Day 4 Occupy Dame Street - getting (more) organised
The camp reached the three day mark at 2pm today, it was nice to announce this at the end of the 1p.m. assembly, to much cheering. The camp is settling in and the residents getting more organised. Naturally also coming up against the limitations of its initial setup and the change from being pleasantly surprised that it had lasted even a day to moving to implement some structures that can help sustain it. I felt like I learned a lot about the practicalities and logistics of such a action, some that would be specific to this setting and some applicable in others. And many decisions made very consensually and with good listening, as well as a great deal of learning by doing. We had an in-house on-site meeting last night which was a much needed innovation, to get everyone who is staying there or heavily involved in support to discuss logistical issues for the sustainability of the camp. With some good chairing from an experienced supporter and good input from those currently undertaking different tasks we decided to implement some new systems.
Security has already been operating constantly throughout the day and night since the camp began, people posted to watch over the camp at all times, keeping dangers away, deterring robbery, handling any difficult situations before they go out of control, using soft tactics to enforce the no alcohol rule, etc. These people have done a sterling job and there have been remarkably few incidents for such a city centre location, with hundreds of (often very drunk) people passing by hourly. We changed the security arrangement from one that rotated once an hour, with two sets of 6 people changing every hour for 12 hours, which the security team had put in place first but felt was completely wiping them out, to simple 4 hour shifts, with 4-6 people on at a time. I have to admit that while I thought about security a little bit, I didn't realise just how important it is, especially for a camp like this in this spot.
We also decided to implement a changing camp coordinator, who is also on, with an assistant coordinator, for 4 hours at a time. This person holds the all important 'book of hours' containing contact details, incident logs, rota of coordinators and security, notes on those offering support, media requests and many other important pieces of info besides. For their 4 hour shift the coordinator is the point person at the camp, who has an overview of what is going on, is responsible for keeping the book safe, and to whom all major requests can be directed, if they can't be handled by others or if they need to be written down. All this information is thus held for the camp and it avoids duplication or things being lost on scraps of paper or forgotten in the general chaos.
Considering we came up with this system at about 9p.m. and then implemented it, it had been running extremely well by the time I came in at 12 noon today to take a shift. Quite crazy immediately seeing as RTE 1, Primetime on RTE, and TV3 were all there with their TV cameras simultaneously. All did interviews with various camp residents and the later coverage on the 6-1 News and Primetime was reasonable and quite measured.
Press release at the 6p.m. general assemblyWe also had to organise for the 1p.m. general assembly which I ended up co-facilitating. It was relatively painless, especially as it was conducted from the comfort of a couch. At that meeting the media team presented the new wording of the updated press release, which was very powerful, even if I don't agree with every dimension of it, it was a very good expression of the initial goals and reasons for the camp. After some discussion it was approved by consensus.
We also brought the new shift system to the general assembly for their approval which it met unanimously. There had been a initial tinkle of concern because very importantly this is a leaderless democratic movement and wants to remain so, but once it was made clear that the shift coordinator is not in any way a leader but only a temporary logistical organiser, who helps but does not represent the group as a whole, and who anyway is rotating every 4 hours, everyone was behind the new system. It seemed to work extremely well in its first 24 hours.
Lots of other things happened, including the first series of workshops (announcing and meeting the speakers of which was another coordinator job). The workshops seemed to go very well, covering topics such as radical media, the history of the Central Bank and anarchism in Ireland (rather than the advertised talk on the Irish Financial Services Centre as a tax haven), and social credit as an alternative to currencies.
Radical Media workshop in processAfter the many requests, questions, offers of support, fielding of media and writing down of contact details, as well as regular checking on security and the general state of the camp, with pretty much not a moment's break, when I completed the handover to the next two coordinators more than 4 hours later I was pretty tired. Analysing my state of mind in a precious 45 minutes break away from the camp, I realised that the main problem was that it felt a bit too much like work. Which I'm not too keen to plunge into. But we'll see how it feels in the coming days. I certainly learnt a lot. And it feels really right to be on Dame Street doing this.
Banner makingThe 6p.m. general assembly was extremely well attended and an American speaker whose name I didn't catch but should probably know spoke about the Occupy Wall Street movement spawning sister actions across the world. I haven't looked into exactly how many places already have occupations, which embarrassingly the TV3 reporter asked me about, though happily not on air. My impression has been that there was a call out in about 600 locations to start on occupation on Saturday, some think there are now over 1000 worldwide, and the largest figure for America alone is about 1200. But the realistic one is probably closer to 100 cities actually occupied in the US as of today, according to Occupy Together which collates this info, with, impressively, Dublin listed as one of just 5 cities occupied around the world, the others being Brussels, Toronto, Manchester and Copenhagen. The problem with the other, much larger figures is that they include places where meetings have happened, which are planning or thinking about having an action, as opposed to those already happening. But I'll have to look into this much more to get any kind of fix on it.
Another good in-house meeting this evening which turned the worries about crucial issues of food and shelter, overlaid with tiredness, into immediate action. It also built cohesiveness and solidified a feeling that this is a long-term effort, and something that might become very big. And even if it ends soon, these 4 days have done so much. Meanwhile elsewhere in the city the 'troika' of the EU (European Union), ECB (European Central Bank) and IMF (International Monetary Fund) were in town today, possibly in the very building of the Central Bank hulking over the small collection of tents. As Primetime on Irish national television put it this evening, running footage of the visiting powers interspersed with footage from the camp, what more than their visit could underline how entirely Ireland has lost its economic sovereignty. But unlike many folks at the camp today, hoarse after 4 days talking in the cold and damp, Ireland hasn't lost its voice.
Occupy Dame Street updated press release, 11th October 2011.
Www.occupydamestreet.org updated website.