In which I get my arse down to Occupy Wellington - Tactical Ninja
Oct. 19th, 2011
09:04 am - In which I get my arse down to Occupy Wellington
Last night I sort-of took some of the advice I got yesterday. The Youth of Today wasn't home so I didn't bother cooking and I didn't do any unpacking. I'd used my weekly allotment of study time at work to finish the writing part of my essay so all that was left to do was find and add a bunch of quotes to back up my argument, and now there's only the fine-tuning to go. Since it's primary research I haven't gone as far over the word count as normal and I should have it finished today.
Then I went down to OccupyWellington and hung out for a bit.
The call had gone out in the afternoon for a variety of things including rubbish bins and blankets. Since I've been moving house, I have a few excess plastic bins with lids and also a whole lot of tuffsacks that can be useful for all sorts. And three spare blankets. So off I went. I ended up sitting in on the General Assembly.
While there I did a headcount, and counted 70 people. Not all of them were camping, but the tent city has also grown to about double what it was on Sunday.
To those in the US, I saw what happened in San Francisco and would like to make it clear that New Zealand is not like this. I heard there was some trouble in the South Island, but at the moment there is zero police presence at OccupyWellington. In addition, the council has not been hassling people and yesterday evening they gave permission for the local firespinning group to play near the Occupiers instead of in their usual permitted spot. For us, this is a good thing. We are tiny and protest here is tenuous at best - most people believe it doesn't work and that people who do it have something wrong with them - so if the Powers That Be caused trouble for us, it is just as likely that everyone would give up and go home as that a bunch more people would turn up as has happened in the US.
Anyway, it's growing without needing police brutality to garner sympathy, and for a protest in Wellington, 70 people is a pretty good turnout (with over 200 on the weekend).
At the General Assembly I was impressed to see that the discussions were practical, how to cope with the growth being a major one. Some of this was about how to form agendas and run the assemblies now that the group was so large - meetings were taking several hours and late nights in the cold were making people cranky. The suggestions raised included forming subgroups to brainstorm options for each type of agenda item, and come back to the main group only for consensus discussion.
Another issue is that the group is fast outgrowing the park.
As you can see the park is tiny, and since that picture was taken there are maybe twice as many tents. It's essentially full, and because it's spring and we're having variable weather, it's a bit boggy in places. It was suggested that it could expand to the park below where the Ugly As Fuck Rugby Statue is, but that park is an amphitheatre with a dip in the middle and rain turns it into a swamp, so isn't really a practical option. Other options require them to move en masse and there's a fear that if they leave where they are now, people will think they have given up. The best suggestion I heard was to start using some of the small square parks dotted around civic square - each may fit only 3-4 tents but I think it's important to continue in Civic Square as a central point where the occupation can be seen.
There was a reiteration of the kaupapa of OccupyNZ - He noho tahi, tena pea ka tika "Discuss together, that things may come right".
Another topic under discussion was how to deal with politicians. We're approaching an election and since the Occupy movment now has some legitimacy, it's an easy opportunity for politicians to be seen supporting the 99%. How to deal with this? As far as I know it's still under discussion but from what I gather, support is fine, self-promotion is not, since the movement is not affiliated with any political party. I don't think John Key should go down there though, just saying. That's my personal opinion, anyway. ;-)
Other things - they were discussing the erection of flax barriers to baffle the wind that's been a problem (hey, spring in Wellington). It's pretty easy to weave flax into the existing fences there, but they need flax to do it with. Anyone who knows where to get some in a reasonable quantity should probably go down there and talk with someone. It was Strypey that brought it up. They also need water but a few people there have bees in their bonnet about fluoride so tap water is apparently not a go. Shame because I have a principled objection to buying bottled water even for myself, never mind for a large-scale protest. They need first aid stuff and could probably do with more blankets as well.
In terms of food, they have asked that anyone who plans to bring lots of it talk to them first. They have had a lot of donations and have had to throw food away, so checking first is a good plan.
Hops (some of you on here know Hops) was talking about the possibility of accessing a large marquee. If anyone knows where such a thing could be accessed that would be awesome. He thinks it would help with the sogginess of the lower park, but I'm less sure because I think wet naturally flows to the middle anyway even if there's a roof over it. However, it's another option that's worth trying.
Overall, I'm impressed with the practical nature of the assembly, there wasn't much stuffing around or grandstanding, it was mostly "Right, we're here, lets get on with it" and forward planning. Interesting to note that there is a decent representation of older people there as well. They seem to be equipped to stick with it and I'm happy to continue supporting them. If you agree with their cause, you should too, in whatever way works for you. There are many ways. For a start, you can follow @OccupyWelly on Twitter to find out what they need. Or you could just go ask them - visitors are really good for morale, and it's kind of fun too. ;-)
Also, this morning (I do half an hour unpacking every morning before work) I found the floor in the study, got to the cupboard which is empty, and found my skates. The stuff still to put away falls into four broad categories: camping gear, party gear, sports gear and craft gear. The craft gear can stay out in the room (at least till Dr Wheel returns and needs desk space, at which point I'll consider a mezzanine with mah 12 foot stud), but the rest needs to find a place. The mission is to be fully unpacked by next weekend. Wish me luck.
I feel better today.