dispute, he will remind everybody that we’re trying to work together and not split into factions. He hopes that when issues arise, they get addressed by those who have them, even with mediation, if necessary, so that they are not brought to the General Assembly. The General Assembly, currently held once a day at 6 p.m., should be for keeping people informed (including Working Group reports), a place to bring up new ideas, and needs, including the need for new working groups, and possibly, a category called “Other Business” which can include criticism, suggestions, discussions of various kinds, generally at the end.
Working groups include those for Food, Arts and Activities, Media, Legal, Donations, Outreach, Sanitation, First Aid, Bathrooms (Runcible Spoon, Student Union (open 24/7), Library, Bloomington Foods, and a few other places). A new working group: Kids’ Activities, focused more on getting the kids together and doing stuff in relation to the protest, chalking sidewalk messages, and so on.
After three nights, 30 or 40 overnight, and increasing — with the homeless, at least 50. Jim says the homeless, whose park this was, don’t participate in in the General Assemblies. They have at least blankets, and sometimes stay in a tent, if its occupant has gone home for the night. They brought a couch yesterday that folds into a bed. They have been occupying the park without notice for a long time. Jim: “I think it’s going to be a mutually beneficial relationship. We should as a movement be highlighting the conditions of poverty and what happens if you do lose your job and your unemployment runs out. What happens in that situation?”
So what happens when Occupation Bloomington needs to find a bigger home? Will it be “allowed” to migrate, or to establish a second camp, say, on the lawn of the courthouse? What happened when Boston Occupation tried to do that does not augur well. What happens to the Occupation Movement as a whole as it spreads from block to block within towns and cities? A “token” encampment is one thing, but a horizontal liberation of what was originally a commons, the land underneath our feet, is entirely another. This may be where the line is drawn in the sand. This may be where an entirely other kind of understanding will be needed by all of us, protestors, police, mayors, the 1%. We are one, we have always been one. We need to re-member ourselves, put ourselves back together again as one people on one planet in this swirling mysterious magnificence.
Jim and I, and many others in the rapidly swelling Occupation Movement are now concerned that it not be coopted by the Democratic Party, or by any other political party or group. The transformation we the people seek goes below politics, below policies, to shift the very atmosphere within which everything takes place. Only then will infinite new possibilities for connection and abundance arise.