Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Dame Street Day 6 - Expansion!


Aerial view of the expanded camp
Today we expanded the camp! That was definitely the high point. More people and tents were arriving in the course of the day and towards evening it was decided that it was urgent, and opportune, to expand the camp. The 7.30p.m. in-house meeting focussed exclusively on that, including drawing a map of the camp on the whiteboard laid on the floor, and all poring over it, definitely a situation room situation. Plan was agreed, people went and did it, put up a new windbreak barrier to the left of the existing camp, the camp doubled in size. It was amazing once the windbreak went up, magically the space had been transformed. Then the first tent was carried in, there was much celebration. Soon there were 10, arranged in two lines with military precision. And like that, the camp had almost doubled in size and had advanced around a second side of the Central Bank. Wonderful.

The expansion involved lots of tying of ropes and tarps, and trying to find people who knew knots - few and far between for the iPod generation. Though I did once see a website that had super slow animations of knot-tying. Doesn't seem to be available on the iPhone though. And as the live footage from TV3 last night specified, this is clearly a Mac-only camp - people aren't charging laptops and phones at a nearby friendly flat, they're charging Macbooks, iPads and iPhones. And during the dayThe Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend got compared (in a good way) to Steve Jobs.

Overall it was a long day but a good one. The lowest point for me was after the in-house meeting, which no-one had been willing to volunteer to facilitate so I ended up doing it. It went generally well but there were a few difficult points, particularly with fairly valid but poorly directed criticism from one person and a rather odd criticism from another. I'm no expert facilitator and certainly being very tired didn't help, plus having a meeting stretching over an hour and 40 minutes, where some people wanted to stop talking and others wanted to keep talking, apparently indefinitely, even as we got to within minutes of the general assembly having to start. Frankly we're all new to this and just do the best we can, but I didn't feel that I was being given that understanding or simple support and coming out of the meeting I felt exhausted. I stood on the concrete and felt like just walking away. Tired and emotional was definitely starting to kick in. But I didn't walk away, these kind of swings and roundabouts are all part of the process, and I did some other things and mainly forgot about it later.


Serious jazz hands at 1p.m.
Meanwhile we had the 1p.m. assembly, which was facilitated very well by The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend, with good discussion if not quite on topic. There wasn't too much media around, though quite a few independent radio journalists. I did half a security shift, mainly because I was seriously worried about a fellow protestor having a heart attack if he continued to stand on security. He'd already spent a night in hospital earlier in the week due to heart problems, and had returned from the hospital directly to the camp. Such are the concerns you form for people you didn't know a week ago. And on reflection perhaps quite an emotional day. The weather continued amazingly mild and rain-free, as it has been throughout, bizarre but wonderful for October in Dublin.


Legal workshop with mounted Garda escort
Managing to get 3000 leaflets printed was a major achievement. Listening to a man give a very well-informed workshop on legal rights while mounted Gardai watched from their horses was amusing. The miscommunication, eventually resolved, around the 6p.m. general assembly I won't even go into. But it got sorted in the end. Later tidied up the place around the residents' chill out space, which made me feel a lot better. Friends called down and the Gramophone Disco sent out some tunes, as the banner-making went on into the night, and people continued to stream by. I settled a blind homeless woman and her guide dog and her sighted friend with his guide puppy-in-training into a donated tent, as accessible as possible in the newly expanded camp, and thought, Occupy Dame Street is doing something no-one else in Ireland is doing. And it's great. Tonight got to talk more with people about what this is about, and I found myself thinking, it is already a success, it has already achieved so much, simply providing a forum where hundreds of people are discussing important topics together, publicly, openly, creating the kind of real debate that is often lacking, and learning so much from each other.  Saying, it's time for something different. Tomorrow we'll have to get ready for Saturday, for a march in town that will end at Dame Street, and for potentially dozens or hundreds of people to camp here. As was emphasized repeatedly today, to everyone out there, come, bring a tent. You are the 99%.



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