Posts tagged ‘spokes council’

February 1, 2012

Occupying Process, Processing Occupy: Spokes Council Musings by One POC

By Sonny Singh

(What follows does not reflect or represent the views of the People of Color Caucus at Occupy Wall Street but only the views of the author himself.)

At the notorious Occupy Wall Street spokes council meetings, the People of Color (POC) Caucus, of which I am a member, often finds itself in the role of whistle-blowing and bringing a critical perspective to the discussion. I have gotten the sense that most people at spokes — sometimes including the facilitators — just want to “get through” the agenda with little to no drama or disruptions.  While I can relate, given that these meetings are long and often frustrating, this approach doesn’t create a culture that fosters critical thinking or the voicing of dissent.  So, often when the POC Caucus voices concerns about a proposal being made or something happening in the room, I sense a lot of hostility towards us.

Last week, the issue of banning “violent people” from Occupy Wall Street came up at a spokes council meeting I attended.  Those of us in the POC spoke shared the deep concern of the majority in the room that certain individuals have made others feel unsafe by committing physically aggressive or violent acts towards others.  Many at the meeting were getting understandably worked up about it and insisted on a zero-tolerance type policy when it comes to violence and thus banning so-called violent people for life from OWS.

When it was finally our turn to speak on stack, I raised a question about the meaning of the word violent and how we wanted to make sure people are specific about the actions of a person being deemed “violent.”  Violence means different things to different people.  Violence can be verbal, physical, sexual, institutional, or state-sanctioned.  Pushing someone could be seen as violent. Yelling could be seen as violent.  Damaging property could be seen as violent.  Raising your voice and calling out racism or sexism in a meeting could be seen as violent (no, this is not a hypothetical scenario).

So, we were concerned about three “violent” people (all who happened to be people of color themselves) being permanently banned from OWS and kicked out of the church they were living in without being clear and on the same page about what constitutes violence.  We have not had this conversation at Occupy.  Many assumptions are made when people talk about someone being violent, and to raise the question is apparently taboo.

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November 11, 2011

OWS Must Resist Cis-Supremacy and Trans-Misogyny

Editor’s Note:  We received this statement from a trans friend in the Occupy Wall Street movement and are publishing it here to highlight the importance of inclusiveness in our movement.  We denounce transphobia in all its forms and stand in solidarity with our transgender comrades. 

As feminists, we enthusiastically support women’s groups and women designated safer spaces, but as trans women and allies, we oppose (and will categorically block) any group or space that excludes trans women[1], as well as any standard that functionally asserts authority over our self-determined gender identities[2].  Most immediately, all of us—transgender and cisgender alike—must stand together to block the trans-excluding affinity groups “Women Occupying Nations” and “Strong Women” from Spokes Council participation.

By denying the existence of cisgender privilege and furthering the disempowerment of trans women, trans-excluding groups and spaces violate both the letter and spirit of our Principles of Solidarity[3].  The elimination of systemic oppression against marginalized people is a core goal of the Occupy movement, but self-identified “womyn-born-womyn”[4] do not constitute a marginalized group relative to other types of women. Throughout the world, trans women are among the people most marginalized by systemic oppression. In the U.S., trans women face extreme violence (a 1-in-12 chance of dying from a violent crime), poverty (fifty percent unemployment rate) and criminalization (trans women, especially trans women of color, are routinely subject to police profiling).[5]

To fight this systemic oppression—including transphobia, cis-centrism, cis-supremacy, and trans-misogyny—it is essential we support the self determination of all people oppressed by coercive, non-consensual gender assignments.
Allowing any group or space to define gender by cis-centric standards is intrinsically at odds with gender liberation and trans people’s right to autonomous self-determination. It is a fundamental affront to solidarity.

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November 1, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is Transforming its Participants, Our Country, and Democracy

By Manissa McCleave Maharawal

Originally published on AlterNet

Monday night at a bar in Brooklyn my friend Alex and I looked through pictures on his phone of the “early days” of Occupy Wall Street. He had pictures of the General Assembly from Day 5 and we laughed together about how empty it looked, how ramshackle and tenuous almost, how we could still see the pavement and there was still space between the people. We had just biked back from Occupy Wall Street and we were commenting, again, on how different the space seems every time we are down there. This time I had been surprised to see tents everywhere, something I hadn’t seen before and honestly between the tents, the problems with the drumming in the past week and the debate about moving to a spokes-council structure it felt like the movement was in a moment in which it was trying to deal with its own internal dynamics. Growing pains almost.

It makes sense for a movement like Occupy Wall Street to be having growing pains right now. It is still a surprise to most people, those inside the movement and those observing, whether in solidarity or not, that it is still there and that it is growing. It is still a surprise that in places like Occupy Oakland, where their tents were torn down in the middle of the night and they were tear gassed the next evening, they came back the next day in even stronger numbers and called for a general strike. It has become clear in the past month that the political discourse has shifted and it has become clear in the past month that this thing isn’t going away. But some mornings I still wake up surprised about it all.

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